Newstalk ZB's Early Edition presenter Kate Hawkesby's alcohol-free lifestyle began as a personal challenge – and to her surprise, she's still going!
Kate has never been a big drinker and gave up alcohol because she was "just not that into it".
The mum-of-three explains that she's always been a lightweight, and even a small amount of alcohol would take her ages to process and leave her feeling sluggish the next day.
"One day, I just decided to stop drinking, even before it was cool to do so," she says. "I decided to see how long I could last."
It's now been eight years and Kate is still going strong, claiming she's become "addicted to feeling good".
One of the immediate benefits Kate noticed after giving up alcohol was she slept better and binged less on junk food, which seems to go hand in hand with alcohol.
"My head felt clearer and I loved being the only person waking up without a hangover," she laughs.
Although Kate's friends and colleagues are now used to her ordering from the non-alcoholic menu on nights out, Kate says when she first ditched drinking, people had rather dramatic reactions. "It was always a long conversation of why, how and what for. Sometimes I'd just say, 'Oh, I'm driving' or, 'I've got an early start', just to diffuse reactions and not make it a big deal."
Over the years, she's noticed a definite cultural shift around drinking alcohol in New Zealand, finding people care less nowadays whether you choose a cocktail or a mocktail.
"I'm proud of how New Zealand's relationship with alcohol is evolving as we mature as a country," she says. "I think we still have a long way to go with our binge-drinking culture, but the sheer prevalence of so many more non-alcoholic alternatives make it easier not to drink now."
Although she's a pro at dodging the wine section in the supermarket, she admits, "One day I'll pick up a glass of Champagne again, I'm sure!"
TV's Paddy Gower says there's no going back to his old life! It's been more than 500 days since Newshub's award-winning journalist and TV personality Paddy, 46, kicked alcohol to the curb.
"It was on December 18, 2021 to be precise. I am going strong and I am not going back, thank you very much!" the father-of-two says of his decision, which came after noticing the chokehold his daily drinking habits had on his life.
"I realised I was an alcoholic," says the Paddy Gower Has Issues host. "I was a binge drinker and I couldn't stop drinking when I started. Like a lot of middle-aged people, I was drinking more and more during the week. It was infecting my life and it wasn't going to end well. I knew in my heart that moderation would never work. I had to stop drinking."
A large perk of working in television meant Paddy skipped the long, repetitive explanations that often go hand in hand with giving up alcohol.
"Everybody knows I don't drink thanks to my documentary Patrick Gower: On Booze. It was like a big public announcement: 'I DON'T DRINK!'" he tells. "I feel for people who give up and constantly have to explain it. They are made to feel different, when they aren't."
In his doco, Paddy confronts the relationship Kiwis have with the harmful, sometimes fatal drug, while also addressing his own experiences with it. Now, more than a year after the doco's release, the Weekly asks him whether he thinks our drinking culture is changing.
"It's shifting for the better, but ever so slightly," he reflects. "I think we should be honest and admit we have a massive problem. Alcohol is intertwined with virtually everything we do here and you really notice it when you don't drink."
Paddy has also detected a myriad of other changes since swapping out beer for an alcohol-free alternative – including a renewed love and participation in sports.
"I feel fantastic and have got myself fit again," he beams. "I ride bikes, I surf, I even do yoga! I just feel great and I feel in control.
"I've beaten one of my demons and that is a huge achievement. It makes me feel like I can achieve anything. My ambition has returned. I'm amazed at how much alcohol held me back."
Kiwi musician Jordan Luck recalls a time when he was drinking more than 25 bottles of beer a day. The former lead singer of The Exponents has been sober for more than 10 years after a long stint as a hard-drinking rocker.
His boozy lifestyle had been well publicised and despite churning out many iconic Kiwi hits, including Why Does Love Do This To Me, his friends, fans and family began to worry.
"I'd start drinking from the moment I woke up, right through to when I fell asleep," says the 61-year-old. "I'd get through two to three dozen bottles of beer every day."
Although he knew he had a problem, the final decision to quit drinking came in the form of an intervention, organised by his wife Rita.
"The decision to quit wasn't entirely my choice," he says. "I'd been recording some songs, and at around lunchtime walked into the lounge and it looked like a surprise birthday party! I was asked if I would go into rehabilitation, and I concurred and went the next day."
It was a long battle before Jordan finally achieved the physical and mental health he has today. "I suffered from five petit-mal – or absence – seizures while coming off alcohol. It was such a shock to my system."
Jordan is now dedicated to living a sober lifestyle and feeling far healthier than he was.
"I lost a lot of weight and my energy levels have skyrocketed," he says. "Health-wise, almost every single part of myself has improved."
Music-wise, Jordan is still the same dedicated and dynamic frontman, and completed a nationwide tour last August with the Jordan Luck Band. Now, the bottle of beer he used to drink on stage is a bottle of lime-flavoured sparkling water.
It's no secret Lotta Dann is a pro at living alcohol-free and now she's inspiring others to do the same. When the author of The Wine O'Clock Myth finally acknowledged the role alcohol was playing in her life, she had no idea giving it up was just the beginning. Now, 11-and-a-half years later, Lotta, 51, has left her full-time job as a TV reporter to work largely from home in Wellington, where she writes about her journey as a recovering alcoholic, manages the successful online community Living Sober, and runs workshops on addiction and recovery.
Before making the jump into sobriety, Lotta's life was spiralling out of control. "I had been in a terrible place with my drinking for most of my adult life, but the last three or four years were particularly bad. I found it very hard to go a day without booze and my behaviour was steadily getting sloppier and more dysfunctional."
She recalls making promises to herself that she would only have a glass or two, only to end up having much more.
"I tried every trick in the book to moderate my intake. In the end, I had to remove it altogether, which was terrifying to say the least."
Immediately after kicking alcohol, Lotta's only focus was combatting her intense cravings and making it through the day without a drink. As the months went on, her focus shifted towards helping others struggling with alcohol and raising awareness of addiction.
Sharing her story with the public was not an easy decision, but with the support of her husband, RNZ presenter Corin, 48, and the admiration of her three sons, now aged 18, 16 and 13, she took the leap.
"Initially, I was worried I'd be judged harshly and called mean names, but the truth is, I was calling myself names by owning up to my addiction, so there was nothing to judge me for! I've actually had nothing but admiration and warmth from people when I admit I don't drink because I can't control it. People see strength in admission, not weakness."
For Lotta, connecting with others who know exactly what it's like to feel guilty about their relationship with booze was hugely empowering.
Now, her free website helps others anonymously connect and seek help combatting their alcohol addiction.
Looking for a good way to ditch alcohol? Visit dryjuly.co.nz
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