On Monday morning a news story left me dumbfounded.
A popular TV newsreader took the extraordinary step of outing herself has having had a serious problem with alcohol. How serious? Channel 7’s Talitha Cummins admitted to regularly having two-day binges and to getting black-out drunk up to 5 nights a week.
“I was a big drinker. Anyone who knows me, knows that. I drank to celebrate, I drank to commiserate, I drank because I had a busy day, a boring day, a holiday. For years, drinking was my hobby.
“But in the last four years it turned ugly. The first sip unleashed an unstoppable need for more and more.
“A binge could end six hours later, or it could end two days later. After every one, I was left with incredible feelings of self-hatred, guilt and riddled with anxiety.”
To celebrate. To commiserate. To relieve boredom. Sounds like the way I eat. (After all, don’t we all have a crutch we lean on? Alcohol. Food. Shopping. Sex. Gambling. Red Rock Deli Lime and Black Pepper Potato Chips. Some of us just lean more heavily than others …)
Anyway, Talitha’s confession comes as she celebrates four months of sobriety thanks to signing up to a quit program on Hello Sunday Morning. So why go public with it all? She’s signed up as a Hello Sunday Morning ambassador with the hope of inspiring others to also confront their unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
‘Others’ like, well a hell of a lot of us, frankly. It’s estimated that one third of women binge drink and that 16% of Australian adults would be classed as either alcohol dependent or as risky or binge drinkers.
But let’s go back to Talitha for a moment.
It’s never easy for anyone in the public eye to reveal the flaws, cracks and secrets they (like the rest of us) carry – be that an alcohol or drug addiction, mental health issues, struggles with fertility or loss to name a few. It’s alright for us to have issues or secrets. But people in the public eye? Well, they’re supposed to have perfect lives. Right?
So for Talitha to open up and share her inability to have a healthy relationship with alcohol is not just gutsy. It’s inspiring. And, in my opinion, it speaks volumes about the type of person she must be.
And her revelation is sure to hit a nerve, since binge drinking amongst women is on the rise – both in Australia and overseas.
In Australia, Dr Professor Ross Fitzgerald co-author of the book Under the Influence claims that binge drinking amongst young women has increased 200% between 2000 and 2009.
New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, revealed that about one in eight women and one in five high school girls binge drink – most doing so three times per month.
In Scotland the government has attempted to address the problem of binge drinking amongst women with a new app. Women are asked to take a photo of themselves, list how much they drink and the app will show how her appearance will deteriorate over a number of years. How sad that it’s vanity (rather than short and long term health risks) that makes many of us stop and think about our actions.
The reason for the increase in women’s drinking is unclear — experts in the area cite everything from self-medication and stress relief to just the lure of those heavily targeted girly fun drinks. The ones that taste like, you know, cordial.
It matters little. The point is more females are relying on alcohol to get through.
So Talitha Cummins, I don’t know you but you’ve won my respect and admiration. Here’s hoping you inspire a few more of us to sober up.
What’s your relationship wtih alcohol like? Do you drink more than you used to? Are you comfortable with how much you alcohol you drink?
Warning signs you may have a problem with alcohol
you drink when you’re alone
you’re keeping secrets from friends and family
you have an increased tolerance to alcohol and drugs
you’re regularly engaging in binge drinking
Some of the signs of alcohol dependence include:
Worrying about when you’ll be able to have your next drink
suffering from withdrawal symptoms like sweating, nausea or insomnia as a result of not drinking alcohol
needing to drink more and more alcohol to get drunk
drinking alcohol, or desiring to drink alcohol, when you wake up in the morning
consuming alcohol regularly on your own, or trying to hide your alcohol consumption from those around you
relationships with friends or family are being effected by your drinking