Why Some Aussies Are Choosing To Quit Drinking For Good

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Having a cheeky bevy is basically an Australian ritual at this point. But there’s a growing movement of Aussies choosing to skip the grog for good.

July can mean a lot of things for Australians — end of financial year, a cheeky early Christmas, or spending the whole month wondering how it’s July already. It’s also the month of Dry July which challenges Aussies to go alcohol-free for a month and raise money for cancer patients.

Why Some People Go Alcohol-Free

For some people, like Sober Mates founder Sam Wilson, not drinking alcohol became more than just a month off and changed into a new lifestyle.

“I’ve been sober for almost two and a half years. I was what you would call a heavy social drinker. And that’s what I called myself,” Sam told Junkee.

Sam had toyed with the idea of going sober for over a year before actually deciding to quit. At the time, she was spending most weekends drinking with friends.

“My identity was so closely aligned to drinking. I was like, well, I can’t not drink in Australian culture.”

How Drinking Is Ingrained In Australian Culture

Drinking alcohol has nestled itself into Australian culture, and this report from RMIT and the Victorian government points out there are very few occasions where drinking alcohol is not encouraged. It also notes how alcohol can be integrated into our language and social norms. Take things like shoeys, shouting rounds, and our popular take on Happy Birthday.

Of course, many countries around the world also have their own drinking cultures. But Sam talks more specifically about the binge drinking culture here in Australia and how it differs from some other parts of the world.

“I think we have a very casual approach to our drinking culture. We are more likely to commend someone for getting black at drunk than to commend someone for not drinking,” said Sam.

“Not in every area of Australia, but in a lot of it… we take a really chilled approach to alcohol. We don’t really assess what it’s doing to our bodies, our minds, to our mates. That peer-pressure drinking culture is there.”

Alcohol And The Pandemic

The Australian government has done a lot of research and policy work in this area for decades. But the recent pandemic pushed our cultural relationship with alcohol into the spotlight.  

For Sam, the pandemic meant there was a reduced social pressure to drink. And as a self-identified social drinks, that made the decision easier for her to keep up.

“I gave up drinking five weeks before we went into lockdown. So it’s a different experience than people going sober now.

From where we are now to where we were two years ago, like the shift has been insane. The amount of alcohol free options that we have now, the amount of alcohol free options that are advertised that weren’t two years ago.”

However, we also saw a spike in alcohol consumption over this period. Data from the ABS showed that more women increased their alcohol consumption than men, especially those aged 40-50.

But some studies showed that this wasn’t the case for young Australians.

“The younger generations that are coming through, they are drinking less than their parents,” Sam noted.

And I commend the 18 year olds coming through now. Because I was not like that, I didn’t have that mindset they’re so strong and they’re so educated.”