“Oh, so how do you have any fun”? This is a statement that has embedded into my brain for a few years now. This sentence, statement or I could say question, was said to me at a gala event when a person at my table asked if I wanted a drink from the bar and I responded “thank you but I don’t drink alcohol”.
Now don't get me wrong, I paaaartaaied like the rest of them in my late teens and twenties. My favourite stomping ground was City Rowers nightclub in Brisbane on a Friday and Saturday night, and wee hours of the next morning. I remember, well the first half of the night, at my school leavers party drinking a bottle of Southern Comfort and coke in about 1.5 hours and then hurled and passed out for the rest of the night.
I don’t hold in my hand or have in my pocket and 10 year AA chip, although the looks on peoples face trying to figure out if I am a reformed alcoholic is priceless.
Nope, I just choose to live a sober lifestyle. So why do we get judged, why do we feel like social lepers and in some cases, excluded, all because we choose not to drink?
For almost 10 years now, I have chosen to stop drinking all forms of alcohol and the one burning question I get is WHY?, so here’s my answer.
In my early 30’s it would be nothing for my husband and I to sit down to a nice dinner, open a bottle of wine and consume it over the course of the night. We would attend events, functions, gala balls, BBQ’s, take our BYO and have a great day or night. Until the nights became something more than just consuming alcohol.
While I was upwardly mobile, having a few glasses of wine didn’t affect me. It was when I went to lay down to sleep that my body would convulse. I would close my eyes and then within seconds of shutting my lids, my brain would start spinning, faster and faster and faster, swishing around and around backwards and forwards, I would start to feel sick, like motion sickness, my stomach would start to churn which would make my bladder and bowel active, I would have to get up to pee every 10 minutes, up and down, up and down. I would shiver and shake like my body was going into some sort of toxic shock, I would be jolted awake by my brain, I couldn’t shut my eyes, no matter how tired I was, no matter how much those lids wanted to close, my body wouldn't let me rest. It was punishing me, like being sent to the naughty corner except it wasn’t for a 5 minute time out, this would go on for hours and hours and until eventually, in the early hours of the morning, my system gave up and allowed me to sleep.
At first, I didn’t connect the two, this was happening nearly every single night for years. I would go and speak to doctors about the condition, they did bloods and tests, but found nothing, and let's face it, at the time, there was nothing to find. There was nothing appearing in bloodworks, there was nothing showing up in scans, what is it that we are actually looking for?
It become increasingly frustrating, I became chronically fatigued, physically drained, extremely emotional, life wasn’t fun for me, I feared going to sleep at night because I knew what was install for me, I knew what my night was going to look like, it was groundhog day, every, single, night.
As conversation flowed between mates, and my frustration growing, there was chatter about preservatives in wines and how they might not agree with me. Okay, so i’ll cut back on the wine intake or cut out wine all together.
I stopped drinking wine, and guess what, my systems stopped. OVERNIGHT! I was left with my thoughts, was I drinking too much? I’ll just cut right back. While I stopped drinking, my symptoms stopped too, if I drank, they appeared, without fail. What did all this mean?
I would attend events, knowing what would happen if I drank alcohol, but surely, one little mouthful wouldn't make me react, surely. While I would feel absolutely fine while I was vertical and socialising, it was when I laid horizontal that my symptoms would present themselves, even after just one mouthful.
I now knew what was happening, I could relay this to the doctors to ask why. It took a few goes, but I finally got the answer that changed my life. I suffer from Anxiety, (that’s a whole other story), and what the alcohol was doing was exacerbating the symptoms, heightening them and switching my anxiety into overdrive. I didn’t realise or pay attention to this when I was socialising, it was when I started to wind down and put my body into rest mode, that my alcohol fuelled anxiety came alive.
At 33, I chose to stop drinking, I chose to listen to my body and what it was telling me, I chose a sober lifestyle. I’ve recently been campaigning for the Sober Curious Movement that is spreading through the USA and is dribbling onto Australian shores. As plant based food trends, pilates/yoga and mindfulness rise in popularity, so will living a sober lifestyle. There has already been a 5% drop in the consumption of alcohol, a 55 year low. It’s our millennials that we have to thank for this as they embrace the movement and have actually made sobriety culturally acceptable.
Humans crave socialisation and community, our culture, in many ways, revolves around alcohol. From sporting events, and celebrating weddings to popping down for a few bevies at happy hour with our work colleagues, we celebrate life's events with champagne, wine, beer, spirits and cocktails. Imagine providing a space, bar or event where you have removed the pressures and dangers of alcohol. Well it’s happening as sober bars, clubs and lounges filled with alcohol free spirits, mocktails, zero alcohol beer and wine, and other non alcoholic drinks like kombucha, sweep across the country. Lyre’s have created an entire spirit range from dry vermouth, american malt, coffee liqueur, to name a few, all so we can create classic cocktails. Carlton United Brewery has Carlton Zero, which after talking to their head of marketing, has fast become their highest selling beer.
There are many debates to be had and conversation to start around living a sober lifestyle, let's start with this question. As mentioned above, we are social creatures, we love a good event, gala ball or networking soiree, so why do we (who don’t drink) have to pay the same ticketed price than those who do? Why is there no alternative option like non alcoholic wines, beers, or mocktails? Why do sober people only have drinking options of water, coke or lemonade? I recently attended a gala ball in Sydney, there was the waitress walking around with the tray of alcohol and when she approached me with her offerings, I simply asked, “is there any alcohol free options”? She stared at me like a deer in the headlights, stumbled before saying, “I think there is water over there at the bar” yet there was beer, wine, champagne and even an espresso martini bar for everyone else.
So I put this forward to you all, ask yourself why you drink alcohol, if the answer is because it’s fun and social, i'd be diving deeper into why you need alcohol to have fun or to be social. Can you not be these things without it?
This was my response to that person at the table who asked me that very question, the question that has embedded itself in my brain for years now, implying that I can’t have any fun if I don’t drink. I don’t need alcohol to be a fun and social person, do you and why?