If you have a story to share please email it to email@example.com.
I admit it, I’ve been an A-grade show pony since I was a kid; a super-social animal who enjoyed being around people and making them laugh. I always had lots of friends, a love of parties and a strong case of FOMO.
And as it happens this was not only part of the reason I drank – to quell my social anxiety and enable me to show up as the life and soul of any party–- but it was also a bloody great humongous hurdle in my mind to stopping drinking, or even cutting back.
I felt sober people were weird, boring social outcasts and not to be trusted, much in the same way as I do about people who don’t like cats.
For years – and by years, I mean decades – I would lurch from thinking I had things ‘under control’ to a crisis of sorts. You know, the ones where you said or did something you shouldn’t; offended a boss, snogged someone inappropriate (I have the most hilarious story involving Spanx – mine) or smashed your front teeth out on a pavement in the Valley during a failed piggyback attempt. Man, that last one was costly.
This would invariably lead to a period of immense shame and an attempt to ‘sort things out’. Sorting things might involve going to see an alcohol counsellor or going on medication such as Naltrexone or turning up at an AA meeting full of remorse, never to go back because ‘I wasn’t like those people’.
I’m sure many of you can relate to the situation where, on the back of a mortifying episode I’d convince myself after a few days that it wasn’t really that bad after all. I mean, c’mon it’s just a bit of a laugh, right? No big deal. Then I’d be back on, big time, by the weekend. Rinse and repeat for at least twenty years.
By the end in all of this, I’d stopped even pretending that this night out would be different because I’d only drink certain drinks. Or that I really would stop at five drinks, or by 9 o’clock. Or that I’d definitely come home with my keys, my wallet and my phone this time.
Who was I kidding? I couldn’t even fool myself anymore.
No, I knew after about the first half an hour to an hour that sense of blissful ease would come over me, that sense that all was actually ok with the world after all, and I wouldn’t give AF. Not about myself, not about my drinking, not about anything. I’d have lost control already and that would be that; I’d have no idea about the latter part of the evening, how I got home, the money I’d spent and how I’d behaved. That’s just how it was now.
By the final time I reached out for help to stop drinking in 2017, there was little, if any, fun in any of it. I wasn’t even enjoying it anymore. I remember one night near the end where I was alone on my deck, crying, not even wanting to drink the drink in front of me but I just couldn’t stop. I didn’t have the strength. Even then the alternative – not drinking – seemed worse than this abyss of despair and unhappiness.
Still, the survival instinct is strong. I knew where this was headed if I continued and it wasn’t a happy ending. I wanted to live. Thankfully with the aid of a stint in an inpatient detox unit, I was able to.
My next challenge when I got sober was, or so I thought at the time, reinventing myself or at least discovering who I was. I mean, who the hell was I without booze? I had no clue. I’d been a big boozer for three decades, my whole adult life. I didn’t know how to operate in the world without it. It was terrifying.
And, what was I going to do now, socially? Would I be a social pariah? I didn’t want to ditch my old friends as they were my mates, with or without booze. Would they ditch me though, now I could no longer come and party? If I’m honest I avoided non-drinkers like the plague, assumed they were beyond tedious and would never in a million years dream of dating one. And here I was, one of them. Ugh, these were massive concerns of mine.
My plan was to continue to see my existing friends in a different capacity, like coffee or brekky or a movie instead of dinner and drinks or a day party that would turn into a 16-hour smash fest.
But this left a big gaping hole for me – Friday and Saturday nights. When I quit, I don’t think I knew a single person who didn’t drink and certainly not one I’d actually want to socialise with. But here I was sober, so they couldn’t all be awful, surely? I was absolutely committed to my sobriety, but I didn’t want to be a lonely, Billy-no-mates or feel like I was missing out. I wanted to focus on what I was gaining on this journey, not what I was ‘losing’. And my social life wasn’t going to be one of them, dammit.
So, I set about hunting down a new tribe to hang with. I googled and searched and yet I couldn’t find anything. I found AA useful as a tool in the first few months, but it wasn’t for me longer term. So that left me with … a fairly lacklustre social life.
And that’s when I decided to start Untoxicated (Booze Free Fun and Friendship); ultimately I created what I needed. An option for normal(ish!) people to hang out together socially, have a laugh and do some fun things together, mainly on the weekends. Movies, picnics, dinners, bars, art galleries, bushwalks, roller discos – you name it, we do it.
It started slowly and some weeks only one person would show but it grew and grew and now we operate in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, hosting events weekly and fortnightly. We have grown into an awesome tribe of people, over 4,500 of us, and the team of us who run it are all volunteers.
We welcome anyone, you don’t have to be sober 24/7 – the only stipulation is no drinking at the event. We offer a space where people can catch up, put their problems aside for a hot minute, have a laugh and feel like they belong somewhere – whether they are sober or sober curious. Many members do still drink but have a wide range of reasons why they want to socialise sans the hard stuff.
We want to help break the stigma and pressures of choosing to socialise without alcohol, by showing it is possible to have a fun, social life with great people who are just like you, without booze.
Socialising in early sobriety can be really hard to do in your old social circles. Sometimes you may just need to pause it for a wee while until you gain a bit more sober muscle. Now, over 2 years in for example, socialising in bars doesn’t phase me, but that wasn’t always the case.
Our social events help people get used to being in social settings like restaurants, around alcohol, but in our own little tribe where it is literally and metaphorically taken off the table.
And so it turns out that without the booze, I’m pretty much the same person, just a much better version. Fundamentally I’m still a social butterfly, the person who brings others together socially, the life and soul. To my surprise, the booze didn’t define me after all.
And it doesn’t have to define you either.
Find out more about Untoxicated by visiting Faye's website
or follow Untoxicated on Facebook
I have high expectations of myself and have done since I was young. I always wanted to do the right thing, both in my personal and work life.
At 36 my drinking was bad. I drank so much in the evenings. I used to walk into work thinking, “can they smell the alcohol?” I would have the feeling of dread and shame where I would feel it in the pit of my stomach. A feeling that at any time you are going to get into trouble. But even knowing this I continued to do it over and over and over again.
The addiction was definitely taking over. The after-work celebration (or commiseration) of going to the bottle shop and getting two bottles, sometimes three to get my fix. My mind was always thinking, especially when I was drinking…. how much can I get away with? I was never a risk-taker, so confused why I thought this. The mornings after though, that’s when the real me took over. The guilt and shame of what I could remember that I’d done and for hours thought about whom I may have offended and how sick I felt. It wasn’t me; it was the alcohol.
I thought I was invincible there. I thought I could get away with anything. What had I become? Where did the person I used to be, disappear to? I don’t think I can remember where the cross over from being nice, respectable girl that got drunk to have fun, to this horrible person who would do and say anything when drunk. Surprisingly, this is not when my drinking was at its worst.
This is just ONE of my stories…
I have now been alcohol-free for almost two and a half years and I will never go back to the person I was when I was at my worst.
Living an alcohol-free life is hands down one of the best decisions I have ever made!
Mary is a writer that is currently writing a book about her sobriety. You can follow her on Instagram
So I’ve taken the decision to tell my story as unfortunately, it involves 2 relationships with alcoholism. The awful co-dependence that you don’t even know you are in, the want to save someone, plead with them to stop drinking, if they really loved me they would stop.... they don’t.
My first experience was with my first proper love, he was older and wanted to settle down so after 2 years we ended and he met someone, had 2 children and I thought I would never see him again. Years later he got in touch, a marriage in ruin from alcohol, 2 children and he had moved back to Somerset to live with his mum.
He had been through rehab, I went through rehab with him twice and when I picked him up, he wanted to go to the pub. Nothing could stop him. He died nearly 8 years ago. I cried every day for I can’t remember how long, I was inconsolable. My lasting memory is him in hospital, yellow with kidney and liver failure. My love for him never went, but he went.
My second was 6 years ago in a relationship that lasted 4 years. We had met online, I didn’t know he was an alcoholic as he said he didn’t drink etc. I discovered it 6 months into the relationship. If I’m honest, I’m still scarred, the memories are frightening, vivid and emotional. The 4 years were a rollercoaster and when he didn’t drink at all, I was permanently on edge, waiting for the moment it would change, the fight to cause an argument, when he couldn’t drink, I later discovered he used tramadol as a non-prescription drug. It was hell, if he started to drink, he would give weeks, 2 bottles of vodka, 3 bottles of wine was the norm a day. He would pass out, wet the bed, need help to the toilet and going to the toilet, he would fall over, break things, injures were normal and then he would get up and go and buy more if I refused. I pleaded, cried, shouted and then the recovery would start again. He would lose jobs, get a new job, the stress of a new job would set the process off again. We had police, we had ambulances, we had everything but I still thought if I loved him enough he would stop. It’s been nearly 2 years since I walked away..... I’m still dealing with the demons he left.
Thank you to my very brave friend Vanessa for sharing her story. Losing people to alcohol is common and the fall out left behind is as terminal as the illness itself. We often forget about the people affected, the ones that are helping and worrying Alcohol damages so much and it breaks hearts too. Sometimes the only thing to do is walk away.
You're a super star Vanessa. x
My unhealthy relationship with alcohol was sneaky…it literally crept up on me. There was a time when I would have a glass of wine on the weekend and that would be that. It’s funny how your journey in life can send you on a tailspin. I’m a wife, mother, and dog mom. I have a job that I love and a beautiful home…but the stress of life and my need for everything to be perfect and carefree led me down a dangerous path. Alcohol propped me up and I relied on leaning on it as much as possible. It took me being tired of being tired, as cliche as that sounds. Toward the end of my drinking career I walked around with a slight buzz all the time.
Let’s go back to July 2019. I started drinking a bottle of red wine just about every night. Vodka was my weekend jam, white and sweet wines weren’t my jams! It was normal for me to start drinking at 5pm and stumble upstairs to my bed around 11pm. I started noticing the cycle that summer, and it was so exhausting. I would wake up EVERY morning feeling like pure death. I’m not a morning person, but still, I was a pure monster every morning. Each morning I’d literally wake up, feel an incredible weight of guilt and shame, promise myself I’d stop, go about my day in full struggle, and drink later that night. WASH. RINSE. REPEAT! I was making it exhausting to be me. The constant red stained tongue, mystery Amazon Prime deliveries showing up, the nights of the room spinning which I knew were the precursor to a night running to the toilet to throw up were just getting old.
Around September of 2019 I started getting aggressive with myself. I had a plan! I was only going to drink on the weekends! Sounds good right, stay sober all week…drink myself to oblivion on the weekend! That lasted about 1 week. Ok, ok back to the drawing board because I just knew I could come up with a master plan that didn’t involve me living this so called - sober life! November 2019 I came up with a new strategy, I’d drink a glass of water in between each glass of wine or cocktail. I knew I had arrived! This strategy would revolutionize my struggle. I only became drunk, and now I had to run to the bathroom and pee every 5 seconds. All of that water and the fact that alcohol is a diuretic would prove to be a recipe for disaster for my poor bladder. Back to the drawing board. Then it dawned on me, January 21, 2020, at 8:53am, “Sis you’ve got to be done with this”. I was going to nurse my last hangover. This one was particularly dreadful and pathetic because that morning I had to muster all my available strength to get my mom to a medical procedure.
Oh no, that’s not the end of the story! A few days after my declaration…7 days later to be exact, I took another drink. I was stressed about something and just made the decision that I was going to open the final bottle of red wine that was in my house. I drank half the bottle (can we say improvement though) and dumped the rest! My sober date is January 29, 2020, at 5:43am.
Each day I gain a little more clarity, a little more strength, and a little more dignity. I’m finding my new normal. I’m finding ways to cope with stress and disappointment. I’m finding ways to celebrate the wins. There are good days, and there are dark ones. I’m no longer coming home from work wondering “what the heck did I order this time”? I’m navigating my new sober life, one day at a time. Sobriety has been the best gift I could’ve ever given myself. I’m better for it. I’m a stronger woman, I’m a better wife and mother, and I love my new life.
You can follow Kirstin's journey at Soberbrowngirls.com.
124 days of sobriety 💛
A small milestone, but a milestone nonetheless.
I finally stuck to my word and proved myself wrong. I have learnt so much about myself. I have accepted how much I was using alcohol as a coping mechanism. I accepted that I never had that switch off button and that ‘one drink’ was never going to be possible.
And so my mess is now my message of gratitude.
I am grateful for the clarity of mind that sobriety has given me.
I am grateful for 100 days of making better choices.
I am grateful for actually being able to sleep through the night without waking at 3 am with ‘the fear’ of what I had been like the night before and trying to piece the night together.
I am grateful for 100 days self-harm free. The guilt, the apologising, the tears, the embarrassment, the arguments and the blackouts would all contribute to my heightened anxiety and the lowest of moods. The regret and the worry led me to some very self-destructive behaviours.
I am grateful for every hour of the day that isn’t wasted being hungover and throwing up.
I am grateful for the motivation and energy I now have for the kids.
I may have permanently changed my lifestyle but I am still me. I can still enjoy the fun things in life. The difference is I am now more present and able to find joy in the smallest of moments that I didn’t realise existed.
And that has got to be the most beautiful gift I could have ever given to myself.
Here’s to the next milestone...
Sophie x x x
Follow Sophie's journey on Instagram