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Drunk on Life testimonial

Alex's story: Giving up alcohol connected me to my higher self

I wake up, open my blurry eyes and try to inspect my surroundings. My mouth is as dry as the Sahara Desert, and my head feels like it’s been reversed over by a bin truck. Something else feels off – this blanket is scratchy. The walls are white; the walls in my house aren’t white. It smells different. I’m not at home. Again. Am I an alcoholic?

In 2019, after the umpteenth morning waking up in the aforementioned scenario, I found myself asking this question. Not fitting into the typical ideals of an alcoholic, I assumed my binge drinking blackouts were ordinary; even though I felt that something wasn’t right. I knew I had a problem, but who would believe me, and where would I begin to fix it?

Drinking history

As a once 18-year-old bartender living out of home for the first time, the setting for uninhibited drinking was primed from early on in the game.

In my early bartending years, I had my first pub job in a small town in Southern Highlands NSW Australia, and the lifestyle was what dreams were made of. Good pay, easy work, and colleagues that would bond over free booze and shared hatred of rude customers. The binge drinking culture that is rife in Australia never questioned my fun, drunken antics – so why should I?

Fast forward 10 years to a completely different environment; married, living in Sydney with my (now ex) husband and cat, and having just landed the job of my dreams as a writer in a creative agency. You would think it high time I put the mysterious bruises and boozing lifestyle behind me – but it was, in fact, only about to get worse.

Between the ages of 23 and 28 years old, 9 times out of 10 my drinking resulted in the following unwholesome outcomes:

- Getting into punch ups with strangers

- Stealing

- Fighting with friends

- Fighting with my partner

- Skipping work

- Driving to work disgustingly hungover (possibly still over the limit)

- Vomiting all day long

- Blacking out completely for whole nights out

- Losing belongings

- Spending a whole week’s pay in a single night

- Taking drugs

- Waking up in strange places

- Spilling horrifying secrets to colleagues, acquaintances, servers and strangers

- Anything else that may have occurred during a blackout session (I couldn’t recall to be able to recount it here)

In Sydney, my bartending buddies coined the phrase ‘getting Brocked’ in reference to drinking so much that you black out and throw an empty keg down an alleyway while bar hopping, or perform an entire solo ballroom rotuine on an empty dance floor at the famous Arq nightclub in Sydney. This stuff sounds fairly anecdotal and innocent, but when your husband’s texts wondering where you are eventually stop because you so often skip out on coming home, you realise it might be becoming a problem.

I never could have predicted that by the time I was 28, I’d be facing one of my greatest battles against problem drinking. I know you might be conjuring quintessential images of an unkempt broad swigging from a hip flask or turning her coffees Irish beneath her work desk, but in reality, some alcoholism is better disguised than that. I know mine was, for over a decade.

So, what changed?

The first step - alcohol counseling

Not yet fully ready to commit to abstinence, I did this in secret. I found a ‘drinking moderation’ counselor because I wasn’t ready to let go for good. After one session – where I was told my problem was that I ‘drank like a 16-year-old’ and I needed to mature my attitude towards drinking, it was clear this wasn’t the right path for me.

The second step - not quite hitting rock bottom

Waking up on a lounge room floor with vomit in the sink and everybody mad at me wasn’t an uncommon occurrence. So, why did this time sting so much?

When I got home expecting to find a worried husband but was instead greeted with ‘I don’t care anymore’, I committed to change at that moment.

The third step - setting up my environment for success

You won’t succeed unless you’re in the right environment. To do this, I became best friends with a colleague and friend who was also quitting booze. Then, I downloaded the ‘I Am Sober’ app to connect with other sober community members and track my progress. Next, I started reading ‘quit lit’ like The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, and Sober Curious. Finally, I told people I was giving up for added accountability.

The fourth step - committing to ongoing self-improvement

When I gave up booze, I underestimated the level of introspection that needed to take place. It’s one thing to give up alcohol, and another thing entirely to discover who you actually are without it. I spent my first three years of sobriety basically living unconsciously - almost as unconsciously as when I used to drink and blackout. It was awesome that I wasn’t drinking anymore, but I didn’t replace the many drinking hours with anything of value.

I revisit these two images occasionally to remind myself of one of the many reasons I still happily abstain. Some people can drink, others cannot. It really is that simple. My brain doesn’t let me have just one, so to avoid blacking out and waking up in strange places, I have to not drink alcohol at all.

Today, I am fully committed to continuing to know myself on a deeper level. I am a mother, an artist, and a writer, and these things ground me whilst giving me purpose beyond merely existing. I also work for a non-alcoholic beverage company, which is so aligned with my beliefs. You can still be sociable and enjoy nice drinks, but with the added benefit of not waking up looking like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Only a sober me could allow all of this into my life, and I truly feel like I am just getting started.


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