24 May, 2024

“I decided to stop drinking because…” is a sentence with infinite endings. There are so many factors that can go into making the decision to give up alcohol and it isn’t always straightforward. One thing that isn’t often discussed in this decision-making is breast cancer. In the UK it is estimated that 8% (around 4,400) of female breast cancer cases are linked to alcohol consumption.

However, these statistics were all too familiar for personal style coach Claire Hall, whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 51 and passed away from secondary cancer years later.

Claire, who is the founder of the popular online fashion community Club Forty, dedicates most of her time to inspiring women to make the most out of life in their 40s and beyond. This year marks three years since Claire decided to give up alcohol.

Breast Cancer UK sat down with the Essex-based content creator to find out how she has been able to make the most out of life since giving up alcohol.

‘I was always the first at the bar, and the last at the bar!’

“I’ll be the first person to admit that I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol in my younger years, but not in the way that many might think. I never sat alone in my room drinking my sorrows away or had issues maintaining a job or relationship. For a long time, I viewed alcohol as playing a positive role in my life. Alcohol was a big part of my upbringing and everyone in my family drank. Whether it was a baptism, a birthday, or a family barbeque, every social situation was an opportunity to drink.

When I entered my teens and early 20s, I continued down this path of using alcohol to maximise my enjoyment. I’d describe myself as a bit of a ‘boozy, party girl’ and I gravitated towards similar people. The problem was I never knew when to stop. I was always kind of like first at the bar last at the bar.

But as I got older and started to have children and progress in my career, I realised that my relationship with alcohol wasn’t as positive as I thought. Even though I would never drink during the week, I would go all out on Friday and Saturday nights to let my hair down. I hated myself for always getting so drunk, but I didn’t know how to stop. I tried and failed several times before I was finally able to at the age of 48. This April I will be three years sober.

I didn’t want to make a big announcement when I first decided to quit for good because I wasn’t sure how long I would last. The first Christmas and birthday celebrations were a challenge, but after that, it got easier.”

‘I enjoy life more without alcohol’

“I’ve always been quite an active person and since giving up drinking I’ve leaned more into that lifestyle. However, I still enjoy the things I used to do, like nights out dancing with my friends and weekend brunches. Funnily enough, I’d say that I enjoy these things more without alcohol, just in a different way.  

“I’m able to make better decisions about when to leave parties and don’t feel the need to prolong events I’m not enjoying by drinking. It was an adjustment period for my friends because they’d always known me as a drinker, but it’s all worked out. I’m a much better friend now because I’m more present and reliable. 

“I’d tried to go sober before. I took part in events like Dry January and Sober October as a starting point, but they didn’t work for me. It felt like I was holding myself back and counting down the days before I could drink again. I knew that the only way it was going to work for me was if I viewed it as a long-term lifestyle change instead of an annual event.” 

‘Breast cancer was always at the back of my mind’

“I spent a lot of time doing research into the effect alcohol had on my body. Soon enough, I came to the conclusion that it was a poison that didn’t do anything good for me. I also discovered that as a woman, drinking alcohol increases the likelihood of getting breast cancer.  

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at a relatively young age. As a result, it was always at the back of my mind that the amount of alcohol I was drinking was increasing my risk. All of the reasons against drinking alcohol began to stack up. There were so many cons and no pros for me. 

I used to feel so much anxiety the next day after a night out drinking. I’d constantly worry about the things that I might have said or done when I was under the influence. This would make me spiral into hating myself for allowing myself to get that drunk. That anxiety has gone and I’ve broken the negative thought cycle. In addition to my health, it’s been massively positive for my health and well-being. 

Even though my page mostly focuses on fashion, there’s always a lot of interest when I share my sobriety story. A lot of women comment saying that they want to give up alcohol but don’t think they can. I never thought that I would be able to give up alcohol either, but I have. It is achievable, you just have to really want to do it and approach it with a positive mindset. There are so many resources out there. When you’re ready, you won’t have to go it alone. “ 

If you’re trying to give up alcohol, check out our alcohol and breast cancer page and quiz for more information and handy tips.  

Follow Claire on Instagram @ClubForty to hear about more of her story. 



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