From time to time, we post short interviews with interesting people about their thoughts and feelings on women and drinking. There is such a wide array of perspectives about this topic, and we are excited to gain insight into as many as possible and to share them with you.
Sarah Turner is an ex alcoholic, wife and mother from Harrogate, Yorkshire, England. Now a cognitive behavioral therapist and addictions counselor, she campaigns for tailored care for alcohol misuse among women.
Drinking Diaries: How old were you when you had your first drink and what was it?
Sarah Turner: Bombay Sapphire Gin, and I was 10. It was Mummy’s little helper, so I thought I could do with some help too.
How did/does your family treat drinking?
My parents were both dependent drinkers. I learned that it was good to drink, happy and jolly. There was always a sense of occasion when they drank, drama. My husband and sons are very light drinkers, the boys have the occasional blow out.
How do you approach alcohol in your every day life?
Because my work involves helping women become liberated from drinking, naturally I have no affection for it as I once did, but at play, it has no space in my life, too busy with wellness.
If you have kids, how is the subject of drinking handled? Do you drink in front of them? With them?
I used to hide away with my drinking and be defensive. Now it’s just a very open subject because it’s no longer hurting them. They are older, but there is no doubt that my drinking had a profound effect on them.
Have you ever had a phase in your life when you drank more or less?
Yes! Once I could drink the house dry, and anyone else’s that would have me. Now I am a non-drinker.
It was from the Eighties onwards wine. Marketed as glamorous and fun, I was entranced with the whole lifestyle of its making women seem discerning and somehow classy. White wine mainly, by the 90’s and yet another big advertising push on the French Paradox, and how red wine was good for your health. I moved onto heavy plummy wines, that, in the quantities I drank them in, just got me to where I wanted to be much quicker, oblivion. Latterly with my needs just for effect and not taste, vodka entered the frame, I was deluded enough at that stage to think no one would smell it.
Drink of choice now is anything with Ginger or Elderflower in it, love the warmth of Ginger and the lovely kick it has, in Summer Elderflower is wonderful chilled and refreshing.
Can you tell us about the best time you ever had drinking?
In my twenties, partying hard in Ibiza. In my thirties, grown up dinner parties with good French wine.
What about the worst time?
I had 8 years of worst times, the worst memories, because many are lost, were sitting in my bedroom with half a bottle of vodka and trying desperately hard to keep it down and then hiding it among the other empties in the chest of drawers, and catching a glimpse of a woman I just did not recognize in my dressing table mirror. Haggard, bloated face, hair unkempt and tears just flowed.
Has drinking ever affected-either negatively or positively-a relationship of yours?
Negatives are too many to list, the positives, yes in the early days there were fun times, but when drinking stopped being fun, the rot set in.
Has culture or religion influenced your drinking?
The Western Culture, especially here in the UK and I think in the US, says that it’s cool to drink alcohol and that you are somehow an oddball if you don’t. It certainly affected me when I was younger. There is no doubt our culture does affect the way we look at alcohol, and until the wheels fall off, it can be a really difficult drug to avoid.
Do you have a favorite book, song, or movie about drinking?
Quite like mine and Lucy’s book, The Sober Revolution, but there is bias! Drinking, A Love Story, by Caroline Knapp hit the spot for me, beautifully written. Elkie Brook’s “No More The Fool” is a song I love, because drinking did make a fool of me.
Why do, or don’t you, choose to drink?
I don’t drink because I learned to enjoy life, and love what I do now without any chemical dependency. I never chose to drink heavily, it chose me. I am also a control freak according to my family, so no wonder drinking never worked for me!
How has alcoholism affected your life?
My life disappeared because of alcohol. Now I have it back. I never want to purposely lose it again.
If you could be any drink, what would it be? Why?
Wine probably, because the old pictures that once were in the front of my head of glamour and sophistication occasionally haunt me.