Susannah Constantine on the shame of being a female alcoholic: ‘It is a very lonely place to be’

Jayne Cherrington-Cook
·4-min read
Susannah Constantine says opening up about alcoholism has been 'rewarding' (Image: Getty Images)
Susannah Constantine says opening up about alcoholism has been 'rewarding' (Image: Getty Images)

Last year, Susannah Constantine revealed that she was an alcoholic and had been sober for seven years. While speaking on White Wine Question Time, the TV style guru admitted it was a very lonely place to be.

The former What Not To Wear star was talking to podcast host Kate Thornton about how there seems to be more of a stigma for female alcoholics, than their male counterparts.

“I think, for women in particular, there are so many sort of tags attached to female drinkers,” she said.

“If you're a mother and you're an alcoholic, you're a bad mother – that’s what people are thinking. And if you're single, then you're an easy lay, as far as men are concerned that that's how it's perceived.”

Watch: Susannah Constantine reveals her close relationship with Princess Margaret

The 58-year-old said that for men it’s seen almost as a badge of honour, while women like herself often feel a sense of over-riding shame, which is made even worse by the fact that women can often hide their addiction easier.

“I do believe that female drinkers — I'm speaking for myself — is that we can function very effectively, whilst hiding it and that is exhausting,” she told Thornton.

Read more: New research uncovers personality type most likely to binge drink

“It's very lonely place to be. There are a lot of high functioning female alcoholics out there, but, you know, there is a solution, but you've got to be ready yourself.”

For Constantine, who still says she isn’t sure what caused her addiction, her solution was attending AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings, something she says has been the making of her.

Listen: Susannah Constantine talks about why her 26-year-old marriage just keeps getting better!

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“One day I walked into an AA meeting and that was it,” she stated.

She continued: “It was like coming home and listening to people’s shares, the identification and lack of judgement, and it was amazing. It was so freeing and liberating, and then to know that I could do something about it myself, I didn't have to rely on anybody else. That was a light-bulb moment for me.”

Read more: ‘My desperate, shameful secret’: A functioning alcoholic’s journey through lockdown

While Constantine said that her battle with alcohol was never a secret among family and friends, it was lockdown that persuaded her to go public with it as she saw a worrying statistic that women were reaching for the booze more and more to cope with pandemic life.

“I was reading all the statistics during lockdown about the high percentage of women who were reaching out for help and I thought 'OK, now's the time’,” she told Thornton.

Susannah Constantine credits Sten, her husband of 26 years, for his strength and support during her battle (Photo by Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Susannah Constantine credits Sten, her husband of 26 years, for his strength and support during her battle (Photo by Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

“There's so much shame attached to being an alcoholic and having a problem with booze, so I thought now's the time to just try and alleviate some of that shame for women and saying, ‘I've been there. I know how you're feeling’.”

Last year, Constantine wrote a piece in The Daily Mail detailing her experience, saying she was still very much “on a long road”, however she does believe there is one major positive to making her condition public – the fact that she can help others.

Read more: Susannah Constantine recalls insulting Dame Kristin Scott Thomas to her face

“When I went public about being an alcoholic, I was so overwhelmed by messages from women, in particular, who were struggling,” the 58-year-old declared.

“That has been such a privilege for me to a) read their stories and b) be able to help them and every single person, when it comes to that, I will respond to and try and help in the best way I can basically by sharing my own experience with alcohol and that that's been really rewarding.”

Hear Susannah Constantine talk about life after Trinny on the latest episode of White Wine Question Time. Listen now on Apple Podcast and Spotify.

Watch: Susannah Constantine opens up about living with her bipolar mother