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A Chapter of a Journey.

Louise and her 28 Day Challenge.

I recorded Louise’s story in a bar. The icebreaker into the conversation started when Louise ordered her mocktail. She couldn’t recall if it was called ‘no sex on the beach’ or just ‘safe on the beach’ (it was the latter).

Louise is a mum first. With two adult children, aged 25 and 20, she is openly proud of their maturity and achievements. Professionally, she has functioned well as a successful accountant and business advisor, a role that requires significant mental acuity. But alongside her indelible nature, love for people and strength in her business, Louise admits to having consumed alcohol in excess.

She’s unfiltered, and didn’t hesitate to admit that she had been addicted to alcohol and that she’d weighed up to 90kg not so long ago. Photos of her former self look like a relative - not the wispy fair-haired, petite-faced woman in active wear sitting before me.

Louise had a couple of rough years where her mother and stepmother passed away in close succession and for a long time, used alcohol as a crutch, justifying the habit by telling herself that she worked hard and deserved it, as she didn’t engage in other vices - had no other substance abuse issues, and was a working professional.

“I would sit in front of the television every night basically and just drink a bottle or a bottle and a half of wine just because I could, and I would justify that to myself by telling myself that I worked hard and I was a good person and I didn't do drugs or any other things so this was my thing that I did and that it was okay.”

Louise took a short trip to Vietnam - mostly with the intention to lose weight and live more healthily. She said if she had to get food or alcohol, she’d have to ride or walk. Her decision to travel was a simple intuition swept along by dogged determination to make change. And around the somewhat impulsive call for action, came corrective serendipities that nudged her, this way and that, along a healthier course of life.

In May, Louise turned 50 and celebrated with a milestone birthday party - which was accompanied by the usual collection of beers, wines and spirits. The celebration inevitably led to further weeks of overindulging in alcohol, and by June - she called a 28-day ‘cold turkey’ challenge, and up until now, she’s gone on to remain booze-free.

“I did it with someone else. We said that we'd do a four-week detox. They didn't, they sort of took a little bit of a different turn partway through, which is where they're at. That's fine. But I realised after about a week and a half in what it was about. It wasn't just about the health benefits. It was more the long term and just taking back control and that I was in control of what I was doing.”

This ‘taking back control’ is something that is so liberating about sobriety. You are forced to live life on life’s terms, without the insulating effects of alcohol or drugs. By being sober, Louise learned her true and complex relationship to the world. She also found, to her surprise, that happiness is possible as life broadens into something intricate and deeply fulfilling.

Louise acknowledges the cultural challenges of sobriety in Australia, where alcohol is well and truly embedded in social activities.

“It's hard in Australia because it doesn't matter what we do, whether we win the game, lose the game, you know, babies, weddings, funerals, everything, we celebrate and mourn with alcohol.”

“It's absolutely everywhere. We go camping with alcohol, we go fishing with alcohol, we go have a dinner. It’s just such a huge part of our culture.”

Despite this, she found that people were supportive and genuinely curious about her journey. Their encouragement, rather than judgment, provided additional motivation.

“Everyone was really good. They were like, ‘Oh, I wish I could do that’. People did ask me (about not drinking). But they genuinely wanted to know why.” ‘Was it for a health thing? Was it for a bet?’ They're just curious. And I think it's genuine curiosity. I don't think it's judgement or calling you out. I think it's like, ‘Oh, I wonder if she might say something that might, inspire me.’ which is important, especially when you're in a community where people do have that, that dependence and that habit of alcohol.”

We all have a story. We all have chapters. They make up our lives and our big biography. What matters is that if some chapters aren’t so great, then we learn from those and make improvements for the next ones. We become wiser - and maybe no-one will notice - but importantly, when you are sober, you will notice.

The chapter that Louise shared evokes a little grief of loss and trauma, but mostly, offers hope. And for those who feel they might have the capacity to change, her words inspire actionable encouragement towards re-evaluation and growth.

Louise is still in recovery. These are early stages. But it’s a really important junction point for many people to be inspired by. Too far along - sometimes it can feel preachy or too far from achievement. Louise is happy with her day-to-day achievements. Sometimes it’s easier to hear from people in recovery not out of it - to motivate you.

She’s been doing art classes, taken singing lessons (but with a laugh admits that was not a strength of hers), and just completed her diving certificate. She advocates for doing what we love with our time and rewarding ourselves with healthy activities rather than harmful ones.

We are all full of worry until we begin the task, but Louise shows that in the end, things tend to find their way if you trust your intuition.

After our chat, Louise is off to deliver flyers for her gym’s circuit instructor - putting them in cafes and hair salons. Places where people might be encouraged to join.

I passed Louise later that evening while walking past the local pub. There she was with her mineral water, sitting with the raucous group of regulars - and to my surprise, another bloke had joined her - also with a mineral water in hand. Unintentionally, it was catching on.

Listen to Louise and her story.

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1 Comment

Sabine Mignot-Buhring
Sabine Mignot-Buhring
Jul 11

beautiful story! I am so proud of you, dear Lousie! You are amazing, and a wonderful, compassionate, loving person, and I treasure youre friendship! Keep gong!

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