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Drinking to excess: ‘I woke up at 3am in hospital and had no idea how I got there’

Lucy Rocca got a wake-up call that night and realised her relationship with alcohol was not a healthy one.

Image: alcohol image via Shutterstock

LUCY ROCCA WAS a heavy drinker for two decades, bingeing on a bottle of wine a day and more on nights out with friends.

That was until one night in April 2011 when she got a serious wakeup call.

“I woke up at 3am in hospital and had no idea how I got there,” she told TheJournal.ie. “A friend who passed the pavement outside my house found me there and called an ambulance. I was really scared, I knew at that point I had no control over my drinking.”

Though this was an isolated incident and Rocca does not define herself as an alcoholic, she said that night helped her realise how dependant she had become on alcohol to get through situations in her life.

Up until her 20s, she said her drinking was always social, going out at weekends with friends. After her marriage fell apart in her late 20s, Rocca began drinking more on her own, consuming an entire bottle of wine on an ordinary night.

“It was more than just social drinking, it was more self-medicating at that point.”

I was probably averaging a bottle a night and I was still going on nights out and having more and not knowing when to stop. There were definitely moments on nights out when I thought I’d done something a bit silly and that happened more when I got older, it became more shameful and not something I could just laugh off.

“I did toy with the idea, I thought maybe I was an alcoholic, but maybe because all of my friends were big drinkers it just felt like the norm.”

The night she woke up in hospital, Rocca had drunk three bottles of wine on her own.

“That was unusual. I’d had a really bad day and I just hit the self-destruct button. I just lost control of how much I was drinking.”

That incident gave her the scare she needed and from that moment she stopped drinking. The first year was the hardest for her. Though she did not have the withdrawal symptoms of a full blown addiction, she said she had to rewire her brain to deal with her emotions, her self-confidence and general social situations without the help of alcohol.

“Socially, it was absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

In 2012, Rocca set up a website called ‘Soberistas’, which is a support forum for women who are concerned about how much they drink.

“Alcoholics Anonymous didn’t appeal to me because I’m an atheist and I didn’t think I was an alcoholic. I’m a parent too so I didn’t have the time to go to physical meetings. I think there are a lot of people who fall into the category of dependent drinking without being physically dependant on it.”

Soberistas offers an anonymous space for people to open up about their problems and share their experiences with their peers. In the first year, more than 20,000 people joined and Irish people are the fourth largest membership group.

Rocca said she believes the stigmatised idea of what an alcoholic is can stop people from realising they need help and can act as a barrier to them seeking it.

“If you’re drinking cider from a bottle in a bag on a park bench, you’re an alcoholic, but people say ‘they have a problem but because I’m buying a ten pound bottle of wine I don’t’.

“That’s what I did and I managed to keep myself in denial about my problem for ten years.”

Lucy Rocca is one of a number of speakers at the Alcohol Action Ireland conference ‘Girls, Women and Alcohol: The changing nature of female alcohol consumption in Ireland’, which takes place today in Dublin.

Read: The EU wants you to know there’s the same calories in a glass of wine as a slice of cake>

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