High Sobriety - Jill Stark
Booze had dominated Jill Stark's social life ever since she had her first sip of beer, at 13. She thought nothing could curb her love of big nights. And then came the hangover that changed everything. In the shadow of her 35th year, Jill made a decision: she would give up alcohol. But what would it mean to stop drinking in a world awash with booze? Jill Stark visited Bookworld this week to chat about her year without booze and her new mantra ‘everything in moderation’.
So, tell us about High Sobriety. High Sobriety is an account of my tumultuous year off the booze after 20 years of weekend partying. It charts the pressures of trying to go sober in a world awash with grog.
Was there a particular moment that made you realise that giving up booze for a year was the way to go?The hangover to end all hangovers on new Year’s Day 2011 was my line in the sand. I felt like I’d been run over by a Melbourne tram and knew that it was time to take a long hard look at my binge drinking ways.
How was the first month?Actually surprisingly easy. I felt invigorated, I was sleeping better, my skin was brighter and I lost 2 kilograms without even trying. It was like a fog had lifted.
What was the most difficult part of abstaining? Dealing with pressure from people who seemed to not be able to enjoy themselves unless I had a glass in my hand too. Also, having to endure an endless array of boring soft drinks served in ugly glasses.
What about the best? Learning so much about myself. Finding out I didn’t need liquid confidence to be socially competent, and that I could handle stress and all that life threw at me without reaching for the bottle. I learn that I was far more resilient than I thought I was, and that it is possible to dance to bad 80s music completely sober.
How was dating sober? Terrifying at first, but ultimately revealing. I learned that guys who prefer women to be drunk before they’re interested are probably not great long-term options. Sobriety helped me weed out the players.
Do you think Australia has an issue with drinking? I think the drinking culture is not particularly healthy, in the way that we’re teaching young people that they need alcohol to fit in. But it’s not just a youth issue – we all need to own our part in the binge drinking habits that are so common in this country.
What would your advice be for anyone who is thinking of quitting the booze? Jump on to the Hello Sunday Morning website ( http://hellosundaymorning.org/ ) if you want to be inspired about what life might be like if you took a break from alcohol. It’s a great support network and there are always fellow abstainers on there who can offer advice on how to navigate tricky situations without booze.
If High Sobriety was a movie what would its tagline be? It started with the mother of all hangovers…
Name three authors who would join you for your ultimate dinner party… Anna Funder, Ian Rankin and Hunter S Thompson.
What’s the best piece of advice you have received from your parents?My Dad’s mantra since I started drinking as a teenager has been, “Everything in moderation.” He used to trot it out with a wry smile every time I had a hangover. I pretty much ignored that advice for 20 years but now he’s very proud that, through High Sobriety, I have finally embraced his mantra. He’s hopeful he can now take the message to an international audience!
If you had $20 left in your bank account what would you spend it on? I should say something worthy or sweet, like a donation to a children’s charity or phone calls to my parents, but probably I’d buy some really good chocolate and some rocking music on iTunes.