‘I’m not having a big one,’ she promised as she stayed for a cheeky drink with her friends while picking up their kids for a sleepover.
Hours later, her daughter was holding her hair away from her face and rubbing her back while she vomited uncontrollably, trying to pass it off as food poisoning.
Binge drinking was a way of life for Danni Carr who grew up in regional Victoria and had her first ‘big night on the booze’ at 13.
‘It was what everyone did on the weekend,’ she told FEMAIL.
Danni Carr, 45, (pictured) gave up alcohol four-and-a-half years ago after binge drinking since the age of 13
The mother-of-two quit drinking alongside her husband, Ash Grunwald, after her daughter, Aria, who was 10 at the time, had to hold her hair back while she vomited one afternoon. Her son Sunny, also pictured, was six at the time
For the next 27 years she struggled with moderation. One drink turned to 10 and then she would wake up, wonder how her kids had got to bed and spiral into a dark headspace of depression, anxiety and self hatred.
Danni, who has now been sober for four-and-a-half years after ditching booze for good, said she would often ‘start the party’ with a wine while cooking dinner before rushing through the bed time routine so she could keep drinking.
She would wake up with a dry mouth, in a bad headspace and promise she wouldn’t drink again, or would at least stop at one or two only to end up in the same situation the next weekend.
Danni says while she wasn’t an alcoholic she definitely did have a problem with alcohol and had known for some time.
‘It is what is now known as a grey area drinker,’ she said.
But it wasn’t until that afternoon where her ten-year-old daughter had to hold her hair back that she realised how important it was to shake her binging habit.
‘I told her I had food poisoning. But she knew, and she would make little comments here and there. I didn’t want to live that life anymore,’ Danni said.
This picture shows how a typical night drinking would go for the mum, who would get black-out drunk almost every time, even if she was just having a few wines with dinner
Danni and Ash (pictured) decided to join in on a sobriety challenge on January 1, 2018 and haven’t had alcohol since
The mum-of-two remembers waking up at about 11pm that night, she could hear her friends laughing with her kids in the lounge room and was almost too ashamed to leave her room.
‘They were supposed to be on a lovely date for their anniversary and I was meant to be having a movie night with the kids, but I said yes to a drink and ruined everything,’ she said.
Weeks later, Danni’s best friend told her she would be ‘going sober’ in 2018 – ditching alcohol for 12 months to improve her health.
‘I have never jumped on board with anything so fast. I didn’t even think about it, I said I would do it and haven’t picked up a drink since,’ she explained.
She suggested her singer husband Ash give the challenge a go too and he jumped on board without hesitation.
Before they knew it they had a huge crew, including Ash’s best friend and fellow musician Scott Owen and his girlfriend.
‘Every time we thought we were going to reach for a drink we would message the group and they would help us get on top of it,’ she said.
Ash, who is a musician, now drinks alcohol-free beer before gigs
Danni said some people ‘dropped out’ after a few weeks, but a good core followed through on their promise to stay sober all year.
The two couples continued after the first 12 months because they were feeling so good.
‘It got to the end of the 12 months and I was nervous about drinking again,’ she said.
‘I had done breaks before just for a few months and thought I would be able to handle it again only to end up in the same space.
‘I love my life now, I can get up and spend time with my kids and don’t feel like I am rushing them to bed to have a drink.’
Danni’s biggest difficulty with quitting drinking was having to learn to ‘sit with her uncomfortable feelings’ in social settings.
She often feels anxious and awkward around people and used alcohol to wash away those insecurities.
‘It was hardest in the first few weeks, I would start to realise I was feeling uncomfortable then my cheeks would get red and I would start to sweat. I ended up going home early a few times,’ she said.
‘I guess it was a feeling of being out of place and not fitting in, in a way it never goes away but I have learnt to sit with it now, which is huge.
Danni says she loves being able to wake up and keep plans she made with her kids, because she isn’t too hungover to follow through
‘I am definitely more confident. By the end of the first year I could go anywhere without worrying about it. The four of us were all going strong,’ she said.
Danni said she also had to ‘learn to like herself’ again, after spending years hungover hating everything.
‘I found when I quit alcohol I had more time to sit with myself and really feel my emotions. I could no longer ignore them so I was able to work through things I had been holding onto for a long time,’ she said.
‘I found my self worth again and was able to do that deep inner work to really like and love myself.’
Danni is hosting a session at the upcoming Bodfest where she will talk about learning to like and love your body.
She has also become a sobriety coach and helped thousands quit drinking for good.
Danni said she had a huge craving for wine when her beloved dad (pictured together) died in 2021 but knew the craving was her body’s response to the pain and grief she was feeling
But there have been some close calls.
The first ‘came out of nowhere’ when she was cooking dinner one day.
‘I had the music going and the pasta on the stove and just had this overwhelming need for a red wine,’ she said.
This happened in the first 12 months so she messaged her other sober friends who had her back.
‘They told me to step outside and have a cup of tea, so I did and then the feeling passed,’ she said.
The second came when her beloved father passed away in 2021 and Danni became overwhelmed with powerful emotions.
It had been three years since her last drink yet the craving came on more intense than ever, she could almost taste the wine on her lips.
Danni’s top five tips to quitting alcohol:
1 – Arm yourself with lots of alcohol free options, have things like soda wate, kombucha, alcohol-free beers, juice or soft drinks available at all times
2 – Think about how you want to feel. I knew what I didn’t want to hate myself and spend my weekends overwhelmed with anxiety and depression. I wanted to be healthy, happy, energetic and vibrant. Now I wake up and I love life
3 – The third is the hard one you have to be mindful of your emotions. Look at why you want to drink and question it. Learn to sit with the uncomfortable feelings that come up. This might mean getting professional help to un-pack these emotions or you might need to do something like journaling
4 – Move your body! I suggest people exercise 20-30 minutes per day when they are becoming sober. It really helps keep your mind on the goal
5 – Have a strong social network – this could mean quitting with friends, joining an online community or telling you friends and family about your journey to sobriety so they can help hold you accountable
Source: Danni Carr
‘This time I knew exactly what it was, I didn’t want to feel these big feelings,’ she said.
‘The grief was so intense but I reminded myself how much accountability I have – I have my podcast, I am a sobriety coach.
Danni said she ignored her urge to go to the bottle shop and took herself to bed instead where she curled up into a ball and cried, feeling every bit of her grief.
‘I had to feel the feelings. Being sober doesn’t mean everything is easy. I had to face those feelings head on,’ she said.
The busy mum now drinks cups of tea at gigs and says she feels good and won’t go back to drinking
Danni said she sometimes indulges in alcohol free beers and gins but leaves the wine alone.
‘I think that will trigger me, people have to be really in tune with what will and won’t,’ she said.
‘They are great tools for sobriety though.’
Danni said people should be more open about sobriety with their friends and family so they can share their journey with the ones they love most.
She has a podcast ‘How I quit alcohol’ which hosts other ex-drinkers, how they quit and the moment they realised they had to.