In late 2016, Sarah-Jane Clarke shared an Instagram post declaring her intention to stop drinking alcohol, or in her own words, #banthebinge for a year. After years spent as one half of the duo behind cult Australian label sass & bide while simultaneously raising three boys, something had to give, and for Sarah-Jane, that something was her regular social drinking...
“My decision to quit alcohol for a year came after I realised it was controlling me rather than I controlling it. I decided to take a break, so I could retrain my brain and the relationship it has formed with alcohol over the years. My drinking habit was in direct conflict with my overall health and wellbeing philosophy.” Like many working mothers juggling career and family, Sarah-Jane needed space to think and breathe after she left her spot at the helm of sass & bide in 2013, and started focusing on self-love, health and wellness after battling with adrenal fatigue. Her social drinking was in direct opposition with her crusade for a more wholesome and meaningful life – for not only herself but also her boys, so she decided to hold herself accountable and declare her quest to quit drinking for a year on Instagram. “I publicly announced it to my followers on social media for three reasons. One, to keep me to my word. Secondly, so I wouldn’t need to explain my decision every time I saw a friend. And thirdly, I was sick of the silent internal struggle I had dealt with over the last few decades. I felt like I needed to expose myself, the real me and my battle with binge drinking.” What followed was a year of more clarity, happiness, health and confidence, and one year on, drinking in moderation is based on her own terms rather than social expectation or pressure. Read on to hear more of Sarah-Jane’s fascinating and inspiring story of prioritising health, self-love and family above all else… Photography: Julie Adams | Makeup: Andrea Black | Words: Marisa Remond
I wake up early around 5 am, to either workout or to walk to the local shops to have my morning piccolo and to watch the sunrise. By 7 am I have cooked three different sorts of eggs – fried, scrambled and boiled, and I have made three different types of sandwiches for my boys’ lunchboxes. The boys are all out the door by 7:30 am, and I then regroup with my partner and we enjoy the peace and quiet. We have breakfast and talk about our respective days ahead. After that, I attend to my loyal companion, our cavoodle, Lady Bon Bon. I give her breakfast and take her for a long walk before heading to my studio at La Porte Space to give energy to the new projects I am working on. Raising three boys under four, at the height of sass & bide was exhausting and I ended up with adrenal fatigue. At the time I didn’t know I had it, but I had all the symptoms. It wasn’t until I left sass & bide in 2013 that I stopped and I found the space to feel rather than think. It took a year of quietness to regain my strength, and I learnt the importance of putting my health above all. I’m no good to anyone without it! Motherhood can be mentally and physically exhausting and sometimes I can feel overwhelmed by its constant demands and responsibility, but it has also taught me patience and presence. I try to be the calming influence, the one who slows them down when they are in a flurry. I am involved in their lives without being suffocating – just enough that they feel safe, secure and cherished. I want to ensure that when bigger issues in life present themselves that they feel comfortable talking to me. My boys are 9, 12, and 13, independent but still in the nest. The oldest is in the midst of leaving boyhood and becoming a man. It’s a lovely time of life. This is the age when parents become important role models – they look to you on how to deal with situations, they watch your behaviour, how you conduct your life and relationships. My role as a mother now is very consciously to prepare them for their life ahead, as before it was more about taking care of them. To instil in them good morals, the pathway to good behaviour, kindness and honesty. To give them the confidence to stand up for themselves and what they believe. To teach them the importance of healthy eating, sleeping well, and exercising. We have started to introduce our boys to everyday financial matters such as bank accounts, understanding how credit cards work, the tax system, wages, and how to save. Our most challenging issue is managing social media and gaming – teaching them how to navigate the cyber world safely and the importance of balance.
My decision to quit alcohol for a year came after I realised it was controlling me rather than I controlling it. I decided to take a break, so I could retrain my brain and the relationship it has formed with alcohol over the years. My drinking habit was in direct conflict with my overall health and wellbeing philosophy. I publicly announced it to my followers on social media for three reasons. One, to keep me to my word. Secondly, so I wouldn’t need to explain my decision every time I saw a friend. And thirdly, I was sick of the silent internal struggle I had dealt with over the last few decades. I felt like I needed to expose myself, the real me and my battle with binge drinking. It meant taking away the mask that I hid behind and exposing myself to the world. It also meant being very honest with myself. I did a lot of reading and I educated myself on the effects alcohol has on our health and our society. I saw clearly for the first time how our culture glamourises drinking. My children came on this ride with me and I talked to them about the importance of drinking alcohol responsibly. Our children’s minds are curious by nature; they want to experience and they watch and learn. They see us, their role models, drinking alcohol and having ‘fun’. They instantly associate alcohol use with good times. This is re-affirmed with constant messages from the alcohol industry through advertising and sponsorships and now social media influencers. Sadly, I think much of the focus (in our Australian culture) has been on getting drunk rather than drinking for pleasure whilst maintaining awareness. Though I do think the younger generation is drinking less, partly as there is so much more education on the harms of alcohol. I have noticed the mocktail lists in restaurants getting longer and far more sophisticated so there must be a growing demand! The most surprising part of not drinking for the year was how much better life was without it. I was more present for my family and friends, I had mental clarity, I was more confident, and the health benefits are endless – better sleep, glowing skin, healthier digestion just to name a few! Not to mention more time! It was an invaluable realisation that social drinking and dreaded hangovers take up a lot of valuable time. Since the year has passed, my relationship with alcohol has totally changed. I no longer look at it with the shine and magic it once held. It is no longer the enabler of good times. I now drink moderately and occasionally and on my own terms. I don’t let the situation dictate if I drink or not. I know I can attend any social gathering without alcohol. I no longer use it as a confidence builder or a stress release, rather I engage in healthier options.
My personal style is evolving. It is much cleaner now. I feel most comfortable in pieces that are simple but with a hint of drama. I don’t like following trends and my vintage passion still runs strong. I prefer luxurious natural fibres such as cotton, linens and silks. I am much fussier now about quality and finishing, where, how and by whom my clothes are made. I like to make thoughtful and considered decisions when investing in pieces. Consuming less has always been important to me. I would rather buy less but buy better quality pieces that will be with me for many years to come. For new brands starting out, I think it is essential to know what their brand values are, what they stand for, and to consider the impact they have on our planet. Self-care falls into three categories for me – mind, body and soul. Mind – I try to have 20 minutes a day dedicated to sitting still and quietening the mind, and I practice yin yoga. I regularly have massages and acupuncture. Body – My preference is natural skin care and essential oils. I regularly go to Eva Karpati for facials to keep the texture of my skin looking good. I make healthy choices with my food and take The Beauty Chef’s probiotics daily. I also do at least an hour of weights and cardio three times a week. Soul – I check in with myself and make sure what I am doing is being true to myself. I surround myself with positive and loving people. Nothing makes feel more complete than being with my boys! In terms of work, I am about to launch a capsule fashion collection that is inspired by a sense of simplicity and awareness, and the love of discovering the world, its people, cultures and nature. I have created a luxurious travel collection that transcends seasons, using the finest quality fabrics and one that leaves a minimal footprint on our earth. Well crafted pieces in natural fibres and neutral palettes with a hint of drama. Go to www.sarahjaneclarke.com