'At 53, I thought I was hiding my excessive drinking. Then a comment from my son shocked me.'

I woke up feeling the usual haze, was it a hangover? Hard to say. It was my 'normal,' and I knew I’d feel better once I got moving. Plus, there was that bottle of wine waiting for me at 5pm to chase away any lingering unease. The irony is, that drinking numbs everything.

I headed straight to the kitchen to make breakfast. As I slathered thick layers of butter and vegemite on four slices of white bread, my hands shook. Regret and self-hatred flooded in. "You’re a loser, you’re 53 what are you doing, you’re pathetic, an alcoholic, hopeless." The shame was relentless. I finished my toast, felt slightly better, and told myself it was just dehydration. "I’ll cut down tonight," I thought. Never did I consider an alcohol-free day.

Watch: Here are just some of the effects after one year without drinking alcohol. Post continues after video.

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I had a gym class booked but skipped it. I felt way too awful to exercise. I collected the empty wine bottles and placed them in the recycling bin. When it was recycling bin night, there was always the clinking of two weeks' worth of empty wine bottles as I took the bin to the curb, a heavy reminder of my shame. 

I got ready for work, feeling dizzy and disoriented as I walked to my car. "Weird," I thought, "Must’ve stood up too quickly." I arrived at my small business, latte in hand, ready to face the busy day. I kept a water bottle at the counter, constantly thirsty, but by midday, I'd had two litres of water without needing the bathroom.


Lunchtime came, and I inhaled a carb-heavy ham and cheese toastie, followed by carrot cake. By mid-afternoon, I felt pretty good. I left work at 4:30pm and headed straight to the bottle shop, my usual routine – one bottle of white wine and one reduced-alcohol white wine purchased, every single day.

Home again, still feeling disoriented, but the shakes had stopped. It was 5pm, my drinking time. I 'shared' the wine with my husband – but my share was more like three quarters of the bottle. This was followed by the low-alcohol wine all to myself. I figured that as it had reduced alcohol content, it was okay. 

My son had a sports Christmas party, but I made an excuse and asked a friend to pick him up. I didn't want anything to interrupt my drinking time. I saw it as my reward, my escape, my relaxation, my comfort - and I didn't want to give it up for anything. 

Belinda used to drink two bottles of wine every single day. Image: Supplied.


It wasn’t until my divorce in my 30s that alcohol became even more present in my life. When I started dating again, my levels crept up and never really went back down. 

However, it wasn't until I was in my late 40s that alcohol became a constant in my life. It was a nightly "treat", a way to unwind that was completely normalised by society. It’s socially acceptable to finish the day with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. However, my glass turned into three and then turned into two bottles. By age 53 things were out of control.

By Boxing Day 2022 my disorientation was new and persistent. It was not just that hazy feeling but an inability to focus and recall things and it was always present. This was a sign for me that something was seriously wrong. So I consulted Dr. Google. Searches about disorientation for heavy drinkers led down a rabbit hole where I learned about vertigo, dementia, withdrawal symptoms, brain health issues, and even brain cancer. Panicked, I told my husband, who assured me, "You’re not an alcoholic." But deep down, I knew something was wrong. An inner voice whispered, "You need to address this, Belinda."

Desperate, I booked an appointment with my GP, the earliest I could get after the holidays. In the meantime, I discovered books and podcasts about alcohol and midlife women. Their stories, their struggles – I found myself saying, “Oh my god, me too,” over and over. Immersing myself in 'quit lit' and numerous podcasts, I tried hard to drink less and managed to cut back a bit each evening.


On New Year's Eve, I sent an honest, raw group text to my parents, best friend, older son, and his partner. 

It read: "Hi. I’ve been reflecting over Christmas and admitted to myself that I have a drinking problem and it just has to stop. I’m so sick of feeling like crap. I am telling this to you guys as I love and trust you so much and I want your help. I’m going to try my absolute hardest to not drink for six months. Then see how I feel. No excuses. I know I have to do this. I love you. Please help me."

My son replied immediately: "Mum, I’m so proud of you. I never thought you would acknowledge you had a problem." 

His words hit hard.

At my GP appointment, he was supportive but firm: "At the end of the day, it’s up to you, Belinda." Tough love, perhaps. Searching for support groups, I found AA daunting – too religious and harsh for me. Then I stumbled across Danni Carr's "How I Quit Alcohol." Danni was wonderful, but her course started in early January, and I had a mid-January trip to Queensland planned. I didn't want to be sober on holiday.

I thanked her and reached out to another group I found, Thrivalist. Lucy, from Thrivalist, encouraged me to join even if I wasn't ready to quit completely. My all-or-nothing nature worked in my favour – I threw myself into the course. Three days before my holiday, on January 12, 2023, I stopped drinking and haven’t had a drink since.


Listen to MID by Mamamia where Shanna Whan from Sober In The Country talks about why Generation X women drink so damn much. Post continues after podcast.

2023 was a year of firsts: my first sober holiday, birthday, Easter, and every other day of the week. I had always found excuses to drink daily.

Being sober transformed every area of my life. I got to know myself – the loving, kind me. I realised I could enjoy life without drinking. I rediscovered my love of reading, meditation, and journaling. The benefits were numerous: better sleep, weight loss, clearer skin, more energy, increased productivity, improved relationships, increased savings (I created a "sober savings" account), reduced hot flushes, and fewer mood swings.

Sobriety has opened up a whole new world for me. I’ve fallen into coaching women in midlife, a full career change at 55! I am also a mentor for Thrivalist. No way will I drink again; it takes too much from me.

Eighteen months sober, I am a different person. The parts of me filled with anxiety, comparison, and perfectionism have dramatically diminished. Sure, I have days where I feel down, but the tools and skills I have now are far more effective than a couple of bottles of wine ever were.

Read more of our sobriety articles here:

Belinda Stark is an advocate for sobriety and a midlife coach. You can find more about her here.

Feature image: Supplied.

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