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The Australian Drinking Culture

For those of you who don’t live in Australia, let me explain something.

Australia has a huge drinking culture.

A few years back EVERYTHING for me revolved around booze. And it wasn’t just one or two or three in one sitting…it was round buying, drinking more than the ‘standard’. It was drink till you got drunk. If you didn’t have an alcoholic beverage in your hand, you would be questioned until you did, or your pleas of ‘No, I’m fine thanks’ would be ignored, and you would end up with a drink or three in front of you.

And I’m an Aussie. I grew up around alcohol, and I developed a love for drinking at the ripe old age of 15 – behind my parents backs of course (they found out, as all good parents do).

At the start, I drank to fit in with the crowd. I was never a kid to stand up to peer pressure.  Looking back on it I was pressured…by boys and by myself. I wanted to be liked, and I was so god damn shy (and I hated myself so much) that alcohol turned into the perfect solution for me.

For a while, alcohol was the one thing that would enable me to let my hair down. And boy could I let my hair down. Drinking, dancing, drinking more, dancing more, and drinking more and more…and then being incredibly sick. It was okay until I got into my late 20′s and the hangovers multiplied by 100.

One could say alcohol was my vice. That’s not to say that I’ve always drank. In my mid-twenties I gave up the booze for a year! This was when I went on my first round of anti-depressants. But let me tell you, dealing with the peer pressure I experienced was a bitch! My boyfriend at the time, and his friends, loved to drink (and dabble in other chemical substances), and for more times than I remember I was treated like I was a freak for not joining them. Well, I care not these days. Peer pressure in my twenties, seriously!?

And then I backpacked and worked my way back into it – which is what your atypical backpacker does – plus I found myself living and working in a pub. I mean, drinking was part of the job description!

On returning home I continued drinking. I was hanging out with the boys and I was matching them drink for drink. My drinking skyrocketed into bingeing, to accompany the transformation of the Australian drinking culture into one of the ‘bingeing’ culture’ – let’s all drink until we get literally paralytic? Sounds great doesn’t it.

Over the last two years I’ve ‘settled down’, and my liver is thankful for it. Since December, and since embarking on the allergy diet, I’ve hardly touched alcohol and am now enjoying the occasional glass or two of wine every now and then (I can’t physically handle any more than 2 these days). Sure, it made me look incredibly anti-social over the Christmas period (I was even treated that way), and the peer pressure – well, it’s not as bad as it was when I was in my twenties, but these days I’m a lot more ‘vocal’ in my defence (someone sticks up for themselves these days).

It doesn’t matter anyway. I like the new me, and I like the new things I’m interested in. And I no longer need alcohol to let my hair down and ‘be myself’ for I am now actually ‘myself’.

  • http://www.stuartnager.wordpress.com/ Stuart Nager

    Good for you!! I stopped drinking in 1994 (went from full time employment to starting my own theater company, and money was going to be very tight: alcohol was one very easy thing to give up). I don’t miss it. Glad you don’t as well. If you’re only perceived as being fun or worthwhile as drunk you…that does say a lot about the people around you.

  • http://www.probloggingsuccess.com/author/hajra/ Hajra

    There are some habits which are not necessarily something which we want to but then we give in and we do. So, people around us assume that we are nicer that way, they get used to seeing us that way. So, when we want to change they become a little surprised – no one likes change and especially if it is something that they feel might change you for the “worse”. Especially if it is a part of a culture. It becomes tougher. But the fact remains that you got the courage to stand up for what you feel and make sure that you love yourself. You should be happy with “you” and that is all that matters!

  • http://www.rockthekasbahafrica.blogspot.com Marie

    Way to go Janine!

  • http://www.adjuvancy.com/wordpress Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A. @Cerebrations.biz

    I have friends who do drink and friends who don’t. There should be no stigma either way…as long as behavior is appropriate.
    Glad your drinking matches your desires…

    • http://lalamusings-lala.blogspot.com/ Rachel

      Love your comment Roy and completely agree! :-)

  • http://mommasachs.blogspot.com MommaSachs

    I totally hear you in this post. My early 20′s were drinking, drinking and more drinking. I noticed I was always hung over way more than my friends no matter how much I drank. It totally sucked. I kept doing because like you, I was shy… wanted to fit in.

    The older we/I got the more the drinking let up and I was thankful for it. Even now, I’ve noticed that even small amounts of social drinking turn my stomach for days on end whether it’s one beer or six. We have to learn to listen to our bodies and be true to ourselves!

  • http://www.joypagemanuel.com Joy

    Liking and loving oneself and respecting ourselves for who we’ve become, regardless of the ‘external noise’, is really what growing up means, I think. Or at least it’s a crucial part of maturation. Keep being your self, Janine. I’m sure you’ve heard this before but I’ll say it again. You’re an amazing human being!

  • http://bluedollarbill.blogspot.com/ Thom Brown

    I rarely drink any more – just an occasional glass of wine or a beer. I want to have more, but my body rebels – or at least my heart does. It’s not a big loss. Good for you.

    • neanster77

      Very true Thom – it’s certainly not a big loss.

  • http://sedshed.blogspot.com.au Sarah

    Good for you, Janine! Thanks for your transparency in sharing your story. I really don’t see the big deal about alcohol so I found myself doubting if I’m actually an Aussie at times. I’ve only ever met one person who was nicer drunk than sober. I remember picking up a friend once to go to a party and she was already tipsy. I asked her why and she said she’s more confident drunk so she doesn’t go to parties unless she’s already had a few drinks. Maybe we all need to encourage one another to live healthy lifestyles, not rely on vices (alcohol, caffeine, chocolate etc) and enjoy those things in moderation. I want my friends to know that I appreciate them for who they are, not who they feel pressured to be.

    • neanster77

      I definitely agree with you Sarah – we do need to encourage each other to live healthier lifestyles. I was heartened to see so many people at a gluten free expo today – so eager to be healthy! And in Perth! Amazing. Don’t feel alone at not feeling Aussie – I have been there many times, but then again – it’s 2012 now and what exactly is Aussie these days?! The times are changing (hopefully!).

  • Wendy

    I also have the same experience, and I am thankful that I was able to break the habit. Like you, it took a lot of effort and will power too.

  • http://www.late-bloomers.net Barbara

    I Am Me – what else? Janine, I think you are a funny person and unless you were dead drunk while writing, this proves that you do not need alcohol to be funny!

    I think we all went through phases of overindulging in something, maybe this is one of the advantages of getting older (and wiser) that we learn what is good for our body and therefore also for our soul and what not.

    And speaking up for yourself is also a sign of self esteem, you are growing! Keep on rocking!

    • neanster77

      I think I can be funny :) in a sarcastic, dry way. Some people totally miss the point thought and get offended…ah well.

      Thanks for the compliment! I will keep on rocking!

  • http://www.FrenchYummyMummy.com MuMuGB

    I think that the real question is whether you enjoy drinking. There is nothing wrong with having a glass of wine or a cocktail from time to time, if you like it (I personally don’t enjoy alcohol despite being French -don’t ask).
    At the end of the day you are what you are and it looks that your friends sucked (sorry to be blunt). Nothing wrong with you.

    • neanster77

      Yes – I think they did Muriel. I realise that now! I admit I enjoyed drinking a lot – too much. Now I enjoy one or two every now and then and that is enough for me.

  • http://lalamusings-lala.blogspot.com/ Rachel

    You are not boring – people are just lazy. It takes more effort to discover the interesting complexities of a person when that person is not making a spectacle of him or herself, drunk or otherwise. You said you were shy in your younger years and perhaps you have grown out of this a bit, but as an introvert myself I am opposed to this idea that shyness is a pathology. All of us are like different textured threads in a huge, multicoloured quilt. Imagine how mind-numbing that quilt would be if it was monochromatic, particularly if the only hue it came in was a loud, drunken flood of fluorescent orange. ;-)

    • neanster77

      Ah a woman after my own heart. I have had many an agitated discussion with people over the last few years defending shyness as it is not a pathology, as you say. It angers me to see people criticise others – especially kids – for being shy, as the world takes all types of people and it would definitely be unbearable if it was full of extroverts. I could imagine nothing worse.

  • http://lifethrulucylasticaslense.blogspot.com/ Lucylastica2

    You’re not boring. You’re much better off being your usual ‘boring’ sober self around real friends, than be a funny drunk in a room full of acquaintances! x

    • neanster77

      I adore you. I wish we were in the same country! I’d give you a big hug.

  • http://sandrasfiberworks.blogspot.com/2012/03/tale-tuesday-mommas-meltdown.html Sandra Tyler

    Youll perhaps enjoy myvrecentweekly post about my martinis in bed. Like the honestly of this post. Visiting from the writers on edge hop.

    • neanster77

      Thanks for stopping by Sandra. I’ll check out your post.

  • http://www.rebeccarites.blogspot.com Rebecca

    Good for you! I, unfortunately -or, maybe fortunately, – could never handle alcohol. Straight to the head plus my first hangover at 16 was so brutal it turned me off altogether. Yeah, me no like pain. Well, as for you, your liver certainly thanks you.

    • neanster77

      Wow you must have had one hell of a hangover at 16! I know I did..but didn’t learn from it till…later in life.

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