'I drank my way through my first divorce. Here's how I'm navigating my second sober.'

What a difference.

On the home front, I'm generally a very private person. I don't discuss the trials and tribulations of my personal relationships publicly unless it aligns with my overall message. And even then, it will always remain of a general nature. But over the last seven months I have experienced epiphanies that are too significant not to share and reinforce my narrative that 'alcohol takes away your power and capacity to cope'.

After a long period of inner work and deep soul searching, my husband and I formally separated very early on in 2023. This was a mutual resolution.

Watch: Does coffee actually sober you up? Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

A marriage dissolution was not new to me having undertaken the same process in 2006 with my first husband, some 17 years earlier at the age of 33.

In keeping with my authenticity, it would also be fair to say that I had a great deal of trepidation regarding my decision for some time prior, due to the previous experience being loaded with trauma, lacking coordination and torridly heavy.


And let's be honest, regardless of how amicable the situation may be initially, there will always be variables that will come into play that trigger volatility and angst.

But as I undertook an emotional reconnaissance of that period, there was going to be one major factor this time around that inevitably influenced the severity of the circumstances.

I was SOBER.

This separation was not laden with malice, there was no ill treatment and nothing remotely sinister about it. Just a general growth in different directions over time. Which from a personal perspective most likely made the decision an even harder one to make.

But sobriety brings us many wondrous benefits and one of its finest is clarity of thought and being able to connect to the core of what we really need to be happy and fulfilled in life.

In fact, if I had still been drinking, I would not have been able to distinguish what was no longer working for me. The general blur of the drinking-hangover cycle would have made pinpointing those missing pieces complex.

Alcohol had played a significant role in my first marriage and subsequent parting. It was the first tool to be pulled out of the toolbox when something was starting to break down.

It numbed the pain, curbed the anxiety, blocked out the uncomfortable and for a short period of time it helped me to survive. But it wasn't long before anything positive it brought turned into a negative and the adverse effects took front and centre place.


It then became a staple dependency to manage anything and everything, increased my anxiety, steered me to make poor choices, exacerbated all my emotions and the greatest travesty of all, delayed my healing.

What followed was years of self-medicating the loss.

Wondering how, what, when and why this had happened, blaming myself for not being enough. Lack of self-worth was then further compounded by the daily tonic of wine, vodka, and anything else that could make me feel 'less'. In fact, it wasn't until I entered rehab that I commenced my true recovery of self and began reclaiming my spirit.

When we start consuming, we stop dealing. Our emotional maturity and position halts right there at that moment.

Processing feelings and sentiment when your mind is chemically altered and numb is near impossible. You just don't have the capacity to make decisions for yourself that are in true alignment with what your heart requires.

You must 'feel' to 'heal'.

I've learnt that resilience is built from experiencing challenges as they are presented. Tackling them with an armour of liquid courage will never bring victory. It's like going into battle with an imaginary sword and believing that this will be enough to keep you safe.

The inventory of sober benefits from my second time around are endless.

  • Clearer intentions
  • Greater communication
  • Less knee-jerk reactions
  • Having a better joint strategy
  • Being solution orientated
  • Reducing anxiety

And overall, an increased capacity to navigate through logistics, emotions and make choices that come from my deepest desires. 

It's just not as hard.

I feel hopeful, focused, stable and even somewhat empowered. And not because I am shying away from processing the parting, but because I have clear foresight about my future and wholeheartedly know I am headed in the right direction for me.

But possibly the best part of this journey so far was recognising that at no point did I feel the need to drink. In fact, the opposite.

Listen to Fill My Cup where Allira Potter is joined by Sam Wilson to know what it's really like to go sober when everyone else isn't. Post continues below.

I knew that if there was one thing in the world that would make this significant life transition unbearable, it was grog.

My 36-years sober dad once said to me, "I know I'll cope with anything life throws at me as long as I DON'T drink."

At the time, I thought he was genuinely crazy.

Now I believe he's one of the wisest people I know.

Read more from Justine Whitchurch:

Feature Image: Instagram @jusswhitchurch.

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