'300 women shared their drinking habits with me. It made me realise I had a problem.'

Women love to share

More than that, they love to share when they know that whatever they say will be free from judgment. 

They also love to listen to what other women share so they can sympathise, relate or carry on the conversation with their friends. 

I love telling women's stories and I'm always surprised by how many women want to share parts of their lives with me, even when they can be deeply personal

Watch: Your body after one year without alcohol. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

I recently put a call out for women to share their drinking habits with me, a topic that I believe isn't spoken about enough in our society. 

The next day, I opened my inbox to see that I had over 300 responses from women between the ages of 20 and 70. 

They did not hold back. 

From being sober to binge drinking, to knowing that they over-drank but didn't know how to stop, these women went into explicit and honest detail about how much they drank, how drinking made them feel and even reflected on their history with alcohol. 


I wrote that piece months ago and yet I think about those women every single day. 

Reading these stories made me, for the first time in my life, confront my own drinking habits.

I've always believed that I never had a problem with alcohol... no, not even close. 

Some women talked about how they would have a glass of wine every night while they cooked dinner or watched TV. I would only drink if I was going out with friends. I then realised that I go out most nights of the week.

Some women talked about how they hadn't got drunk in years, a strange concept to me as I knew I would get tipsy at least once a month with my friends. 

Some women talked about using alcohol as a crutch and how they are now exploring a more sober lifestyle. This was something that confused me because I didn't think they drank that much. 

Reading all of these stories made me consider that my relationship with alcohol wasn't as fine as I had thought.

Speaking to Ange Chappel, founder of mindful drinking app Mind the Sip, she assured me that my story of suddenly being confronted with how much I drink isn't a rare one.

"Underestimating how many drinks you’re consuming is incredibly common," she said.

"Naturally, we aren’t getting around with measuring cups and standard-issue wine glasses, so instead, we work off a guesstimate. Waking up the morning after a night out, wondering why we feel like death after only having 'four drinks.' 


Let’s unpack that," she continued. "You had two margaritas and two large glasses of wine (250ml), those 'four glasses' were in fact 9.2 standard drinks, which is nearly the recommended guideline for an entire week, consumed in one night. If you are knocking back that level from Friday to Sunday (as I easily was), that’s nearly 30 standard drinks over one weekend, three times the recommended limit!

"Again, if you are having one glass of wine (250ml) a night, it sounds rather civilised, but that is 18.2 standard drinks across your week. It is incredibly common to not realise how much alcohol you are drinking."

I get extremely annoyed when I'm forced to think about the fact that I sometimes... every once in a while... drink more than my friends.

I also get annoyed when I'm out to dinner and my friends opt for a non-alcoholic beverage. I feel betrayed when they order their non-alcoholic beverage after I've ordered my (fully alcoholic) drink. 

I feel like they hate me when I ask why they're not drinking and they reply with "I just don't feel like it," or "I drank yesterday so I don't want to drink again today." 

I feel embarrassed when I ask, "Should we get a second round?" and everyone else says, "No, I'm good, but you get another one!" 

For me, drinking with friends had always meant that we were out to have a fun time. Some of my friends are completely sober which I respect and don't feel hurt by because I'm mentally prepared for it and know that it's a constant in my life. 


It's the friends who still drink but occasionally choose not to drink with me that I struggle with. Am I not worthy of having a good time with? Are there other people they'd rather drink with? Do they not like me? 

It wasn't until after I read other women's stories about drinking that I realised these thoughts I had while I was consuming alcohol were unhealthy and contributed to the problem I had with drinking. 

"The biggest fear when people start reassessing their relationship with alcohol is that they can NEVER have a drink again," Chappel advised me. 

"On the contrary, if you love a glass of bubbles in celebration, a bold red with your spag bol, or a margarita with friends, you can continue to do so.

"If, however, you find yourself throwing caution to the wind every time and drinking in excess, then you would benefit from doing some deeper work:

Establish why you are taking it too far. 

You will soon see patterns forming; certain environments or people are often at the forefront of this realisation.

Work out what emotion needs to be met. 

Ask yourself what you might really need at that moment (instead of another round):

Celebrating a milestone... 

Perhaps you are craving acknowledgment or shared excitement with family and friends.

If you're stressed...

Maybe you need a listening ear or a hug.

When grieving...

It could be time or space that would serve you best.


Go in with a plan. 

If you intend on drinking, plan what you are going to consume ahead of time and update your actuals with accurate numbers. The standard drinks calculator inside the Mind The Sip app is great for this; it takes out the hard work.

Mix up your drinks. 

There are some amazing alcohol-free replicas these days, which are the perfect go-to between drinks. They offer social inclusion without drawing any attention to the fact you have pumped the brakes.

The biggest takeaway is to be aware of why you’re drinking and to learn how to genuinely feel your emotions through, without the crutch of alcohol filling the void. To drink mindfully is to do so with conscious thought. Slow your consumption right down, be aware of what you are consuming, listen to your body, and be kind to yourself."

Now, I've been making sure that I'm actively aware of my feelings about alcohol when I'm out with friends. I've started to drink less and although the words "I'll have another one," are constantly lingering on the tip of my tongue, I'm slowly starting to realise that I don't actually need it to enjoy myself. Who knew?!

If you want more culture opinions by Emily Vernem, you can follow her on Instagram @emilyvernem.

If you feel you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol or want to get some advice, Mamamia urges you to contact the National Alcohol & Other Drug Hotline which is a free service, available 24/7 on 1800 250 015, You can also visit the DrinkWise website.

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