Libby Robertson had hit rock bottom in the literal sense - sprawled on her back on concrete, after jumping from a two-storey window.
"Was she dead?", the self-described party girl asked herself.
No, she couldn't be. After all, she could feel blood on her head and she was wearing a neck brace.
She was sobering up and trying to piece together "what the f*** was going on".
When her parents arrived at Wellington Hospital, she discovered she'd had yet another drunken fight with her boyfriend, Dane, and jumped out of a window in their home. Neighbours called the police.
She'd suffered a concussion, and badly injured both knees.
Dane was done with their relationship.
"I cried and cried, and at that moment, I wished I had died," she says.
A mental health nurse wanted to know "what are you going to do?" and Robertson, who now lives in Pāpāmoa, saw two options: "I don't know, or yes, you know: I can never drink again."
To give up alcohol for a month during Dry July is one thing, but could you do it for six and a half years?
It's Robertson's reality after having her first taste of beer at 4 and a "drinking career" from 13, leading to an eventual near-death at 25, despite being a young professional and functioning alcoholic.
To drink all the time was normal and she was not alone.
Boyfriend Dane used to drink too, but they reconciled after a joint decision to go sober in 2016, and married in 2018.
Like Robertson, interviewees in this article gave up booze only when they'd suffered serious consequences from drinking, and they're the tip of the iceberg given that an estimated 5 per cent of Kiwi drinkers aged 16 and older experience alcohol abuse or dependence in a 12-month period.
No longer is the topic of sobriety hushed though, with more people like Robertson, who wrote a book called How to Unmess Your Life, prepared to inspire the sober-curious.
Dry July is also helping. It launched in New Zealand in 2012 and is run by Dry July NZ Trust, giving drinkers an opportunity to break their normal social routines for a month, while also raising money for cancer support services.
Participant numbers continue to grow, with 8600 Kiwis joining in 2021, and 54,000 since its inception.
Dry gets popular
While anecdotally, Alcohol Healthwatch is hearing more reports of Kiwis choosing to abstain, it's not yet reflected in data other than during the pandemic when one in five (21.5 per cent) reported not drinking in the 2020-21 period. One in five drinkers reported drinking less as lockdown slogged on, due to being unable to socialise, health, and money, and a good time to reassess drinking patterns.
Robertson, 32, feels a "collective shift" is happening, with more-open attitudes to sobriety, and increasing alcohol-removed beverages on the market.
She doesn't call herself a recovering alcoholic. She is simply "sober".
She wrote herself a letter she would read whenever she felt like drinking - reminding her of the bad times; she saw her GP and went to three AA meetings, but ultimately gave up on her own through willpower and harnessing strategies through alternative practices like meditation.
She now helps others improve their lives with coaching business Libby Robertson Global; and School of Spiritual Healing Arts with Dane, where together they've created several social initiatives and charity projects.
She'll have moments when she misses alcohol, but then remembers its ugly side.
"Like remembering a bad relationship. I had so much love, but actually, the bad times outweigh the good."
When she first stopped drinking, strategies to help included coming home from work and having kombucha in a wine glass; making a point of planning something for Sunday morning.
Having survived on four to five hours of sleep when drinking, she'd still wake early but go to the gym. And at the start of every month, she'd write on her calendar "one day at a time".
Sobriety meant having to deal with repressed emotion - there was lots of crying and saying goodbye to the life she knew - socialising at bars.
She tried to go to bars sober - supported by Red Bull energy drinks - but it was hard. She was the only person she knew who didn't drink.
"Every catch-up revolved around booze. So, I had [to ask] 'what do I want out of life?' I found new hobbies; started a company. The time, money, and energy that you save is elevated.
"And the best thing is waking up and no longer wondering 'what did I do last night'?"
Dr Nicki Jackson, executive director of Alcohol Healthwatch, says people must change their environments to support other New Zealanders to cut down on alcohol use, just as we have done with smoking.
Positive changes are happening among teenagers, who are taking up drinking later and binge drinking less; however, we shouldn't expect to see major change while the regulation of "our most harmful drug" remains weak, Jackson says, adding there is no safe amount of alcohol to consume.
"Awareness of alcohol-cancer links is so low in New Zealand. Similarly, [society] concentrates on the harms of binge drinking, ignoring the harms of regular use at lower levels of consumption. It is a toxic, carcinogenic and psychoactive drug.
"Our environment is still pro-drinking. Alcohol is affordable, readily available and heavily marketed. We are more likely to drink than the Brits, Canadians or Americans. Overall, World Health Organisation data indicates our prevalence of drinking is in the top 10 per cent of 193 countries.
Dry is a must for some
Rex*, 62, used to be one of New Zealand's heavy drinkers.
The day he gave up was the day he found himself in his lawyer's office, yet again, with his broken-hearted daughter sitting beside him.
He was trying to sort out another criminal scrap he'd got into.
He'd been drinking for 40 years. He'd driven drunk, got into fights, had broken relationships, and job losses. His health was deteriorating and legal issues were mounting.
He was 56 and yes, he conceded: it was time.
He hasn't had a drink in seven years, whereas once DB beer controlled him.
The two-day weekend was a three-day weekend, beginning at 5pm on a Thursday when he quaffed back drinks at the pub and, later, kicked on at a mate's house.
He'd drag himself through work on Friday, but by 5pm he'd recovered and was "raring to go".
"It was a repeat process for the weekend, except I slept instead of the work thing," he recalls.
The years continued the same including "dramas that can only be put down to alcohol".
He got married, had a child, and slowed down on the drinking for a while, but financial and relationship pressures made it ramp up again.
Giving up was a mental hurdle rather than a physical one, he says.
"I used to frequent pubs most nights, but after ceasing to drink, the allure was gone. After a while, I'd notice the state and behaviour of those drinking and it dawned on me how I used to be one of those people and I found myself disgusted by it.
"Sadly, today's society makes it hard to stop drinking because it's the norm.
Of course, it isn't easy to give up, he says: "The thought of pouring a 50-50 bourbon and Coke over ice in a large glass still gets the saliva going, but for me, it passes.
"There is a stigma that if you don't drink there must be something wrong with you. You know it's happening when you're at a venue and see glances at the can of Coke you're holding."
Not necessary to get through life
Bridget* agrees. She hasn't been drunk in 20 years, following through on a New Year's resolution she made when she was 30 in her home country of Ireland.
Some Irishmen would refuse to buy her a soft drink at the bar, questioning why, she says.
"When I said 'I choose not to drink', it was as if I said I was never going to take a holiday again in my life."
Having lived in New Zealand for nearly two decades, Bridget has no problem with people having a drink (but) in Ireland and New Zealand, they prefer to "gulp down food, then off to the pub for hours. Or, they drink on an empty stomach".
When she gave up the grog, her mates assumed she must have had a bad drink, but alcohol is not necessary for her to get through life.
"I'm very close to my uncle and when he was 23, his doctor told him to give up the grog or it will kill him. He gave up and is nearly 80 now. We are all just the sum total of the choices we make."
This is something Sara*, 29, an infrequent drinker, knows all too well. Her parents drank heavily several times a week.
"I watched their health deteriorate and never saw them do much of anything - little to no hobbies and rarely left the house. Drinking was their only holiday."
The new partial sobriety
Being a harried parent and drinking is hard work, say strangers Kirsty Watt and Matthew Leef, who both live in Rotorua and are what the New York Times labelled in 2019 a "new generation of kinda-sorta temporary temperance crusaders".
They drink little but aren't completely sober. They never had a serious drinking problem. They just had a problem with drinking and so they've slowed down, long term.
From the age of 19, Watt, now 42, favoured "big nights" over a quiet drink and Matt Leef, 36, was a bartender and cruise ship worker whose heavy drinking was so-called normal.
Watt was never a fan of the taste of alcohol, just the feeling.
"It was all or nothing," the former sailor and defence force member of 13 years recalls.
There were a few "close calls" during that time - unwanted male attention or "dodgy situations" while she was "obliterated".
She met her partner, who isn't a big drinker, when she was 30, then had her first of two children at 34. After that, she couldn't handle the groggy mornings, plus her social circle changed.
Since then, she can count the number of drinks she'd had in two years on both hands.
Leef is also a moderate drinker - drinking once or twice a year.
He tried Dry July in 2013, found he lost a tonne of weight, and kept going.
As he switched careers and became a dad, his friends circle also changed, influencing his sobriety.
He knows being sober is seen by some as dry in more than one sense of the word, but he doesn't care.
"Yes, you have a really good night, but the next day is done. Drinking is just borrowing tomorrow's happiness."
For Libby Robertson, once she removed the option of drinking, a new world opened up.
"Have I changed? So much," she says.
"If we can stop making it a shameful thing, then we can have conversations about it and normalise sobriety."
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
To find out more about Dry July, go to www.dryjuly.co.nz