Danni Carr and Ash Grunwald: Three years without alcohol and loving it

Danni Carr and her husband, blues musician Ash Grunwald

Danni Carr and her husband, blues musician Ash Grunwald

Danni Carr used to call it the 'can't-stops'.

The New Brighton resident and partner of blues musician Ash Grunwald, found it impossible to have just one drink.

"I'd sometimes go months without drinking and then say I was just going to have one - and then the whole night was gone.

"I'd be like 'you know me, I get the can't-stops'."

With the binges came the blackouts, and waking up with an awful feeling about what she'd said or done the night before.

"I'd go through my phone and think 'Who did I ring?' There'd be like be 40 minute phonecalls I couldn't remember and then I'd be worrying if I'd offended them."

IT'S JUST WHAT YOU DO

When Danni met her husband Ash Grunwald, they were both in their 20s and in the music industry. Alcohol was everywhere: "There was so much of it, and (drinking) was just so expected of you," Danni says.

"As Ash's career progressed, it just got more and more. You'd go to a gig and he'd be presented with these huge riders backstage of beer and wine and whisky.

"It's everywhere, it's just what you do."

By the time she was in her late 30s, Danni had become a serial binger.

I was a blackout drinker. Just drinking and not remembering and that got worse as I got older.

Danni Carr

"I was a blackout drinker. Just drinking then blacking out and not remembering and that got worse and worse as I got older."

In 2017, when she and Ash and their two young children were living in Bali, she hit a low point.

"I'd organised to bring my friends' kids back to our villa so that they could go and have a night out. It was all exciting - the kids were going to come over and we were going to get pizza.

"I went to meet them - to take the kids - and we said 'let's just have a couple of drinks'. I ordered some double shot vodkas and then we had a few more and few more. I don't know what happened, but next thing we're back at our villa and I'm vomiting all over myself, all over my shoes.

"I remember Sunny (her daughter) coming in and patting me on the back and telling me it's going to be alright.

"And then waking up a few hours after and just going: 'This is shit. I don't want to do this anymore'. That feeling of letting everyone down and myself down. I knew I had to stop."

Ash Grunwald and Danni Carr, who live at New Brighton, say a positive mindset was the key to quitting alcohol: "See it as a gift to yourself."

Ash Grunwald and Danni Carr, who live at New Brighton, say a positive mindset was the key to quitting alcohol: "See it as a gift to yourself."

A YEAR OFF

The next week Danni's best friend told her she was going to take a year off alcohol, "I said 'I'm in - I'm doing it too.'"

"I said to Ash 'I think you should too', and then some other friends joined, and we made this pact."

At first it was just going to be the year - they'd go back to drinking when the time was up - but things shifted so far for Danni and Ash in those 12 months that more than three years later, they remain alcohol free.

"We changed from being quite negative people to being super enthusiastic and much happier," she says.

For Danni, her anxiety and low grade depression disappeared, she found a new mental clarity that allowed her to make better decisions about her business, Earth Bottles, and she became more present with her children and friends.

For Ash, who had been 'drinking pretty constantly' it was like 'a veil had been lifted'.

As a performer...there was a spark that had diminished and I didn't realise that was alcohol that was doing it.

Ash Grunwald

"As a performer...there was a spark that had diminished and I didn't realise that was alcohol that was doing it.

"I had a metaphor I'd been running with rocks in my backpack and once I got rid of those rocks I ran faster."

He says he became 100 percent more creative, and more more alive on stage.

"My music career is in such a different place to what it was then."

"I'm not dulling myself anymore. It allowed me open my eyes to reality and see things as they are."

Blues musician Ash Grunwald says his creativity exploded once he gave up the booze

Blues musician Ash Grunwald says his creativity exploded once he gave up the booze

ALL IN THE MIND

Central to their success in staying sober was keeping a positive mindset.

For Danni, that included using a gratitude journal, "I knew that if I saw it as sacrificing something it was going to be too hard. I had to see it as giving myself a gift."

For Ash, who was constantly surrounded by triggers in his working environment, it was embracing the phrase 'it's easy'.

"Instead of saying 'oh this is so hard, I find it a lot more constructive to have the mindset that it's easy. You're at a gig and people are offering alcohol... all I have to do is not put a beer to my mouth. And that's easy.

"It sounds like a funny philosophy but it really helps me. You can choose to suffer or you can choose a different perspective."

Last year, after people kept asking her for advice, Danni started a podcast, How I Quit Alcohol, interviewing people from all walks of life at different stages of their quitting alcohol journey. The response was so huge, she decided to become a life coach, sharing with others the techniques and strategies that have worked for her.

She says alcohol is so accepted and normalised, a lot of people struggle.

"I try to motivate people and give them strategies on how to change their mindset. Try to normalise the not drinking."

Ash says the rewards that come with quitting can't be overstated: "If someone's reading this and they've been drinking for 20 years - the news is so great."

"If you've been drinking for a long time, sobriety is like a drug."

Danni now hosts a popular podcast, How I Quit Alcohol, and works a life coach, as well as running her business, Earth Bottles.

Danni now hosts a popular podcast, How I Quit Alcohol, and works a life coach, as well as running her business, Earth Bottles.

SURVIVING SOCIAL EVENTS: DANNI'S TIPS

Alcohol is central to so many social events and the pressure you get from others to drink can be extreme.

"Arrive with your non-alcoholic drinks, or order one as soon as you get there so you've got it in your hand straight away," advises Danni.

"If people ask why you're not drinking, just lie if that's what you need to do. Just say: 'I'm training for a marathon' or on IVF, or pregnant or whatever if that's what you need to do to get people off your back."