Real Life

REAL LIFE: "The moment I knew it was time to bid the bevvies goodbye"

Thinking back to my behaviour sent a shudder down my spine...

By Laura Masia

Sam, VIC, shares how she ditched the drink:

I woke up with a throbbing headache.
Blocking out the morning light that pierced through the curtains, I cursed myself for how I acted the night before at my best mate Ellie's* hen's do.
Thinking back to my behaviour sent a shudder down my spine.
Everyone had been in party mode and I made sure there was plenty of booze for all of us.
"I can't do a shot just yet," Ellie said.
Not wanting the expensive vodka to go to waste, I downed it for her, followed by three more in quick succession.
It was a lot, but I was used to it. My family loved to have big barbecues and entertain.
We were social drinkers and whenever we had a party, we'd all do shots of black Sambuca.
Although I could usually hold my liquor well, this time, the shots went straight to my head.
As the night went on, it was clear my friends didn't want to be around me and soon headed home.
Not wanting the night to end, I called my ex-boyfriend to meet up.
We'd only just broken up and I thought it'd be fun, but when we met, we had an argument.
It was the early hours of the morning when I called an Uber to take me home.
Then in the harsh light of day, I was filled with dread.
What if I said something awful to the girls? I fretted, fighting back tears.
Grabbing my phone, I flicked through my social media pages, deleting any trace of last night.
At the time I'd felt confident but the photos made me look like a real mess.
I soon found out that I hadn't done anything wrong the night before, but I'd worried my friends with my antics.
I hadn't always been a big drinker. Although my family loved a party, drinking was never a necessity for a good time.
That changed when I went to uni, where there were parties every night of the week and drinking became the thing to do to fit in.
My hangovers filled me with dread. (Getty)
When I finished studying, I got a full-time corporate job and my drinking moved exclusively to weekends.
It wasn't long before I'd catch myself watching my friend's glasses, willing them to hurry up so I could go grab another round.
I realised that I wanted to drink much more than others did and it was embarrassing.
Combined with my anxiety, it was a bad mix and I couldn't bring myself to leave my room after a night out unless it was to get another endorphin release from alcohol.
Over time, the alcohol-induced anxiety became too much and stopped me from being the motivated, ambitious person I'd been.
For 18 months, I stewed on the idea of ditching the grog to see how I felt but it was daunting.
"I realised that I wanted to drink much more than others did and it was embarrassing." (Getty)
After all, drinking is an Australian pastime and I was terrified people would judge me for saying no.
Although people had mentioned my drinking habits before, I'd brushed them off, convinced I didn't need a drink to get by.
But after the mess I'd made of myself at the hen's do, I vowed to go three month's alcohol-free. With Ellie's wedding in four weeks, I knew it would be a test.
"Awesome!" Ellie said when I told her. "I'll even order alcohol-free champers, just for you."
Her encouragement meant the world to me.
When the big day arrived, I had a ball celebrating and dancing with my friends. At the end of the night, I was excited to offer them a lift home.
"But you've been drinking all night!" one protested. Ellie and I just smiled at each other.
I vowed to go three month's alcohol-free - I knew it would be a test. (Getty)
"Nope, it's non-alcoholic!" I said, holding up the bottle.
Next morning, I was able to go for a walk by the river, completely hangover-free.
Two weeks later, I was having dinner with my housemate Dan*, who asked, "Are you going to go back to drinking after the three-month mark?"
I shook my head.
"I'm done," I replied. "This time, I choose me."
After years of feeling like I had to drink to fit the status quo, I realised nothing felt better than being in control.
Problem was, alcohol still plays such a huge part in the Australian culture.
I wanted to find a community who understood what I was going through, but none seemed to exist.
So on my third month sober, I launched Sober Mates, an Instagram page for people like me who don't want to be a part of the binge drinking
Within weeks, I'd amassed a few hundred followers who were not only incredibly supportive of my journey but everyone else's, too!
I thought it was just me whose drinking was out of control, many of them wrote.
Now, we've launched a website and I'm hoping Sober Mates continues to grow into a collaborative platform where we can have an open
discussion about the role booze plays in the lives of Australians.
When I first stopped drinking, I thought it'd be the end of my social life.
But now I'm healthier and happier than I've ever been, and that's better than anything alcohol could offer.
Follow Sober Mates on Instagram at @Sobermates
Names have been changed.

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