Belfast Telegraph

Leaving Belfast helped author Anna Burns quit alcohol

Struggles: Anna Burns
Struggles: Anna Burns
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A Booker-prize winning author from Northern Ireland has spoken about how she felt compelled to leave Belfast in order to quit drinking.

Anna Burns (57) won the prestigious honour last year for her 2014 novel Milkman, but said it would never have happened at home.

"I would say the best thing I ever did was getting sober," she revealed at a recent appearance at the Hay Festival.

"I am not saying I lived happily ever after but it did save me. Also, I do not think I would have started to deal with Ireland or my family and my upbringing if I hadn't been sober. I wasn't writing until I was."

Ms Burns has spoken out before about the difficulties of growing up in the republican Ardoyne area of north Belfast during the Troubles.

Drinking from an early age, she left Belfast in 1987 to study Russian in London.

After dropping out of the course she made the choice to embark on a 12-step programme.

"I left officially to go to university," she said.

"But really I was just leaving to get sober.

"I know people do get sober there (Belfast) but I couldn't".

In a previous interview with the Belfast Telegraph she added: "When I got sober, there was this awful grief. How can I be social again and go out for a night? Everything was around drink. But it all came out of 12-step. I made some absolutely amazing friends and I could see, okay, this is another way to be in the world. Sober and reflective."

Ms Burns has also spoken about how she intends to use her £50,000 in prize money to pay for back surgery and clear her debts.

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