real life

'I had my dream career in the music industry. But then I started drinking.'

Sobriety gave me back my wings.

That is, the ones that I never even knew had been clipped.

Drinking for me in the 'manageable' days gave me a sense of what I thought at the time was courage. A calming effect that seemingly made me feel as if the craziness in my head was a little quieter. Taking that 'edge' off the parts of my thoughts that felt a little too heavy. Removing a burden that I couldn't deal with rationally.

And alleviating any unnecessary stress about the little things.

But the sh**y thing about using alcohol to medicate (and let's be real here; that's what most of us are doing) is that it's a sneaky bastard.

It comes in on a stealth mission and takes you hostage.

It does not dispense the kind of give and take relationship that most of us dream of.

It does however ‘give’ you a false sense of security that you're doing just fine. But it also ‘takes’ away copious amounts of your power in one swift kick.

You could even describe it as a narcissistic partner, requiring your undivided attention and deep admiration whilst providing you with the notion that you must have it in your life to be whole and complete.

And with a social narrative that mimics that sentiment, why wouldn’t you believe everything it has to say?

Now for a woman who was determined to live a life beyond average, that promise changed everything.


As a little girl I dreamt big. As a teen I starting plotting the path. As an early adult, I was living it. The dream career in the music industry, travelling all over the world, making magic happen around me, leaning into life with my soul first.

I was on a trajectory for great things. In fact, I was even a 90s popstar for a brief period of time.

At 16, I was on stage at Rod Laver Arena in a band touring with Kylie Minogue. Music was my life. It infiltrated every single moment of my being. From the second I woke until the moment I fell asleep.

I would close my eyes and see myself on stage. I would open my eyes and see the spotlight. Put a microphone and camera in front of me and I came alive. I lived my life like it was one big show, music gave me hope, excitement, joy and fuelled me with passion.

But the industry made me anxious.

Cue alcohol… again.

The social lubricant.

The liquid courage.

The 'take the edge off my nerves' tonic.

Ideally before an audition, show or performance, I'd shot vodka. Most of the time it worked out okay, but there were times when one extra nip caught up with me mid performance and I would forget my words and blank right out.


Then the anxiety would get worse. Next performance I was already worried about the outcome before I took a swig.

I did a gig in Japan for six months when I was 19. The dressing room also served as the alcohol storage cupboard for the clientele.

Every night before stepping out to perform, I religiously swigged from a bottle of Hennessey.

That calm, warm and fuzzy feeling that made me feel like I could do anything.

There you go. Everything is going to be alright.

But then the cycle of drink and relief became shorter and shorter and I needed more and more to take off the edge.

Nothing good happens on stage when you are pissed.

And before I knew it, I was too terrified to actually even do the gig.

I gave up; I threw it all in, I couldn't cope.

My dream career went in the 'too hard basket' and I turned back to medication and booze. 

The grass wasn’t really greener on the other side of the champagne bottle and I slowly lost my drive to be anything but average.

Any desire I had to be someone of influence in society dissipated with each ‘chink’ of the wine glass.

My looks, thoughts, and ambitions had been quietly robbed in broad daylight from right under my nose.


Gone were the days of waking each morning and being ridiculously excited about endless possibilities of a new day.

From the minute my eyes opened it was all how I was going to get through the day without a drink before 10am. Or the meticulous co-ordination of getting to and from my kids' school, the supermarket and the bottle shop whilst still being under 0.05; what an existence.

Exhausting, depressing and soul draining. The game had simply become about survival only.

When I was knee deep in my own sh*t show all I saw was 30cm in front of me and at that point the only relevance the word ‘ambitious’ had to me was thinking that I would be able to get through the next day without picking up another drink.

Now that really was a pipe dream.

In my very small windows of clarity, I would look in the mirror and see a person who I did not recognise.

Always dishevelled, sullen, overweight (or under, depending on what part of my drinking career) and vacant.

Lights were on (only just), but no-one was home.

The bird who had once flown high in the sky of goal setting was slumped in the street gutter with no will to move.

But here's the good part. From the moment I put the glass down, my life slowly became mine again. Mine to make both poor and good choices - but at least they were mine. 


And what was restored was more than I’d imagined possible. Logic, motivation, rationale, forethought, aspiration.

Intention and purpose, the ability to connect, confidence to challenge norm, and a greater sense of self than ever before.

But ultimately freedom to be whatever the f**k I wanted to be without even the judgement of myself.

When you first get sober, they talk about the honeymoon period or ‘pink cloud’.

This comes into play after the chemical withdrawal is over and can last for a month or two. During this time, you're feeling excited and empowered, free from the substance and ready to make changes.

It ends. But the memory of it never leaves.

It becomes your hard evidence that life without a fuzzy filter is full of wondrous moments and a much more positive mindset. And that any challenge you set yourself could possibly be within reach as long as you don’t pick up a drink.

Your health, work, relationships, purpose and even looks.

They are all back in the running for you to claim.

Alcohol removed my ability to fly.

Getting sober allowed me to soar.

Justine Whitchurch has written more about her experience in her book, Society Delivered Everything Alcohol Promised. 


Image: Amazon.

Sobriety Delivered Everything Alcohol Promised by Justine Whitchurch is now available for purchase. You can buy it online here.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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