Jordana's choice to step back from the booze & why she feels the best she's ever felt.
‘’I never learned what true grit was until I drastically cut back on booze. I'm having to learn to grow up, front up, and deal all the things alcohol has allowed me to hide behind.’’
These are the powerful learnings for first-generation Gippsland farmer, Jordana Thompson, who decided a couple of months ago that alcohol was definitely not her friend.
She and her husband live the dream breeding Angus cattle and Texas Longhorns in a beautiful part of the world - but Jordana says she didn't appreciate things like she should have because 'grog was stealing it all' and she didn’t even realise...
''I was never a problem drinker when I was younger. In my early 20’s I was super into my fitness and health. It just wasn’t for me, the heavy drinking thing,’’ she said.
But a promotion within the fast-paced highly stressful construction industry was when things changed for her, and she found that the boys club culture and heavy-drinking norms and expectations led to a swift change in behaviour where she found that instead of having a few beers on occasion, she was suddenly ‘smashing a 6-pack every night.’
''Then all of a sudden I was having terrible anxiety and experiencing weight gain and all these other awful things ... like waking up at 3:00 am feeling sick and worried. Then I’d get up tired, go to work tired, and get home tired - and just drink more to get to sleep, and the whole vicious cycle would repeat itself.
‘’I would tell myself every day that I wouldn’t drink - but by three o’clock when I'd start to feel better all my good intentions went out the window, and off to the bottle-shop I’d go. As a super self-aware person, I’d sit there and tell everyone (while laughing about it) that I was a highly functioning alcoholic. The one who always had a can in my hand. Sure I was hard working, and functioning - but I truly could no longer imagine a life without grog.
Jordana knows better than anyone that you’re not ready until you’re ready, though.
‘’I remember googling ‘am I an alcoholic?’ and answering yes to literally everything and then promptly refusing to do anything about it. My liver markers were shot - and the doctor told me I needed to cut back .. but even that wasn’t enough.
‘’What finally made me realise that I needed to change was the blatantly obvious effect alcohol was having on my ability to make sensible decisions. I just hated who I was. I hated how I felt. I just wasn’t being ‘me’ anymore …
Jordana is now 27 and has only had a handful of drinks in the past fifty days - and she says this is the longest she’s ever been off the binge cycle.
‘’At this stage, I have decided to limit myself to a maximum of one or two a week. And I feel quite sure I can manage that. I’ve also found that zero alcohol options work well.
‘’What absolutely blows my mind is how much things can change in 50 days. Suddenly I am back to appreciating the dream life I have - outdoors with livestock on an amazing property. Not long ago I was resenting the life I dreamed about! I now understand that was my alcoholic brain speaking.
Jordana - like so many rural people - works from home, full time, in permanent ISO.
‘’This main issue around grog I had was that it was SO easy to hide away. You can literally crack a wine in the middle of the day and nobody is there to comment or judge. Being isolated and regional means it’s heaps harder to get help, too.
I looked into meetings and all sorts of stuff - and it just wasn’t realistic. And I agree with SITC that options like AA don’t work for people who need anonymity. Because we can't be anonymous in a tiny community. Even though I am personally more than happy to be upfront about my story, I know so many people who would be absolutely horrified if anybody knew what was going on. Small towns are known for gossip - and that can put people off asking for a hand.
‘’But just imagine if every single one of us who struggled spoke up and got honest? We could help so many more people! I just think people really don’t know where to turn when it comes to grog.
It seems like everyone’s there for you on the other side once you make the leap... but gosh, if I had known conversations like this (at SITC) existed earlier - it would have made all the difference!
''The work of Sober in the Country is so important because what it means is people ARE starting to realise they aren’t alone, that there’s help, that it is OK2SANO ... and there's a growing community of us who are sober, or cutting back.
''There are countless young people like me, like Shanna (SITC's founder) who probably wish with all their heart they’d known sooner what the true cost of grog can be.
Whether you’re 18 and learning to party or 50 dying of liver failure - which is where I am 100% sure I’d have ended up…. I can now see that our culture is totally geared to excessive alcohol. We need to talk about it.
Jordana said she cannot believe how quickly things have changed in her body and mind.
''Fifty days ago I had constant pain in my liver - and it’s gone. I’ve already lost about eight kilos, and my mental clarity and commitment is back.
‘’I have achieved more in two months of sobriety than I have in years of drinking. Alcohol has been holding me back so much. I cannot encourage others enough to look at where they’re at with their drinking.
‘’What I love about Sober in the Country is their focus on going upstream - to catch younger Australians and to help them ensure they know there’s more to life than being drunk or hungover. I am so happy to make this contribution, because I want everyone to know that life can be so wonderful without booze.
‘’I would rather be truthful about my story now. I am not ashamed. Like Sober in the Country - I believe in de-stigmatising this thing, living truth, and speaking truth.
It really is okay to say no.
Going forward - Jordana will be joining SITC’s Bush Tribe for a bit of peer support, and concentrating on health and fitness and her wish to start a family.
Story compiled by Shanna Whan, SITC, & Jordana. Images supplied.
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