‘How I finally gave up booze’ Zoe Ball opens up on losing partner Billy Yates and the rehab that saved her from addiction

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  • Zoe Ball shot to fame in the 90s and quickly became the face of ladette culture with her boozy, party lifestyle – even getting into trouble for swearing at work when she hosted the Radio 1 Breakfast Show.

    The 49-year-old presenter has now admitted that, despite trying to quit booze completely for years, she kept falling off the wagon. Zoe famously revealed in 2014 that she’d broken her sobriety after six years of abstinence.

    Speaking on BBC Radio 2’s Desert Island Discs, she said, ‘It is kind of a strange thing when you face things in your life – you know, like addictions – that often you will find that you will deal with it a little bit but then you will slip back into old ways.

    ‘I’d sort of deal with one thing and then another thing would sort of affect me and it took me a couple of attempts to sort that out.’

    Zoe has now been sober since 2016, something she says is a result of rehabilitation and spending time with like-minded people.

    Celebrating two years of sobriety in 2018, not long after her partner Billy Yates took his own life, aged 40, she shared in a social-media post, ‘Two years no booze – through two of the toughest years of my life. I’m not sure I’d have survived intact had it not been for my sobriety.’

    Zoe’s reputation as a party girl increased when she got married to superstar DJ Fatboy Slim – AKA Norman Cook – in 1999.

    But, speaking to BBC’s Desert Island Discs, Zoe now thinks her heavy drinking was down to feeling insecure in such big groups. ‘It’s weird because you do this job and you are talking and are gregarious and all these things but I am actually quite shy,’ she says. ‘But you could walk into the room if you’d had a drink.

    ‘You could be in a room full of musicians or you could be in a room full of people who were some of your heroes and you could feel like you could hold your own if you had some sort of prop or something that made you feel a bit more at ease.’

    However, she confesses that she started relying on alcohol too much to have a good time in social situations.

    As well as rehab, Zoe – who had son Woody, 19, and daughter Nelly, 10, with Norman before they split in 2016 – had perhaps even more reason to stay sober when her cameraman boyfriend, Billy, passed away.

    She says, ‘Billy was my partner, we’d been friends for years and we got together. He suffered with depression for a huge chunk of his life. And it’s so hard to sit and watch someone you love and care for struggle with mental health. Losing him was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life.’

    And in the BBC interview, Zoe explains how she’s spoken to lots of people who work in mental health, and wants those going through similar situations to know that help is available, and not just drugs, as they don’t work for everyone.

    Finishing by saying how she wants people to remember Billy for his loving personality rather than the way he died, Zoe adds, ‘He was so full of love. He would help anyone in need. He was always there for all his friends. He brought so much into my life, so much into his family and friends’ lives.’