Alcohol has always been such a big part of Australian culture. Growing up, I remember ads showing ‘mates’ hanging out, throwing back some beers and having a great old time. This was sold to us as the ‘Aussie way’, and who in their right mind wouldn’t want to be a part of that! “For a hard earned thirst there’s an ice cold beer and the best cold beer is Vic”! Victoria Bitter Ads would shout out at us from our billboards, TVs and magazines, they were unavoidable in the 1980s and 90s, and I certainly developed a hard earned thirst.
Growing up I always knew my parents enjoyed a drink, but they weren’t big drinkers compared to my standards of drinking. While I remember them having a glass of wine on the table most nights, I have no recollection of them being anything more than giggly and tipsy. It was outside home, in my mid-teenage years that I really began to be exposed to higher levels of alcohol, through school friends and the life saving club.
I was never really ‘cool’ at school. Although I did hang out with the ‘cool gang’, I still always felt on the outer edge. Drinking allowed me to feel like I fit in more. I don’t remember how my school friends and I got alcohol because we were all underage. I certainly looked every bit of my young years and if adult me saw little me I would never have offered ‘me’ a drink. In hindsight I don’t even know how we managed to have house parties, such parties wouldn’t have been allowed at my house! Where were the parents of these kids whose houses I was at! Somehow though, while my parents thought I was safely at an innocent sleepover at a friends house, we partied somewhere else and we got incredibly drunk.
I didn’t suffer hangovers the same way at that age as I did in my more recent drinking years but I do remember times, one particular time when I was so incredibly sick from too much booze, so crook I probably had alcohol poisoning?! I couldn’t be at home in the sober light of day so I held it together enough to tell my parents I was going for a really long walk and took my sick little body somewhere else to wallow and recover.
The parties were spread out, it wasn’t like I was drinking every week, just big ‘sessions’ maybe once a month throughout the warmer months, a lot less through winter, but when I was drinking I was drinking a lot! And I was building up a crazy tolerance for alcohol. I had also started training a lot, so I was super fit, which no doubt helped me to drink more. I began to have less in common with school friends as I got more competitive in the life saving club. I had found my place, my little world where I fit in. We would train hard and on frequent occasions, drink hard. Being sporty, I loved being the best at things. I guess I extended this to my drinking, when I was drinking, I was DRINKING. I could keep up with the best of them! Thankfully I got more and more competitive in life saving, then kayaking and drinking was forced to the back burner. It became just an occasional thing after really big events. It was after quitting sport that my drinking got heavier and I became a daily drinker.
I’ve never really been one to do things halfheartedly. A great attribute to have for positive things, but such a destructive attribute for negative things. Luckily though it means that when I decide I want to do something I set my mind to it to make sure I succeed, so this same attribute that made me a good, solid drinker has allowed me the freedom to change my mindset, quit drinking and establish a thirst for sobriety.