SpeakYoTruth presents another offering to the ‘In her own words’ series in which we feature Sam Wilson, founder of Sober Mates. As explained by Sam:
“Sober Mates is here to shake up Australia’s drinking expectations”
SpeakYoTruth: First of all, welcome to the SpeakYoTruth platform Sam and thanks for being a part of this. Your bio on Instagram states that you are “addicted to creating opportunities”. What does that mean to you and what does it look like in practice?
Sam: Creating opportunities is something that I feel really strongly about. This statement has been my bio since I got Instagram and I don’t think I’ll be removing it any time soon. It comes down to living by ‘you don’t ask, you don’t get’. Meaning if you don’t ask a question, then the answer will always be no.
For me, this is about finding different ways to work with small businesses and finding ways to bring people together to connect with each other. Part of this also is working to elevate my own ‘agenda’, as well as, supporting people in communities and creating opportunities for them.
SpeakYoTruth: So, you are the founder of Sober Mates. Can you explain a bit about what it is?
Sam: Sober Mates is my new baby. I’ve been sober for 7 months and it’s been a bit of a journey. When I started my sobriety journey I was only aiming to be sober for 3 months, but 2 months into it I decided to keep going and make this a lifelong choice.
Within this I was looking to find some sort of sense of community within my journey, I wanted a sober Aussie community that I could relate to and find a sense of belonging within. In my search I came across some wonderful communities in the US and the UK but I couldn’t really find anything that related to our binge drinking culture in Australia and the pressures that we have to drink here. So that’s when I decided to create my own community and what I wanted it to be was, a space where we can question why we drink and consider how sober people fit into our community. I wanted to build a community where we could let people explore their relationship with alcohol and provide resources, support and recommendations on healthy ways to do that.
“Sobermates is an online community where we provide resources to help people explore their relationship with alcohol and we absolutely don’t mind whether you’re sober or not, just as long as you’re open to questioning your beliefs around alcohol”
SpeakYoTruth: The Sober Mates platform speaks around expectations of drinking culture and specifically binge drinking in Australia. Can you explain what that looks like?
Sam: When you’re sober, you’re the minority. I’ve been the minority in heaps of different groups growing up but the drinking culture is something else. I think it is slowly changing, but in the past it’s always been the expectation that people drink in Australia and that expectation is to binge drink.
Recently I’ve been starting to research where this comes from and what I’ve found is that it comes from this being a rebellious society and something around rebellion when consider the early European settlers who were convicts; they drank to rebel. This is all changing now that it’s a rebellion not to drink and not to conform to societal expectations.
What we want to do with Sober Mates is to change those expectations that if you turn up to a party and you usually are a drinker but you’ve decided that for whatever reason, tonight you’re not drinking, that you’re not questioned for that behaviour and you’re not pushed to ‘just have one’. Because whatever choices we’re making, we should be able to have a night of not drinking and not be questioned. I really do want to change the social expectations that you have to be drinking and for alcohol to not have to be the focus of our social events. If you think about sporting events, celebrations, weddings, births, deaths etc, alcohol is always a central focus around these.
Currently, I’m trying to have these discussions with male friends of mine that drink and push them to question why this is. I’ve emphasised that the next day you’re not talking about how good the beer was at the footy, because it was no doubt terrible. So we have to ask ourselves what pushes us to drink there and to drink to excess? It’s about reminding ourselves and questioning our thoughts about why do we automatically go for a beer when we’re at the footy, do we really need it? Do we need the 3rd or 4th beer? It’s about removing that social expectation that if you’re going to have one, you’re going to have many; and that’s what I want to change.
SpeakYoTruth: Who were you reaching out to when you began Sober Mates? And did it get momentum quickly? Or was there any hesitation or push back?
Sam: It got momentum really quickly, surprisingly quickly actually. I thought that Australia wasn’t ready for a sober curious movement at all or I thought I’d somehow be ahead of the game and that it would be a real push to get this up and running, but it wasn’t. When I started sobermates I wanted it to be a place for people where they could explore their relationship with alcohol; being sober curious and maybe not being sober yet. What I found is when you jump into a new community there are so many resources and there are so many people that are sober in Australia.
We are really working on supporting two different communities; supporting the sober community but also showing the benefits of becoming sober, being sober curious and removing alcohol as much as you can or as much as you feel comfortable with.
SpeakYoTruth: The Sober curious tagline is really interesting. Where does it originate from?
Sam: It’s a really popular term in the sober community which has a few different definitions. At Sober Mates we define ‘sober curious’ as about people having the choice to drink and questioning and exploring their habits around drinking; and that they are open to learning about different ways to remove the urge to drink or simply to just being more conscious about their decisions. They may be on a journey to becoming sober or they may just be happy with being sober curious and experimenting with sobriety when and if that happens.
SpeakYoTruth: You’ve had your own sober journey over the past 7 months, have you found people to be supportive of this?
Sam: Everyone has been really supportive, if not almost too supportive. When I told my girlfriends that I was taking a 3 month break from drinking they were almost too supportive, saying things like ‘it’s going to be so good for your mental health, you need to do this’. It made me realise that maybe I’m a little more of a mess than I really thought I was, if my friends were that keen on me having a break from alcohol.
In the past I’d done Dry July but I was really just counting down till when I could get smashed with the girls again. But this time around I decided I was going to spend my time reflecting on my relationship with alcohol. I recently had one of my best friends weddings when I was 5 weeks sober and she bought me alcohol free champagne so I wouldn’t have to have those weird questions and I could walk around with a wine glass and not have to worry.
It was the simplest choice just to cut alcohol out for me and while I’ve still got challenges ahead of me, everyone has ben very supportive.
SpeakYoTruth: You have this fabulous tattoo that reads ‘Bad girls club’, what does this signify to you?
Sam: I got it with my best friend and at the time it was a bit of irony, because considered ourselves the opposite of bad girls. But this has changed as I’ve gotten older. When I got that tattoo I’d just broken up with a partner and I was on the start of a new personal journey. I think being sober was is now just one of the ways that I’m rebelling. That tattoo was the start of a new journey where I really was focusing on myself and it has gained more meaning the longer I’ve had it.
SpeakYoTruth: Lastly, Where to do you see Sober Mates going from here?
Sam: We’ve got a few different plans. There’s one that I will announce in a few months when I can. But in general, we do really want to continue to grow the Sober Mates platform because I truly believe that we really don’t question why we drink in Australia. I really just want people to follow along and read our posts; there’s nothing more you need to do. As long as you’re reading our posts, that means you’re thinking about your habits around drinking and it forces you to think more about why you drink. You might make those changes to not drink every single weekend or on every single occasion. The health and mental health benefits for me have just been amazing and I want everyone to see that. We’re going to hopefully have some events later on post COVID. I’m working to grown the platform and I want to reach everyone and have everyone talking.
Find out more about Sober Mates here:
Plus check out Sam’s Instagram: