Next week it is Soberistas’ first birthday and so I thought I would share with you the reasons why I wanted to create the website in the first place. For many years I was a drinker: not a secretive drinker in most respects, in that everyone I knew would have definitely classed me as something of a wino, but very clandestine in the thoughts I harboured about alcohol. Outwardly I pretended that wine was something I had fun with, a drink that I could easily take or leave which never presented itself as anything other than a harmless social lubricant.
I laughed off hangovers, joked about waking up on the settee fully-clothed (again), and accepted all the associated negativity with a smile that spoke volumes about my established dependency upon alcohol. My apparent carefree attitude towards booze represented the degree to which I had settled for a mediocre life beset by lethargy and a numbed mind, in return for a few glasses of red or white each evening which I sipped obediently until I fell into a sleepy heap in front of the TV.
But beneath all of the light-heartededness was a festering tangle of thoughts borne out of fear; fear that I was turning into an alcoholic, fear over the fact that I seemed to possess no off-switch when I drank, fear that my life just would not come together in the way I wanted it to, and fear that I would waste my life drunk before dying prematurely from some alcohol-related illness or accident.
In amongst these dark worries, I began to consider that I might not be the only woman who felt this way, and that despite others allegedly being able to consume alcohol with none of the terrible side-effects that I always experienced, I became quite sure that at least some of those people perhaps did not have such an easy relationship with booze. What if, behind closed doors, there were thousands of us? Millions? And what if we all had a place to talk to one another and share our stories?
And so, www.Soberistas.com was born.
I believe that one of the key reasons why our website helps people to even consider an alcohol-free life (and for many, to eventually adopt one) is that in realising one is not alone, the battle is part-way to being won. It helps restore confidence and self-esteem the second we understand that this problem is not just ours but something which affects millions around the world. We are not freaks, irresponsible or reckless fools, but intelligent, caring, warm and supportive people who love to help one another. We are all normal people, we are evidence of the fact that those with a ‘drink problem’ are always the men or women in the street, just regular people with regular lives but who cannot stop drinking once they begin.
Since the launch of Soberistas, I have loved watching our community grow in strength and solidarity, witnessing an online friendship group that is characterised by its non-judgmental attitude. I have never known a friendlier, more supportive place than Soberistas, and I always feel happy and content when I have spent time reading through the many comments, blogs and discussions that are posted daily – it restores my faith in humanity on a regular basis.
My idea for Soberistas stemmed from the simple fact that I had a suspicion I was not alone in enduring a relationship with alcohol that stifled me for many years, but in the event what has emerged from the site is a phenomenon that has simply blown me away.
My passion for challenging the stigma that exists in society in relation to (especially women) those with an alcohol dependency has grown massively since the birth of Soberistas, and I know that this is where my future now lies.
At the end of next week I will leave my part-time job at Sheffield Hallam University in order to focus 100% on Soberistas and writing more books. I feel very lucky to be at the centre of this wonderful group of people, and optimistic that we are beginning to witness the first signs of a cultural shift in which binge-drinking will gradually become a far less ordinary thing to do.