Blues singer Coughlan celebrates her ninth Christmas sober

BLUES singer Mary Coughlan is looking forward to celebrating her ninth Christmas sober.

On Christmas Eve, 10 years ago, she was hooked up to various machines in hospital after drinking to excess.

“I had got locked as usual and the children decided they were not going to put up with me at Christmas in that state,” Mary recalled yesterday.

Mary, who at one stage was drinking three bottles of vodka a day, was speaking at the launch of Barnardos’ campaign to protect children from the negative impact of alcohol.

She recalled that on her last drunken Christmas Eve her older children each grabbed one of her legs to help her husband, Frank Bonadio, lift her body out the front door and into the back of the family car. Frank and the children were anxious the neighbours saw nothing.

“It sounds funny now but it was not funny for my children,” said Mary, 46, who had her first alcoholic drink at 30 years, but quickly became addicted. Her five children, Aoife, 27, Olwen, 24, Eoin, 22, Clare, 10, and Cian, five, all have great fun at Christmas now.

Even though Mary is off the booze she still insists on cracking open a bottle of champagne and making mulled wine for family and friends on Christmas Eve: “Thankfully, my grown-up children know when they have had enough. They can put the cork back on the bottle, something I was never able to do.”

Mary said her children never brought their school friends home because she would be stretched out on the sofa pretending to read a book. She hid the bottle of vodka under the couch but her children always knew what she was up to. “I was not aware of anybody except myself and the bottle that I was drinking. I was not aware of the effect my drinking was having on my children until I stopped.”

Musician, actor, and recovering alcoholic Don Baker also spoke out in support of Barnardos. His father was an alcoholic, an addiction that preoccupied his mother and meant that her love was not available for her son.

“Children who grow up in a dysfunctional family know there is a problem but they don’t know what it is,” he said. Because he knew no better he thought it was normal to get “absolutely plastered” at 15 years old.

When Don eventually quit drinking at 33 years of age he also had to learn to be comfortable with himself without “medicating” himself with alcohol. That took 15 years of therapy.

The thrice-married musician believes he drank to cover up how bad he really felt about himself. He did not know how to love or take care of himself because he never had a role model to look up to: “The constant shame thinking that you are a mistake is very hard to take. I used to put on an act just to survive. I’m not acting now.”

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