• soberinthecountry

NSW Country Uni student, Meg, shares her thoughts about the college alcohol culture.

Meg is a country girl and a student from a rural NSW University. This is her beloved mate.

Let me introduce myself: My name is Meg, I am currently studying at university and I first learned of your organisation about 5 months ago when you came to speak at my university. I was eager to write to you back then, but questioned whether my story was of any relevance to your cause. Since then, I’ve realised that your organisation is not only focused on supporting those who struggle with their relationship with alcohol, but also promoting a respectful conversation and encouraging that it’s ‘OK2SAYNO’, so here is my story:

This is not your typical story of struggle with alcohol. My story stems from being on the flip-side of this issue: the criticism & stigma surrounding non-drinking in a rural community.

I remember sitting in the hall after you had finished speaking and thinking “Wow, good on her. Finally, someone said it. That takes guts!” …especially in front of a bunch of ratbag uni students! It was a relief to see someone driving a conversation that is so often suppressed in rural communities.

I can’t even begin to understand the struggle you and so many others in this “tribe” have undergone, so I won’t pretend I do. What I do certainly understand - and can shed light on - is the difficulty in going against the ‘norm’ and not drinking ...

Drinking has become somewhat ingrained in our Australian culture, especially in the bush. I grew up in country NSW. Myself and my siblings were not allowed to drink before we were 18, and it was my personal choice to not drink when it was my eighteenth.

I always respected the decisions of my friends, many making the decision to drink, however I quickly realised that this respect was not always going to be reciprocated.

In a time when drinking is so deeply rooted in our culture, there is somewhat of an expectation to drink. The sad reality is that you either choose to drink or you accept the isolation from choosing otherwise.

However, it never bothered me what others thought of my decision. I knew people saw me as boring, but who really gives a cracker? I’m not defined by whether I choose to drink or not. While it was isolating at times, I knew it was the right choice for me. And at the end of the day, I made the decision for me, not for anybody else. A couple of my friends supported me, but many chose to distance themselves and ridicule me.

I believe this is the crux of the issue. This whole attitude is wrong. Surely, we have reached a time where one can make a decision and others can show them the respect they deserve, without questioning it?

Why is alcohol so ingrained in our culture that we have to question anyone who chooses differently? And how can we expect people who are crippled by their struggles with alcoholism to overcome these, if instead of a network of support, they are subjected to isolation and ridicule?

I love that you advocate for each person doing what is right for them. One person may choose to drink, and if that makes them happy, then that’s fine. Another person may choose not to drink, and if that makes them happy, that’s just as fine. Respect. As Aussies, we need to foster a culture that is upheld by respecting, supporting and uplifting our fellow Aussies, no matter their decision.

I strongly believe that breaking down this stigma surrounding drinking begins with my generation. Let's be accepting and respecting of our mates. No one should feel the need to provide justification for their decisions.

Something needs to change.

I’ve spoken to people before that have said that they feel the need to drink so that people will like them, or overheard others saying that they don’t even like the taste of beer, but want to fit in. These same people have said they respect me for my decision, but it seems they feel as though they don’t have a choice. This makes me sad, because they absolutely do. We all have a choice. Let’s break down the stigma. Let’s respect these choices. Let’s embody that good ole Aussie culture of mate-ship that we’re so famous for. It should go without saying.

It’s great that you have also focused on bringing attention to the struggle that many people in rural communities have with mental health. This is something that I have also struggled with and one of the reasons I choose not to drink. I have such a strong interest in advocating for mental health (particularly in men) in rural communities. I have done a bit of work raising awareness for mental health in my rural community when I was at school, and it is definitely something I want to become more involved with in future. I have a lot of respect for your cause and work, and I look forward to following along. This is a conversation that needs to be had.

…Anyway, those are just some of my thoughts 🤷🏽‍️.

‍I just want to say thank you to you for all you’re doing. Sorry that this has been a bit long-winded, but it’s so uplifting to see someone driving and encouraging a conversation that many are too afraid to have.

I love this tribe and everything it represents. Shan, you have created a kick-ass community that is focused on listening, supporting and uplifting others who find themselves struggling with alcohol addiction. Whilst I cannot relate to these struggles directly, I do understand how hard it is to have the courage to go against the ‘norm’ and the crowd, and I have so much respect for the stories shared by everyone in this tribe.

I know I’m just one person, and my story probably doesn’t mean much in light of others’ very real struggles, but I have loved following along and witnessing how your incredible story and hard work has facilitated this amazing support network. I know for many, country life can often be isolating, but you have brought people together so they don’t feel alone in their struggles. I’m a strong believer that God has a plan for each and every one of us, and whilst you must have undergone a very hard time, you are now using that experience to better and, I'm sure, save the lives of countless others.

Kudos, that takes true strength. I know I’m not alone in my gratitude.


Meg x 👩🏽‍ 🌾

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