Motivational speaker Christine Wright's battle with alcohol and how saving a man in crisis changed her life
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Drinking would cast a shadow over much of her life, with a breakthrough moment of realisation only coming when she helped to save a man in crisis. She had pulled him from the edge of a bridge in Morley and cradled him until the emergency services arrived, listening to him sob.
“It was like a mirror image of everything that I'd gone through in my life,” she said. “I was an alcoholic, I had a failed relationship, he had lost his brother and I had just lost my father, I didn’t feel valued. I was like, if I'm not careful again, I will be this person.”
Back when she first started drinking as a teenager, her dad had disagreed with Christine use of alcohol to cope and the parties that she went to as she tried to escape her turbulent home life. He gave her an ultimatum to either change her ways or leave home. Christine moved in with her mum but it wasn’t long before her mum’s boyfriend issued the same ultimatum.
Christine and her mum found themselves in a bed and breakfast as she tried to sit her GCSEs. She was now more surrounded by alcohol than ever before, saying: “People deal with our own trauma by using crutches and that could have been drugs and alcohol and they were prevalent in this time.”
During a house party one Christmas, 17-year-old Christine was raped by a man. “I didn't report it,” she said. “I was seen as the party girl – who would believe me? I needed to get away so I went to university. But again everything revolved around alcohol. My whole world was around alcohol, even right down to my part-time job in hospitality.”
Christine took up a placement year in Cyprus where her drinking habits were encouraged further. She recalls: “I'd be going to work at 5.30am or 6am, still absolutely blotted from the night before.”
Getting pregnant in her final year at university was the first time that had been sober in a long while. After giving birth to her son, she returned to her old habits though in what she calls “the grey area of drinking” – having the occasional glass of wine at night.
Finding out that her then husband was having an affair in 2007 brought back all the trauma that came with the divorce of her parents. "I felt very much like a failure,” said Christine, who was also grieving a miscarriage at the time.
“I became mentally poorly, mentally unstable – and I used the crutch of alcohol again to cope,” she said. “At that point, I felt I couldn't function. I tried to take my own life. I just drank and drank and drank and became a functioning alcoholic.”
Christine was raising two young boys by this time and managing a floristry business when she received the diagnosis of an autoimmune liver disease. Despite her health, it was only that moment on the bridge in 2019 that made her really stop and think. She said: "People say I was his earth angel, but actually he was mine – because he put me on the track of sobriety. Danny was the one that saved me, and the rest is kind of history.”
Christine contacted the doctor about her drinking habits and was put on a three-month waiting list to go on a programme. During that time, she closed down her business, sought a mentor and signed up for a retreat to Bali where she would learn to set up an online business to help others.
The Habit Breaker organisation that she runs today is geared towards women and teenage girls, including conversations about body confidence and image and toxic relationships. She said: “I needed somebody at 14 to help me break away from these destructive words that I was telling myself – that I wasn't valued. I want to educate them and say if you control and understand alcohol, it will set you up for life. It won't take you down this destructive path.”
Still living in Leeds, Christine says she has also been working on herself. “I'm a massive advocate of self-forgiveness,” she said. “I have no shame in what's happened. I carry no guilt, and I've had to do a lot of healing itself, particularly around my children as well, because obviously they will have been affected. It’s been three years of healing, and three years of really finding out who I am, because I never knew until I became sober.”