From the outside, Nikki Rushin’s life looked perfect – but behind closed doors, her secret addiction to booze was killing her.
Nikki had a successful career in healthcare, a detached home and, more importantly, two children and a loving and supportive husband.
But alcohol held her in a vice-like grip for 15 years – and in lockdown, it grew even tighter.
Nikki spent £150 a week on wine, sinking three bottles a night and topping up with three triple gins or vodkas.
Every day started with a hangover and she sometimes couldn’t remember what had happened before she blacked out. She was also left nursing a £10,000 debt headache too.
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Nikki says: “Lockdown made my drinking worse. I didn’t have to drive to work meetings and the stress of Covid and job uncertainty all added to my anxieties. The way I calmed down was with alcohol.
“I thought I was coping – but was lying to myself. I knew I had a problem, I just didn’t want to admit it.
“I’d crack open the first bottle of white wine about 4pm, occasionally 3pm, then over the evening, I’d knock back the fizz or white wine.
“I’d often wake up, vomit bile, then look to see if I had bruises or aches, unsure if I’d bumped into something or tripped.
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“I’d lash out verbally at my husband Martyn, maybe causing a row over nothing. Thankfully, he is the nicest man and never gave up on me.”
Nikki’s turning point came on the evening of July 26 last year.
While soaking in the bath, she broke down in tears.
“I realised I was physically and mentally broken, a mess and that if I did not deal with drink I’d lose my family, work, home – and my life,” she says.
“Drink was slowly killing me. Despite working all my life, my addiction left me well over £10,000 in debt as I easily spent £600 a month on booze.”
Nikki was among a growing number of high-functioning alcoholics who lead normal lives but depend on booze.
New figures reveal there were a record 7,423 alcohol-related deaths in England and Wales in 2020, up 19.6%
in a year. From September to December alone there were 1,963 deaths – a sad quarterly record.
Research by Glasgow University found women drank more as the stress of lockdown kicked in, possibly due to the burden of childcare and because many work in the sectors worst affected by the pandemic.
Nikki is a support worker specialising in mental health. Her drink crisis peaked in the first four months of lockdown when she was on sick leave after a patient assaulted her.
She spoke as research by University College London shows one in seven of us started binge drinking in lockdown.
Men who had been furloughed were three times as likely to hit the bottle, and women were twice as likely. The British Liver Trust reported a 155% rise in calls at the start of lockdown.
Nikki’s route back to health started when she joined a 12-step programme and documented her journey on Twitter. Now, after going for 10 months without drink, she is 14lb lighter and off blood pressure medication. She hails the Twitter community for supporting her and now offers advice to people inspired by her experience.
Nikki is determined to raise awareness about the issue – and insists support is out there.
She says: “Most are people like me. Professional workers too ashamed to tell loved ones and bosses they are secretly addicted.
“Managers, teachers, chefs… many mums in their 20s and 30s message saying thank-you. They know they are not alone.
“I’m so grateful to have survived my addiction. I am seeing and living life through fresh, sober eyes and it is lovely.”
If you need help with a drinking problem, call the Alcoholics Anonymous national help line on 0800 9177 650