What Does The Word Sobriety Mean To You?

What Does The Word Sobriety Mean To You?

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I sat and had lunch yesterday with a fella’ I know.

He hasn’t touched a drop of alcohol in over a year, something that his friends can still not quite believe. He and I drank in very similar ways in the not-so-distant past. Blackout moments that could have ended our lives, worry that we had caused our friends and lovers and family.

Playing small constantly.

I realised that there are more ways that our lives have mirrored  each other since we became sober. He has also started his own business and is now making more money financially than he was in his previous corporate job.

However, more than anything, it’s in the emotional and personal success that I see so much growth.

My friend is now also training for something huge. World-stage huge. Huge in the way that if all goes according to plan, we will ALL know his name.

Limitlessness. Fearlessness. CLARITY.

This is what comes when you leave behind you those ‘things’ that put a fog into your life.

wine-glass-1

I have been a disordered drinker since I was 15 years old.

I was that girl you laughed at. The one who couldn’t walk or talk, or stand straight.

I would wake with no memory.

Incapacitated with sickness.

By the time I hit my mid-twenties, I had lost hundreds of days to hangovers.

I had worked at half-capacity for more than a third of each year in a tough corporate industry.

I was a functioning alcoholic and the pressure that this put on my shoulders and on my life in general was immense.

Ironically there was obviously a great strength within me that always existed, because while I was feeling broken and lost on the inside, I was able to masquerade to the rest of the world that things were okay. Doing this took a lot of energy though and left nothing for the will and love I needed to break free of my limiting behaviours.

Why was alcohol a problem for me?

I have a very inflammatory physical reaction to alcohol (actually, a lot of the population does). I also come from a long line of alcoholics.

My Mum, her sister, her father and her brother. Alcoholism doesn’t discriminate and it does run in the genes, so not only was it the physical reaction my body would go through that made drinking a ‘sport’ that never suited me, there was the genetic link as well. Add to that the ‘nurture’ effects of my growing up with alcoholism around me and statistically, there was always a very high chance that I would experience pain where alcohol was involved.

And I did.

What changed?

Heading towards my thirties, I found out that I could make my own decisions about my life. I didn’t have to go where life – or rather my unconscious mind – took me. I could make a decision to do something fu*king awesome and change the trajectory of my life for the better.

Before then I had always connected with a belief that I didn’t have a choice. That life was what was given to me and that I had no power. I wallowed in this way of thinking for many years.

Then I stopped. I decided that I was no longer drinking. 

For anyone with a disordered history of drinking, you’ll know that while reading that last sentence makes it sound like quitting drinking was so darn easy, it was not. I had actually been trying to drink normally for nearly 15 years and I had never accomplished it.

So that instant decision in October 2013 was actually nearly 15 years in the making with a lot of stress, anxiety, guilt and struggle behind me. 

After that last drink I experienced some of the the hardest few months of my life. I was awkward, weird, clumsy, wordless, hermit-like. I felt like an elephant with 10 legs wearing stiletto’s talking backwards in Swahili and trying to make it all sound normal. I had never, since I was 14 years old, been sober. Can you even begin to imagine how unusual it would be to begin to live an entirely new life after 15 years? 

Then I met someone who I had never really known as an adult.

Me.

Alice.

That person I was never lucid enough to meet before.

And you know what? She was pretty cool. She still couldn’t dance, she still couldn’t hold a note, but she was an awesome mother, a loving wife, a funny friend. And damn… she was so fulfilled.

I had been ‘socially wasted’ for 15 years and had no idea how amazing life was until I began to look at every nook and cranny of it with complete clarity.

I wrote about my one year sober when I hit that milestone.

I also wrote for a few other publications sharing parts of my story and every time I shared, I was bombarded with emails and Facebook messages from women who said ‘You are telling my story’. Hundreds of them. Truly, hundreds.

Some of the women and men who wrote to me had been able to break-free from their relationship with alcohol, but many were at a really low place.

Many of these women believed that there was no place in our society to be able to be open about issues relating to alcohol. And in a way they were right, because sobriety has a stigma attached to it.

Alcoholism has a stigma attached to it.

And it’s not a good one.

What may interest some: There is an AA Chapter in every one of the swankiest, most ‘monied’ suburbs in Australia. In these meetings you will see Surgeons, GP’s, Lawyers, Accountants and CEO’s, alongside the kindy Mum’s and local librarians. Alcoholism, in all of its forms, is everywhere and as I have mentioned there is zero discrimination to who it can affect, only how we relate to it.

Today, it is considered relatively ‘normal’ for a/the youth to be pissed from Friday night to Sunday night. When we see that 21 year old girl stumbling out of the club on a Saturday night, we have a giggle. What we don’t even realise that this girl may well be in that same state on a Monday, Wednesday and a Thursday too. By herself though. In her own house.  And due to peer pressure relationships, she feels she can’t talk to anybody about it.

I know that young girl. She was me.

What happens when a young woman, or a young man, says ‘I have a drinking problem’?

Somebody laughs at them.

I know that personally too.

Since I am now a mother and into my thirties, I am somewhat more distanced from that girl, however now I see that there is a new and much more ‘well-hidden’ version of her who needs help, support, or simply a safe place to come home to herself.

Maybe she has kids at home like me and has a few too many wine’s in the evening because, well, kids are bloody exhausting and can be tiring and a woman can feel a little like she’s lost herself in motherhood so she finds solace and comfort and a relationship with the ‘red’.

Perhaps she’s at work and the Thursday or Friday drinks flow for hours until she stumbles into a cab.

Or she get’s home and opens a bottle of wine to ease the stresses of the day. Every single day.

Maybe she drinks only (?) 2 glasses of wine a night… but she has been doing that for 5 years in a row and can’t imagine life without it.

She could be that girl looking like a super-model in her stiletto’s at every party who feels empty the next day wondering whether ‘this is it’.

wine-glass-2

Alcohol reliance comes in many forms and at many levels, yet there is still little support for women who feel like they need help or simply want to put the glass down for a while. Because we may do get judged immediately. We get laughed at.

Sometimes by others who feel triggered by what this concern must say about them and their own patterns of behaviour.  A lot of the times these are our best friends.

Peer pressure still exists well into adulthood.

People automatically make light of what can be a life destroying habit.

Worse, women can and do walk through their entire life with a disordered relationship to alcohol and never ever find out how truly magical and how alive they could really feel without it.

That is what concerns me most. That there are tens and thousands of us women going through life doing ourselves a huge disservice. Like we get a second chance huh?

When I speak or write about alcohol I get told I should create a guide, write a book, hold events or share this message on the stage in a much more public manner. However I have chosen not to. I am still hurt and healing from events in my childhood, teen years and early adulthood and while I am learning to make peace with them, I don’t want to invite that into my work on a day to day basis. It’s heavy on me.

Last year though, a woman named Rebecca Weller reached out to me to see if I would be interviewed for an online course she was creating called ‘Sexy Sobriety’. I got to know through Bex and others who eventually took her course, that it was amazing. Here was a woman who was not only embracing herself and all that she was without the glass of champa’s in her hand, but she was creating a safe space for all women who would like to do the same thing. A place they could go and be supported in.

Which is something that was and is desperately needed. 

A little snapshot from my interview with Bex in Sexy Sobriety.

A little snapshot from my interview with Bex in Sexy Sobriety.

Where I can still get caught up in some of my darkness surrounding becoming sober, Bex is a light. She has an energy about her that is not only contagious, but is exactly what is needed to help women realise there is a fabulously amazing life outside of the 3am kebab’s, the falling asleep in the back of cabs, the memory blanks, the guilt and shame and the loss of self that can come with a wonky relationship with booze.

I am honoured that now I can share a resource unlike any other in the market today when it comes to helping women break free from this pattern of life. Which is why I wanted to share the details for Bex’ online home of ‘Sexy Sobriety’. 

join-ss

I am now the most proud partner of Sexy Sobriety with Bex and am honoured to be able to share her message with you.

If you want to be a part of the ‘Sexy Sobriety’ community then I recommend that you head on over the the website now and jump on board. There’s not many things that I can recommend in life more, having been through the experience of living a half-lived life to one that lights me up.

If it wasn’t for quitting drinking there is no way I would be in such a magical place in my life.

I would love to ask you a question if you can give me a moment in the comments section:

What does sobriety mean to you and how does alcohol show up in your life today? 

Rebecca Weller. The sparkliest sober babe I've ever met!

Rebecca Weller. The sparkliest sober babe I’ve ever met!

join-ss

 

 

For those of you who are struggling with alcoholism, please seek help through a GP, Alcoholics Anonymous or through counselling. You are not alone and you deserve to feel wonderful in your life. Alcoholism can take away your life however you can gain it all back again. You are worthy of being able to open up and have support. My mother has been a sober alcoholic now for more than twenty years and she is the light of my daughters lives. Sending you all my love and support. 


 

disclaimer: As a partner of Sexy Sobriety, I receive a commission for any person that signs up to the course through my link. Please know that this course is one that I recommend fully and with all my heart. Not only am I in the course itself, but I wish that there was something like this available when I was struggling with alcohol most in my life. 

What Does The Word Sobriety Mean To You? was last modified: May 13th, 2015 by Alice Nicholls
  • Hey Alice,

    I was one of the ‘drink 1-2 wines every day’ types that would do so to ease the stress of being a mum, wife, working on my business and studying. I have been wanting to give up for ages and everyday I would tell myself no and then come 4.30 I would have a glass. I always hated the way I felt afterwards, how bloated I looked and how it had control over me every day. After seeing a post on FB from Kate Toholka about how she has not had any alcohol for 100 days, I decided then and there to take up the same challenge. It has been 31 days so far and I am feeling so much better.

    Thanks for the amazing post it is beautiful and you are amazing. I have been thinking about doing the Sexy Sobriety course also. It looks great!

    Thank you

    Ness xo

  • Kim

    Hey Alice,

    Thank you for this post. I have just left a partner who I was in love with who has a problem with alcohol. When I met him he hadn’t had a drink for 4 years. Then as a result of stress at work, he started drinking again. When he drank he would either pass out or stumble in the door off his head at 4 in the morning 4 nights a week. After 3 years of applying love, patience and acceptance, which turned into anger and resentment, I walked away. Its the saddest thing.

    Great work that you are doing. Keep it up!

  • Caroline Silk

    Hi Alice – great article – I’m sure you wont mind me sharing on my FB biz page. The choice you made to no longer drink is such a powerful one and as you say has been life changing… congrats. I hope your occasional darkness becomes a permanent light.

    The whole concept of the ‘social’ drink , glass of wine or cham with the girlfriends brings with it an enormous social pressure. The expectation is that you will join in and when a person chooses not to they are questioned, queried and yes judged… “Oh come on just one, don’t be ridiculous!!” It’s a shame we don’t rejoice, as we should, in their decision. Not drinking should be a normal, acceptable and a social part of behaviour. Sadly in many situations it’s not.

    I had a look at Sexy Sobriety and it looks like an incredible resource for so many who want to take some time out or end their relationship completely. Great project to be associated with and so many other wonderful strong women.

  • Kate

    Thanks for sharing your story Alice, I really admire your openness. About 5 and a half years ago I walked into my first AA meeting a sad and overwhelmed 30 year old. I was successful and functioning in my work life, but had torn my personal life apart in various states of blackouts and as a result I was dying inside. As someone that would write themselves off every single night, if things didn’t change I had no doubt that I wouldn’t make it to 40.

    The first AA meeting I went to absolutely blew me away – these people were telling my story, and what’s more they were laughing and happy! An old man, a young lawyer, a girl my age – I thought (from my in depth research which extended as far as TV shows) that drunks were meant to be dirty, old and smell of urine NOT well dressed ‘normies’. This was my tribe and the sense of relief I felt from knowing that I wasn’t alone in this was incredible. It has been a really hard journey, full of resistance at every step and lots of tears, but I’m now not the person I was 5.5 years ago and I’ve allowed myself to start growing into the woman I was meant to be (better late than never right?!). Every night I can now put my head on my pillow and I know where I’ve been and what I’ve said, and I’ve managed to build up my self esteem again by doing esteem-able acts. And you know what else? When people give me a hard time about not drinking I just remind myself that it says more about them and their insecurities than me. Not drinking and standing in front of the world without any masks on is truly courageous and I commend anyone that is brave enough to do it. You all rock!

  • Alice Nicholls

    That is an amazing story Kate and I am honoured that you have shared it here. Congratulations on your recovery and your wonderful life now. It’s a great thing to be able to be in control of your destiny. You were meant for this magic!

  • Alice Nicholls

    Caroline, share where-ever you like. I am so happy that this resonated with you in any way. The pressure to drink it great in Australia and many cultures. It is at the point where it is harder to understand why somebody doesn’t than why somebody does, which is very confusing. But then alcohol is so socially acceptable – as is the damage it causes. It’s okay for us to choose another way though. 🙂 Have a great day.

  • Alice Nicholls

    Thanks Kim. I’m so sorry that you have had this experience in your life. It’s really hard because despite your love and anything you can do… there is really no way that you can help a person in that situation as it is only their choice. When my mother was at her most sick with alcoholism, she had two young daughters and even then she was unable to make the choice for many years…. I know that she loved us with all her heart and so I know that the disease is so strong because why wouldn’t you choose to stop then? It takes a huge shake-up and a miracle in some regards and is harder than many believe it should be. In your instance, you have made the right choice to move on as hard as that may have been and may still be. I hope your ex is able to recover. Thank you for your comment.

  • Alice Nicholls

    Thanks so much for your comment Vanessa. You rock for giving alcohol-free a go. It can be awkward but oh so liberating at the same time. The first month is the hardest and it is often not until month three or four where the magic comes into it. Have an amazing week honey.

  • Kim

    Hi Alice, thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my comment! I just wanted to let you know that your words were very soothing for my soul. Your open heart is much appreciated. Have a beautiful day!

  • Regan Stuart

    I live in the Pilbara Western Australia, in a mining town. If your not shift working, your at the pub. You can’t go out for a movie or go bowling or spend a day shopping. Social outings like this aren’t available (well, the local ‘theatre’ plays movies tuesdays and saturdays…no new releases obviously). So…we go to the pub, or someones backyard…and drink.
    I work at the local hospital as a Registered Nurse. When someone is admitted to hospital we ask the standard questions “do you drink more than 4 standard drinks a day” the answer is always yes, and every patient is on an alcohol withdrawal scale because of it. Drinking is the ‘Pilbara way’. Its like a ‘culture’ more extreme than the aussie drinking culture around the nation. (bear in mind there is a large indigenous population here also).
    Im not saying I have a drinking problem…nurses are known to have a glass or two after a shift (we put up with a lot here). While that wasn’t me, i was certainly a weekend binge drinker (any day of the week being a shift worker). While there are alcohol restrictions here in the Pilbara, everyone is stocked up for sunday (you can’t buy alcohol on sundays).
    I moved to the Kimberley’s for 6 months recently….and didn’t have one drink. I didn’t realise how good it feels to not actually get wasted! I had energy, going to the gym 5 times a week and getting through night shifts like a breeze.
    I moved back to this mining town about 4 months ago now…and the first night i was back, went to the pub to catch up with my nursing girlfriends…I could not believe the pain and discomfort I felt after having 3/4 drinks. It felt like my insides were on fire and my bowel motions were not normal for at least 72 hours. But i couldn’t not drink, right? You get the judgy questions….are you pregnant? are you alright? come on! Just have a couple. You can still drive….as if there is something wrong with you…

    So i did this for another 2months or so…..and put on 3kg (after recently losing 17kg in my 6 months away, this sucked!).
    I haven’t had a drink in a while now….yeah, my social life isn’t as ‘social’ but at least i don’t feel like shit the next day/s! Plus I’m not dying at RPM the next afternoon from dehydration.

    Sobriety to me, means putting your health first, alcoholic or not. I have seen first hand the long term effects of drinking alcohol, living in the Pilbara, and it ain’t pretty!(physically, emotionally, financially) Its incredibly hard to not drink socially here in the Pilbara…..but when the taxi costs you $80 to get from Port to South Hedland (maybe 13km drive), and a guava cruiser is$12.50…..Im happy to not drink and be a designated driver 😉

  • Melinda Benstead

    I could have written this. When I first became aware of my drinking and stopped it, it changed my life. I think I need to get back to me, Melinda. Thank you for sharing x

  • Diana

    This could have been my story, but it was a lot longer before I realised that alchohol had so much control over my life and the person I was. It’s been over 2 years since the last bottle of wine ( I’d say glass, but I’d be lying – it was always the bottle!) I’ve taken responsibility for my life and living it instead of draming about through the fog. Was it easy? No. Have I lost ‘friends’ now that i am sober? Yes. Is it worth it – YES !!! My aha moment was reading High Sobriety by Jill Stark.

 




 
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