She was drinking a litre of vodka a day at the age of 15. She was a teenage alcoholic.

Phoebe says she lost friends, money and herself to alcohol







The first time it happened it must have been terrifying.



At her age she probably didn’t even know what was happening.

But in her state she probably didn’t even care.

And despite the terror, the confusion, the absolute horror at what was going on – it wasn’t enough to put her off.

The next day she just started drinking again.

She drank to stop the hallucinations.

She drank to stop the shaking.

But nothing helped.

For Phoebe Haffenden drinking was at first a way to increase her confidence.

She never had friends, she was always an outcast and bullied.

Phoebe says she came from a happy home – with a stable upbringing and a loving mother and brother. But she never felt like she fitted in.

Phoebe would drink 6 litres of alcoholic cider a day

She was just 15 when she had her first drink. She would soon be drinking a litre of vodka a day.

It started off weekly, then quickly progressed to daily.

Phoebe told the Daily Mail ‘I couldn’t stop and I was soon hitting the bottle from 10am to about 3am or 4am the next morning.


‘I was running out of money and soon turned to cheap cider to feed my addiction.’

Her mother, Kate, a cleaner and her younger brother Ben found her increasingly out of control and had to ask her to leave the family home.

‘I was sleeping on friend’s sofas and floors and there were times where I came very close to sleeping rough.

‘I could walk the streets until 4am before I’d find somewhere to crash.’ She told the newspaper.

It was only months after she left home that she found herself in the A&E in the resuscitation room. She had been self-harming and drinking.

The hospital told the teenager that if she carried on drinking she would be dead within a few months.

Phoebe was a teenage alcoholic.

She was drinking up to six litres a day of the cheap cider.

But things got even worse.

Phoebe says she never thought of teenagers as alcoholics

Phoebe started waking up next to men she didn’t know.

‘I got myself into some awkward positions when I was drinking,’ said Phoebe. ‘I had quite a few one night stands that I do regret.

‘There was one night when I went to a party with a friend and I didn’t know the guy I woke up next to.

‘I was confused where I was and my friend had to explain what had happened. Most of the nights were a blur.’

A study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health earlier this year found students who were compulsive drinkers were four times as likely to have had sex they later regretted.


For Phoebe things had come to breaking point.

Doctors told her that her body simply couldn’t cope.

She wasn’t attending school.

She wasn’t living at home.

She says she lost friends, money and herself to alcohol.

She says her drinking was uncontrollable.

And she had been told she had months left to live.

Something had to give.

Concerningly alcohol abuse for young Australian women is now at similar levels similar to men. The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of NSW found while women born between 1953 and 1962 had their first alcoholic drink on average at age 17 – two years later than men – adolescents of both sexes now typically have their first drink at 14.

In the decade to 2007, the number of young female Australians diagnosed with symptoms of alcohol abuse increased by 27,000.

Professor Maree Teesson, senior research fellow at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre and director of the National Medical Health and Research Council Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use told the SMH that the “catch up” to men was concerning, with women also less likely than men to seek help for drinking.

Across the other side of the world in the UK, Phoebe Haffenden was one of the luckier ones – six months ago, in July, she entered a detox clinic.


After ten days on withdrawal medication she was finally on track to getting her life back.

Today Phoebe is at acting school, is back at home and is determined to use her experiences to help other young addiction sufferers.

In a video she uploaded to YouTube she says that before her own battle with alcohol she didn’t realize that young people could become alcoholics.

‘Everyone thinks it’s old men that drink and get an addiction,’ she said ‘But it’s so accessible and can quickly become a problem to young people too.

‘I’m looking forward to the year ahead and putting all my energy into making my family proud of me,’ she added. ‘I’m taking one day at a time but I’m loving it.’


Where to go for help if you or someone you know has problems with alcohol:

 ACT: 02 6207 9977

 NSW: Sydney 02 9361 8000

NSW Country: 1800 422 599

 SA: 1300 131 340

 VIC: 1800 888 236

 NT:Darwin 08 8922 8399

Central Australia: 08 8951 7580

Territory wide: 1800 131 350

 QLD: 1800 177 833

 TAS: 1800 811 994

 WA: Perth 08 9442 5000

WA Country: 1800 198 024