‘You can be privileged and be an alcoholic — I should know’

'It is not a disease that discriminates. If you have this thing, there's no escaping it.'

‘You can be privileged and be an alcoholic — I should know’
issy hawkins
Anyone can be affected (Picture: Instagram/@issyhawkins_)

A woman has taken to TikTok to share that alcohol addiction doesn’t just affect men, and that young, middle class women can suffer with it too.

Issy Hawkins, an actor in her 20s who is now sober, has been using her social media platform to educate people on alcoholism.

Speaking in one of her videos, she says: ‘There’s a lot of mums out there who are alcoholics, a lot of young people that are alcoholics – a lot of them are in my DMs – there are wealthy people that are alcoholics, there are poorer people that are alcholics.

‘It is not a disease that discriminates. If you have this thing, there’s no escaping it.’

She shared that she gets comments from people who say things like: ‘You speak nice, and you have a house, and you are clearly posh.’

Issy went to state school and claims she isn’t ‘posh’, but does come from a middle class family.

‘I would say that I’m privileged, that I had a nice upbringing, however there was family dysfunction,’ she adds, and one of her parents also struggled with addiction.

‘The amount of privilege bestowed upon a human being doesn’t equate to sound mental health, functional behaviour, lack of toxicity. Privilege may equal how you’re able to deal with those things, it doesn’t mean you will deal with those things.’

This addiction awareness week, it’s important to know that in England there are an estimated 602,391 dependent drinkers but only 18% are receiving treatment, according to Alcohol Change UK.

Alcoholism can lead to death in its most dire cases, and can be worsened by a whole host of social, mental, and economic factors – to name but a few.

Issy has shared in a series of videos how she would deliver presentations at work ‘drunk’, initially thinking it would help her deliver them more confidently, until she ‘spiralled’.

‘Before you know it, you’re drunk all of the time and you start to be reliant on it,’ she says.

‘You’re always convincing yourself “this is the last time”, and it’s always short term fixes instead of long term thinking.’

By 21, she was struggling with ‘crippling anxiety’, had relationship breakdowns, and her work was being impacted – this led to her turning point, as she puts it online.

‘It was the fact that my boyfriend left,’ she remembers, when reflecting on what made her finally get sober.

‘It was him walking out the door. I remember the moment so clearly, and then I passed out, and then the next day I was like “ah ok, the jig is up, I’ve got to get help”.’

Family and friends were also ‘at their wit’s end’ with her by this point, and she’d been fired and turned up to a new job interview drunk, experienced frequent memory loss, and had also been hospitalised on a few occasions.

‘Waking up in the morning with the shame and the guilt and the withdrawals, you just end up on this horrific cycle of madness, where you know the only way it’s going to stop is if you get sober, but you’re clinging on to the hope that actually you don’t have a drinking problem.

‘Everything good about me was gone, and I remember looking in the mirror thinking I didn’t recognise myself anymore.’

She realised that she didn’t want alcohol to be ‘the thing that kills me’, and sought out treatment.

‘I’d stopped myself getting [in] recovery for so long because of my age,’ she says, thinking that being sober at 21 would be awful.

Now, living sober, she says: ‘My life is so much better now. My relationships are better.

‘I’m very grateful to be here today.’

Where to get help

Aside from going to your GP on the NHS, Alcohol Change UK recommends the following resources:

  • Drinkline, a free, confidential helpline for people who are concerned about their drinking, or someone else’s. Call 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am–8pm, weekends 11am–4pm)
  • If you live in Wales, you can contact the DAN 24/7 alcohol and drug any time of the day or night. Freephone: 0808 808 2234, or text DAN to: 81066.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous, whose helpline is open 24/7 on 0800 9177 650. If you would prefer, you can also email them at [email protected] or live chat via their website at www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk.
  • You can join a SMART Recovery meeting online here. SMART holds both face-to-face and online meetings which support people in managing harmful addictive behaviour. The SMART Recovery Programme helps individuals and family members of those who are struggling. They also have women’s only meetings and those specifically for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Al-Anon which offers support and understanding to the families and friends of dependent drinkers. You can call their confidential helpline on 0800 0086 811 (open 10am-10pm). There are lots more resources for families and friends here.
  • Nacoa support anyone affected by their parent(s) drinking, including adults. Here are some of the questions that children often ask about alcohol and the effects on them and their family. For more information, visit nacoa.org.uk, call 0800 358 3456 or email [email protected]. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.

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