Sydney woman Ange Chappel battled with binge drinking all her life. But one day after waking up badly hungover, she vowed to change her relationship with alcohol for good. And now she is empowering others to reshape their relationship with alcohol. Here, she tells Lifestyle News her story.
My relationship with alcohol started in my teens. It wasn't an instant love story; in fact, I initially hated the taste of alcohol.
Without conscious thought, I would force myself to drink whatever we could smuggle into our underage parties. I never once questioned this decision; I just moved with the pack.
It wasn't until uni that my drinking career really took off! There were so many local bars offering novelty nights based on bad alliteration: 'Tight Arse Tuesday,' 'Wild Wednesday,' 'Thirsty Thursday'... it would have been rude not to!
Then came Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, which naturally were obligatory drinking days. I guess I had Monday off (unless someone was offering a 'Mad Monday'). You get the picture; I was now a seasoned drinker.
Once I entered the workforce, drinking took on a different shape. It seemed classier somehow. Uni pubs had been replaced with wine bars; travel entered the scene along with conferences and 'team building.'
Was it even considered team building if it didn't end in a drunken deep and meaningful at the end of the night? Spoiler ... the answer was no.
The next and final stage of my drinking history was after becoming a parent. It was no longer as fast and loose; mid-week drinking was a thing of the past, and drinking became a weekend activity.
Alcohol slowly but surely had a glow-up: catch-ups over French champagne, dinners out with an aged bottle of red, or a beautiful wine tour that would inevitably end in a stumble through the vines.
Hilarity and joy always ensued at these events, until the next morning when 'hanxiety' would jump into the driver's seat and drive me straight into Cringe Town, showing me a highlight reel of the outlandish comments I’d made and conversations I had unnecessarily injected myself into.
Although alcohol was now dressed up in a grown-up environment, it was still the same substance being consumed in excess and neatly packaged as something classy.
In fact, there was nothing classy about being a hungover, middle-aged mum of two. The morning after a particularly long lunch, as I lay in bed peeling my false eyelashes off, I thought enough is enough.
Right there and then, I decided to jump off the mouse wheel and change my relationship with alcohol for good!
This is how I successfully reduced my alcohol intake:
1. I started by listening to sober curious podcasts: I did this whenever I could – cleaning the house, driving the car, out for walks. I found relatability in hearing other people’s stories. I also loved that it was a private moment, between me and my headphones.
2. I stocked the fridge with alcohol-free alternatives: When I had the urge for a beverage, I would load up a fancy glass with ice and pour in my alcohol-free drink of choice. Kombucha was often my go-to.
3. I didn’t stop going out: That would be isolating and a false sense of reality. Instead, I planned the drinks I intended to consume and visualised how that would look. For me, it was always a glass of bubbles on arrival (sometimes followed by a glass of wine with my meal). I would have sparkling water in between and order alcohol-free alternatives.
4. I would play the tape forward:. I would imagine myself leaving as fresh as I’d arrived. That feeling of coming home, taking your makeup off, and jumping into bed with a cuppa, knowing you won’t be waking up with anxiety, regret (or a false eyelash stuck to your forehead), never gets old!
5. I became acquainted with 'Quit-Lit': This is a genre of literature for the sober curious. I had books on the go that educated me on alcohol and others that were light reads with relatable stories from people just like me, talking about their relationship with alcohol.
6. I journaled my moods, my triggers, and celebrated my wins: I loved reflecting back on my successes and the genuine joy it brought me.
7. I tried meditation: I would listen to guided meditation to fall asleep. It’s a quick and easy way to get out of your head.
There were so many learnings on my path to reduction. I realised it was a misconception that socialising without excess alcohol was boring; in fact, it was the opposite of boring.
I could actively engage in conversation, genuinely enjoy festivities like family get-togethers, milestone birthdays, concerts, and weddings.
I could appreciate the details that went into events – glorious food, heartwarming speeches, thought-out music and décor... the list goes on and on.
I never woke up regretting my decision to not go wild at an open bar or jump on the one too many train, never ever!
I was so eager to share my newfound lease on life that I gained a qualification as a certified Recovery Coach. I then went on to create Mind The Sip – a mindful drinking app designed to help people of all walks of life change their relationship with alcohol.
One of the areas I continually come back to with the Mind The Sip community is that changing your relationship with alcohol takes time.
I liken it to a gym membership. You don’t decide to join a gym to get in shape and wake up the next day with a six-pack or a tight peach (if only). It takes time and work to get there.
Changing your relationship with alcohol is the same deal. It takes time and practice to break the familiar habits and patterns that have been so deeply ingrained.
Today I still enjoy an occasional glass of bubbles in celebration but am firmly and happily planted in the 'take it or leave it' camp.
I’m completely unfazed if it’s bubbles or a soda water in that glass; alcohol no longer holds any power over me.
I know ‘Tight Arse Tuesday’ and her mates are looking at me; sniggering, muttering under their breath “who does she think she is”?
To them I raise my overpriced (but always delicious) alcohol-free cocktail and say “thanks for the memories bi%@hes, I have new hangover free ones to make tomorrow, you won’t be needed”.