She vowed to transform her health and fitness for good when she turned 40 last year, but Tanya Bardsley admits she’s since gone one step further by deciding to give up alcohol. The ex-Real Housewives Of Cheshire star says she went to a “dark place” after her mental health plummeted because of booze, and says going sober at the start of this year has given her a new lease of life.
Tanya tells Closer, “There’s a massive sober movement going on now because people are seeing alcohol for what it is. It’s expensive, overrated and a depressant. If you’re feeling low or have any kind of mental health problem, it’s like pouring ethanol onto an open fire. I realised I just wanted to be happy and healthy, and alcohol was getting in my way.”
The star, who shares sons, Rocco, 12, Renz, eight, and Ralphi, five, with husband and footballer, Phil Bardsley, as well as daughter Gaby, 19, from a previous relationship, has been open about suffering with depression over the years. She was also recently diagnosed with ADHD, which she describes as “having 17 TVs on my in head, followed by total burnout.” And she admits drinking created a “vicious cycle” which compounded her symptoms.
“I wouldn’t drink often, but once every two weeks I’d have a binge,” she says. “The hangovers were the problem, rather than the drinking. I’d get nothing done, snap at my kids and end up feeling rubbish about myself.
“The next morning, I’d be crippled with anxiety, which would go on for about a week. My poor husband would have to drag me out of bed, and you just lose all motivation for life. It’s like being on a hamster wheel; you drink, feel hungover, eat rubbish, then feel down because you’ve got a pot belly and realise you’re skint because you bought everyone Jägerbombs!”
At her most vulnerable, the star admits she “recorded clips” of herself to send to her friends so they would encourage her not to drink. She explains, “Once, after a binge, I was in such in a low place, crying and saying I didn’t want to live any more.
“After that I decided to record how low I felt during a hangover. I sent it to close friends and said, ‘I can’t do this any more.’ They completely understood and are so supportive. If I want to leave early from a night out, they won’t stop me and instead they’ll say, ‘We’re proud of you, Tanya.’”
Tanya also turned to her pal, DJ Fat Tony, a former drug and alcohol addict, and a close pal of Kate Moss.
She says, “Tony has been amazing. He would see me out on Instagram and ring me in the morning and shout, ‘Was it f-cking worth it?’ He’s like a guardian angel but with a potty mouth. He tells me how good life is without booze and teaches me coping strategies. I’ve been having non-alcoholic Heineken beers as a replacement, and they taste no different. The bottles look the same, so you avoid annoying questions about why you’re not drinking.”
Tanya, who is set to front an ITV documentary about her experience with ADHD, adds, “I’m still learning how to socialise with drunk people on nights out, but Tony said his motto is, ‘Turn up, shine and then leave,’ and that’s exactly what I do. I’ve realised you don’t have to be the last one to go home. When it gets to the stage where people are telling me the same story for the fourth time, I leave. Then I count the money I’ve saved that evening and put it into savings.”
She adds, before laughing, “Eventually I’ll invest it – or put it towards the electric bill now everything’s shot up!”
Now the star, who recently had a tummy tuck and a brow lift, says sobriety has improved every aspect of her life. She says, “I can’t promise I won’t slip and have the odd drink in the future, but life is so much better. My head’s clear, I’m not bloated, and I don’t snap when the kids’ football lands on my head. Every part of my life is better when drink isn’t involved. Plus, alcohol ages you so bloody much, there’s a reason why J-Lo [who rarely drinks] looks good!”
She adds, “No one is more relieved than my mum, she hated me drinking. When I start, I’d go for a whole 10 hours, then a full week depressed, and it wasn’t nice to see.
Tanya admits she's been determined to keep a “clear head” for the sake of her kids too. She adds, “I want to be as healthy as I can be for my kids. Even though I call my home the Bardsley Zoo, I’ve got such lovely children. I don’t want to miss a day of their lives by feeling worse for wear.”