Coins in a Jar

I connected with another Soberista a couple of months ago via her blog which you can find on FaceBook @coinsinajar – do check it out.

I was so impressed with her approach and her commitment that I invited her along to a workshop to inspire the participants – and she did!

She was also kind enough to write about the workshop so if anyone is wondering exactly what happens at our workshops then here is Jo’s review:-

 

“I was lucky enough to attend World Without Wine’s workshop two weeks ago. It was held at Janet’s lovely home in Cape Town. What a relaxed and welcoming environment.

The morning started with a coffee as everyone started arriving. There were 8 of us in total (I think!) as well as Janet and Mandy obviously, who run the course.

What struck me straight away was how welcoming Janet and her team were. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but as I got chatting with the others, I began to feel more relaxed. After all, we were all there for one very clear common reason: Alcohol. And the negative effects it was having or had had on our lives.

We all sat around Janet’s couch where there was ample space for all of us to be comfortable. The first thing we did was share why we were there, our relationships and history with alcohol. Each story was different but equally as eye opening. I just felt so fantastic to be sitting with this group of amazing, like-minded women who understood me and me them. To tell others your story and you just see the click in their eyes- they get what you are saying as they too have had enough of alcohol running and ruining their lives. It’s that simple.

After the shares, we received some important facts about the dangers of alcohol. We all know how bad it is for our health but just how bad and to see it in black and white was a good lesson. I particularly enjoyed our “prac”, which was to pour into a wine, whiskey and beer glass, what we think were the safe limits of alcohol consumption per unit. Very interesting. I’ll just say that I was drinking a woman’s weekly limit EVERY night. Scary stuff.

After a lovely lunch and more coffee, we had a guy come and chat to us that had not drunk for a year, after attending the course. It was informative and inspiring. Listening to him was great as he seemed so happy and alive, without having drunk for so long- something we all want to aspire to. Obviously, as we all do, he has stresses and strains in his life, but has just chosen to not numb them with alcohol, focussing on his health and family instead. Janet also read us her goodbye letter to alcohol which was deeply moving and just resonated with me so much. Her words could have so easily been mine.

We then watched a video and got some really cool info in the form of a “Toolkit”, in other words, how to cope with going to parties etc and also on how to moderate for those who wanted to go that route.

Some tea followed and then each of us spoke of our action plans and what we were going to do going forward. Some chose to cut down or moderate and others decided it was time to say cheers to the booze forever.

At the end of the workshop we had some alcohol- free drinks in the form of “what to drink when you don’t drink drinks” and I was amazed at the variety. Non- drinkers really do have options. I particularly enjoyed the Duchess gin and the JC Le Roux champagne. There was also a nice beer but I forget the name.

Everybody was so supportive and encouraging and there was really nowhere else I would rather have been that day. I’ve already been in contact with some people from the course and being on the wattsapp group and private FB page is so comforting. Knowing that others are on the same journey as you are.

And by the sounds of it, it only gets easier and easier and more rewarding and it’s super awesome to be a non-drinker.

Well done Janet, you guys rock and the amount of people you help, inform and inspire is incredible. I would highly urge anyone who wants to change their relationship with alcohol to give this course a go. Nothing to lose. Just a better and healthier life to gain.”

 

Octsober – Vicky’s View!

It’s been a while since we asked Vicky to write something for us – it’s not easy to catch her in one place as she is such a globetrotter – Barbados, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Nicaragua – and that’s just the last few months!  She has written some beautiful pieces for us which you can catch up with HERE – and today you can read her views on Octsober:-

 

Why I didn’t do Octsober…

This may sound like heresy for a WWW audience, but bear with me!

Like many of us, I love a drink at the end of the day – and sometimes at lunchtime at the weekends. And yes, I do sometimes exceed the 14 units per week which is now the amount recommended by British doctors.

But I don’t feel the need to give up the booze for a whole month, and here’s why.

Everyone is different, so an addiction can be as little as the need to have one drink a day, or a whole bottle. Years ago a friend of mine, who drank no more than a glass every day, decided she was so reliant on it that she went into rehab.

My trick to maintaining my peace of mind is to have 2-3 alcohol free days per week. This is in fact the routine recommended by the Royal College of Physicians. Their reasoning is very simple: it takes the liver at least a day to recover from drinking alcohol so as long as you give it some free time you can keep it healthy. It is also reassuring to discover how easy it is to have alcohol-free days. My rule is that I never drink when I/we are home alone, but only when we go out. As this happens infrequently it is quite easy.

The benefits of giving up for a month (and for good) are extolled: better sleep, concentration, weight loss plus a reduction in cholesterol, glucose and fatty liver. Diabetes, linked to alcohol consumption, is an increasing danger as we get older, so reducing the amount we drink is important. I am not arguing against the benefits of not drinking at all…it’s just not for me!

Six and half years ago our daughter Louise died of an overdose of ketamine, and in 2013 I was diagnosed with a life-threatening soft tissue sarcoma, shortly after both parents had also died, and my husband had been operated on for prostate cancer. Luckily we are now in remission, whatever that means…but for me to punish myself by denying one of the remaining pleasures I have seems masochistic. This is not by way of excuse, just MY reasons why…

What is rarely mentioned is what happens when you start drinking again and go back to all those bad habits, where the norm is drinking every day. Soon all the benefits are completely wiped and you are putting your body under additional pressure after having cleansed it. As Professor Charles Bamforth of the University of California says, ‘Many people don’t realise that drinking in moderation has significant health benefits [you know that glass of red wine a day is good for the heart etc]. You are seriously mistaken if you think having a month without drinking will protect you from the effects of excessive drinking for the rest of the year. The best advice is to drink moderately throughout the year.’

For the record I did give up last January, because Janet asked me to! But I won’t do it again. Rather I will stick to my healthy regime of not drinking several days week. Because I know I can do it.

 

getting the sparkle back…

This is my first blogpost for more than a year – not because I “fell off the wagon” but because I have been busy building my alcohol free life – and making it awesome.

I started blogging the day I stopped drinking and used it to track my first year of sobriety – first blogpost was May 2015 so if you want the whole story just click HERE

I hope this new post is reaching some of those kind people who encouraged me through those tough early months – would love to hear from you and anyone else who would like to leave a comment!

One of the best things about sobriety has been the opportunity to help other people via the worldwithoutwine workshops – we run them in Cape Town and Joburg and more than a hundred people have attended – about a third of those people have stopped drinking completely, another third of them have cut down and the rest did not reply to our survey so I have concluded that they are still “in contemplation”.

Contemplation is actually a vital part of the change process – my decade of trying (and failing) to moderate was definitely “contemplation” before I finally accepted that I would have to stop drinking completely.

My biggest learning as I begin my third year of sobriety is that putting down that last alcoholic drink is just the beginning. If you don’t make some serious changes in your life then you end up trying to live your normal life with a big hole in it – where the booze used to be. I certainly went through that phase, feeling depressed – and stuck because I couldn’t even chase away the blues with wine. I used say that I felt as if I had lost more than I had gained – but now I feel the opposite. Now I know that you need to fill that big hole with stuff that’s going to lift you up, connect you with others and broaden your horizons.

I have learned so much about addiction since I got sober so am planning to share some of those learnings, as well as some personal insights, via a weekly blogpost – please follow me if you’d like to get notification when I post.

Never forget that the opposite of addiction is connection.

I leave you with a quote from Mary Karr:-

“When I got sober, I thought giving up was saying goodbye to all the fun and all the sparkle, and it turned out to be just the opposite”

That’s when the sparkle started for me”.

janet x

 

 

Top Six Benefits of Giving Up Alcohol

Now those Soberversary Celebrations are done have been taking some time to reflect on some of the benefits of giving up the booze…here are my top six:-

  • Finding my purpose – when wine plays such a big part in your life it is easy to drift through the days in a pleasant haze – giving up is a shock to the system – so much so that it creates a kind of “void” and demands a switch of pace.  It also kickstarts energy and creativity – I used mine to build a community via World Without Wine and it’s been hugely rewarding to know that our workshops have helped some people to quit drinking.  Have had to learn about websites, social media and marketing with the help of some pretty awesome people.  (Oli and Mari – thank you for your endless patience!)
  • Having a happy Husband – and I think Son & Girlfriend are pretty damn impressed as well 😉 Friends have been awesome and have supported me all the way – nobody’s dumped me (yet) for being “boring” – in fact some of them have even joined me in the quest for sobriety.  Have also acquired some new pals – my very own “sober buddy” plus those awesome WWW ladies.
  • Losing weight – without dieting!  Having grown up with Twiggy as role model have obviously been on an eternal “diet” – existed almost entirely on cigarettes and white wine throughout my teens and twenties – then switched to healthy eating and exercising a lot but of course knocking back plenty of alcohol on top.  Well would you believe it – dropped the booze and those stubborn kilo’s just melted away.
  • Emotional maturity – after a lifetime of using alcohol to enhance positive emotions and chase away the negative ones am finally managing to live “in the moment”.  Abusing alcohol is like hiding under a massive and comforting cape – remove that “numbing shield” and there is nowhere to hide – I have had to meet challenges head on, feeling raw and exposed but gradually I got my strength back and and am living my life full on.
  • Health has improved – better sleep, more energy.  As a breast cancer “survivor” I live with the possibility of a recurrence – but at least I don’t feel I am tempting fate by consuming vast amounts of wine.
  • Being in control of my life – no more waking up at 2am agonizing over what I may (or may not) have said the night before.  No more wasted mornings staggering around trying to function through the fog of a hangover. True I have sacrificed some highs but also lost the major lows – the depression that follows yet another failure “to moderate”.  Overall I feel calmer, more balanced – and happier..

Sexy Soberversary…

A whole year without alcohol – I did it!

It was certainly tough to begin with – but after about 6 months it got easier as the benefits started coming through – Year 2 here I come!

When I made the momentous decision to quit I tried to envisage my life without alcohol.  I imagined it would be just the same – only a little greyer, quieter and even a bit “boring”.  Little did I know my life was about to change significantly – in the most positive ways possible.

In fact I have been reflecting on the benefits of sobriety but decided there were so many that I would make that my next blog –  watch this space for my “top ten benefits of sobriety”.

So how did I celebrate that first Soberversary? – obviously champagne was out of question although a bottle of Pom Royale was a good start…

In fact I found multiple ways to celebrate:-

  • after a year of sobriety decided it was safe to write my “Goodbye Letter to Alcohol” – had an awesome response on Facebook to this letter – nearly 500 likes and 134 shares! – Son announced that meant it had “gone viral” which (I think) is a good thing – if you missed it then you can find it HERE
  • the lovely Fiona McCosh invited me to model for next year’s Sober and Sexy Calendar –  last year I did a feature on the launch of her 2016 calendar which you can see HERE   – the shoot was fun – you can see a “teaser” in the picture above – if you want to see more then you will just have to buy the calendar 😉  All proceeds to CTDCC (The Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre) and
  • submitted synopsis and sample chapters for my book proposal  – initial reactions from publisher are positive so now I must write another 50,000 words – provisional publication date February 2017.  Publisher not keen on my title which was to be “Living in a World Without Wine” as she said bookshops would place me next to the wine guides :-0.  Am now thinking one word title “SOBER” with subheading – “getting sober and loving your sober life”  but title definitely still work in progress – if you can think of anything better please send me a comment!
  • last but not least we went to fancy restaurant to celebrate in time honoured fashion – charming barman made me a Special Soberversary Mocktail…Talking of Mocktails hope you are enjoying “The Mocktail Series” with Linda and Jorja – love these guys – we had such fun making these videos – if you havn’t seen it then you can catch up with all 5 episodes HERE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sober and Sexy Calendar 2017 – looking for sponsors!

Fiona McCosh is busy putting together her calendar for 2017 – and looking for sponsors!

Her 2016 calendar was awesome and raised money for CTDCC (Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre)

Time to repost the interview I did with her last September:-

 

15 September 2015

Interview with Fiona McCosh, Irish-born Photographer
Irish-born photographer, Fiona McCosh, will be launching her Sober & Sexy exhibition on 29 September in Cape Town. The models in the Sober & Sexy calendar are all in long term recovery and Fiona, who celebrates her 4th year of sobriety on 19 September 2015 – a photo of herself illustrates September month.

Fiona sat down with Janet Gourand, Founder of World Without Wine (www.worldwithoutwine.com), to tell her story.

I come from a family with a history of alcoholism and depression. I always felt different and when I got drunk for the first time I took to it with such enthusiasm that I got alcohol poisoning! Later, I went to Art School and worked in a pub in the evenings. Speed, ecstacy and cocaine all featured in my life and boyfriends tended to share my enthusiasm for drugs and alcohol.

At the age of 36, someone introduced me to GHB. I used this drug to try to moderate my alcohol intake. For four years I was using alcohol and GHB (which is also called the ‘date rape’ drug as it causes users to pass out). One day, I dropped some GHB on my laptop and it melted the keyboard!

My ‘rock bottom’ lasted for about a year. I was living with a boyfriend and we would be awake for about two hours at a time – get high – then pass out again. We didn’t wash or clean our teeth or go out.

One day, I rang my mother who was so shocked by my appearance that she took me straight to the Priory – a rehab centre in the UK.

The Priory didn’t work for me but they suggested a rehab in South Africa. After 28 days in the South African rehab I was still a mess so I extended my stay for three months. After another two months in a sober house, I relapsed and managed to nip down the road and drink a bottle of vodka. There then followed a further four months of ‘research’ into why I needed to put down the red wine.

It took yet another stay in one more rehab centre in SA for me to finally get clean. The relapse had given me the necessary rude awakening I needed and I was able to work the “12 steps”. I still go to about four meetings a week and have an addiction counsellor but I have absolutely no cravings now and feel totally secure in my sobriety. I can socialise with people who drink although most of my friends are in recovery. I appreciate the laughter of people who have ‘suffered’ – somehow it’s more authentic. Cape Town has a vibrant recovery community and I now live here permanently. I feel like I have been given a new lease of life – a second chance.

Last year, I had the idea for the calendar. My passion for photography has been re-ignited and I was inspired by the Calendar Girls story based on women posing nude for a calendar in order to raise funds for a cancer charity. I actually had no trouble finding people to pose for me, so will probably publish a calendar every year!

My passion with the calendar is to spread a message of hope. If I can get clean, then anybody can! I want to raise awareness as well as money for a good cause. I am grateful for the gift of recovery and want to start a dialogue and encourage people to seek help. I am hoping that the Sober is Sexy show and calendar will help make it clear that there is a solution, that recovery is not only possible, but pleasurable – and even sexy sometimes!

Proceeds will be donated to the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre.

Anyone wanting to sponsor Fiona’s calendar for 2017 please make contact with Fiona or myself.


World Without Wine is a social network
that enables men and women to successfully moderate their drinking and become sober by developing tools to support their journey to sobriety. Workshops, sobriety coaching and support groups all work together to provide the encouragement needed.

 

For more information:
Website: www.worldwithoutwine.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/worldwithoutwine
Twitter: @WorldWoutWine

 

For more information contact:-

Fiona McCosh at Sober & Sexy on info@soberandsexy.co.za / 079 127 5357
or Dougie Dudgeon at Cape Town Recovery on bfd@butterflyeffect.co.za / 082 560 2296
or Janet Gourand at World Without Wine on janet@worldwithoutwine.com / 072 213 6064

 

 

goodbye letter to alcohol

May, 2016

Dear Alcohol,

This is one of the hardest letters I have ever had to write – how can we possibly break up after 40 years together? – my life has involved changing countries, changing jobs, even changing husbands and friends but never changing you – you were always there as my constant companion.

We met when I was still a teenager – you gave me the courage I needed to get through college and to make and sustain relationships. We had some wonderful times together – I flirted with drugs but stayed faithful to you. You were the best – and made me feel special.

You gave me confidence – I was still “me” but just an amplified version. You helped me soothe the pain when things were not so good – why suffer with difficult emotions when you were there to erase them?

As I got into my twenties there were a few warning signs – do you remember that time I got so hammered I passed out in the bath and my flatmate had to ring the fire brigade to knock the door down? That was a great story to tell – especially the bit when I woke up in hospital with a shrink by my bedside. How we laughed at that one!

You were there when I met my first husband who also loved a drink – as did all our friends. I deserted you briefly when I became pregnant with my son but I still remember how much I missed you and how happy I was when we were re-united to toast the baby’s arrival.

You never prevented me from succeeding in my career – surrounded by heavy drinking colleagues we all believed in “work hard play hard” and anyone missing the weekly drinking session was viewed with great suspicion and written off as “boring”.

After more than 20 happy years together trouble came when I married for the second time. For some inexplicable reason my second husband hated you.

He was jealous and resentful of the hold you had over me and I realised that I would have to choose. Much to your fury I chose him.

He made me see that I was lost in you and that you could even kill me. I went through breast cancer but you convinced me you were innocent and I needed you even more to dull the fear of dying.

There followed a decade of trying to “moderate”. The thought of losing you completely was anathema to me but surely we could all live together if you and I were to “cool” our relationship.

This “ménage a trois” worked for a while. For months at a time we would all get along fine. Then you would suddenly exert your power and make sure that we had a crazy time together. Blackouts, injuries and terrible hangovers would follow and I would hate myself for giving in to you. You had become controlling and just wouldn’t let me go. The push and pull was becoming too much to bear.

I came to the jumping off place.

Blackout followed blackout while my husband watched helplessly. Sometimes I could easily drink a couple of bottles of wine and feel nothing at all. I finally realised this could not go on – there would be no going back if I continued on this path.

So on May 23rd 2015 I made my decision. I told you it was over. My heart was heavy but you were ruining my life. That was a whole year ago so I know it’s possible to live without you.

How you struggled at first – every day you harped on and on at me. I had no peace. You told me I would never survive a party or social event with you.

Evenings at home without you beside me were endless – painful and pointless. Socialising was difficult. I could not even get to sleep without you and lay awake for hours wondering if I had done the right thing. Without you to encourage me I felt depressed, angry and resentful of everyone still drinking. You told me I would never cope with the bad times without you – after all what experience did I have of dealing with my emotions?

How I missed the “buzz” – that beautiful high that came after a few glasses of wine (especially on an empty stomach). Never mind that after the high I would sometimes come crashing down and end up in tears.

But I hung on in there – and very slowly it got better. Your voice became fainter, my friends stuck with me and of course my long-suffering husband was thrilled.

I now realise that during all those years of trying to “moderate” our relationship was actually as strong as ever – your hold on me was ever present. You would allow me to “cool it” for a while but then come right back with a vengeance and cause havoc in my life.

You were right, it was hard –and sometimes it still is. Looking back on my year of sobriety I still remember the dismal birthday, Christmas and New Year “celebrations” – how could I celebrate without you beside me. But I am learning – and Year Two is going to be easier now that your power over me has diminished and I have experienced the joy of living without you.

So thanks for the memories – I will never forget you and often smile as I think back to those crazy times we had together – but it’s time for me to try a new life now – and for me to continue to live without you…

Yours sincerely,

Janet