Inspirational

I Swapped Hangovers For Hiking!

Chelle gave up booze once and for all
  • Chelle Fisher, 45, from Dawesville, WA began experimenting with alcohol at 13 years old
  • As the years rolled on, her drinking spiked
  • This July, she’ll celebrate 10 years of sobriety

Here Chelle tells her story in her own words.

Guzzling down cheap beer with my mates, I felt all my anxieties leave my body. I feel so good, I thought, swaying slightly by my third can.

Aged 13, I’d recently started skipping class and experimenting with alcohol and marijuana.

Things were tough at home, and I was in search of an escape.

Soon after, I was enrolled in an Army cadets program after school. I loved it. But it didn’t stop me from sneaking off with my fellow cadets to drink and smoke.

Leaving school at 16, I worked at Hungry Jack’s. Now I had a bit of money coming in, I started dabbling with ice, ecstasy and LSD.

Falling pregnant at 18 to my boyfriend, I selfishly kept drinking and taking drugs. Luckily, my beautiful boy Jayden was born in November 1997, perfectly healthy.

We fell pregnant again two years later.

This time I quit booze cold turkey, despite the intense cravings, and we welcomed our second son Adam in April 2000.

But straight after giving birth, I was back on the booze and drugs despite still breastfeeding. My relationship broke down when Adam was two. As the boys grew up, I found myself stoned on the school run, and would sometimes drink drive with the kids in the back.

I’m so ashamed, I thought. But I just couldn’t give up my addictions.

In 2004, I found love with my friend Dave, then 26, and we had our baby girl Sophie in September 2007. Completely clean during my pregnancy, I started using again once she was born.

Chelle Fisher Husband Dave
Dave and me (Credit: Supplied.)

‘Some nights, I’d guzzle a half a carton of beer by myself.’

Marrying Dave in February 2009, I decided to quit drugs for good that September when Sophie turned two.

I can’t keep living like this. I have to change for my kids, I thought.

Surprisingly, I found it quite easy.

But there was still a void that needed to be filled, and my drinking spiked. I’d sink six cold ones before Dave – a social drinker – got home, and when he arrived I’d pretend the can I was cracking open was my first one.

Some nights, I’d guzzle a half a carton of beer by myself. It was easy, and I always got away with it – because I was such an experienced binge drinker.

Unlike others who might have six beers and be stumbling and slurring their words, I could still function well.

Finally in July 2013, aged 34, I decided to go cold turkey on booze for Dry July.

Incredibly, not only did I get through the 31 days, I didn’t drink for months!

In social situations, like a wedding I attended that October, I found myself shaking and irritable, feeling left out without a drink in my hand.

That Christmas, after five months of no drinking, I gave in. But instead of just sipping on a bevvy, I chugged down a six pack of beers.

In the days following, I went from zero to one hundred – it was like I’d never stopped.

Chelle Fisher family
Jayden, Sophie, me and Adam (Credit: Supplied.)

As I had gone so long sober, I’d convinced Dave I had control of the situation.

One Friday in July 2014, I binged even more than usual, drinking half a carton of beer and a six pack of Jim Beam and Coke.

Dave, a FIFO worker, was away, the boys, then 16 and 14, were at their dad’s, and Sophie, six, was home with me, asleep.

The next morning, I had the mother of all hangovers.

Groggy and miserable, I thought, Enough is enough!

There has to be more to life than this, I decided, dry retching into the loo.

‘Mummy’s not feeling well,’ I said to Sophie.

Later that day I looked for inspiration online and found Hello Sunday Morning – an organisation dedicated to helping people change their relationship with alcohol.

So on Sunday I decided to do something different.

Waking up early, I drove to Whistlepipe Gully, a hiking trail that skirts a beautiful river a 15-minute drive from my home. Dave’s parents watched Sophie.

This was so worth it, I exhaled as I trekked.

It was like meditation.

Chelle Fisher hiking
Trekking has changed my life (Credit: Supplied.)

‘I won’t waste another moment.’

Over the months, waving goodbye to alcohol and saying hello to hiking became easier. Soon I was hiking every day, climbing mountains and bush walking! I felt healthier than I had in years.

Dave was super proud, and my kids sometimes joined me on my treks too.

I’d lost so many years to drink and drugs, I wasn’t wasting another moment.

In July 2022, to celebrate eight years of sobriety, over eight days I climbed eight mountains in the Great Southern region of WA. My trek also raised over $1000 for Albany’s Family Domestic Violence Action Group – a cause close to my heart.

And last year, I tackled nine waterfalls from Perth to Margaret River in nine days, raising just under $500 for OVIS Community Services – another service supporting domestic violence survivors.

Chelle Fisher husband Dave hiking
Me and Dave on a hike (Credit: Supplied.)

This year to mark the decade sober milestone, I plan to hike the 38km Murchison River Gorge Walk in Kalbarri National Park, WA, in four days.

It’ll be a full circle for me, as I did this walk with my school’s troubled youth program when I was 13 and had first started with booze and pot.

When I hike, I feel clarity. I pat myself on the back and forgive myself for my horrible mistakes.

I know I’m a good person and do all in my power to be the best I can.

Thankfully, I have loving relationships with my kids, now 26, 23 and 13. And I’m a proud grandma to Jayden’s girls, Layla, two and a half, and Margot, two.

I never knew life could be so good.

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