The changing conversation about sobriety.

Media personality Chrissie Swan has shared the results of her health kick on Instagram, which involved taking up walking and meditation and giving up alcohol. The TV and radio presenter revealed on The Project back in October that she had quit drinking, telling viewers, “it was a decision I made for myself after giving it a fair nudge in the first lockdown last year”.

While Swan is reticent to be the poster girl for sobriety, she looks incredible, and her radiance has caught the attention of media outlets across the country. It got me thinking about how not drinking has affected my relationships, particularly professionally, over the past 20 years.

So why my sobriety? I have an allergy to sulphur, a preservative commonly found in alcohol that isn’t much fun, plus I am a morning person. So if I lose my morning to a hangover (I’m an awful, non-functioning hungover person), I lose pretty much all of my day. 

Heavy drinking has never been the norm for me. From an early age, I became aware that if I were a drinker, I would not be the mother, small business owner or person I wanted to be. 

While I know being sober is the right choice for me physically, and mentally there have been challenges. The hardest part of my sobriety has been social isolation. A big part of our catch-up culture involves drinking. I have observed many meaningful business conversations taking place at happy hour.  It’s also been my experience that drinking is presumed, and declining is met with bewilderment, and please explain.

And to be honest, I have found socialising at professional events without the alcohol-induced dopamine hit challenging at times, to the point where I avoid networking in alcohol-centric spaces. Being sober at these events has often left me feeling like an outcast because connections are built over shared experiences, and sobriety can create distance. 

But while there have been challenges being a sober entrepreneur, there has also been joys – like the supportive client who hurried off to get chocolate in place of the thank-you bottle of wine because she remembered my sobriety. 

And in recent years, I have noticed a shift. The feedback to my non-drinking has been more positive, and I don’t feel a tremendous amount of pressure. Plus, the culture around sobriety is evolving, with a recent explosion of non-alcoholic drink brands and more high profile people, just like Chrissie Swan, sharing their sobriety.  Perhaps the party isn’t over. It’s just that a different kind of party is beginning.

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