Learning to jump social hurdles without a drink in her hand
If your teenage years were anything like mine, you started drinking alcohol early. When I was 14 years old it was a common practice to get drunk with my friends - every weekend. I'm not so sure a whole lot has changed for teenagers in the 28 years since I was 14, although hopefully some kids wait a little longer before starting to kill off their brain cells.
We like a tipple in Oz. It's part of our culture. In fact, it's so much a part of our culture that if you decline to go down that road, you'll be seen as a little weird in some circles. It says something about you if you don't want to drink - something about being uptight and not knowing how to have fun.
Of course, plenty of people manage to balance on the ledge between alcoholism and wowserism. A glass of wine in an evening is a lovely way to loosen up your social anxieties, forget your worries. Alcohol is well known as a social lubricant. Wine "gladdens the heart of man" says the Bible. "I drink to make other people more interesting," said Ernest Hemingway.
It's just hard to keep a balance on that beam. And it's hard to stop once you've started. Jill Stark knows this from experience. They say write what you know. As the Sunday Age health writer, Jill specialised in writing about public health issues - most notably alcohol, and its health and social effects ... and then on the weekends she'd go out and get smashed. "When colleagues remarked on the irony, I'd tell them: 'Gonzo journalism. Just immersing myself in the story'," she wrote.
After waking with another hangover on New Year's Day 2011, Jill decided it was time for a break from the booze. It had stopped being as fun. Her resolution was a break for three months, which turned into a year, and brought some revelations about alcohol's role in her life.
The result is her book, High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze. Jill will be talking at the Wheeler Centre's Lunchbox/Soapbox about that year, and about Australia's relationship to alcohol on Thursday, 7 March 2013.