A Conversation with Anna Donaghey, Alcohol Mindset Coach, Speaker, and Host of The Big Drink Rethink Podcast

Anna Donaghey is a certified Alcohol Mindset Coach, Speaker, and host of The Big Drink Rethink podcast. 

She helps Senior Professionals navigate a world where alcohol is everywhere and the pressures to consume it are huge. During her career ascent through the Advertising industry, Anna lost control of her own drinking and realised that discrete, private support options were sadly lacking. Having now created a booze-free life in which she loves being fully present, she helps C-Suiters, Leaders, and Entrepreneurs  ‘course—correct’, take control and put a new lease of life into their performance and growth.

Anna is based in the UK but works with Clients across the globe.


Tell us about your journey! What led you to this point?  

My journey to this point involves the convergence of two paths – my career as a Strategist within the Advertising industry, and my lived experience of alcohol addiction.

As the Strategy Director within a Creative & Media Agency, I was responsible for the Agency’s own growth strategy, as well as working with Clients to drive growth for their businesses and brands. I’ve had the opportunity to work on some of the world’s biggest consumer and b2b brands, always posing the fundamental strategic questions i.e. ’ Where are you now?’, ‘where do you need to get to?’ ‘What challenges are standing in your way?’, and ‘How are you going to overcome them?’ 

I was excellent at my job, despite the fact that during my late 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, I lost control of my drinking. 

Alcohol dominated my life. Daily drinking, followed by nightly panic attacks, habitual hangovers and routine exhaustion. A constant cycle of ‘spin and repeat’. All said, alcohol consumed a huge amount of my time and energy.  

I was stuck in a pattern. Addicted, exhausted and terrified to admit it. Frightened by career-limiting perceptions and social stigma. Unable to ask for help, but also unable to break the cycle myself. So, I kept the full extent of my drinking a secret for many years, living a very sub-optimal life in which alcohol created great conflict and suffocated my spirit, energy, dreams and ambitions. 

When I looked in the mirror, the 20-year-old who everyone used to describe as driven, tenacious, resourceful and full of sass – had gone. And instead, the ‘default future’ that awaited me if I did nothing, looked very unhealthy, bleak and joyless. 

But I didn’t want to go down the path of admitting I was an alcoholic and ‘concede’ to alcohol. That resistance in me was enormous. You have to be able to identify with whatever help you choose, or whatever authority you listen to. I didn’t want to give my power away to alcohol. Nor did I want to confront my issues openly in conventional forums. Instead, I wanted to understand why this had happened to me, learn as much about myself and my relationship with alcohol as possible, and use this insight and knowledge as my own personal power.

So I guess those characteristics of that 18-year-old me  – the drive, determination curiosity and productive stubbornness – were still there.  

Instead, I set about a process of identifying all the ‘jobs’ I was giving alcohol to do, and examining every single belief and thought that I had about why I thought I needed it and why I was drinking it the way I was. I literally completely rethought my relationship with alcohol, reframing it in a way that made it redundant. I have effectively ‘sacked it’ from those jobs, built myself a better toolkit for when things get bumpy – as they inevitably do every now and again – and created a life that I don’t want to escape from.

Today I no longer drink through active choice and my method forms the basis of my Coaching. Combining it with my leadership experience and professional strategic skills, I now help other senior professionals when it’s alcohol that is standing in the way of who they want to be and what they want to become. 


What has been your biggest achievement?

Taking control and finding freedom from alcohol has definitely been my biggest achievement. It has put me on an altogether different trajectory, had a massive, positive impact on my career and enhanced every single dimension of my life. 

I am so grateful for the realisation that certain aspects of my addictive personality (i.e. strength, determination and adventurous curiosity) could also be my liberation. 

Personally and professionally, the energy and drive that I knew in my 20s has re-emerged to fuel my 50s.  I truly believe I am capable of anything.


What’s the biggest result you help your clients to achieve?

On a personal level, my Clients gain freedom and peace. With alcohol made small and irrelevant, they can navigate life and alcohol-centric professional cultures, without the compromises and conflict that alcohol creates.

And on a professional level, my Clients always achieve enhanced levels of performance and productivity.  The realisation of what’s possible with the benefits of extra time, better sleep, higher energy and greater clarity. I always say to them ‘If you have managed to rise through the ranks, achieve everything you have done and operate at your level whilst ‘handicapped’ by alcohol……. then just imagine what you can achieve without it!’ 


What would be your biggest piece of advice for readers who want to achieve the same?  

To simply ask ‘Is my life good enough? Am I the person I wanted to be, doing what I wanted to do?’

We have one chance to live the life we want, so if you’re not doing that because alcohol is in any shape or form compromising who you are, who you want to be, what you want to do and what you want to achieve….. then do something about it. 


What are the biggest mistakes you see people make and how can they be avoided? 

Instead of asking whether life is good enough, we all too often consider that our drinking isn’t ‘bad enough’ to demand action. We can always look around and point to others who we think drink more than we do. Or we convince ourselves that it’s part of the job and that the whole industry is at it.  We look to others to externally validate and justify our drinking, instead of asking ourselves that simple question – is my life good enough?


How do you plan on further growing your business?

I passionately believe that alcohol conversations should sit within corporate wellness programmes; a natural evolution to the mental health conversations now at the mainstay of such agendas. 

I love speaking within organisations about my experiences, where to apply caution around drinking and how to avoid the pitfalls. But at the moment I see a reticence amongst all but the most enlightened businesses. This, is despite the very clear links between alcohol and poor mental health, poor physical health, absenteeism and low-productivity ‘presenteeism’ – all of which come at high costs to individuals and the business. Progressive organisations can also see that inclusive workplace cultures cannot simultaneously be alcohol-centric. But the majority of businesses are not having these conversations.

I see Wellness programmes as a big growth opportunity for my business going forward.

Also, in February of this year, I launched The Big Drink Rethink podcast, an open-minded and refreshing look at how drinking culture is changing and why. The podcast has generated huge interest and ‘The Big Drink Rethink’ is a brand that I want to further develop. I am working on broad-reach coaching programmes and a book, under The Big Drink Rethink name. 


Where can readers find you?

Please do get in touch if you want to understand how my discrete and tailored 1:1 Coaching can personally help you, or how my Wellness talks can help your business.

My website is www.thebeliefscoach.com

Email: anna@thebeliefscoach.com

You can also follow me on:

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/annadonaghey

Instagram: @bigdrinkrethink

And The Big Drink Rethink podcast is available to listen to and follow, on all podcast platforms.

Luana Ribeira

Luana Ribeira is a best selling author, international speaker and host of business Innovators Radio.