A woman has described how “every month is Dry January” for her after an injury while playing rugby in Leicester left her unable to drink alcohol ever again.
Holly Hume was just 20 years old at the time of the fateful incident – which saw her knocked unconscious – and has now been sober for nearly five years.
The 25-year-old said she used to love drinking “wines, beers, shots and cocktails” but nowadays has to make do with a simple cup of tea.
Holly had been enjoying student life to the full as a De Montfort University undergraduate when the accidental collision happened during a match back in 2017.
Now a reporter with our sister news site SuffolkLive, she decided to write an article describing how she became a teetotaller overnight.
“I used to love drinking, whether it was wines, beers, shots or cocktails – but at 25 years old I’ve now been sober for nearly five, something I still struggle to reconcile with,” she said.
“Over the past few years my life has drastically changed and I used to abhor the thought of Dry January – why would I ever drop the booze in favour of ‘health’?!
“Funnily enough Dry January is every year for me now, and every month is January. Here’s how it happened.”
Casting her mind back to the start of 2017, Holly said boozing was par for the course as a student in Leicester, where her life revolved around “sports socials, going clubbing and spending most of my student loan in the pub”.
But her life would change forever after suffering a concussion when she was knocked unconscious during a game of rugby.
Paramedics were called to the scene and she was taken to Leicester Royal Infirmary on a spinal board for a check-up.
It wasn’t until after having left hospital for several days she started “getting dizzy spells when standing up and struggling to stay awake”.
She realised something wasn’t quite right and, after seeking further medical treatment, was eventually diagnosed with Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS).
“It’s a condition where your brain gets shaken (that’s the concussion) but never fully heals from that hit,” said Holly.
“This means you can continue to feel concussed for much longer than normal, experiencing the same symptoms.
“The doctor mentioned the off-chance that 1 per cent of people with PCS don’t ever improve, but I was sure that wouldn’t be the case for me.”
Unfortunately for Holly, her symptoms did not ease in the coming months and she was left with “crippling headaches, fatigue, dizziness and memory problems”.
“The very worst part of it all – other than not being able to play rugby again – was that I could no longer drink,” she explains.
“I’d been advised to stay away from booze and caffeine while I recovered, but I was appalled to find even a half pint of beer left me needing 24 hours to sleep off the pain.”
Over time, Holly said she has been able to manage her condition and “reclaim her life” to a degree – thanks to the latest neuropathic pain medication.
But her boozing days are most definitely over.
“The one thing I’ve been unable to get back is drinking. At 20 years old drinking culture was a huge part of my life.
“It was how I met many of my friends, socialised and what I turned to when I wanted to relax.”
Holly said her sporting friends in particular found it hard to understand how she could turn from “party girl to stone cold sober” overnight.
She added: “It took some serious time for me to get used to new ways of hanging out with friends, none of which involved getting slaughtered on a school night in the local pub.”
“My biggest challenge was learning how to socialise without using alcohol,” she said. “I had never noticed how most of my social interactions revolved around drinking before.”
But Holly says she has learnt to adapt – and so have her friends and family.
“As the years went by my pals got used to the new me, who went to bed before midnight and didn’t fancy going to clubs anymore,” she said.
“My family have a selection of non-alcoholic beers at the ready when I visit and more often than not, pubs are now stocking some pretty decent options.
“It’s a far cry from 2017 when the only drink I could ever find was Becks Blue, which I personally think tastes like dishwater.”
Holly said a few attempts at seeing what would happen with a drink “all ended the same way”, meaning there’s little hope of ever falling off the wagon.
“I’d like to say in my mid-twenties I’m confident in myself, but I have to admit, it’s still difficult sometimes finding the words to explain why I don’t drink,” she said.
It’s made her question role booze plays in British life and society.
“Booze was a conversation I put off with new work colleagues, dodging questions about when I was going on a work night out and did I want to go to the pub,” she said.
“Drinking is as much a part of adult culture as it is at uni and while it’s becoming less socially acceptable to smoke, drinking is still seen as something “everyone” does, because why not?”
Holly concluded: “I can’t say it’s a choice, because given one I’d love to have a proper drink again, but I’m becoming more at peace with it every time Dry January passes by.”
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