*warning - content contains themes around death*
For the uninitiated, sobriety has been trending in Europe for some ten or so years, and as you're no doubt witnessing, there is a trend in our beautiful cities here in Australia too - around mindful drinking, grey area drinking, and sober curiosity - along with ''AF'' drinks galore... all of which are terrific options for those who have the capacity to either moderate; pull up in their alcohol journey, or even stop altogether.
For someone like me, these horses had all LONG since bolted. Perhaps if these discussions we are now generating had crossed my path when I was in my early 20's they'd have been ideal and well-suited.
But I know for an absolute fact there was absolutely zero chance for softer and less confronting options like that to be effective for my personal story or my case of chronic and life-threatening alcoholism.
For me, personally, I needed to be hit hard with the raw truth of: it's sober or dead. That's all you have left, Shanna. You have no more chances. Nada.
I'd spent YEARS and years dabbling in one-month challenges, low or no alcohol alternatives, detoxes, health kicks, self-help books. Everything but facing the ''A'' word, really.
Often when I do a keynote speech I share the story of my family members beginning to plan my funeral. Asking each other things like: ''what will we do with Fleabag?'' and ''how will Tim cope when it's all finally over?'' and other such horrific unimaginable conversations that haunt me still.
You see, I was blissfully blacked out while my family and friends had to endure my alcoholism while they were stone cold sober.
I was blissfully catatonic when I was scraped off the floor, again and again and again, put to bed, carried home, or taken out of emergency.
When I woke up, I was none the wiser about the hell my husband had once again come home to. Scenes like me crumpled in a pile of wine-glass shards with cigarette burns on my arms from where an unextinguished butt had burned into my skin while I once again blacked out a lifetime of 'things' I'd never faced, dealt with, or moved beyond.
This is where 25 years of (progressively heavier) drinking had taken me. From cute 'party-hard' country girl straight to derelict in my own home at night and on the edge of death.
What I am getting at here is that there are horses for courses in the complex and non-linear discussions around alcohol abuse, addiction, or alcoholism (call it whatever you'd prefer). Some of us can meander around the softer scenery - and some of us simply cannot any longer take that road.
If, like I once was, you're at the proverbial ''rock bottom'' stage and all the pretty horses have bolted ... can I encourage you with all my heart to take serious action and try again to give sobriety everything you have. Can I encourage you to be willing and prepared to do whatever it takes with whatever you have got to make it a non-negotiable priority over every aspect of your life?
Because even when it seems like you are tumbling into the abyss and there is no chance of redemption or hope or joy in your life - there is. While ever you're still alive, there is hope.
And my heartfelt hope is that somebody who needed to hear this tonight will.
And I hope, every single day, that through this beautiful bush charity (and the continued sharing of truth) that we can keep going ''upstream'' and ensure the baby Shanna's out there who are showing lots of red flags early in the piece can learn from those of us who almost didn't make it and therefore make easier, kinder, softer choices and live their lives to their fullest potential; without alcohol stealing it all.
For me, and because it's an FAQ; the practicalities of sobriety ended up being me basically putting myself into lockdown for a year. There were no accessible or affordable options - or indeed any options that made sense to me within striking distance. And so, I quit my job, stayed home, told all my friends the truth - and I worked for twelve months solid on nothing other than staying sober, avoiding alcohol, and learning to ''walk'' again in a country town as a sober person.
I basically had books, pens, and the will to try one last time.
I will say this: once I accepted that stuff like moderation and one-month-challenges and all those things were never going to work in my life - and once I accepted I could never safely drink alcohol, ever, it all changed.
Acceptance was key. Action was essential. Structure was non-negotiable. Connection with others 'like me' would have been the icing on the cake but as I soon discovered, nobody attended anonymous meetings in a tiny town (because small town + anonymity = LOL, right?)
This entire story is the reason WHY I began Sober in the Country many years ago as just a Facebook page and an honest discussion. Because I looked around me and I knew I was not the only invisible alcoholic in my country town. I knew so many others were battling a horrific story in private, behind closed doors, after five. That their families were in bewildered despair and isolation, too.
I had a goal and a dream that one day, others would be able to connect, share, and give each other hope - and an even bigger goal that one day not a single remote Australian had to live their shame and their stigma in horrific silence.
Today that dream is being realised.
I can hardly believe it, because I thought one miracle was all I'd ever get.
And yet, here we are. Thanks for reading.
Never give up. We see you. We hear you - and we know you're worthy of this life.
If you'd ever like to catch up on the back-story courtesy of ABC's Australian Story episode we did called ''Last Drinks'' it's a terrific little programme.
Shanna Whan is the founder and CEO of national NFP, Sober in the Country. She lives happily (finally!!!) in a teeny tiny bush church-home in Maules Creek (NSW) with her patient husband Tim and her blue 'healers' Fleabag and Mallee. She is not a guru or influencer and loathes both words. She is just a garden-variety recovered alcoholic doing what she can with what she has to try and ensure that others know there's a way out.