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How a disastrous Christmas party led a teacher to quit 15 years of alcohol abuse

Laura Hampson
·4-min read
Pippa Head nearly lost her job thanks to her heavy drinking (SWNS)
Pippa Head nearly lost her job thanks to her heavy drinking. (SWNS)

A disastrous work Christmas party was the final straw for a teacher’s 15-year secret alcohol habit.

Pippa Head, 30, who used to drink three bottles of wine per night, was told she might lose her dream job after she offended her colleagues at the do last December.

The geography teacher told her line manager she thought he was “a bit useless” and also told a good friend that she was overweight.

Read more: 5 steps you can take at home to make Christmas as COVID-safe as possible

Head didn't remember a thing – until a colleague sent her a text the next day and warned she was in danger of losing her job.

It motivated her to get help, and she hasn't touched a drop of alcohol since.

Pippa Head would drink three bottles of wine per night (SWNS)
Pippa Head would drink three bottles of wine per night. (SWNS)

Head, who lives in Croydon, south London, said: "I was very loud and over the top. I always needed to have the loudest voice.

"When we got to the curry I was so drunk I insulted one guy so badly I can't even think about it, and offended everyone else. I got my bag and left and my friend texted the next morning to say she didn't want to see me and I might lose my job.

"The message said my behaviour had been disgusting, I was a danger to myself, and it was absolutely shocking. None of them had ever been spoken to like that before."

Head began drinking aged 15 as a mask for her anxiety and became known as "the one who gets really drunk at parties".

Read more: The simple gift you can give to help the homeless this year

She managed to hide her alcoholism from friends and family and hold down a successful, stressful job at a school. Head thinks people didn't focus on her drinking because she was functional.

"I was never late, never missed an appointment," she said.

"As a teacher you are always on show so I used all the tricks, like make-up, baby wipes, mouth wash, coffee, sugar.

"I was able to get through on what I’d had the night before, but I'd be craving a drink by the end of the day.

"I would start to sweat and I'd shake, but then it would be just a couple of hours until school ends and I could go to the pub."

Watch: Simple steps to a healthier life

Head started a new teaching job in September 2019 and promised herself she wouldn't allow her secret drinking to intrude.

Despite suffering blackouts and accidents, she managed to hide her habit because she was good at her job.

"Every day after work I would share a bottle with a friend in the pub, then buy two more on the way home,” she said.

"I'd give my mum a glass of the second bottle, which I'd drink over supper. Then I'd take the third bottle to bed and drink until I passed out.

"But at work I was organised, always on time, clean and well turned out, and I did my job well."

Read more: How the COVID pandemic has changed the way we eat and drink

Head is speaking out to remind others that functioning people with stable jobs can be alcoholics too.

After giving up alcohol, she started swimming and doing meditation and journaling to combat stress. She also paid off £8,000 of debt and has now been approved for a mortgage.

"I started to feel the benefits quite quickly and that spurred me on," she said.

"I was really surprised at how good I felt so fast.

"I'm less bloated, have better skin, even my eyes look different, everyone says I look really good, even people who didn't know.

Pippa Head has now been sober for a year (SWNS)
Pippa Head has now been sober for a year. (SWNS)

"I go out now, and enjoy being with friends. Being a heavy drinker is so lonely – you go out to drink but not to see people.

"I do have fear, not that I will relapse, but alcohol is a scary thing that ruins families and lives. As a society we send positive messages about alcohol, in ways which we don't about smoking and other drugs.

"We advertise it, pink and low-calorie for girls, and we don't advertise any of the negative effects of it,.

"Now I am educated about the effects, increases in susceptibility to breast cancer, the impact on memory, and the number of alcohol-related deaths in the UK, I can't understand why anyone would ever want to drink."

According to the NHS, realising you have a problem with alcohol is the first big step to getting help. If you are concerned about your drinking you should speak to your GP. You can also find alcohol support services in your area via the NHS website.

Additional reporting by SWNS.

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