From Cheers to Clarity
by Serena Hodge
It’s no secret, we Aussies love to drink. But it wasn’t until I committed to eight weeks of sobriety that I learnt just how deeply alcohol is embedded within our culture.
So why challenge myself to a dry spell? Well, I’ve been toying with the idea for some time now. Years, actually. My rubber arm derailing my alcohol-abstinent intentions with every wine I’m offered at a dinner with friends. I take a look in the (figurative) mirror and ask myself some difficult questions. Do I even enjoy drinking anymore? Who am I in a social setting without the confident sheen of that all-too-familiar alcohol buzz? I challenged myself to two booze-free months to find out. What follows; a recount of what this social experiment taught me.
It won’t always be received well by others. Opt for a kombucha at a usually booze-fuelled event and expect to be met with some resistance. You must be bored! Are you sure you don’t want a drink? After one too many occasions of being quizzed on my sober choices, I started to get comfortable with the reality that some people won’t understand it. There will be times where I feel like the odd one out. And that respecting my own boundaries was going to test my assertiveness. Mastering the art of politely yet firmly responding to drink offers with a simple, ‘No, thank you.’ No over-explanation necessary. In a society so deeply dependent on alcohol as a social lubricant, I was beginning to feel as if my experimentation with sobriety was a rebellious act.
It will make some people feel uncomfortable. So you’ve got yourself a hot date at a moody jazz bar. They peruse the wine list, whilst you order a mocktail. In that brief moment of silence, you can almost hear their internal dialogue: Do I need to drink? If I do join her for an alcohol-free evening, am I still capable of having fun? Challenging others to take a look at their own intentions around drinking, I witnessed on multiple occasions that showing up as the sober companion can make some people feel uncomfortable. But the right people won’t be phased by it. Those ones, they know what a privilege it is to be in your fabulous company; intoxicated, or not.
The settings in which you enjoy socialising might change. I’d love to tell you I’m that person who can thrive in a nightclub sober, but the reality of taking a break from alcohol has meant that my preferences for socialising are changing. With a higher affinity for social outings that involve nature, good food, or being in bed by a respectable hour. I’ve noticed that I am a lot quicker to pass up on invites that involve bar hopping or boozefuelled festivals. While dancing on a bar sober is a type of confidence I can only aspire to, I do think there is something to be said about finding the sweet spot between keeping up appearances and honouring that some social settings just won’t be as enjoyable anymore. And that’s perfectly okay.
Your body will thank you for it. Ever noticed that a weekend on the sauce always seems to be accompanied by an array of unhealthy habits. Channelling your inner vampire; you draw the curtains, dissolve into the couch, and cocoon yourself in a Netflix cave. Recovering, yet again, from the self-inflicted misery that a hangover induces. Dipping my toe in sobriety has given me a taste of the good life. Nowadays, I can spend the afternoon soaking up the beautiful scenes of a winery and drive home afterwards. Attend a gig and feel fresh for a morning walk the following day. My sleep feels less disturbed. My mind more agile. And I’m over the moon to report that hang-anxiety is a thing of the past. The clincher: I feel a whole lot better for it.
Does this mean I will commit to a life sentence of sobriety? Not likely. But it has taught me that I can survive without alcohol. Thrive, even. Oh, and that Pablo’s Cocktail & Dreams knows how to mix a killer non-alcoholic Lime d’ Coconut.
Contemplating alcohol abstinence for yourself? Get your hands on a copy of Higher Sobriety by Jill Stark. An intriguing memoir that chronicles an Australian journalist’s experience with embarking on a year of sobriety.
If you struggle with your relationship with alcohol; know there are people that can help. Speak with your doctor, therapist, local AA group or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.