The man takes a drink, the drink takes a drink, the drink takes the man – is a saying that has been attributed to F Scott Fitzgerald, but is also said to come from Ireland , or perhaps it’s a proverb from Japan or China. Wherever those words came from, they tell the story of many people’s experience of alcohol. An experience that is not limited to any specific era or country or culture. The first time I read those words (as an American living in Portugal) they were posted by an English member of an Australian web community called Hello Sunday Morning. She and I connected anonymously on the internet, with people from around the world who were trying to stop or control their drinking. Neither one of us looked like the traditional alcoholic, and neither one of us followed the traditional path to recovery. Rather than accepting the label alcoholic and working the 12 steps we blogged our way from drunk to sober and found ourselves eventually saying proudly – I am Alcohol-Free!
I had always thought that sobriety was dull and boring. That sober was a box that people would be trapped in if they deveoped a problem with drinking. I saw drinking as my freedom and sobriety seemed to be a ball and chain. When I found that I had to stop drinking I never expected my sober journey to be such a colorful, creative and international one and I certainly never expected it to be one that I traveled with the help of a computer, a blog post box, and a mobile phone. In the 21st century, as the world seems to become more addicted to alcohol, finding help to do the work of stopping drinking and staying sober, has become accessible for everyone everywhere through internet communities.
I was introduced to the growing cyber-sobriety-support network by Lucy Roca who wrote the book How to lead a happier, healthier, and alcohol-free life: The Rise of the Soberista. Her book led me to blogs like Tired of Thinking About Drinking and Unpickled where I learned tools to stop drinking and started to see sobriety as freedom and empowerment rather than a punishment. Lucy’s book also introduced me to the idea of community support through blogging which I found on the original Hello Sunday Morning website. My internet sober support network was Australian, American, Canadian, English, Scottish, Irish, South African, and anyone English speaking who stumbled over our niche on the net. I discovered among this diverse group that although there were many differences in our cultures, the normalization of drinking too much too often, and cultures that blame the drinker, not the drink, was our common denominator.
In 2017, after Hello Sunday Morning evolved away from the community blogging platform that we had used, I started my own online community. As part of the work that I do to evolve and promote that project – The Boozemusings Community and Boom Rethink the Drink – I interviewed a young author today who’s book represents the universality of our need to rethink the drink. A woman who grew up in Russia has lived in Australia and settled finally to raise her family in Thailand. Elvi L. J. is the author of a book titled Sober Focus that was originally published in Russian back in 2014, and recently translated to English.
Elvi began to research her book at around the same time she became involved in a group called Sober Russia, which like the Hello Sunday Morning organization in Australia, and Stop Drinking Thailand, was organized not to force abstinence as prohibition did in the last century, but to change drinking culture through education and promotion of a positive view of sobriety as a choice, not a punishment.
Elvi L. J. ‘s personal story, which is not the main focus of her research-based book, is similar to mine and to many others around the world. She does not fit the mold of the traditional alcoholic. She grew up in a mostly non-drinking family and only began to drink socially after finishing her university degree. Her addiction to alcohol evolved not because of genetics, family environment, or in reaction to trauma, but simply because she was encouraged to drink daily and freely. In her late twenties, while living briefly in Australia and then moving to Thailand to work as a fashion model, Elvi drank daily and freely as was expected socially and found over a few years that she became as dangerously addicted to alcohol as she might to any drug with regular use.
Elvi tells the story of her addiction and recovery in the video below as well as talking about the Sober Russia, and Stop Drinking Thailand, organizations that she has become a part of. At 37 years of age, Elvi is now over five years sober and happily so. And she wants the world to start calling a spade a spade when it comes to alcohol and it’s power to addict and destroy –
One of the members of my cyber community Boom Rethink the Drink wrote this after reading the first few chapters of Elvi’s book – Sober Focus :
Staring down pain
I’m reading the book “Sober Focus” by Elvi L.J., and I’m finding myself a bit angry. Angry about the ‘alcoholization’ of whole societies, angry that we are able to turn a blind eye to the horrible, demoralizing and too often deadly result of millions of people poisoning themselves, all in the name of profit (and “free-will”).
I’m angry that I have put myself and others in harms way because of my own drinking. I’m angry and sad. The waste of life, the loss of connection and true intimacy. The disconnect between our own values and behaviors. The depth of pain in our own soul and the yearning to know true, unbridled joy. The loss of so many once creative and loving souls, the torn fabrics of family, community, faith. The fact that the genie in the bottle is and always was and always will be, an illusion.
I am angry and sad. And today I did not drink.
Sober focus for me, my journey to stopping drinking and staying sober, began with finding commonality and community. Finding a place where I could stand tall and say Alcohol Lies! without being confronted by a culture that celebrates drinking as the answer to most adult questions. Understanding how and why to take ourselves back from the bottom of the bottle begins for most of us with finding a place where we can begin to speak the words that we’ve been swallowing. Taking ourselves back – one word at a time – together. If you are ready to call a spade a spade if you have found that alcohol is beginning to abuse you, don’t get caught in the trap of feeling powerless and ashamed. Alcohol by nature, is addictive, period. Living alcohol-free nothing to fear but is all about finding that the spirit was never in the bottle – it’s in you.
Rethink the Drink- Come hang out with us here and start talking it through –
The videos and books mentioned in this interview with Elvi L J are listed at the end of this post – all of the statistics and science in Elvi’s book Sober Focus is carefully researched and referenced at the end of the book – You can find Elvi’s book at this link Sober Focus: The True Face of Alcohol
Videos mentioned in interview
From Sober Russia as explained in this article ‘We are new Russians’: How a hard-drinking nation curbed its alcohol use
Stop Drinking!! Thai ads
Chris Raine the Founder of Hello Sunday Morning
More thoughts on Allen Carr’s book The Easy Way to Control Your Drinking – and William Porter’s Alcohol Explained –
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