1000 Sober Days : Why I Quit Alcohol Forever

Exactly a year after I ditched the drink I wrote a “Goodbye to Alcohol” letter.  You can hear me read it out on Eusebius McKaiser Show HERE

As I said in my letter, that first year was tough but yes it got easier as alcohol gradually loosened its grip.

So now that I am on the homerun for my third soberversary and have clocked up a staggering 1,000 days without a single glass of wine it seems about time to check in again.

Let’s rewind to early 2015. Still very much a “functioning alcoholic” I was (just about) holding it all together. Living in my beloved Cape Town, lovely family, nice home, good friends etc.   Trying hard to “make a difference” by volunteering at a business school but something was “off” – something just felt wrong…

I had managed to integrate Sauvignon Blanc into my life to such an extent that the first drink would often be just before midday when it was time for an “apéro” – which would then morph seamlessly into a couple more large glasses with lunch. By the time 5pm came around another cork would pop to see me through the (early) evening.

This was just a quiet day at home, the evening may get a bit blurry and there would be the inevitable 2am wake up call which would find me full of anxiety but there was rarely any alcohol related drama.

If I had succeeded in engineering an evening out then the drinking would step up a notch.   In the restaurant I would pay more attention to the waiter (source of more wine) than my friends.  I would get irritated with anyone unable to keep up with my enthusiastic drinking pace.

Always the last one to leave any social event I felt like I was “living the life”.

I was, of course, completely fucked but back then it didn’t feel that way.

It felt pretty damn good actually.

Of course were the blackouts, the injuries, the dramas and the horrible depressions – but everyone got those that when they “overdid” it – didn’t they?

Of course I was not an “alcoholic” – those were the homeless guys down by the beach…ag shame.

Of course this was not going to end well…

The end came in the form of a “rock bottom”

And I am truly grateful for that “rock bottom”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Rock Bottom” took place during a weekend away with some lovely friends – friends who all liked “a drink” but I was the only one who had a “walking, talking blackout” with absolutely no recall of an entire afternoon – even though allegedly I had been functioning in a relatively “normal” way.

After that weekend I just knew I was “done”.

What the actual fuck was wrong with me?

I was so privileged, so blessed in my life – what possible excuse did I have for drinking myself to death.

After all a blackout doesn’t mean you’ve “forgotten” what happened – it just means that the brain is so soaked in alcohol that it cannot make any memories in the first place!

Did I really want to be messing with my brain like this?

I don’t think so.

So I did it – I ditched the drink!

My greatest achievement in life – what a ride it has been!

 

YEAR ONE

 

Year one was tough, very tough. Convinced I was in for a life of deprivation – the fun times were over and now I would be leading a quiet and dutiful life. (yawn)

The benefits came in as promised – yes I lost weight, slept better, my skin looked great, eyes were clearer – I saved money – and yes I even learned to love mornings.

In spite of all that good stuff, life felt just a little “flat” – now that I wasn’t planning my drinking, doing my drinking or getting over it I seemed to have a lot of time on my hands – time I wasn’t quite sure what to do with.

I felt like I was facing a bit of a “void” and got rather depressed – no doubt my body was so used to letting alcohol make me feel good that it had forgotten how to produce the dopamine which would give me some “natural highs”..

True there were no massive “lows” or 3am despair fests – but there weren’t any highs either.

Everybody was so “proud of me” that I would never have admitted my moments of doubt – my moments of wondering if I had done the right thing – what if I had “lost more than I had gained” here?

I hung in there, mainly because I couldn’t work out what else to do – just as I had been “trapped” in my drinking I now seemed to have painted myself into a corner and “trapped” myself in sobriety…

 

YEAR TWO

 

Things slowly got better. The mists began to clear and I could sense a whole new life on the horizon. I got “glimpses” of how my life was meant to be…

One day I realised that the little knot of anxiety that had resided in my stomach for decades had moved out…giving me courage to try new things, to meet new people, to start a new business.

Year two was about getting out there and “doing the work” – developing “sober skills” as I began to navigate our alcohol drenched society.

No longer fazed by parties I learned the art of listening to other people rather than hiding in a corner clutching my AF drink and feeling awkward.

I could feel my courage and confidence growing, day-by-day.

I realised that many people were rather intrigued by us non-drinkers so I began to have fun coming up with increasingly bizarre reasons why I didn’t drink.

I realised that there would always be a tricky moment when the wine arrived in a restaurant but I also realised that the moment took about 30 seconds to pass – and then I could just relax and enjoy the meal and the conversation.

I had spent so many years using booze to “take the edge off” that I had made myself numb. Just as a dental injection gradually wears off I could feel my mental numbness dissipate as the synapses started firing again.

Best of all I kept having ideas and wondered if it was “normal” to keep emailing myself with yet another bright idea?

Then it came to me.

My brain was no longer anaesthetised and my creativity was returning – big time!

This was exciting stuff.

YEAR THREE

Here I am just a few months away from my third Soberversary and I feel like a completely different person.

My self-esteem is back as I no longer have to agonize about my lack of “willpower” as yet another attempt at “moderation” comes crashing down.

I now realise that giving up drinking is a hundred times easier than trying to “moderate” and truly regret that my “fear” of living in a world without wine held me back for so many years!

I now realise that all those years hopping on and off the wagon meant that my subconscious mind was registering that sobriety was miserable and difficult.

I now realise that all those years hopping on and off the wagon meant that I never actually broke through to the “other side” – to experience the joys of an alcohol free life!

When I spot the title of a new book “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” I have to smile – that more or less sums up how I feel these days…

I used to daydream about “retirement”. I knew I would live in a hot country and was pretty sure my life would involve a fair amount of sitting down in a garden with a large glass of wine in order to “wind down” and “chill out” as a reward for a lifetime of hard work.

Well how wrong I was.

Rather than “winding down” I feel as if I have embarked on some kind of spiritual journey as I find my purpose and work harder than ever before!

They say the opposite of addiction is connection..

I have a deeper connection with my husband and son.

WorldWithoutWine.com has connected me with sobriety advocates from all over the world.

It has connected me with people coming through our workshops and signing up for recovery coaching.

This work is incredibly rewarding.

After all as #sobersister and author Clare Pooley says in a recent blog “ex-drinkers rock”

Well yes Claire – actually we do 😉

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

Hi everyone!

I love New Year – somehow the idea of a “clean slate” and a whole clean shiny year ahead makes me happy.

I have always been a “goal setter” – it’s probably in my DNA after 30 years of corporate life! I still set goals but of course but now it’s all around the development of World Without Wine together with some personal goals.

Before I quit drinking I would always set a goal to “cut down” on alcohol – what a waste of time that was! Now that I have educated myself about alcohol I can see that it was rather a futile goal. Not only is alcohol chemically designed to be addictive but I am one of those people who don’t possess an “off” switch and will never be able to “drink responsibly”.

By using will power alone I would usually manage a dry (ish) January but inevitably come February I would be out of control again – and feeling miserable.

These days it gives me such a thrill to just jot down “maintain sobriety” and be fairly confident that it will happen. My life has changed so much since I stopped drinking on May 23rd 2015 that I agree 100% with sober celeb Matthew Perry who says:-

“The thing is if I don’t have my sobriety I don’t have anything”

 

Our Dry January Challenge is flying!  We have already raised R26,000 which is enough to provide yoga classes for more than 100 children in Khayelitsha and Lavender Hill schools.  I will be on the Eusebius McKaiser Show (Cape Talk/702) on Monday 8th January to talk more about Dry January so hopefully that will shake out a few more donations!

The Challenge is open until the end of January so you can even register on 31st January and do a “Dry February” – after all it is the shortest month 😉

All you need to do is to make a small donation to a good cause and we will send you an email every day full of tools, tips and motivation to get you through an alcohol free month.  If you have the slightest doubt that taking just one month off alcohol has significant health benefits then you need to read THIS.

If you are looking to make a permanent change and go for an Alcohol Free Life (spoiler alert:  it’s awesome) then this Challenge could give you just the start you need.  We are in touch with most of the people who have been through our workshops (that’s nearly 200 people) and I have come to an interesting conclusion recently.  A bit of an a-ha moment for me.

Of the people who want to quit completely most of them find:-

The first 30 days is the toughest time (so it makes sense to use the Dry January Challenge to get access some online support)

As people complete their first 100 days it gets easier as the brain gets “rewired”, the body begins to heal and not drinking becomes the new normal.  During this time people say that they get GLIMPSES of the benefits of alcohol free living – and they like what they see.

After 6 months people tend to be in a completely different place mentally and physically.  Anxiety levels have plummeted, energy is sky high, they have lost weight and no longer fear socialising without alcohol as they have learned the survival tricks.

The sad thing is that many people (and I was one) spend their lives getting on and off the wagon which means that they do those first few weeks over and over again – and of course those first few weeks are the hardest and you never get to experience any of the many benefits of sober living.  The result of wallowing in these dark days of trying and failing is that your subconscious mind picks up the idea that this is what sobriety is all about – and it sucks… – that could be why sobriety gets such a bad press and is labelled as boring and difficult.

So whether you want to use the Dry January Challenge to get you through those tough early days on the way to permanent sobriety, or whether you just fancy a 30 day “detox” please click HERE and register right now!

janet xxx

 

Do you Dare to go Dry this December?

10 Reasons to be Dry this December

It’s the last day of November and the traffic is hectic, the shops are heaving, the party invites are flooding in and your relatives are already squabbling over whose turn it is to host the Christmas get-together.  Your head is spinning and your to-do list is getting longer by the day.

Same old, same old – every flippin’ year… but… why not make this year just a bit DIFFERENT?

No I’m not talking about cancelling Christmas but I am talking about a whole new way of coping.  Yes I’m talking about a DRY DECEMBER!

I know it’s crazy, I know it’s “off the wall” but sometimes it feels good to swim against the tide…

So here we go – 10 reasons to be dry this December…

  1. December is a madly busy time – chances are that whatever your profession you will be busy at work, busy socially – and of course busy creating that “perfect Christmas” for your family.  If you give up alcohol for December you can actually claw back a lot of time.  Time usually devoted to planning drinking sessions, drinking and then getting over the drinking.
  2. Everybody does “Dry January” but only the seriously cool people do “Dry December” and then start the new year feeling fantastic – rather than exhausted and poisoned with excess food and alcohol. Always remember that “sober is sexy”
  3. There is never a perfect time to give up or cut down on alcohol – there will always be a party, a wedding or that “teambuilding” event coming up.  In fact December is just about the most crazy time to take a break from the booze – but maybe crazy is how you roll?
  4. You will reduce your stress as you “take control” – you will sleep better and steam through your “to-do” list and even begin to feel slightly superior to your pals as they struggle with their hangovers…if your friends give you a hard time just tell them you are doing 30 dry days to raise money for Earthchild – maybe they will even join you…
  5. You will have a wonderful excuse for avoiding the dreaded “office party” – “I’m taking a break from alcohol at the moment so think I will give it a miss this year” – let somebody else do the “walk of shame” through the open plan office the morning after the office Christmas party.  You can be sure you will hear about exactly who did what to whom before the day draws to a close.
  6. You won’t have that anxiety in your heart about the amount you are drinking and the nagging thought that you really must do something about it come January – you will be way ahead of the game this year…
  7. Action is the key – “Just Do It” – at least get through those first few days in December “alcohol free” – and if you can’t manage it then maybe you do need to seriously think about addressing your relationship with alcohol.
  8. You will lose weight!  We are surrounded by super-fattening foods during December and after a glass of wine or two we just get stuck in.  Staying sober means you can stay in control of what you are eating and drinking.  As an extra bonus you can opt out of the dieting misery train that we are all supposed to board come January 1st.
  9. A lot of people worry that they cannot enjoy themselves without alcohol – but think about it – what makes a good Christmas?  – being with your family and seeing the joy on the children’s faces as they open their presents – or knocking back the booze?
  10. At the very least a sober Christmas will be an interesting experiment – even if you hate it you will have tried – and who knows – you may even discover a whole new side of yourself…

To help you on your way WorldWithoutWine have launched their “Dry January Challenge” which in fact can also be “Dry December” if you dare – just make a small donation by clicking HERE

In return you will receive a daily motivational e-mail from WorldWithoutWine to keep you on track for 30 days.

We are raising money for the Earthchild Project – just as we did last year –  check out this 5 minute movie we made about how we spent the R30,000 we raised last year..

Thanks for reading!

Dry January Challenge – 2018!

So excited about our 2018 Dry January Challenge!

 

 

Yet again WorldWithoutWine has teamed up with the fabulous Earthchild Project in a fundraising project to provide children in Khayelitsha and Lavender Hill with yoga and life-skills classes.

This is our third year of working together and the generosity of our donors has meant that so far we have been able to sponsor more than 300 children.

Over the past 12 years Earthchild have taught yoga to thousands of children in disadvantaged areas.

Yoga is a powerful and practical tool that supports the physical, mental and emotional development of the child.

Yoga empowers vulnerable children to transform their lives and communities.

Just R250 provides a child with weekly yoga and life-skills classes for a year

 

This is how it will work:-

In order to participate you will need to resolve to give up alcohol for a 30 day period.

The registration period is open from right now to the end of January so just pick your 30 day window – for example you might decide to be dry from 1-30 January or if you are still on holiday during early January you might prefer to choose 15 January-15 February.  You can even register on 31 January and end on 2nd March.  Or if you are anxious to get started or just like to be different why not sign up right now and go for a Dry December (!)

Once you have decided on your dates please reflect on how much you would have spent on alcohol during those 30 days and divert that money (or a proportion of it) to Earthchild.  Just a couple of bottles of wine comes in at R250 which already covers one child’s yoga classes for a year – how many bottles do you get through in a month?  Enough to fund several children’s classes perhaps?

So once you have decided how much you can afford to donate please click HERE and make your donation.  Then email me at worldwithoutwine@gmail.com with the dates of your “Dry January” and I will set up your daily e-mails.  BTW for the benefit of our regular donors I have written a whole batch of new Daily Mails for this year!

So lets have a healthy start to 2018 and help (at least) 120 kids have a better 2018!

I look forward to hearing from you!

janet x

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.”

 

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