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ReThink the Drink is a new project that seeks to inspire alcohol culture change among lesbian, bisexual and queer (LBQ) women in Victorian regional and rural areas. Studies* have shown that some LBQ women enjoy a few too many drinks, enough to cause a hangover (from time to time) and we think it's time we did something about it.

Share Your Story

The ReThink the Drink project incorporates different elements to encourage women to think about their relationship with alcohol and how a hangover could be stopping them from achieving their goals. One of the ways we can do this is by sharing real women’s stories. We invite LBQ women to submit their story about reducing drinking and what they have gained by doing so.  Sharing your story and hearing others is a great way to see that you're not alone.

Share Your Story
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As part of our community consultation we asked LBQ women to write about their relationship with alcohol. We would love to hear from you too! Tell us drinking has stopped you from achieving your goals? How you think your life would be better if you reduced your drinking? And what strategies you’ve used to reduce your drinking?

NOTE: We only publish first names and you are more than welcome to use a pseudonym.

Kate’s Story
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"I am enjoying being able to wake up on a Sunday and go indoor rock climbing or go for a bush walk with friends — minus that seedy feeling."

Kate - 44, Preston

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My relationship with alcohol has changed over the years.

In my younger years, I was definitely out most weekends getting pissed and sleeping the next day away.

Then in my early juggling work and young kids years, there were times when I’d come home from work and pour myself a glass of wine. I saw it as my reward at the end of the day. I might pour myself another one whilst cooking dinner and then perhaps one more after that — not every weeknight but sometimes more often than not.

I was with my ex partner for 15 years (and three kids later), and she doesn’t drink, which was great for me as there was never any argument of who was going to be the designated driver. I remember getting slightly put out once when she was eight months pregnant and too tired to drive home so I had to!

After we separated, I dove straight into a rebound relationship with a woman who was a big drinker, so I became a big drinker. Then when that finished six months later, I started grieving for my 15 year relationship as I should have done in the first place. I developed severe anxiety about being on my own for the first time in my adult life and stopped drinking altogether.

I’ve recently separated from another relationship and have gone back to not drinking. I am enjoying being able to wake up on a Sunday and go indoor rock climbing or go for a bush walk with friends — minus that seedy feeling. I feel that my body, mind and soul are definitely benefitting from having a break from drinking.

Ruth's Story
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"I think her having time away from the constant routine of getting drunk every weekend made her realise there was a whole other life out there."

Ruth - 56, Daylesford

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I have never been much of a drinker myself, but I would say most of my partners have been pretty heavy drinkers. This was something that struck me when I entered the lesbian community. When I was straight we drank, but the women for the most part didn’t drink as much as the men, that wasn’t the case in lesbian bars.

I wouldn't say I was ever one for the bars or clubs and so when I first fell in love with my first girlfriend I was keen to settle down pretty quickly. She was too. We were together for ten years and for the first five years we lived in the city, we moved to Daylesford to have a less stressful life and I think that's when I really noticed how much my partner drank.

When we lived in the city we had a lot of dinner parties and friends would come over and eat and drink and I would say most of those women drank far too much, but there were times when we met for coffee or went to the movies and it wasn’t about drinking. When we moved to the country when we met friends it was always about drinking. That's partly because there wasn't as much to do, but it also seemed as if that was what was expected. It was a longstanding ritual, you could say.

My partner's drinking steadily increased, and things got pretty bad. It was our dream to run a bed and breakfast on our property, but it just never happened, and I think that had a lot to do with the fact my girlfriend was always either hungover or drinking. Of course, it wasn’t all her fault, but I just didn’t know how to help her.

When I met my current partner, she was a big drinker too, but by that stage I had made a point of keeping away from large drinking events - so she either had to go alone or do things with the friends I’d made for who drinking wasn't such a central part of socialising.

I think her having time away from the constant routine of getting drunk every weekend made her realise there was a whole other life out there.

We actually did start a bed and breakfast, and I think because we wanted that to do so well drinking just became less and less of a thing. My girlfriend said having her own business and wanting to be successful was so fulfilling that she didn’t want to drink as much - so I'm pretty glad about that!

Bronny's Story
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"I realised I’d been relying on alcohol for confidence that was always there without it."

Bronny - 40, Ballarat

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As I hit my forties, I’ve realised that I don’t bounce back after a big night like I used to.

Quite some time ago when I began frequenting the gay bars, I could’ve started on a Thursday night and ended on a Sunday. That lifestyle seemed socially acceptable as a student, especially a queer one. I found myself recently single again and, on the lookout, to meet some new ladies. At my age attempting a big night out leaves me with a hangover from hell and a dose of anxiety to boot. I’m generally not an anxious person, but when I’m hungover…I can barely leave the house! I’ve found myself forgetting the second half of the night out or how I managed to navigate my way home. That’s when my old friend shame comes to hang out.

I wake up still drunk sometimes and think that drinking the pain away, hair of the dog is a fab idea – until Monday rolls around and I’m beginning my work week feeling shaky and regretful. Recently I felt like all of the drinking had caught up with me so decided to take a week off, this decision was for my physical and mental health.

I had the realisation that I was smoking more because I was drinking more frequently. What started as a social habit had creeped in to my everyday life. Abstaining from alcohol for an entire week was much harder than I had anticipated, but I came up with strategies of my own to prevent me from drinking. Instead of going out to bars to meet women, I would use other avenues – such as going to classes at the gym or taking my dog to the dog park. I felt fresh after just a week off the drink and cigarettes, being active was giving me more energy and confidence. I realised I’d been relying on alcohol for confidence that was always there without it.

Fran's Story
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"It's amazing how much more time you have on your hands and what you can get done when you're not drinking!"

Fran - 47, Bendigo

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I had started drinking before I came out, but when I started going to gay clubs I really started drinking heavily. It was completely fine to drink that heavily, I don't remember anyone not really drinking.

To be honest, we use to mix a lot of pills and other drugs with drinking too and it just seemed like everyone did, in fact, it was quite encouraged! I think in the nineties there was a sort of a romantic edge to being 'out of it'.

It was a lot of fun, but it was dangerous too – there are nights I remember where some of us are lucky to be alive.

I remember one night two girls climbing scaffolding at the State Library after a particularly big night out.

We drank cheap champagne and cocktails like a tequila sunrise. Vodka and tonic was our sophisticated drink.

I moved to regional Victoria about twenty years ago, in part to escape the party lifestyle that never seems to end in the gay community. However, it didn’t seem to be any different in the country - maybe I attract those sort of people!

I'd still say my group of friends drinks too much. I think we keep thinking we will slow down in our fifties which some of us are now, but sometimes I think we're kidding ourselves. It's pretty hard to break habits of a lifetime.

A few of us have done Dry July and it was funny by the third week we were all saying how much better we felt and yet it didn’t take long to slip back into our old ways. A few of us are pretty determined to keep doing Dry July and Feb Fast as well. It's amazing how much more time you have on your hands and what you can get done when you're not drinking!

And it doesn’t have to be boring, we still go out for dinner we just drink lemon, lime and bitters and if we have friends over we make fancy mocktails. If it’s a group of you doing it's really not that hard at all.

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The creative campaign component of ReThink the Drink through a series of community consultations. We went out and spoke with LBQ women in regional areas about the role alcohol plays in their communities and what changes they'd like to make when it comes to drinking.

Most women we spoke with didn't want to give up drinking, but they did want to reduce the amount they drank. A lot of women said the dreaded hangover was often a barrier to achieving their goals, and those goals ranged from wanting to start their own business to reducing their motivation to be more physically active. And so, the 'Couldn't Have Done That With A Hangover' was born!

The importance of developing a campaign for LBQ women with LBQ women cannot be underestimated. In order to reach our community we have to listen to what women have to say and every element of the campaign was informed by lesbian, bisexual and queer identifying women.  

If you would like 'Couldn’t Have Done That With A Hangover' posters or postcards for your community event please contact rachel.cook@vac.org.au

Where to next?
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ReThink the Drink launched at the Bendigo Queer Film Festival on April 28, 2018. As part of the launch we also held a panel discussion featuring local LBQ women talking about their experiences of being LBQ in regional and rural areas. Our esteemed Gender and Sexuality Commissioner, Ro Allen, was part of that panel.

The project will also be presented at the LGBTIQ Women's Health Conference in Melbourne on 12-13 July 2018.

During the week of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT) May 17, we will be travelling to Ballarat, Morwell and Geelong to launch our campaign as well.

The Share Your Story section will grow as more women share their personal experiences. The project will incorporate selected stories into video format. If you would like to Share Your Story click here.

* References

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