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Kiwi comedian Brendhan Lovegrove’s battle with booze

Stand-up comedian Brendhan Lovegrove is turning his life around.
Brendhan Lovegrove

If controlling his drinking was as easy for comedian Brendhan Lovegrove as making people laugh, he wouldn’t be sticking to cups of tea these days. For 20 years, Brendhan’s nights were spent in a haze of alcohol and although he’s not given up drinking completely, he’s vowed never to let alcohol take over his life again.

Since changing his lifestyle, Brendhan has gained valuable insight and learnt that he was abusing alcohol to mask the pain of the anxiety he suffered. “I realised when I got off the booze I had anxiety problems,” he says. ”They might have been created by booze, I’m not sure. Any problems I had, I had been nuking with the booze. “I was catastrophising and my mind was thinking irrational, crazy thoughts – and I’m embarrassed about that because I like to think now that I can tackle anything strongly.”

There was no big crisis that led to him turning his life around, but Brendhan (41) says the realisation that he didn’t want to be relying on alcohol for the rest of his life led him to seek help. “For me it wasn’t the amount that I was drinking, it was how often I was doing it. It was five or six nights a week, sometimes every night for three weeks. “I would start on beer, go to wine and then end up with whiskey and Coke. “I woke up one morning and I was down, and I knew that it was my drinking and I had to do something.”

The first person he reached out to was fellow comedian Mike King, who has to overcome his own problem with drug addiction. Within half an hour of phoning, Mike was knocking on Brendhan’s door. Since that day 18 months ago, Mike has featured Brendhan’s story on his Radio Live programme The Nutters Club, which is screening on Maori Television next week.

“Mike is constantly responding to people who are calling him and he never complains,” says Brendhan. The comedian also attended one Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, where he says he realised he wasn’t an alcoholic. “There were people who were a damn sight worse than I was,” recalls Brendhan. He decided the meetings weren’t for him. “I was hearing stories about how bad they were and how much they drank. But for me, I was always more inspired by people who went, ‘I’m doing this now, or this has improved.’”

Brendhan’s drinking was impacting on his whole life, including his relationship with daughter Ruby (15). “I was either hung over or drunk and that’s not right,” says Brendhan. He also believes it has prevented him forming a happy long-term relationship. “If I truly loved someone, I would never have wanted them to spend the rest of their life with me. I didn’t think it was fair to put someone through it. Now, I feel like I could.”

Since he stopped relying on alcohol, Brendhan has learned to control his anxiety through breathing. He has also taken up cycling and enjoys cricket. Having a bad day means simply looking forward to the next, rather than having a whiskey to cheer himself up. “I went dry for 12 months. In the past six months, I’ve learned to monitor it. I’ve also noticed  my anxiety’s reduced.”

But in the first six months of giving up, he hit rock bottom. “I thought if I’m going to feel this bad I might as well drink again. But very quickly things snapped into place. I wasn’t craving anything anymore and I felt sharper. “My work’s become stronger and now I’ve got a bit of money behind me, I can start putting deposits on things. People have put more trust in me.”

Brendhan has guest starred on TV3 series 7 Days and is also about to host the next series of A Night At the Classic for TVNZ. He also has a two-part TV3 special, After Hours, coming up. He allows himself a drinking night twice a month at the most and will only indulge when he’s feeling good. “There’s no way any of us ever become perfect by making these changes, but it’s a bloody good start. The lifestyle I led can’t be led forever.”

Brendhan has become a tea drinker after kicking his reliance on alcohol

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