'I've never had a drinking problem. This is why I decided to go sober.'

When I tell people I’ve gone sober, the first thing I get is comments like, “Oh, I'm sorry, I didn’t realise you had a problem”.

There’s an immediate assumption that to turn sober, someone must have struggled with alcohol. 

It blows my mind that drinking culture is so ingrained in us that only someone who’s got a problem with it would choose to stop drinking it. But it is possible to be sober and do so by choice, not necessity.

I made the decision as a new year's resolution for myself, so we’re 10 weeks in, and it's been such a transformative experience. I really felt that alcohol did not serve me. 

I was never a big drinker, but over the holiday period I noticed that every time I had a few champagnes, the impact on my mental health was evident. I started getting the dreaded “hangxiety” where I would worry and panic over small things and just not start the day on the right foot.

Watch: Some of the effects after one year without drinking alcohol. Story continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

As a mother, I felt in some ways like I was behind the eight ball with my boys, and would feel guilty and just not good enough. 

These feelings were shifting my outlook, and to be honest, the fun of drinking didn't outweigh how I felt the next day. 

I started researching all I could about sobriety, and was surprised to find a whole list of celebrities who have adopted this way of life without ever having drinking problems. 


Blake Lively, Chrissy Tiegan and Tyra Banks were all women I looked up to and admired. Knowing they could do it encouraged me, and the health benefits they spoke of as women in their late 30s and 40s gave me that extra boost to give it a go.

I didn’t have a big bender on New Year's Eve, as I am sure many people would do. I had one last glass of champagne and said my farewells, both excited and nervous at the prospect of what lay ahead. 

The first few days I didn’t really notice much, as my husband and I were away with our boys and neither of us are heavy drinkers. It was actually quite easy to stick to, and I immediately felt an impact on my physical and mental health. I was sleeping better, waking up feeling more rested and energised, and my skin looked clearer and brighter. 

I also noticed that my anxiety levels had decreased significantly, and I was able to handle stressful situations more calmly and effectively, which is no easy feat when you're juggling work and the school holidays.

Image: Supplied.


It wasn’t until my first night out that things became challenging. There’s no doubt about it, people find it strange when you’re not drinking. 

It became the topic of conversation with the group. People just couldn’t get their heads around why I wasn’t drinking - was I pregnant? Did I have some hidden alcoholism they’d never witnessed? Was I sick? It boggles my mind that simply saying I didn’t want to drink was not accepted. 

And it dawned on me that drinking culture is just such a big part of our lives in Australia. We have bad news, we drink; we celebrate, we drink; we’re bored, we drink. Alcohol permeates every single moment of our lives, so it’s little surprise we just can’t let it go.

Once people moved past the initial reaction of 'why would you do this', the conversation then lent itself to 'oh, that’s no fun'. But I can tell you I am having so much more fun now that I am present, can remember and have clarity.

When we look back at our most memorable moments in life, were we drinking? I know I wasn’t. And yes, I can still go out with the girls and have a dance and a laugh - the best part is I'm home at a decent hour and feel great the next day.


As the weeks went on, I actually became so annoyed with the perpetual conversations around why I wasn't drinking that I started ordering soda water with lime so it looked like I was. 

This stopped the conversations, but then it also angered me. Why should I have to hide behind a 'fake drink'? Why should I not be out and proud of my sobriety? It made me realise just how much work as a society we have to do and compelled me to write this piece.

Listen to Fill My Cup, where host Allira Potter is joined by Sam Wilson, Founder of Sober Mates to share her sobriety story. Story continues after podcast.

People shouldn't have to give a reason they're sober. It’s a personal choice, and one that is completely valid and normal.

As I reach the ten-week mark, I can tell you it’s the best decision I have ever made. I have the best clarity I’ve ever had, my mind feels razor sharp, my mindset is overwhelmingly positive, my anxiety is nearly gone and my skin, at 42, looks amazing. I'm getting constant comments about what products I am using or if I've had work done.

But all this aside, I don’t need to justify myself. No-one does. We should all be allowed to make whatever choice we like for ourselves without having to face judgement or sideways glances.

So next time you’re at the bar with someone who orders a soda water, save your comments.

Merrin Schnabel is an Australian influencer, speaker, presenter and media identity and the founder of Geelong Women’s Business Club.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Can’t live without your phone or the internet? Take our survey now and you go in the running to win a $100 gift voucher!