I quit alcohol and this is what happened
One was a binge-drinking “party girl” who used alcohol as a crutch; the other downed 80 drinks a week. So when they stopped boozing, the results were striking.
Jada Bennett-Cross has discovered she doesn’t need a glass of bubbly to be the most bubbly person in the room.
Two years ago, the mother of two gave up alcohol because she feared binge-drinking was having a negative impact on her life.
“I am not someone who can just have a glass or two and that’s it. I would drink the whole bottle,” she says.
“When I was younger, I was the party girl. I was always the last one standing. I didn’t expect that binge-drinking to continue once I had children, but it did.”
The tipping point for giving up alcohol
Jada, 42, doesn’t consider herself an alcoholic. She never had a physical dependency on alcohol, nor did drinking limit her ability do her job well or to parent children Atlas, six, and Juniper, three.
Instead, heavy drinking had become something she did to alleviate stress after a long day or to socialise with friends.
“I was still functioning. I would be able to get the kids fed and put them to bed with a story,” she says.
“I wasn’t someone who drank through the day or every day, or drank and drove and had an accident. I didn’t hit one big rock bottom. I just gathered many rocks over time that had a real affect on my own state of mind.
“I would find myself waking up at 2am or 3am filled with anxiety.”
How Jada stopped drinking
With the help of Hello Sunday Morning, the Melbourne mum quit drinking in October 2017.
She initially planned for it to be a temporary measure.
But when she found herself still going teetotal through Christmas and then New Year, without even feeling tempted to raise a glass, Jada realised she didn’t want to go back to her old way of life.
But sobriety came with its challenges.
“I got invited out a lot less at first,” she says.
“But I am a bubbly person even when I am not drinking. When the mood at a party amps up, I still amp up with it even though I am not drinking. I still know how to have a good time. I just don’t get the hangover the next day.”
As an event planner, Jada still spends her days surrounded by people drinking yet she’s never felt tempted or pressured to join in.
And her husband still enjoys a drink, although he too has cut right back since she decided to embrace sobriety.
Jada is so happy with her new lifestyle that she’s even been inspired to launch her own health and wellness festival in early 2021 that will be – you guessed it, alcohol-free.
“I just don’t miss it,” she says of drinking.
“That anxiety is gone. My relationships with my husband, my parents and my children are better. I feel better. I look better. My face has lost that puffiness. My skin looks great. I have so much more energy.
“For me (drinking) was a habit. It was a crutch. And it became part of a cycle. But I have taken my life back.”
Roland’s story: ‘Not having hangovers was huge’
Roland Illyes stopped drinking for FebFast last year but, like Jada, stayed sober much longer than planned.
The 40-year-old from Sydney says he’d been drinking excessively for 25 years – starting as a teenager in Hungary, and continuing once he moved to Australia 11 years ago.
“It sounds funny, but I was quite ‘successful’ at drinking as my tolerance for alcohol was quite good. It had spiralled. I’d built my tolerance up over the years,” he says.
“Before FebFast, my weekly alcohol consumption was close to 80 drinks a week. I used to drink mostly at home for stress management, which obviously is not ideal.”
The importance of a support network
During FebFast, Roland shared weekly blog posts with about 100 friends to let them know how he was going.
“It was almost for selfish reasons, but I needed the support from my friends,” he says.
“That was more important to me than collecting the fundraising money; having those conversations with people about how it was going.
“On the last day of the month, I said I would stop drinking for the same number of days beyond February as the dollars I raised. I raised another $150.
“So my FebFast session was extended until July – I didn’t drink for seven months, 29 days and four hours.”
‘Not having hangovers was huge’
“One of the most important takeaways for me was … the mind freshness and brightness I suddenly had,” he says.
“Also not having hangovers was huge. It would be such an interesting study to see how much productivity is lost due to hangovers.
“Even the next day when you drive, you might not be under the influence any more, but your reaction time and reflexes are so much worse. So much damage can be caused.”
Roland says he now does Pilates and spin classes for stress management and mindfulness.
“I drink again now, but not as much as what I did, and I’m thinking about stopping again, but this time with my wife,” he says.
The sober reality of alcohol
While young people in Australia are drinking less, studies show older people are drinking more.
According to the Australian Alcohol and Drug Foundation, alcohol is the most widely used drug in the country, with people over 70 the most likely to be drinking every day.
Worryingly, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education has also found almost half of Aussies who drink do so just to get drunk.
Hello Sunday Morning is an online movement of more than 100,000 people that aims to transform our drinking culture through behavioural change.
FebFast is an annual fundraiser that encourages Australians to give up alcohol or sugar for the whole month in return for donations to help disadvantaged young people.
Written by Siobhan Duck and Sally Heppleston.