A former high-functioning alcoholic will learn tomorrow if she’ll receive a title and grant that will boost her mission to help country people tackle what she calls “casual alcoholism”.
Narrabri’s Shanna Whan is one of four finalists in the 2018 NSW-ACT AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award.
She’s up for a $10,000 bursary when the winner is announced at a gala dinner at Parliament House, Sydney.
But Mrs Whan said the issue was “so grossly under-serviced and under-resourced” in rural and remote areas that her latest efforts would continue regardless of the result.
She plans to launch an online platform to support and connect people across the country who want to reassess their relationship with booze.
The self-employed photographer, speaker and health coach said the target members were people just like her: those who, by all appearances, were successful and had their lives together.
“What is really interesting – and absurd in many ways – is that they are the ones that are most at risk of falling through the cracks, because the perception is that if you’re successful and high-functioning, you can’t possibly need help,” she said.
“People don’t understand that you can be successful and look the goods, and still be in big trouble.
“That’s why I came out: because I myself nearly didn’t make it.”
Mrs Whan has shared the story of her own battle for sobriety in speaking engagements and forums such as the SBS television program Insight.
Now three years alcohol-free, she said her journey to recovery started with one honest conversation.
She said those truthful talks could be tough in “a society that worships alcohol”, but she wanted that candour to continue.
“I believe we need, as a community, to treat alcoholism as the disease that it is … We live in a paradox in the country, where we embrace and worship the title of being drunk, and yet become awkward and silent when one of our comrades falls apart and calls out for help and admits it’s become a problem.”
She said members would be able to access tools and activities such as webinars, live support meetings, blogs and links to sources of expert help.
Living through it
Mrs Whan said a critical factor in her approach was “lived experience” – she had been there but was now healthy.
“Everything I do is really heavily based in authenticity, credibility and integrity.”
Mrs Whan said she’d wanted to be part of the award program simply “to reach people”.
“After three years of consistently sharing and reaching out and connecting with rural people, I still get messages from women all over Australia who’ve said, ‘Because of you, I’m actually going to do something – I thought I was alone’ … When I started doing this, I had no idea how big it would become; how massively hungry people are for a relatable point of information.”
Mrs Whan was at pains to reiterate that she didn’t have all the answers.
“I’m just facilitating connection between peers, so that people can share what did or didn’t work for them.”
- More about Shanna Whan: allthingsskwhub.com