Meet Odette Barry - Does her story of regrets and hangovers sound familiar?
Odette Barry is a busy businesswoman, loving mum, and active person. 7 years ago she recognised that alcohol was only holding her back and ditched it for good. Read her interview to find out how the choice to drink alcohol-free has reshaped her whole life and brought about many positive changes.
Not sure it’s the right one for you? Start by dipping your toe in with a few sober weekends. See what lies on the other side. Odette was so attracted by it that she took up permanent residence there.
Give us some background on yourself
I’m 35 years old, I’m a publicist and PR mentor and founder of Odette & Co. (a micro PR agency) and I live in Byron Bay with my husband and son. I am a Mumma to a beautiful 13-year-old, I’m a teeny bit doggo obsessed, live a hugely social lifestyle and am bloody grateful that I don’t drink alcohol.
Why have you decided to move to non-alcoholic drinks?
One too many hangovers? Ha!
I never really drank mid-week. My partner did and my parents have always had a wine (or three) with dinner. Me, I’ve only ever drunk on the weekends, and then, it was pretty much gentrified social binge drinking.
I would always drink at parties and events on weekends, and then I’d need the rest of the time off to recover. Whole weekends would slip by with some boozy evenings followed by Hungry Jacks on the couch.
Then, throughout the week, I would have regrets. I’d wish I hadn’t said that thing to a pal, or been snappy with my son or husband.
Very often I found myself in patterns of negative thinking, not just about the times when I was drinking, but about my whole life. I don’t think I was depressed, but I didn’t value myself, I didn’t have that deep foundation of self-love.
On the weekends when I didn’t drink, I discovered how long a weekend truly is: you get to live for the whole 24 hours of each day. Time slows down when you’re not drinking - in a really good way!
You have time to get out in nature, learn to surf, go hiking, take up a hobby, read a book - you have all this energy and time. That was really attractive to me.
So the allure of non-alcoholic drinks kinda came with a sweet package deal of exercise, great food, positivity and feeling kind of awesome.
What were the benefits you gained from lowering or stopping your alcohol intake?
I became a better mother, daughter, wife and friend. My career really took off and I started a business that I’m almost certain I couldn’t have made happen between boozy weekends.
More importantly, I became so much more proud of myself. I noticed a tidal shift in how I thought about myself.
Do you still drink alcohol sometimes?
No, I haven’t had an alcoholic drink in seven years - it’s just not for me.
How have people reacted when you decided to drink non-alcoholic beverages?
It’s a tricky line to walk. It’s hard, there are no two ways about that. I have missed the social connection and sense of being part of something that boozy occasions incite. Our society is built around drinking alcohol - bbq’s, birthdays, funerals, weddings, they’re all marinated in booze.
So, not drinking alcohol does make these occasions more challenging. But on the whole, my friends have been supportive.
I felt like an outsider with my existing friendship group, as our whole lifestyle was built around boozy get-togethers. I’ve now realised that it was more in my head than a real divide. I don’t think they would have really cared either way, but it did create a separation.
I felt like we weren’t on the same wavelength anymore and I was more curious to catch up with people outside of that setting.
Instead of long lunches or bingey dinners, I switched things up for a running club, surf lessons, and building my community around my business. Most of my friends now aren’t big drinkers, but if they do, we don’t really cross paths in that setting, and it doesn’t affect our friendship.
Sometimes you’re fighting real judgement. “Oh, don’t you get bored?” the answer is yes. “Oh, you’re boring” the answer is kind of yes, in that setting, but the rest of your life is SO much more rewarding.
I think in the early months of moving away from booze, I avoided social commitments altogether, which I don’t think was a bad thing for me at the time. It allowed me to recalibrate myself and build the resilience that is required to show up in those settings with a soda in hand.
I’ll be honest, in some settings, I try to avoid saying anything - I can’t be bothered having THAT conversation again. But, over the years, I have grown in my confidence to hold that space a little more comfortably, a little less defensively.
I don’t want to be preachy - I don’t think it’s for everyone - I don’t think everyone needs to not drink. I just think that if you have ever felt conflicted about your relationship with alcohol, it’s okay to hear that.
You don’t have to be really hard on yourself and quit altogether, you might just want to mix it up with a couple of sober weekends here and there.
One of the best things I’ve managed to implement so that it doesn’t affect my relationships as much is to coordinate my schedule around early morning or active catch-ups. Instead of dinner, I’ll often do a sunrise walk on the beach - or a bushwalk on the weekend. Instead of a Friday night wine, I’ll do a lighthouse walk and chat. I still show up to parties where there is booze, but I prefer to be in a space where people don’t feel threatened or judged by the choice not to drink.
Do you have a partner in sobriety? If yes, who?
I dragged my husband down the path with me and he is still on it with me. I suspect it’s a little hard for him than it is for me because I’m naturally pretty outspoken and extroverted, I can tolerate a little social awkwardness from my sobriety. He’s more introverted and prefers to steer clear of alcohol oriented activities.