Sonia’s story: Alcohol is glamorised more than it’s scrutinised

Sonia Randev | July 2024 | 8 minutes

In the early years, I never gave a second thought to how alcohol affected my physical health and my mental well-being.

In my twenties, my focus was on getting drunk and having fun with mates. But I always knew deep down inside that something didn't quite feel right. I never really felt happy. I feel during the early days of my drinking, my mental health took a battering and my anxiety heightened as the years went by.

This carried on pretty much from my twenties into my thirties. But I made the decision to go sober when I turned 30 and I stayed sober but relapsed due to an illness in my family.

Coming from a South Asian family, having a problem with alcohol simply wasn't spoken about.

Coming from a South Asian family, having a problem with alcohol simply wasn't spoken about. There has always been a lot of stigma and shame around addiction [Editor’s note: You can read more about the language used to talk about drinking problems, including the word ‘addiction’, here.] Amongst the Asian community, alcohol has been judged and frowned upon for years. I mean I could only imagine the rumour mill if an Asian woman attended an AA meeting or sought therapy for their mental well-being. This was definitely a big factor which affected how I felt about myself and how I felt silenced.

Coming into my early forties, I felt fine on the outside. I could still get things done. But I always had that anxious feeling and felt resentment, unloved and under-appreciated which I have come to realise are all big triggers that cause me to hide behind the drink.

In October last year, I started experiencing pains in my chest and not long after developed a cough. After lots of different tests, I was diagnosed with a condition called Sarcoidosis. It's where your immune system weakens and inflammation appears on your chest and lungs. Anyone can be diagnosed with it. It's not known how the condition actually starts but, in my case, I believe my drinking played a massive part in me becoming unwell.

During a period of heavy drinking, I received some support from a particular individual who suffers from addiction themselves. They would call me up and text me and check how I was doing. When I felt low and was drunk, I would call them and they would stay on the phone to me and try and help me. But all I did was abuse them verbally and truth be told some of the things I said were unforgivable. I now realise, and probably realised months ago, that this person was the only person outside of my family and friends who truly showed care and compassion for me. Who genuinely wanted to see me get better mentally and physically. I haven't really had that level of support before and, not to justify my behaviour, I just didn't know how to accept their help. My way has always been to guard up and show no emotions.

It's important for me to mention this person because anyone that picks the phone up to you in the early hours of the morning, takes abuse and still checks in on you the next day, is worth keeping close. That is exactly the type of support circle you need when struggling with health and addiction. I just realised it too late but we keep it moving and learn valuable lessons this way.

The three As in life which I go by now:

  • Awareness
  • Accountability
  • Action

I'm fairly good at the first two and getting better at the last. It takes time to master self-awareness and to then take action upon that. My message to all is that alcohol is a highly addictive and dangerous substance and even the smallest consumption can lead to lifelong physical and mental illnesses. This is the only substance that you get questioned on why you are not drinking! It's glamorised more than it is scrutinised and more needs to be done to highlight the dangers. It’s simply not enough to put in small print 'Enjoy responsibly' or 'Drink in moderation.' Take it from someone who felt their drinking wasn’t affecting their health. In a blink of an eye, this can all change. Take care of YOU.