Sober in the Country is a national charity changing how we talk about alcohol in the bush, and letting our mates know it’s OK to say no to a beer.
Shanna went from hero to zero as she watched it all go up in smoke off the back of the pandemic. What was set to be twelve months circumnavigating Australia delivering her life’s work went up in smoke in days.
‘’There I was in March presenting at the Sydney Opera House for International Women’s Day alongside some amazing women, with bags packed ready to start travelling all over, and then, whammo… COVID happened,‘’ said Shanna.
“It was a brutal shock. To be standing on the edge of a big break and then have COVID-19 strike was devastating,’’ Shanna said. She freely admits she gave herself permission to fall into a screaming heap.
“Honestly I was just heartbroken. To be finally at that breakthrough point where the risk and work had paid off, and where I was established, credible, and 100% ready (and also about to pay myself a small salary for the first time) .. well , I came home and just couldn’t get out of bed while I processed it all and tried to recalibrate,” said Shanna.
What happened next is extraordinary.
“Out of the blue I was contacted by several leading philanthropic organisations and extraordinary individuals who told me they had been watching what I had been doing (from afar) for a long while,’’ said Shanna.
“They offered me a literal lifeline and the crucial support I needed to just pick myself up and get back to work. It was just beyond my wildest dreams and at a critical moment. They just lifted me up and honoured my work in rural Australia in the most profound way.”
COVID-19 has changed all of our lives but for Shanna Whan who thought her life’s work had been lost, it has been nothing short of miraculous.
So why did they offer to help?
“I think COVID-19 has allowed the nation to take a moment and truly imagine what it’s like trying to get out of a hole when you’re isolated and without a choice of services. I think the entire nation got a glimpse of the fact this is actually our normal in regional and rural Australia,” said Shanna.
“The virus meant that suddenly our city cousins couldn’t get to their regular face-to-face recovery support group meetings and there was this great moral, social and cultural panic that things were going to fall apart – and this terrible virus bought this to the fore.”
Shanna added: “What we are is an incognito demographic. A silent majority of hard-working Australians who – if battling alcohol dependence – must do so in isolation and silence mostly without anything even close to adequate resources support.’’
This is why I will remain grateful my entire life to philanthropists and that their hearts are big enough to uncover initiatives that genuinely do good and need supporting; particularly when governments are unable or unwilling to do so,” said Shanna.
“As an advocacy leader now representing tens of thousands of people in this ‘chat’ – I can say, with my hand on my heart that literally everyone I have ever had a conversation with is impacted either directly or indirectly by alcohol addiction.