A mother who was plagued by insomnia and late night stomach pain for three years has revealed how giving up alcohol transformed her health in a matter of weeks.
Between 2007 and 2010, Tamara Wrigley would go to bed at her home on the Sunshine Coast and spend hours staring at the ceiling as her brain raced a mile a minute, body shaking and wracked with anxiety.
Then 33, the radio personality would race to the bathroom ‘every five minutes’ and lie sleepless while she sweated through the agony of her bowels doing somersaults.
She never suspected the cause of her distress could be the two glasses of wine she drank with dinner most evenings.
But after lengthy consultations with her doctor, the radio producer was persuaded to stop drinking to see whether her health improved. It did, almost instantly.
In the 12 weeks after she gave up alcohol, Ms Wrigley lost eight kilos, developed sharper concentration and mental clarity, slept through the night and felt better than she ever had before – despite ‘never being a heavy drinker’, even in her 20s.
‘Everything immediately changed,’ the now 43-year-old told Daily Mail Australia.
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Queensland mother-of-two Tamara Wrigley (pictured in 2020) never suspected the cause of her insomnia and nightly stomach pain could be the two glasses of wine she drank with dinner
Ms Wrigley (pictured in 1999) never classed herself a ‘heavy drinker’ – but couldn’t believe the difference in her health when she binned the booze
‘I thought I had chronic fatigue, and not to feel that way made me wonder why I would ever put alcohol back in my body again.’
Ms Wrigley’s long-term stomach pain was likely triggered by an over-production of acid in her digestive system caused by irritants in her favourite tipple.
Her insomnia can be linked to her nightly drinking, too.
Alcohol has been shown to disrupt and reduce sleep quality, with drinkers who imbibe shortly before bed often experiencing restlessness and debilitating fatigue the following day.
And it seems Ms Wrigley is not the only one sick of these nasty side effects.
Recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal more than a quarter of Australians – 28.9 percent – are mostly abstaining from alcohol, while a further 9.5 percent are drinking less than they were this time last year.
Over the past four years, the number of ex-drinkers in Australia rose from 1.5million to 1.9million – and there is a growing sober scene, largely fuelled by hoardes of Instagram influencers who tout the benefits of their alcohol-free lifestyles online.
But despite the increasing ‘coolness’ associated with turning teetotal, Ms Wrigley has still experienced shock and judgement when she tells acquaintances that she’s ditched the booze.
‘It has been tough,’ she said.
‘I’m not an alcoholic and I never was, but people sort of view you like are.’
In the 12 weeks after she gave up alcohol, Ms Wrigley (pictured in 2020) lost eight kilos, developed sharper concentration and mental clarity, slept through the night and felt better than she ever had before – despite ‘never being a heavy drinker’
Years of drinking led Ms Wrigley (right in 1999) to believe she was suffering from chronic fatigue
Signs of alcohol addiction
‘Addiction’ means having a dependence on a substance or activity. Unlike someone who simply ‘wants’ something, a person with an addiction will have physical cravings and urges for the substance they’re addicted to.
Around one in 20 Australians struggle with a substance use problem or addiction each year, but only one in four seek help.
Being addicted to alcohol, sometimes called being an alcoholic, means that you have a physical dependency on alcohol. There are changes that happen in the brain of someone who drinks a lot of alcohol which makes them have physical withdrawals if they don’t drink.
Withdrawal symptoms can include insomnia, nausea, sweating, anxiety and physical discomfort. If you are experiencing dependence, it also means you need to consume more alcohol to achieve the intended effect.
Signs of alcohol dependence include:
* Worrying about when you’ll be able to have your next drink
* Sweating, nausea or insomnia when you don’t drink
* Needing to drink more and more alcohol to get drunk
* Drinking alcohol, or wanting to, when you wake up in the morning
* Consuming alcohol regularly on your own or trying to hide your drinking
* Fighting with friends and family about your drinking or going out
Source: Reach Out Australia
Ms Wrigley would like to see more options for non-drinkers in bars, restaurants and at events where alcohol is often the unofficial focus.
She said she has been to countless parties and charity galas where beer and wine flow with abundance, but little is offered for those who don’t drink.
‘I’ve had people ask me, “how can you have fun without alcohol?”‘ Ms Wrigley said.
‘But why should you need alcohol to go to a pub or go and dance at a club? I want people to know there’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t drink.’
With the festive season in full swing, Ms Wrigley encouraged Australians who would normally indulge to swap their usual tipple for a thirst-quenching mocktail or alcohol-free beer which enjoyed an unprecedented sales boom during COVID lockdown.
Heineken 0.0 and Carlton Zero were among the top five beer brands in Australia during the first week of April, just eight days after Prime Minister Scott Morrison implemented the first national shutdown to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Ms Wrigley (pictured) would like to see more options for non-drinkers in bars, restaurants and at events where alcohol is often the unofficial focus
Dan Murphy’s commercial beer manager Darren McKenzie told Drinks Trade that non-alcoholic beers is ‘one of the fastest growing sub categories within beer over the past 12 months’.
This Christmas, Ms Wrigley believes the key to minimising alcohol consumption is to always have a drink in your hand – a non-alcoholic one.
Holding a glass reduces the risk of others incessantly asking if they can buy you a drink, and the hot Australian summer is the perfect atmosphere to swap calorie-laden beers for healthier, more refreshing juices.
Ms Wrigley’s best advice is simple: stay in your own lane and don’t give in to peer pressure.
‘I don’t judge others for drinking so why should they judge me for not?’ she said.
There are trained telephone counsellors available in every Australian state and territory.