Smart, successful and drinking in secret

10 min read

Shadowy sips

When Women’s Health asked for anonymous stories of people using alcohol as aprivate crutch, confessions poured in. From city lawyers to spin instructors, we hear from the healthconscious women keeping their loved ones in the dark about their habit

Are you still living in the shadow of a bottle?

Every evening, after another long day at her corporate law firm, Hannah Stephenson* engages in the same ritual. She reaches for the bottle of gin sitting on the shelf, mixes it with the contents of an ice-cold can of Fever-Tree from the fridge, and drinks. With every sip, she feels her brain switch off alittle more. Sometimes one’s enough; other times she’ll pour asecond or third glass. ‘I don’t think of myself as someone with a “drinking problem”, but Ido drink every day,’ says the 32-year-old. ‘My jobisfull-on,sostress levels are high and I have very little time for healthier stressrelieverslikeexercise. Pouring myself a G&T –or three –is the off switch my brain needs.’

Within ambitious, health-conscious circles, signs indicate that alcohol seems to have – finally – lost its cool. Ordering a kombucha or a Lucky Saint at work drinks is the smart woman’s move. She knows the clarity-blurring, energy-deadening and sleepdisrupting effects of a large glass of crisp riesling will do nothing to benefit her work, her PB or the mood that accompanies her throughout the day.

A look at the most recent data chimes with trends you may have noticed within your circles. Last year’s annual Drinkaware Monitor national survey, conducted for the charity Drinkaware by YouGov, suggests UK women are, indeed, drinking less frequently. It notes that 59% are drinking alcohol less often than weekly, a slight rise from 54% of women in 2019. What’s more, 14% of us don’t drink at all, while 69% drink less than the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of 14 units per week.

And yet, when Women’s Health put out a call to hear from women uncomfortable with the way they drink alone, the responses poured in. It paints a curious picture: that just because the ‘work hard, play hard’ image of high-powered executive pairing late night spreadsheets with a glass (okay, two) of pinot noir is no longer aspirational, that doesn’t mean it no longer exists. It’s just… quieter now, especially among women who otherwise tick the boxes of a healthy lifestyle.

SILENT SIPS

‘I’ve definitely managed to cut back drinking socially over the past few years, but I still use alcohol as a private crutch,’ says Marie*, 46, an advertising director-turned-PT. ‘Having a child means far fewer nights out, and retraining as a fitness instructor has helped because I can’t be hungover at work. That said, whenever I feel anxious or stressed, my default response is a glass of wine.’ But Marie’s not announcin

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