In 2011, Jill Stark, a health journalist from The Sunday Age, embarked upon a 12 month period abstaining from alcohol. Initially for 12 weeks as part of the Hello Sunday Morning programme, Jill extended her teetotal journey to over a year. On the basis of an article on the Age depicting her initial 12 weeks, Jill was offered a chance to write this memoir.
The chapters correspond to the months of the year, with each month focusing on a different aspect. You get to read about her family history and her introduction to alcohol in her teens, and travelling to Scotland to explore her relationship with alcohol. You see how her friendships are reevaluated as her abstinence continues, and how her search for a relationship is challenged when her prospective partners can’t quite grasp her not drinking.
An avid music lover and Hawthorn supporter, Jill also looks at how alcohol permeates our own recreational pursuits. What’s of great concern is the impact this has upon impressionable children, and how from an early age alcohol is perceived as an acceptable drug.
Her book also covers the history of alcohol in Australia and the origins of wowserism, a label which is quickly attached to those concerned with limiting the impact of alcohol in society.
I really enjoyed Jill’s personal journey and for that alone it is worth the read. Even the creative process of writing this memoir is entertaining as she discusses with John Birmingham how to write without resprting to the lubrication of a drink to aid her writing!
Like a good health journalist, she has also researched the impact of alcoholism on one’s health, speaking to health professionals about cancer and addiction to alcohol. She also raises personal questions about her own possible addiction to alcohol and agonises about her return to drinking.
After reading High Sobriety, it is so hard not to see the impact of advertising, and the casual acceptance of alcohol in people’s lives. It certainly makes you rethink that drink.