Yumi’s story: Giving up alcohol for better rewards

At the beginning of the 2020 lockdown, we did a series of Hangouts at Home with Hello Sunday Morning. The first interview was with Yumi Stynes, an Australian author, television and radio presenter who had two new books published this year – Welcome to Consent – a guidebook on what exactly consent is – and ‘Ladies, We Need to Talk’ – based on her hit ABC podcast of the same name.

The following is based on the interview from 2020:

I was drinking then and I knew I should stop. So I seemed to go through patches of stopping, which I think a lot of people do, especially if they’ve gone through pregnancy. When I stopped drinking, I thought: ‘This is actually how life can feel and it feels pretty good. Why don’t I do this more often?’ or ‘why don’t I just make it my permanent state?’ And then something drew me back in. 

I think people don’t know or don’t talk about how addictive alcohol is. Even though you kind of know rationally that it is bad for you and that you feel much better when you don’t do it, there’s something drawing you in time and time again. So, I was in that ebb and flow of it. But also I was a bit secretive about my drinking, with others. And myself. About how bad it was, how ashamed I was and how embarrassed I felt to reach out. I went through a few cycles of that. 

At one time I quit for two whole years and felt a million bucks. And then I went and did that thing which people do – where you think: ‘I’ve nailed this’, ‘I’m so quit that I can have one or two drinks.’ You get cocky, and then it starts again. 

Having just one drink is something that other people can do, but I can’t. One or two quickly snowballed into many, many more. And then comes a feeling like a cat being taken to the vet. I’m digging my claws in and I’m wanting this to stop but I’m still getting dragged along with the inner drinking roller coaster.

Being a woman is like being everything for everyone. So you’re not just a playmate; you are the teacher, the chef and the cleaner. There are a bunch of roles that everyone wants you to fill, and they’re almost infinite. So you never really get to knock-off for the day. And I think that what alcohol sometimes provides for people, is a chance to be done for the day. 

As I think back, when I looked at a bottle of rosé, it felt like there was a promise that my pain would go away or be taken care of through that particular bottle. So by the time I got to the bottom of that bottle, I would be feeling switched off and less connected to what was hurting or stressing me. And if I wanted to make some ‘insurance’ against pain, I would have a whole case of that. That way I knew I would feel safe and I wouldn’t feel pain for a couple of days. 

But the problem is that I do pay eventually. I pay the price and it’s pretty brutal. If we all can be honest with ourselves, we can admit that we probably would be a better parent, worker and friend if we weren’t hungover. 

So I flagged with myself that I needed to quit drinking. I needed this to get out of my life. There are probably around eight months between making that call to actually being able to do it and getting it over the line. Eight months of waking up every morning and saying, ‘Okay, today I won’t drink’ and ‘Today is the first day’. Then mucking it up by 5 pm, finding some great excuse – a drinking mate or an occasion that made it worth drinking. So that’s where I’m at now. The difference with this particular time of being sober, compared to the other ones, is that I started to talk about it. I went to AA meetings and I went on Hello Sunday Morning and got the Daybreak app on my phone and I immediately felt validated by the community on the app. No one said: ‘Oh you’re fine, you don’t have a drinking problem’. They knew what it’s like and they didn’t try to minimise what was very alarming to me. Even my best friends didn’t really see how bad my drinking was – ‘Are you sure this is such a big problem because you look fine to me?’ I was looking fine because I was working so hard at covering up what was a scary problem. I found those validations in the community, helpful, and I feel that my sobriety is bedded in. 

Most days I check in and feel relieved and grateful that I’m not on that cycle of waking up and wanting to quit but being unable to make it through 24 hours. It was the worst feeling as I thought to myself at that time: ‘I’m a grown adult, why is this so hard?’ 

I feel that there is a direct link between everything that’s been wonderful in my life in the last three years and the fact that I’m not drinking. Whether getting a book published or having some show be successful or even just making a small friendship that might grow into a bigger one. All of those were because I can trust this person that is me. That she is much more ethical, much more reliable, can work much harder and can love more truly. 

The rewards are constant.

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  • Thank you for such a genuine response. I have been through much of your experience. Feeling stressed that I have fallen foul again. I’m sure I need a psychotherapist to just help me unravel my feelings of being misunderstood, and lonely in a busy world. I literally hold everything inside until it’s too hard. Also, I am compassionate constantly to the needs of my partner and all of his family, but he says he doesn’t understand me at all. My family is all overseas, and I am somewhat distanced from them now.

    By FD
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    November 13, 2021
  • Big fan by the way. I’m on that roller-coaster. Every day I say I’m not going to drink. Some days I don’t and some I do. I’m a sneaky drinker. A quick couple of cans before I get home. I don’t really know why I bother.

    By Wendy
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    November 13, 2021
  • Thank you Yumi for your story. I can relate to everything you said. Many a times I’ve said, that’s it, no more drinking, I’m done. Then the afternoon approaches and the thought pattern changes. I have gone from drinking daily ,down to weekends. Something mentally stuck in me about Friday. When it comes Friday it’s like party time, end of week even though I have to be working Saturday. My husband is a drinker so when we are home together I enjoy the outside life and sit and drink. I’m a fast drinker so I glass of wine can turn into a bottle within an hour at times, pending on my mood. I hate myself for the drinking and would love to get through a weekend without a drop of alcohol. If I did this I feel I would have the willpower to continue, just as I did with giving up smoking 20 years ago. Anyhow enough about me. I’m so proud of you for your achievement. Well done.

    By Tracey McKenna
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    November 13, 2021
  • Great story Yumi, thanks for sharing this. Your “ebb and flow” resonated so much with me…and the “cat digging its claws in”….well that’s exactly me, although I am a lot better at getting through the cravings now.

    By Will
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    November 13, 2021
  • Thanks Yumi
    Your story summarises exactly where I am at right now. My morning resolve disappears by 6pm and then it’s any excuse to open the bottle. Like you my friends think I’m fine because everyone is drinking to ‘deal’ with COVID.
    I’m looking for the strength you found. Thanks for sharing.

    By Carol
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    November 13, 2021
  • Gosh I could have written this … it’s amazing to hear a story that is almost the same as yours. Thank you for sharing

    By Sandra
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    November 13, 2021
  • Thanks for sharing Umi. Also, I hope you are travelling OK at the moment, I heard you share last week about your break up. Stag strong beautiful lady. Things will only get better. You inspire and touch all your listeners each day. You are amazing. Xxx

    By Justine
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    November 13, 2021
  • Thanks for sharing.
    The comment of being a woman and never really being done for the day really resonated with me. I would get home from a stressful day at work and then be cooking and whatever else. The wine helped me get through.
    The kids are gone and I’m trying to get the load shared, but still I’m never really done for the day.
    I am 6 months sober and not wanting to spoil the fantastic feeling.

    By Ros
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    November 13, 2021
  • Thank you Yumi for your story. “ I can trust this person that is me “ resonated with me. I drank to cover up unhappiness. I disguised it so well that when friends realised I had stopped drinking they were perplexed as to why. I love who I am now and have finally after 52 years found happiness and a healthy respect for myself.

    By Jane
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    November 13, 2021
  • I resonate so much with your story. Thank you for being so honest and helping others to understand that you don’t need to start drinking st 10 in the morning to have a problem with alcohol.

    By Lilly
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    November 13, 2021
  • Thank you so much for sharing this Yumi it totally resonated with me …I’m only three weeks in and I’m fighting the urge to allow myself to have just one glass of wine at night now thinking I’ve nailed it but knowing that more than likely it will end up being a bottle …

    By Jane
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    November 13, 2021
  • Thanks so much for sharing Yumi. I think so many of us will resonate with your story and as you have indicated, it can take a long time to actually get on the right track after a continued pattern of promising to start on many ‘day one’s.’ It also enforces how important it is to continue sobriety when your relationship with alcohol is not healthy, for example, drinking again after a two year sober period. THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

    By Kate
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    November 13, 2021
  • The rewards are constant.
    I think we tend to forget this when stuck in the ‘ebb and flow’ cycle and although I have stopped many times in my life, like you, for some reason I get drawn back in. Shame got me in the end, not because of my behaviour or how much or how often I was drinking but how it made me feel about myself – I felt shame because I wasn’t looking after myself.
    The rewards are constant if we afford ourselves the patience and love we need to flourish.

    By Jeeanie
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    November 13, 2021
  • Loved this interview from last year. Was expecting this article to be about where Yumi was at now at the end of 2021, but again it was still nice to get a recap.

    By e
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    November 13, 2021
  • Thanks for showing such strength Yumi.

    By Nicholas Landbeck
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    November 13, 2021
  • So much of this rings true for me. After navigating lockdown 1 & 2 sober, #3 goto to me and I went back to red wine. I am now trying to get back to meetings, reading, support and talking more openly about my journey. I have covered up my neck pain for years by having a couple of wines. Now it is time to get some help for the root cause of the pain. I am an Aussie stuck in the UK. Thanks for sharing. This is helpful.

    By Trish
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    November 13, 2021
  • I am exactly where you were and l can’t seem to get out of the hole lm in with alcohol but l do want to say l enjoyed reading your story and I’m so happy you have been able to do this and l wish l was as strong as you sol could do it to, l will get there one day l guess but keep going and stay strong, your amazing and beautiful girl and i wish you all the best in the world.

    By Mashelle pike
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    November 13, 2021
  • Thanks for sharing and well done, you are clearly growing into a happier space …bless you

    By john wijnberg
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    November 13, 2021
  • Love this, and so inspirational. I completely get the stop start and then wondering why. I think you are right, alcohol is almost like stepping off a speeding train for 5 mins, but like you say, the problems are still there.

    By Matt
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    November 13, 2021
  • Oh Yumi, you articulate the alcohol seduction/addiction state so well and I’m particularly touched by your closing commentary saying how you can trust yourself again and that the rewards are constant… And yes, they certainly are for me too, enjoying total sobriety for the last 9 months. Thinking back with shame to my worst behaviour when pissed, the nasty things I said and drummed up and frightening my daughter and grandaughter and making a total fool of myself in company….looking back, how did I do that ? Alcohol made me into a monster and tearfully I recall telling my grandaughter that I’d given alcohol up and she said “I thought you seemed happier Grandma and less angry”. And as the days go by and I feel so, so much better, physically mentally, emotionally and spiritually I know that this has been the very best decision I’ve ever made in recent times. I was telling a neighbor how to keep fresh ginger from spoiling by submerging it in a jar of sherry and she offered me some sherry to take home for my ginger….I had this strange leap of an oh oh moment and declined. My relationship with booze is still tender I realised and was a revealing lesson. But I urge anyone curious to give sobriety go….it will make you feel NORMAL and reaquaint you with your authentic self…someone you thought had left home. Love to you all

    By Jennifer
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    November 13, 2021
  • Great story, I can totally relate to a lot of it, especially the reference to it taking around 8 months to get over the line and how every day is going to be alcohol free/day one, until 5pm when it isnt…. At times I thought is this ever going to end…. And then it did. Everyone has a different journey and way of getting there for sure, but yours sounds very, very similar to how mine ended up working out, thanks for the share:-)

    By Julian
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    November 13, 2021
  • Great story, so much of it sounds so familiar, particularly the 8 months to get over the line finally, after a seemingly endless number of day one’s until 5pm roles around….. I guess everyone has a different journey and way of doing it but yours seems very similar to how mine ended up working out, its good to hear. And its great to be sober. Thanks for the share, super appreciated:-)

    By Julian
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    November 13, 2021
  • Thank you, Yumi for sharing. It captured beautifully the same struggles I had for years. I’ve bookmarked this to read whenever I need a reminder of why I finally took the leap to embrace an A.F. lifestyle 18 months ago. Congratulations on all your book and recent accomplishments. I wish you all the best.

    By Jess
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    November 14, 2021
  • Sobriety is so precious. Glad you’re reaping the benefits of it. Congrats!

    By Jose Baez
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    November 14, 2021
  • Thanks for sharing sounds like you are doing amazingly well only we know deep inside us what with did we keep coming back to honesty & listening to our truth we will end up on the right path x peace love & joy to you x

    By caroline
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    November 14, 2021
  • So much chimed in this for me. I am not sure what I feel about the label ‘alcoholic’ but I have been a high functioning drunk for most of my adult life. But a high functioning drunk isn’t really functioning. You are just managing and hoping that things won’t fall apart. At the start of this year, I gave up drinking for the third time. Each time like Yumi I realise how great it feels not to be constantly performing sub-par but something dragged me back. I hope that I have learned from this experience this time and that I will stick at it.

    By Richard
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    November 14, 2021
  • res·​o·​nate | \ ˈre-zə-ˌnāt
    3 : to relate harmoniously : strike a chord

    By Todd
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    November 14, 2021
  • Well done to you for loving yourself enough to give yourself an awesome life! You are your fam definitely deserve it!!! The lure is real, totally relate to all you say here – thanks for sharing.. I also seem to be much more productive and present without it, really enjoy life even more now 🙂

    By Tracy
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    November 14, 2021
  • The need for an off switch really hit home with me. Managed a 15 month break but fell off the wagon when I bought a small business just before covid hit. A combination of business and personal stresses overwhelmed me so I retreated to the tried and true wine strategy. I also loved how Yumi acknowledged that she couldn’t have just one drink. I would manage self control for a few occasions and think “I can do this! I can have just one glass and enjoy it”. No, I can’t.

    By Gail Noonan
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    November 15, 2021
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