Good morning, rural Australia,
Well, er, um …. shizzle, things are kind of going ballistic.
Which is amazing.
As the old analogy goes, you don’t plant an apple tree expecting fruit for a few years – but it looks like our first harvest after so much love, care, and watering is gunna’ come in between now and across 2020.
Our page has trebled, our private support group has trebled, and we are reaching hundreds of thousands of people. And all without a budget, staff, or any paid advertising.
If that isn't proof of how profoundly powerful, overdue, and necessary this chat is then I don't know what else would be. It's so amazing. And I am humbled, daily. Truly I am.
Just wanted to update you all on what’s happening, what’s next, and why I am literally the WORST friend in the cosmos at the moment. Friends, I seriously do need to apologise - because I know that I am harder to pin down and get a commitment out of right now than I've ever been. And we all know how shite I have historically been at commitment.... *guilty face*
This is not intentional – I am simply under an enormous amount of pressure wrapping up filming with Australian Story as well as filming with a second ABC production – AND establishing SITC as a national not-for-profit (HUGE job!) while organising another trip out west in mid-October.
I am working literally around the clock, because my deadline for all the above is the end of November. And just because I love a challenge, all this continues to happen as I approach the end of year five minus any income stream aside from a dozen photography gigs along the way I’ve managed to squeeze in.
Is this hard? Uh, yep. But it is worth it? YES. One hundred times, yes. This entire project is a walk of faith and hope, and, a calculated risk I knew would be/WILL BE worthwhile. I knew that when I signed on five years ago to take my miracle and pay it forward on a national scale.
And ya’ know what? People are starting to come in behind me, around me, and literally pick up the reins. They’re passing me water-bottles, cheering me on as I stumble, and even literally taking work off my hands ….. and all of these are acts of completely selfless love, help, and support.
Some examples of the Sober in the Country ANGELS on earth include:-
First and foremost, Tim. Always Tim. My husband who loves to back a dark horse and fly in the face of popular opinion and words of warning. My husband who puts his hand on my back and gently guides me forward when my knees are trembling and my heart is racing. He consistently believes in me. He is the ENTIRE foundation of the lives being saved and impacted all over rural Australia. He keeps a roof over our head and encourages me despite our own immense challenges during this horrific drought, and my own fears around finance, security, and safety. He is a tower.
My mate Flip in Leeton who is currently supporting me as a volunteer admin superhero (I am SHIT at systems … like so bad it isn’t even funny) is saving my bacon on a daily basis ...! I am urgently trying to raise some moolah so I can make her a paid human ASAP.
Legal support and Tax advice is being done and given with love (to get our NFP stuff in place) ENTIRELY pro-bono thanks to corporate sponsorship from Webb & Boland Moree (Brendan) and Roberts & Morrow Chartered Accountants (Nath, Michelle, Paul, and co.)
Brian Hill from MindM8 is helping me with important adulty tech interface stuff (I don’t even know what that means but I know I need some stuff really badly, really soon!)
Hello Sunday Morning is stepping up to discuss more sustainable collaboration beyond my rural ambassador volunteer support / role.
Meggsy B, Leisel B, Anne B, Belle P, Alan & Laurel, Flip have all – without prompting or asking or anything – decided to send some pocket money my way to help me with daily life and to get by. This has literally saved my bacon. Again.
Andrew Edgar – a newly sober friend who also thought he was alone in his battles but is now part of our community is so grateful for some support that he is running a marathon in October wearing an SITC shirt so he can donate to our movement once the non for profit is up. Can you believe that? Wow, seriously, wow.
TV and radio networks are giving me extended air time and opportunities. They’re really behind the conversation and supportive of helping me how they can. Again, there have honest-to-God been no expectations … just goodwill. Full disclosure: this has been a tremendous and very stressful challenge for me to (personally) juggle and manage – because a huge swathe of the northwest – my home - harbours much ill-will towards media in light of some recent damaging things that have been done and said without balance at a national level. So, I have worked my ass into the ground to explain this to any and ALL media I work with – and have given my heart and soul to being part of hoping to bring some positives and balance back and being ‘’our’’ voice.
Special shout-out to Ben, Marcy-Marc, Michael, Anthony, Craig & Basher (Ash), and to those of you who have stepped up to be on camera, adding words and weight with coming Australian Story productions.
These are things that I do with fear and often mountains of anxiety – because at the end of the day – an editor has discretion. So to hand over my intellectual property and painful story for others to tell is about as comfortable as stabbing myself in the neck. I do it because somebody speaking about their own life story saved my life. I do not to any of this stuff for ''likes'' or approval. I could care less about chasing approval – thankfully, sober me no longer chases that. BUT – there are still huge risks. And the cost to have travelled extensively the past year to build this profile and get this far has been horrifying. NONE of these appearances or travel have been paid for or sponsored. I am skating on the bones of my butt and on the smell of an oily rag. So while it might look ‘’glamorous’’ the reality is far more brutal. But I do what it takes, and always plan to. This is my life’s work. And I believe wholeheartedly that it will come back.
David Claughton – thanks to him for the epic series we spent months making on ABC radio, with members from the SITC tribe stepping up and stepping forward to deliver insights that have not been seen before.
To high-profile mentors and super-experienced humans like Kay H, Pete C, Julie B, Mike L, you offer me valuable insight and guidance and you’re not afraid to tell me what needs to be said and I wholeheartedly appreciate that.
Zoe Joseph - and the ''kids'' .... my little unofficial cheer squad and team from the south!
I KNOW I HAVE MISSED PEOPLE... who are you?? forgive me - I will come back and update this as and when think of you - promise!
Our group, page, and conversation is experiencing massive growth.... both have trebled in less than a year - (did I already say this???? I feel like I did ?) and I just wanted to acknowledge the new page visitors both here and in our private/closed support group as being an integral part of a community of support for others.
Also - I just wanted to clarify some things - full disclosure - in my usual honest style so that new visitors are fully in the loop:
the major portion of volunteering for me has to end with 2019 - otherwise, I will be homeless or dead from stress and strain and a burden I can't possibly carry alone
I will however always do what I can, with what I have. That is a core philosophy!
until late this year, I am sorry but I shall continue to be a crap-ish friend, purely I am snowed under working with the amazing humans mentioned above to launch our national not for profit org., our Australian Story feature, and DGR status (this basically means you can contribute to this life-saving chat with it being tax-deductible!)
somehow I also have to clean a house and mow lawns and walk Fleabag and sleep ;-)
as yet, there hasn't been any state or federal funding put towards our project. My initial goal back in early 2018 after being announced a Rural Woman of the Year finalist was to collab with leaders and ask for help to get a government-funded programme in place to support rural peers who are desperate for help in the rural alcohol abuse and addictions space.
while this hasn't yet happened, I understand even orgs like Hello Sunday Morning spent YEARS and years in the same space before they got over the line - so, it's just ''red tape'' and while it is difficult, it's just a thing that happens. I will continue focusing on how to navigate the endless miles of red tape and get it done.
my priority is on helping people, end of story.
People ask me about why I discuss drought and mental health at times. The reason is simple: these things correlate and live hand-in-hand with alcohol abuse. It all ties in.
so, for now, we launch as an NFP and we do it via other methods including donations, volunteers, and a crowdfunder which will launch in Nov.
Thankfully - rural people are stepping up to get the job done. As we do. It's bloody incredible ... this is now a true community project. It's mind blowing....
while I am building systems, processes, and support - the private and closed support page is currently still volunteer run by me (and is strictly for rural professionals)
however by the end of this year, this will need to become a member-based group, so that I can stay viable in this very precious family space we've created! There's never been anything like this in rural Australia - and I will protect it with every fibre in my being - because our group of rural and remote people are literally now family and a lifeline for each other.
merchandise will be ready to go late November also - stay tuned!
In short > I am very thankful to those of you who've stepped into the trenches next to me - it's been a long and lonely battle to get this conversation off the ground, and yet here we are, leading a national ''me too'' movement and making serious change and serious impact in a culture as old as Australia itself. Because that simple shift in critical thinking is saving lives and preventing deaths.
PLEASE - if you haven't familiarised yourself with our vision and goals, read the website. Remember - our purpose is to create community, connections, and conversations - and to pave the way for a rural Australia in which it's okay to say no to a beer.... we don't demonise grog or those who can enjoy a drink - we just support and inform people to understand that some of us cannot safely do that. Simples.
All the latest TV and radio jazz is on the website also under ''media'' - go have a poke about.
Yes I am working on a book. And there are plans for more.
If you want to help - and believe me - I am in dire need of all the help I can get ... a crowdfunding campaign will launch later in the year as mentioned - and I will share when that happens. If you can chip in - then I can't even begin to tell you how many lives we are impacting, and every single donation is absolutely life changing. Make no mistake.
For now - anything of ours that you share is a tremendous help in itself. Awareness is raised by a collective group conscience - and collectively - you're helping me reach the most remote of our mates every time you share. So thank you. So much.
And remember > ''speaker me'' is now taking bookings for 2020 !! I am already booked to travel to WA, Tassie, the city, and other places for keynotes and presentations. That is going to be a really big part of my focus. And I cannot wait! Why?
The true heart of my passion is in travelling and being a public speaker, advocate, MC, workshop facilitator, and ambassador whether that is in mental health, alcohol awareness, or both. All I know is I have a bizarre set of skills and a lifetime in Ag, speaking, presenting, and rural life that have made me a perfect fit for this truly niche ''market'' - and I have the gift of communication.
I am also determined, focused, and believe 150% in the importance of the discussion - and that has been proven as necessary ten times over in the past year alone. And so, I continue to work to use my skills to be the change I see as both urgently overdue and necessary.
Rural people are overlooked in the space of ''high-functioning'' and we cannot and will not find relief in models that tell us we must be anonymous and/or isolated. That is what is killing us. We must change the paradigms.
Having said all that: please remember I don't view myself as special or unique or the answer to fixing people. Nobody can do that. And if somebody is telling you they can fix you with a four week course, I'd suggest you think twice.
Sobriety is about bloody hard work, commitment, and willingness to go to any lengths necessary to get your life back on track. It's about finding tools and strategies that work for you.
I don't for one moment pretend or arrogantly think I have all the solutions. I do not. I DO however know the depth and seriousness of the problems in our rural working demographic - and I will call that to light until there is change and until our government treats all addiction the same; whether it's meth or alcohol. If we can spend millions and millions on a national ICE inquiry to look into drug-related-deaths and engage experts nationally to get the job done - we can do the same for the drug that is alcohol. We just currently choose not to. But through honest discussion, we are making that unacceptable as a gap. My job, as I see it, is to raise awareness, and lead the national charge on how much work we have to do and why our health care systems need to change for rural people.
And now - I have back-to-back adulty meetings to prepare for, so it's back to the salt-mines for me!
Sending love and gratitude - one day at a time from the bush,
*** ps - I wrote this in 15 minutes - all heart but no doubt filled with double-ups and typos and grammatical errors. MEH, you get the gist. When I have support - I'll have a proof reader to pull me into line. Meanwhile - standard Freddo Frog goes to those who find all the mistakes! xx