real life

30 years ago, Marian Keyes met the love of her life. Then she entered rehab.

This post includes discussion of suicidal ideation that may be distressing to some readers.

Marian Keyes is one of the most successful authors in the world. She's sold 35 million books in 35 languages and has done that by writing about women's lives in all their messiness.

But Keyes' life hasn't always been so rosy.

At the tender age of 14, Keyes began her codependence with alcohol. 

"The wheels were coming off in my final years in school and I was very angry," Keyes said previously on Mamamia's No Filter podcast back in 2017. "And then in college, I drank so much. It was all about alcohol. And the awful thing is the more I drank, the worse I felt, so the more I drank."

After living in London for a number of years, a then 30-year-old Keyes made the decision to return home to Ireland and attend rehab. Ironically though, Marian didn't think she was attending rehab for alcoholism. She thought she only had depression.

Watch: Bestselling author Marian Keyes on overcoming depression. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

Speaking in a new episode of No Filter this week, Keyes said: "I figured I wasn't an alcoholic because I was a woman, I was 30, I had a home and a job. I just thought it could never happen to me, and that it was because of my depression that I drank a little too much."

People around Keyes could tell she had a drinking problem though. 

"My flatmates, my work colleagues and my friends could tell I was drunk all the time. I was in denial. I honestly didn't think I fit the mould. I just figured they were overreacting but I would make the effort [and go to rehab] so that they wouldn't be cross with me anymore."

It was the best decision she ever made. It also helped saved her relationship. Keyes has been married to Tony Baines for 30 years now. He has seen Keyes at her best, and also at her lowest moments. He loved her regardless throughout it all.

"At that time [before rehab] I couldn't connect, he couldn't reach me because I couldn't feel anything. I knew I loved him in my head, but I couldn't feel it in me," she explains. "I'm really glad that we knew each other then, because he knows the worst of me. He knows all the versions of me, he knew the drinking me. The shambolic me. The messy me. I feel incredibly lucky. He is a kind man. And I adore him."

Now 30 years sober, Keyes says she is a far better version of herself.

"Alcohol stayed the most important relationship of my life until I had no choice but to stop. The world looked ugly the whole time [when drinking]. I stopped, and suddenly the world was full of colour and loveliness. I'm aware how ridiculously lucky I've been."


Four months before Keyes started her sobriety journey, she began writing short stories as a way to escape from her reality. After coming out of rehab, she decided to send her writings off to a publisher. By the end of 1996, she gave up her day job and become a full-time writer.

Decades later, Keyes is one of the most successful and best-selling authors to date.


Just some of Keyes' acclaimed books include Watermelon, Rachel's Holiday, Grown Ups, Last Chance Saloon, Sushi for Beginners, The Break and The Charming Man.

The overarching theme of her books is characters who are in a bad place but then achieve redemption. 

Speaking about that common thread, Keyes wrote on her website: "I've been in the bad place myself many times, which wasn't very pleasant while it was happening. But it has since come in very handy for writing about it."

"I will never not be an alcoholic," she says.

"It was my go-to response for the unpleasantness of life for a long time. And I don't want to go back there. So I stay close to other recovering alcoholics. I literally think of it as poison. Even if I accidentally catch a whiff of somebody's wine, it makes me feel sick."

Keyes has also been open about her challenges with depression. 

Sadly throughout 2009, 2010 and 2011, Keyes says her "full-time job was stopping myself from ending my life". Speaking on No Filter, she reflected on the moment she knew she had to ask for help.

"I went through an awful spell of profoundly awful mental health. I used to write a monthly newsletter and I was even unable to do that. I thought I owed people an explanation, so I wrote a three-sentence or so paragraph saying 'I'm really sorry but I'm suffering from depression: I can't eat, I can't sleep, I can't concentrate. I'll get back as soon as I can'."


Marian Keyes today. Image: Getty.

She thought her explanation wouldn't warrant a big deal from those watching on, but it became one. It was in all the papers in Ireland, and also covered in Australia, with countless opinion pieces written. 

"A lot of people felt it personally. I discovered a lot of people were grateful: if somebody like her has a lovely job and a lovely family can have those horrible feelings then it's okay for us. It opened a discussion, and although there is still such a stigma attached to depression, I'm hoping it has become easier for people."


Looking back on all she has endured, Keyes says she hopes her story can bring people a bit of hope. 

"The one thing I can offer is that I got better. It took time, but I can tell people in the horrors who feel they are never going to get out of it that I felt that way: and I got out," she says.

"I feel well today. I would far rather all my skeletons were out of the cupboard and dancing rather than feeling afraid."

You can listen to the full new interview with Marian Keyes on No Filter now.

If you or someone you know requires assistance or support contact: Lifeline: 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467, Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636, or talk to your GP or health professional. In an emergency call 000.

If this article brought up any issues for you, you can contact Drug Aware, Australia's 24hr alcohol and drug support line. You can reach them on (08) 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024.

This article was originally published in January 2022, and has since been updated with new information.

Feature Image: Getty/Mamamia.