This week's Sober Story comes from Janey who is in her late 50s and lives in Hertfordshire, UK.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Janey: Since 2018 3 years, 3 months
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Janey: I was a typical 'grey area drinker' I think. I had a voice in my head telling me to drink another glass. I was feeling scared of the health repurcussions, and it was crazy as I was queen of health and wellbeing, but walked around the 'alcohol' elephant in the room. I was bloated, overweight, lacking in energy, and knew something had to change, but I thought I was the only person who had this issue, i.e. not at rock bottom or clinically dependent, but not Ok either. I mentioned it to therapists, GP's etc and was told, "Just have an alcohol free day, yeah?" But I didn't have an off switch.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Janey: I knew something had to change. I was given a copy of Clare Pooleys book The Sober Diaries, as we were going to interview her (I am a radio presenter on BBC Radio 2). I had two weeks over Xmas to read the book - started it on Boxing Day and stopped drinking on Dec 30. I aimed to just do Dry Jan but I never looked back.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Janey: Rediculously I felt shame and didn't tell anyone. The most difficult thing was my emotional state, I was a mess, couldn't sleep and felt irritable. I now know that I could have made it easier for myself with good food and supplements to balance the brain chemistry.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Janey: They didn't know for a while. When they did I think they were quite impressed. My oldest son, 22, came home from university and did an alcohol-free cocktail making video workshop with me. He still drinks but is starting to appreciate there are alternatives.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Janey: No thank God, I kept reminding myself to play it forward.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Janey: At least 3 months, and probably 7 months before I started to feel some sense of balance
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Janey: I was good at prepping ahead, so always took alcohol free drinks with me, and made excuses to leave early. Some social situations just weren't appealing to me anymore ad I realised how much time I wasted drinking with people I didn't especially like.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Janey: Oh, lots. I learned I am not quite so extroverted as I thought. I learnt that I could in fact meditate and even become 'self-love curious'. I learnt that despite never having run since being a child, I could complete Couch to 5k! That was mega!
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Janey: Not hugely on the outside. No-one else necessarily saw changes, but I feel so completely different. I now run The Sober Club so my whole life it seems is consumed in all of this, and of course I gave a TEDx talk, host the weekly podcast and wrote a book so work-wise, yes its a large part of what I do
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Janey: I have less anxiety, I'm kinder and less stressed. My eyesight improved (I know, right!). I love waking up sober, (I used to dread what might happen). I have finally found some level of 'happiness' and - joy!
MrsD: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Janey: Definitely, since training as a coach and focusing on nutrition I now know I could have helped myself by eating well, protein with every meal, and put much more effort into my 'sober toolkit'. I also would have got connected, it was hard not telling anyone and I don't recommend it!
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Janey: Get connected, find like minded people, don't focus on what you're giving up (nothing) only on what there is to gain (everything). Get yourself a glass jar or vase and put the actual cash you'd have spent on booze in there at least for 30 days, wow thats a LOT of money! Always prep ahead if you are socialising and get inspired. When it feels too hard, listen to a podcast, get out into nature, dance, 'change your state', and keep reminding yourself that this too shall pass and you will in due course get to see life in glorious technicolour.
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to share?
Janey: Although I recommend telling someone, don't necessarily have in depth conversations with partners and family too soon. Get connected with your 'tribe' first. In my sober club community some people have found that they have tried sharing their 'fragile' thoughts and were told, "Oh, you're not too bad, just have one drink with me." It's so unhelpful, so get yourself strong and make it non negotiable first before you enter into debates with others. And focus on your optimum health and wellbeing, it just keeps on getting better and better. Oh and, want the best anti-ageing tip ever? Ditch the booze! (You're welcome.)