High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze by Jill Stark

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High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze by Jill Stark

Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Much more than just a tale of how dreadful it was to go without - it's illuminating and very convincing.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: August 2013
Publisher: Scribe
ISBN: 978-1922247032

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On the first of January 2011 Jill Stark woke up with the hangover from Hell. She was no stranger to them: at thirty five she'd been binge drinking for more than twenty years and was in the dubious position of being the health reporter who wrote herself off at weekends. And by 'wrote herself off' I mean being seriously drunk on a very regular basis, having consumed vast quantities of alcohol and having regularly put herself in danger of serious illness, unwanted pregnancy and assault. But on that first day in January Stark decided that she was going to do something about it and the initial decision was that she would spend three months on the wagon.

Stark was born in Scotland and grew up in a culture where drinking - usually to excess - was the norm. Her first experience with alcohol saw her and a friend adding sugar to beer to make the taste more palatable. In her twenties she moved to Australia, originally with the intention of returning and found herself living in another culture where alcohol was the blood which ran through its veins. There was no event which couldn't be celebrated with a drink and no disaster where alcohol couldn't ease the pain. To make her situation worse, she was a journalist and she had to drink - or so she thought - to fit in.

I had a eureka moment with this book. I enjoy alcohol. It's perhaps going a little far to say that I love it, but I do count it as one of life's great pleasures. I love the taste you see - the depth and complexity of flavours which you get in a good wine or the sharp apple tang of a good cider. What I don't like - in fact resent - is the effect the alcohol has on me, because it restricts the amount I can drink. I thought everyone was like this and that over imbibing came from having too much of something you enjoyed. I feel an innocent - even an idiot - because I now realise that a lot of people, perhaps even the majority in some age groups, struggle to come to terms with the taste but persevere because they want to get drunk. Where's the fun in that, I though. But Stark illustrates that this is, in fact, what is happening.

Stark originally gave up alcohol for three months (courtesy of Hello Sunday Morning) and feeling better in herself and about herself she decided to go for six months. It was the deal for this book which extended the time to a year. In the book an acquaintance says that he can think of nothing more boring than a book about not drinking and I did wonder if this would be the case. But Stark is wise in how she tells her story. She's brutally honest about herself, but relates her experiences to the wider picture, backing up what she has to say with expert opinion and statistics.

The areas covered are wide ranging. It's not just the effect on the individual's health, but the wider cost to the community. It's what drunkenness is doing to some locations and on an individual basis what it does to personal relationships and the risks the individual runs. From Stark's point of view it was fascinating to find how she dealt with the stresses of her job sober - and the dating scene fuelled only with soda water. It wasn't a book I was looking forward to reading but I'm glad I did. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For more on not drinking we can recommend Cleaning Up: How I Gave Up Drinking And Lived by Tania Glyde. Those determined to continue will love How to Drink by Victoria Moore.

Not all alcohol recovery centers are created equal. If you're interested in the best such facilities in your area, you need to do a lot of research, online and otherwise.

Buy High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze by Jill Stark at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze by Jill Stark at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze by Jill Stark at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze by Jill Stark at Amazon.com.


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