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Aug 12, 2003
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West Australia
Formatting fail!!! I'll fix it later :D]/i]

I wanted to start a discussion on alcohol and its effects, on each of us personally and on the societies we each live in.

Due to an inherited allergy to alcohol, combined with medication that meant cutting out alcohol entirely, I've been totally 100% alcohol free since I was

about 21. Prior to then, I was a normal Aussie. And that means, we start while underage, and usually only drink alcohol to get totally smashed. Aussies

under say 40 dont' seem capable of enjoying a glass or two of wine with dinner. If they're out, and they're drinking, it's gonna get messy.
My mates and I, supplied by older siblings, started at around age 15 (legal age is 18) drinking straight spirits from the bottle. Wow, what a feeling, so

funny, so enjoyable, so hilarious watching us all stagger about and act like idiots. In some ways I really do miss that stupid-fun element of drinking.

But as much as I would drink like the next guy, I never enjoyed the taste of alcohol. No matter what it was - beer, wine, spirits, mixers, liquers - the

taste of the alcohol itself would lways ruin the nice chocolatey taste, or the nice fruity or whatever taste. I found myself wishing I was drinking a

choc-milk rather than a Baileys, or a Coke instead of a scotch and Coke. But like a good Aussie, I just kept drinking anyway.

So when I had to stop for a whole year due to medication, my body detoxed completely. My friends loved it as they always had a designated driver :)

And I felt good knowing my mates and I would get home safely.
My inherited allergy seems to have amplified in this time, so when I came off the meds and immediately tried to get back into drinking, the allergic

reaction just made it not fun any more. So I stopped, cold turkey, and have never had another drink. Can't say I want to either.

In AUstralia, if you say you don't drink, people just don't get it. It is a truly baffling statement. Common responses I've received when offered a drink

and I say "No thanks" include:
- "Are you driving?"
- if I was offered a beer, they'll ask "Oh, do you want a scotch or something?"
- *blank quizzical look of incomprehension, as if I'd just spoken a foreign language*
- "what the ****'s wrong with you?"
- and my all time favourite - "are you gay or something?"

This article sums up what it's like to stop drinking, especially in a booze-soaked place like Australia:

High sobriety Jill Stark
April 9, 2011

With an aching head and a sense of trepidation, Jill Stark decided to give up drinking for 12 weeks. The last thing she expected was to enjoy it.

I was the binge drinking reporter. During the week I wrote about Australia's booze-soaked culture. At the weekends I wrote myself off.

After four years documenting the nation's escalating toll of alcohol abuse as health writer for The Age and Sunday Age, I knew more than most about the

consequences of risky drinking.

But it didn't deter me. I was always first on the dance floor, last to leave the party, and the winner of the inaugural ''Jill Stark drinking award'' at

last year's staff Christmas bash.

When colleagues remarked on the irony, I'd tell them: ''Gonzo journalism. Just immersing myself in the story.''

But as a particularly boozy December drew to a close and 2011, the year of my 35th birthday, loomed like a giant flashing alarm clock, I realised the story

was getting a bit tired. The hangovers were hitting harder and lasting longer. It had stopped being fun.

For years I hadn't questioned my ''big weekends'' because it was the social norm - not just among my friends but throughout the community. Most Sunday

mornings, Facebook is abuzz with vows of ''never again'' and tales of a few quiet drinks turning into a lost weekend.

Like my native Scotland, where teetotalism is a crime punishable by death, Australia's bonding rituals largely take place over a few beers. We use alcohol

to celebrate, commiserate and commemorate.

Until recently it accompanied all my social events: parties, gigs, dinners, birthdays, footy, book club, wine club, work functions. Even my dance class was

held in a pub. Drinking socially had become an act as unconscious as breathing.

Then I woke up on January 1. A new day, a new year but the same stinking hangover. And this one was a corker. It was 4pm before I crawled out of bed. I

started thinking about what it would mean to remove alcohol from my life. With my guts churning and brain pounding, the thought of not drinking for longer

than a few weeks still terrified me. I knew then I had to do it.

The idea of giving up alcohol for three months came from a young Sunshine Coast man I interviewed last year, who quit drinking for 12 months and documented

the experience online. As a typical party-hardened 23-year-old, Chris Raine's choice was seen by his friends as social suicide. But what began as a dare

turned into Hello Sunday Morning, a social media-based phenomenon that is challenging Australia's entrenched binge-drinking culture.

It's a simple concept but a powerful one. Embarking on a three, six or 12-month period of abstinence, participants blog about their experiences - the

public commitment helping to keep them accountable and make success more likely. By sharing blog posts on Twitter and Facebook it has a ripple effect,

planting seeds for change among the writer's social network.

With more than 360 people signing up in 18 months, the movement is growing rapidly, largely attracting those in their 20s who feel they're drowning in a

culture that implores them to drink at every juncture. The aim, says Raine, is not to demonise alcohol but to provide perspective. ''It's easy to get swept

up in a drinking culture. Sometimes we just need a rope to pull us back to dry land.''

For me, it was exactly that. Although, I must admit I had my suspicions. Was this a modern-day temperance movement? A slick front for God-bothering

puritans? It was neither. What I doubted most was my ability to forgo alcohol for what seemed like a preposterously long period.

I'd been a regular drinker since my teens and struggled to imagine how life could be anything short of dull and two-dimensional without it. Didn't the best

nights out usually happen after a skinful? That liquid gold feeling when inhibitions slowly dissolve and you share a common buzz with your friends.

But I was about to turn 35. I had a grown-up job, a ridiculous mortgage and knees that now made a cracking noise every time I stood up. I could no longer

afford to drink like I was a teenager.

Stopping was easy. Two weeks in and I felt great. My head was clearer, my skin brighter, I was energised, happier and fully committed to becoming a

responsible drinker. But I'd been here before. I'd twice tried Febfast - where you cut out alcohol in February to raise money for kids with drug and

alcohol problems. For those months, I'd put life on hold, waiting out my booze ban like a footballer pacing the sidelines, desperate to get back in the


Moderation has always been a harder proposition than abstinence. This time, I decided to embrace all the events at which I'd normally drink, instead of

staying home to avoid temptation. Could normal life still look rosy without beer goggles?

As the summer went on there were some tough moments. A 40-degree day watching my friends drink chilled sangria in the pool. After-work drinks in a

riverside beer garden. Them: a bottle of sauvignon blanc. Me: organic lemonade. I felt like I was missing out and resented the fact I couldn't join in. I'd

convinced myself sobriety was boring.

Then came the moment. It was Australia Day eve at a friend's birthday party in my favourite Melbourne rock club. A bunch of my closest mates, great music

and a bar serving free beer and Jagermeister shots - this was going to be a huge challenge. For the first time, I questioned whether I'd resist temptation.

A friend who affectionately calls me ''Rockin' Jill'' - a tribute to my enthusiastic style of dancing - was concerned that without beer I would rock no

more. By 10pm his fears proved unfounded. I hit the dancefloor, my whole body buzzing, arms and legs blissfully ignoring the persistent voice in my head

crowing, ''You can't dance sober.''

Jumping around like a carefree kid it suddenly seemed so obvious - it's not beer or shots that make a night special - it's good music, great company,

feeling loved and the sense of confidence you project when those elements align. That rush you get when a favourite singer hits a note that wraps round

your heart and leaves you breathless is just as real when you're drinking water.

This was truly a revelation. Before then, I couldn't imagine what a big night like that would look like without alcohol. Now I know. It looks clearer and

the feelings last longer. When booze isn't fraying the edges of your memory, the experiences are more profound.

But there was a bigger epiphany to come. That night I busted my long-held belief that alcohol is an essential element in any romantic connection. There was

a cute guy. There was chatting. There was dancing. There was a kiss.

Sober, I felt more in control. My words were honest and considered, not delivered in a nervous jumble of expectation and awkwardness. I don't know if

that's what sparked the connection but I know I felt more confident and attractive than I would have had I been slurring words and slamming tequila shots.

As I drove home at 2.30am, ears ringing, heart racing, I smiled when I realised tomorrow there would be no hangover.

This was a turning point. I started questioning every belief I held about alcohol's role in my life. I thought drinking gave me confidence. I believed

alcohol gave me the courage to speak my mind more openly. Often, this unfiltered honesty got me into trouble. Like the legendary post-work drinks, which

saw me give my editor an hour-long masterclass on exactly how she should run the paper. Or the time I confessed to my Mum that the mysterious dent in the

wall she'd been puzzling over for years was caused by an unexpectedly airborne television during a teenage party, which briefly turned my parents' living

room into a mosh pit.

After one too many beverages I can be reckless with the truth, hurling it at people indiscriminately. Now I see that at the heart of many of these

conversations is an unmet need. A need to express professional frustration, atone for youthful misdeeds, or most commonly to tell the people I care about

most the things I dare to say the least.

''I love you man. No, seriously, I like, really, really love you.'' Beer as truth serum. Vodka as emotional lubricant. Wine as aphrodisiac.

Alcohol gives us a convenient safety net should the recipient of our truth-telling not react in the way we might like. ''It was the booze talking. Sorry

about that.''

What's harder, is finding a more constructive way to express your emotions. When I stopped drinking I discovered that while it can be scary to lay yourself

bare completely sober, it's more authentic than dipping the truth in a bottle of wine and calling it real.

Removing alcohol leaves you with no excuses. Without hangovers, doona days or fuzzy heads to blame for my procrastination, I could see what was holding me

back - fear. So I started to do the things I'd been putting off. I went back to that novel I began a decade ago. I spring-cleaned my apartment, started

running and singing again. It felt good.

But there were days when I really craved a drink. A pull the cork out with your teeth, neck the bottle and belt out love songs kind of craving. Almost

always it had an emotional root, usually stress. Coming home from a tough day at work, the bottles of red wine on my kitchen benchtop would be so hard to

ignore they might as well have been cheering my name with pompoms.

I could visualise myself taking the first sip, feel the muscles uncoiling and jangling nerves settling down. It's confronting when you realise you've been

using alcohol as medication but it's doubly rewarding to discover that when it's not an option, you have untapped inner resilience to call on instead.

Alcohol might ''take the edge off'' but the next morning those edges are sharper and cut you deeper.

After nearly two months, and more social hurdles vaulted in the illuminating glow of sobriety, I noticed that many of the settings where I'd usually reach

for the wine bottle or head to the bar no longer triggered the Pavlovian response they once did.

Sure, there were occasions where there really was no substitute for a nice glass of wine or a cold beer - dinner at a fine dining restaurant, a garden

party at the Governor's house, a scorching summer day. But the resentment quickly evaporated and acceptance took over as I got on with enjoying the moment.

I began to find my abstinence was more of an issue for those around me. Perhaps alcohol plays such a big role in how we identify with others that removing

it - even from one member of the group - has a substantial impact on the drinker and non-drinker alike.

''When is all this going to stop, Starkers?'' some would ask in exasperation, as if I'd lost the capacity for rational thought, and any endearing character

traits had temporarily abandoned me. I didn't think turning off the beer tap had muted my personality but sometimes it felt that without booze I'd become

invisible, paling into the background like a cloud in a clear white sky.

People would raise their glasses to ''cheers'' the group but wouldn't clink mine because it was filled with water. Some friends disappeared altogether,

alcohol seemingly the only glue in the relationship. Others acted with mistrust or defensiveness, as if my choice was a judgment on their own drinking

habits. I realised that even if I didn't need alcohol to enjoy social situations, sometimes it made other people more comfortable if I acted as if I did.

Some saw it as a personal challenge to get me back on the sauce. At one party, despite repeatedly telling the host I was driving (my default excuse when I

couldn't be bothered explaining further), he was so insistent that I have ''just one beer'' I eventually said I'd necked a couple of whiskies before I left

the house, just to make him stop. A barman in my local pub even offered me a free vodka shot, leaving it on our table to see if I'd ''pass the test''.

I can only imagine how tedious it is for people who never drink to face this constant peer pressure and judgment. It's tiresome constantly explaining why

you're not drinking in a culture that does little to embrace a booze-free lifestyle and much to encourage the polar opposite. When you opt out, you start

to see the absurdity of alcohol propping up practically every social pastime we value.

Nowhere was this more apparent than at the Australian Open - which has renamed the biggest day of its tennis tournament ''Heineken Saturday''. When I

visited, I saw shirtless young men staggering around, clearly only there to get drunk, much like the punters passed out face down in the Flemington turf

every year at the Melbourne Cup. And why wouldn't they when the organisers, funded by alcohol companies, have designed a beer garden so enormous - complete

with deckchairs, live music, giant screens and an array of takeaway food - that people need never leave? It seems ludicrous that all our major sports

events are awash with booze, backed by a substance simply not conducive to sporting success.

Swimming against that tide was always going to be a challenge. Having a sober birthday, an even bigger one. I'd planned to finish up my Hello Sunday

Morning stint a week early to give my youth the send-off it deserved. My brother, his wife and my two nieces were coming to Melbourne to celebrate with me

and I figured one week shy of three booze-free months was good enough. By the time my birthday came around on March 24, the notion that not drinking would

somehow make that family time less fulfilling seemed ridiculous.

Without the support of friends, family and colleagues through this experience I'm sure I would have cracked open a beer many times. It has reinforced how

lucky I am to have so many wonderful people in my life.

Two weeks ago, in a Brunswick beer garden some of them joined me as I had my first booze-free birthday party in almost 20 years. Without alcohol I was able

to appreciate their presence with a clear head and picture-perfect memories the next morning. There were moments I felt like joining them in a beer, but

they were fleeting.

What has been enormously humbling is how my choice has made some of them contemplate taking their own break from the booze, suggesting that attempting to

change the way we drink is a conversation worth having.

Knowing I don't need alcohol to be confident, honest or affectionate has greatly diminished the value I place on it. But I think there are more lessons to

be learnt if I want to fundamentally change the way I drink.

Alcohol will be part of my life again, I'm sure, but I feel so much more healthy, calm and motivated right now that I'm reluctant to give that up just yet.

So this binge-drinking reporter is going to try another three months without booze and see what new challenges arise. Will a girls' weekend be just as much

fun without champagne? Can I survive a Melbourne winter without red wine? Will six months of no drinking see me kicked out of the Press Club? I'll tell you

at the end of June.

In Australia, drinking is automatically assumed. Our society is built around it. Every social occasion has alcohol. Every weekend without fail, our

police stations, hospitals and morgues fill up as a result of alcohol. Alcohol addicition ruins lives and families. And if non-medical alcohol as a

drinkable consumer substance was discovered today, it would probably be illegal.

In the 10+ years since I've stopped drinking, I've saved thousands of dollars that I've been able to put into other avenues of having fun. I don't have to

spend half my precious weekends lying in bed recovering.
I've also found out after the fact that I was not invited to gatherings with friends at a pub for example, assumedly because I could not possibly enjoy the

company of my mates whilst only drinking water or Coke.

For anyone interested, this is the alcohol-free blogging site refered to in the article:

Hello Sunday Morning is an opportunity for young people to get the support they need to create a little space in their life from alcohol and in

doing so, have an opportunity to commit to and be accountable for achieving the personal goals they set for themselves in that period.

This isn’t a project that is against alcohol or for lifelong abstinence. We believe alcohol has a place in our lives and in Australian society. Hello

Sunday Morning is simply a project that is about supporting young people that believe in changing their own belief systems around alcohol and are looking for a better way

I'd love to hear about how your country's views drinking and drunkenness. How it's affected you personally, how you've seen it affect those around you.
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zombie Turncoat
May 28, 2008
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in the horde
well, im Aussie and a heavy drinker. i'm the guy at the pool table getting my butt kicked, or propping up the bar.
not a huge fan of spirits, i like beer



Staff member
Jan 4, 2004
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Not in Amsterdam :)
hmmm - sorry m8, you can't be allergic to alcohol :p

I'd say it's pretty much accepted here to abstain from alcohol. It does get you a few frowns in the college years - but beyond that, it's not too bad. Of course there's jesting between friends, such as there always is with friends in party situations. But that's something you'll have to be able to deal with anyway.

That being said, however, I like my beers once every so often ^^


Jan 9, 2011
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I had my binge as most people in my early 20s, partying and going out. I don't do that much anymore, but now I just enjoy a beer or a glass of whisky when I feel like it. I like the taste, and to me it's like enjoying chocolate, a good meal or anything else that I like. As with anything, use moderation and common sense.


zombie Turncoat
May 28, 2008
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in the horde
thats my issue, as with many things i have difficulty stopping. a few cold ones ends up 18 beers :p


Staff member
Aug 12, 2003
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West Australia
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread starter
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Call it what you will, the half of me that is asian feels like shite if I touch alcohol nowadays so I just couldn't be bothered doing it any more


Most foods consumed need to be broken down and metabolised by enzymes once in our body. While some are digested in the stomach and small intestine before entering our blood system to be carried to their appropriate location, others are easily absorbed into the blood via the gastro intestinal track.

Alcohol is readily absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, however, alcohol is a toxic compound and cannot be stored and therefore, the body must oxidize it to get rid of it. Alcohol can only be oxidized in the liver, where enzymes are found to initiate the process. The enzyme Aldehyde Dehydrogenase (ALDH) metabolises alcohol into acetic acid (vinegar) a product from which the body can obtain some energy.

Some people have an alteration, called a polymorphism, in the ALDH gene which renders the enzyme inactive and makes it impossible for them to convert alcohol into acetic acid. Such persons should avoid alcohol, although they can enjoy the benefit of the antioxidants found in non-alcoholic red wine.

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The consumption of alcohol can provide histamine and aids in the release of histamine. Alcohol prevents the breakdown of histamine. Moreover, histamine shares the same ALDH for its metabolism, hence an impaired ALDH enzyme will amplify the problem after the ingestion of alcohol which leads to excess histamine in the system. This leads to allergy-like symptoms including most notably nasal congestion and mild flushing of the skin within minutes of ingesting alcohol. Other side-effects include fluttering of the heart (palpitations, tachycardia), sensation of heat, headache, abdominal discomfort or a drop in blood pressure (hypotension) are related to high blood acetaldehyde levels.

The commonest abnormal reaction to alcohol is seen in persons from an oriental background, who get flushing, increased heart rate, and symptoms of reduced blood pressure. This is sometimes referred to as 'oriental flushing syndrome'. Approximately 50% of Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans are deficient in ALDH, and this has been reported to be protective against the development of alcoholism.


Staff member
Jan 4, 2004
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Not in Amsterdam :)
The enzyme Aldehyde Dehydrogenase (ALDH) metabolises alcohol into acetic acid (vinegar) a product from which the body can obtain some energy.
Except that it's not acetic acid - but acetaldehyde. It's the stuff of headaches and barf on your pillow.

... not that asians get away from it; other enzymes take over. Just... not as efficient as alcohol dehydrogenase.

Alcohol "allergy" is more like lactose intolerance, in which another enzyme is missing (lactase or galactosidase or something). It's not really possible to be allergic to alcohol; the molecule is simply too small.

Anyway. The alcohol intollerance doesn't stop millions of asians binging. It does come with some downsides - but you need a lot less alcohol to get a tingle in the brain^^


God Emperor
Nov 11, 2004
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Well I started to take heavy medication at a very young age, so I have often avoided it as the plague. I was even slight afraid of alcohol, but I learned that I could drink it to a limit. Still it didn't become a habit. Pills or not, I just don't like beer. I just don't like the taste of it. On special occasions I'll have a bit of wine of champagne, but nothing heavier than that. Nobody has ever asked me questions about why I don't drink. I was never teased about it. I just drank frosted drinks, mainly Cola.


The Savage Hippy
Mar 5, 2008
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A Pirate city in international cyberspace
Not drinking in Australia, now that takes will power :D

I usually drink only a beer or two once or twice a week or so, but about every 2 months I'll get properly drunk. I find it's alot easier to stomach when you've got some food in your belly, fish and chips being my all time favourite drinking food.


Well-Known Member
Apr 7, 2011
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I like drinking until I'm tipsy but I don't like being drunk. I get black-outs when I drink too much.
I guess it's pretty much the same here as in Holland, when you order something non-alcoholic when going out, sometimes people tease you, and in general, it seems that people like it better when you order something alcoholic.