Former pop star reveals heartbreaking moment that led to her sobriety

A Queensland mum on the brink of death has turned her life around after giving up one thing – and now feels 10 years younger. Photo / Instagram

A mum has opened up about her crippling alcohol addiction and the heartbreaking moment she decided to turn her life around.

Although she is approaching 50, Justine Whitchurch looks and feels younger than ever, after overcoming her debilitating addiction to alcohol.

The now 49-year-old first turned to drugs as a way to cope with her declining mental health, citing depression and anxiety as a trigger for her drinking.

The mum-of-two’s seemingly “harmless” habit slowly spiraled into a life or death situation – and Whitchurch says that if she didn’t get help when she did, she would likely not be here to tell her story today. “I used alcohol as a way to cope with life,” the Gold Coast, Queensland, mum told news.com.au.

“People become addicted for different reasons, and for me it was a way to numb my brain.” she said adding, “I was suffering from depression and anxiety, so drinking became a crutch for my mental health.

“Alcoholism is complex. There were times that it wasn’t an issue, and I could drink casually, but other times it was much more than that. I remember being 19, and I was in bed when my boyfriend called me and broke up with me. I was devastated. I was house-sitting at the time, and by myself. I went out and got some beers from the fridge, and drank them until I fell asleep.

“That was when I learned that alcohol was available to me as a mental health aid.”

Justine Whitchurch shared photos of herself at 19 (L), in her 20s and now.  Photo / Instagram
Justine Whitchurch shared photos of herself at 19 (L), in her 20s and now. Photo / Instagram

Whitchurch rose to fame in the 90s and found success with modeling and music, and her band once even toured with pop icon Kylie Minogue but as she fell deeper into the grips of her addiction, her music career slowly fell apart and she “gave it all in”.

Dealing with marriage issues and subsequent divorce, Whitchurch turned to alcohol more than ever before as a coping mechanism. On her worst days, she would consume 2-3 bottles of wine, while also taking shots of vodka if she wanted to stay inebriated without being detected.

“It became a big issue for me in my 30s,” she explained. “Alcohol can easily shift from something people enjoy, to something they cannot live without. That is what happened to me. I became dependent on it, it wasn’t a choice anymore.

“I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. I thought if I didn’t have alcohol, I wouldn’t be able to cope with life.”

Whitchurch’s turning point came when she realized that her children were starting to become concerned about her well-being.

The mum said that thanks to a strong family support system, her kids were very sheltered from the realities of what was going on. But it was 10 words from her little girl that changed everything, “I’ll never forget that day,” she recalled.

The former musician is now sober and prioritizes her mental and physical health.  Photo / Instagram
The former musician is now sober and prioritizes her mental and physical health. Photo / Instagram

“My father was picking the kids up from school, and he had to make an assessment on whether he thought they could stay at my house that night, “He told me that he was sorry, but he couldn’t leave them with me. He did not think I was in the right state.

“My little girl was only 10 at the time, and she looked at me and said ‘mummy, I’m scared you’re never going to get better’. She didn’t know exactly what was going on, she didn’t know that I was an alcoholic. All she knew was that her mummy was sick, and she was worried about me. That’s when I knew things had to change.”

Whitchurch was checked into a rehab center just before her 40th birthday, a move that she says saved her life. Now 10 years later, she says she is a completely different person and is living her best life yet.

Despite turning 50 next year, when comparing pictures of her at the height of her illness, she looks younger than she did in her 30s.

“I got close to death because my liver levels were so high,” she said. “I’m just thankful to still be here. I knew I had to be here for my kids. They needed a mum.”

She is now using her experience to help raise awareness about the potential dangers of alcohol consumption.

Whitchurch says Australia’s drinking culture can be particularly harmful, and the rise of the “mummy wine time” trend is concerning.

“Drinking is so ingrained in our culture and is so normalized,” she said. “It is almost expected. So when you get sober, it can sometimes be hard and socially isolating. I think when you start questioning your alcohol consumption, you might already have a problem.

“Admitting you need help is the first step. Telling someone out loud, speaking your truth.

“Alcohol ages you quickly, especially for women.

“Getting sober was the best thing I have ever done. I look and feel younger than ever.” Whitchurch said. “I wake up every day and go to the beach, eat healthy meals, work out. I have so much energy.

“If I can do it, anyone can do it. Help is always available – you don’t have to do it alone.”

Where to get help:

Alcohol and Drug Helpline NZ.

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