High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze
'I'm the binge-drinking health reporter. During the week, I write about Australia's booze-soaked culture. At the weekends, I write myself off.'
Booze had dominated Jill Stark's social life ever since she had her first sip of beer, at 13. She thought nothing could curb her love of big nights. And then came the hangover that changed everything. In the shadow of her 35th year, Jill made a decision: she would give up alcohol. But what would it mean to stop drinking in a world awash with booze?
This lively memoir charts Jill's tumultuous year on the wagon, as she copes with the stress of the newsroom sober, tackles the dating scene on soda water, learns to watch the footy minus beer, and deals with censure from friends and colleagues, who tell her that a year without booze is 'a year with no mates'.
In re-examining her habits, Jill also explores Australia's love affair with alcohol, meeting alcopop-swigging teens who drink to fit in, beer-swilling blokes in a sporting culture backed by booze, and marketing bigwigs blamed for turning binge drinking into a way of life. And she tracks the history of this national obsession: from the idea that Australia's new colonies were drowning in drink to the Anzac ethos that a beer builds mateship, and from the six o'clock swill that encouraged bingeing to the tangled weave of advertising, social pressure, and tradition that confronts drinkers today.
Will Jill make it through the year without booze? And if she does, will she go back to her old habits, or has she called last drinks? This is a funny, moving, and insightful exploration of why we drink, how we got here, and what happens when we turn off the tap.
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About the Author
"A sobering, and distinctly inspiring, glimpse of what Australia might look like without a hangover...Stark writes with honesty and unnerving clarity. Over its pages, the reader gradually comes to understand not just that Aussies don't like to give up the drink, but that we don't like it when our mates do, either."
"I loved the hell out of it"
"I was completely engaged...Her approach is fresh and funny, artlessly open, and most importantly, accessible. She's not interested in preaching to the masses but rather is on a mission to decipher her own complicated feelings...It is this candidness that makes her book so enjoyable." Book of the Week
"High Sobriety is a book so thought-provoking that it may well do for drinking what Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals did for eating meat...This honest and well-researched account makes it easy--even imperative--for a reader to consider her own drinking life."
"An important book"
--ABC's The Book Show
"A genuinely thought-provoking read with something worth contemplating for everyone" Four-and-a-half Stars
"In High Sobriety, Ms Stark takes the reader on a journey that opens her eyes to herself, finding without alcohol, she was forced to examine her emotions, motivations and confidence with a raw, unforgiving clarity."
--Krysten Manuel, Albury-Wodonga News Weekly
"A fun, fresh look at one woman's battle to commiserate, celebrate, relax and party without the help of one of the last legal recreational drugs...Jill Stark is a cool sober chick and it's a joy to go along for the dry ride"
--Leila McKinnon, Australian Women's Weekly
"Insightful, funny, challenging and interesting...I highly recommend this for a book club. It's a subject that would get people talking."
"Stark is wise in how she tells her story...I had a eureka moment with this book."
"Why does drinking and getting drunk underpin every personal and professional activity from cradle to grave? Stark tells her story with courage, honesty, and humour, while making an important contribution to the debate about alcohol's place in society." Four Stars
"A brave and lively memoir...Stark writes powerfully, and with absorbing and intricate detail, about her alcohol-free odyssey...[she is] a feisty, richly talented writer."
--Ross Fitzgerald, Canberra Times
"Courageous, extremely honest, reflective and funny...Punctuated by professional insights and interesting commentary on how we view alcohol as a nation, this is a book that covers off on all the aspects of addiction and binge drinking. It provides real insight into the factors behind, and consequences of, Australians' worryingly high levels of alcohol consumption."
--Chris Tanti, CEO of headspace
"We all have something to gain from reading this book ... Jill describes this year where her "outer and inner worlds" collide in intimate detail, with total honesty and with courage."
--John Rogerson, CEO of the Australian Drug Foundation
"The misguided assumption that heavy drinking embodies our heritage, the near-insanity of a sporting industry financially supported by alcohol brands, and the hard-drinking reporters of the 1970s and 1980s are covered ably...but the peak insights in these pages are personal. Stark questions booze culture of her old and new homelands, Scotland and Australia, and finds herself wanting. She also takes a raw, honest look at the role alcohol has played in her love life."
"Jill Stark certainly believed in immersing herself in her work...Stark stuck with her sobriety plan, concluding "I know now that alcohol does not define me""
--Martin Stevenson, Daily Advertiser, Launceston Examiner
"A beautifully written book, immensely readable from start to finish, as profound as it is honest. Jill Stark spares nobody, least of all herself, as she weaves an account of her journeys with and from alcohol into discussion of broader issues around the role of alcohol in our society. While a deeply personal story, the lessons for society and decision-makers are there for all to see...This should be on any reading lists for health professionals and students: it will teach them more than any number of textbooks."
--Professor Mike Daube, Director, McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth
"If the line for a signed copy is anything to go by then Stark will have a hit on her hands."
--Rebecca Cook, InPress, review of the launch
"It's not an all out straight-edge revolution by any means, nor is it the Gen-Y revitalisation of the temperance movement, but High Sobriety was clearly commissioned at an opportune time, as attitudes are beginning to shift...The final message appeals to my carpe diem desires; I don't want to waste the day getting wasted."
"Stark made me think about the cultural role of alcohol, and the things we take for granted that are actually a bit messed up."
--Little Girl With a Big Pen
"This book should be a game-changer...its contents are powerful enough to change someone's life for the better."
--North Melbourne Books
"A wonderful and disarmingly honest insight into the personal, societal and global challenges that handling our booze presents to us. An essential read for anyone interested in alcohol--whether you think it is the divine elixir or the demon drink. But it can be read without moderation. The new Bridget Jones."
--Rob Moodie, Professor of Public Health at the School of Population Health, University of Melbourne
"What gives this book resonance is Stark's ability to balance a serious agenda, backed by her interviews, statistics and the inside information to which a health reporter has access, with a personal narrative that is equally earnest in its intent but lighter in its execution...High Sobriety is an entertaining and informative read about one woman's year of online dating, family reunions and beer gardens without a drink, and her account of the nation's attitude towards the thing she denies herself."
--The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald
"It's hard not to recommend this book: from teenagers experimenting with their first taste to those who've been imbibing for decades, many will find Stark's story illuminating, touching, and memorable."
"An important and timely conversation starter"
--The Big Issue
"This is a very entertaining book about facing every day without a hangover and the pressures and traditions that drinkers face today."
"A thirsty Scot's attempt to stay off the sauce for a year"