Welcome to The (Not) Drinking Diary Series! I’ll be chatting to people on alcohol and on life; about their sobriety, mindful drinking and/or alcohol free period.
Where to start with Jennie? I stumbled upon Jennie’s instagram page & blog when I first started Girl & Tonic and in an instant was hooked. She is refreshingly honest and a blooming brilliant writer, she’s currently working on a book that I CANNOT WAIT to read when it’s out in the world. I took the below quote from her website, it is something I also feel deep at my core, read on for more of her wisdom & enjoy!
“Living sober is no longer something I feel obliged to do, it’s something that I get the opportunity to do and I’m fucking ecstatic about it! It’s now the lifestyle choice that I 100% prefer to my former drunk and dependent approach to living.” Jennie Nelson
Name: Jennie Nelson
Age: 30 something
Location: The Midlands, England, United Kingdom
1.What led you to think differently about drinking?
What started off as something I loved to do on occasion with my friends became something I’d do compulsively, on my own and, in the end, seemingly against my will. I recognised at some point during my 20’s that my relationship with drinking wasn’t healthy. That it was something that created problems and didn’t think I could live happily without. I wrestled with it in so many ways and got myself into countless dangerous situations whilst under the influence of it. It made me feel so ill and I realised that whenever I tried to go without it, I didn’t have any other coping mechanisms in place that I could fall back on. I’d relied on it too much for too long and I could see that the pattern was getting progressively worse.
I didn’t want to keep going down that path, feeling that depressed, dependent, ill or anxious. So eventually, after years of consistent and increasingly destructive drinking behaviour, I made it my mission to stop completely and learn a whole new healthy lifestyle.
How would you describe your relationship with alcohol now?
At this point, at nearly 3 years on since I last drank alcohol, unless I’m specifically being asked about it or I’m working on a new blog or a podcast for my website, it’s not something that’s on my mind. Certainly not in the same way that it used to be and I think that’s because I don’t rely on it for anything anymore and haven’t done for some time.
I’ve addressed the underlying reasons that used to make me want to numb out and turn to drink in the first place and so I no longer need it or crave it. I haven’t had that restless ‘I need a drink’ feeling for a good couple of years now. I think because over the last 5 years or so I’ve done so much research on it, I’m able to see it for exactly what it is; a harmful psychoactive drug that fools the imbiber into thinking things that aren’t true. It’s a widely abused legal substance that wreaks havoc in so many ways in the lives of the majority of people who use it – whether they’d class themselves as problem drinkers/dependent users/addicts/alcoholics or not.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced since your approach to alcohol shifted?
Developing new habits, hobbies, thought processes, friendships, relationships – basically having to re-model my life because so much of it used to revolve around drinking and then it didn’t. It’s not remotely an issue anymore a few years in, but at first and for a while that was the biggest challenge to overcome and it did feel overwhelming in the early days. I remember feeling lonely, bored and restless and as though life just wasn’t worth living unless I could be with my friends, in the pub, drinking. Over time and with effort though, things changed and got immeasurably better. There is absolutely nothing to fear.
What lessons have you learnt about life (and yourself) since your relationship with alcohol has changed?
That just because you might believe, with all of your heart, that something is impossible, doesn’t mean that it is.
That things do and can change.
That we are capable of far more than we realise.
That there are many different paths to the same destination and you have to go your own way.
That sometimes other people will want you to drink and that’s their problem not yours.
That some people will probe and pester and pressure you about the fact that you’re not drinking and it’s perfectly okay, in fact it’s your duty, to get away from these sorts of controlling people as fast as you can. And that you must not feel guilty about it.
5. How do you start your day? Do you have a morning routine?
Most days I wake up at 6am, eat a healthy breakfast, drink camomile tea, (I rarely drink caffeine and never drink coffee) go to the gym, do HIIT and lift weights for about an hour, chug a litre of water whilst I’m there, have a hot shower, drive back home, get dressed properly, eat a healthy post workout snack and then crack on with the rest of the day.
Do you have any rituals you always make time for?
I wouldn’t call them rituals but I definitely have a few healthy routine things that I always strive to do regularly: I workout 4-5 times per week on average. I try to mediate for 3 minutes every day. I do yoga and stretch most days. I keep a gratitude list which I add to and read a couple of time each week. I cook and bake and make batches of healthy veggie food prep once or twice per month. I drink at least 3 litres of water every day and I always make time to read and relax and help other people whenever I can. I don’t function well on less than 8 hours sleep so I’m usually tucked up in my big comfy bed by 9pm every night watching something on Netflix.
What’s your favourite thing to do (hangover free) at the weekend?
Anything at all! That’s the beauty of living sober – you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. There are no restrictions. You never have to miss out on anything. You life authentically and freely. You never feel like you want to go out but can’t because you’re too ill with a hangover. You don’t lose half of your weekends to recovering from drinking.
I love to get up early, get to the gym, do a sweaty workout, shower off, eat delicious wholesome food and then do whatever takes my fancy. It could be anything. I’ve made amazing friendships with other sober women over the last few years and we often get together and we have such a laugh. I still have my old friendships and we still have good times whenever we get together, but regularly socialising with people whose lives don’t remotely revolve around the need to get drunk in order to have fun is the best – because I certainly couldn’t envisage that when I was still drinking.
When it comes to your own personal development, what is one thing that you’re working on or learning right now?
I’m currently writing a book, so alongside all the other general life-admin stuff that we all have to take care of, I’m having to work really hard on self discipline and patience right now. Like most things though, if you just take it easy and focus on one step at a time, you start to build new, better habits and before long something that you never thought you’d get used to becomes second nature.
What is the one thing you’re obsessed with at the moment that’s making your life better?
Learning more and more about all aspects of health, exercise and nutrition. I watch loads of documentaries about it and they inspire me to push harder and do better. I stopped eating meat and dairy last year and noticed another big leap forward health-wise since doing that. I stopped drinking caffeine too about six months ago (I’ll have the very occasional cup of tea or coke) and immediately noticed that removing that from my diet instantly and massively reduced feelings of anxiety.
10, And finally, thinking differently about alcohol can be challenging and isolating, is there any advice you turned to or do you have any words of wisdom for people reading this?
If you ever feel like you might have a problem with drinking, if you suffer regularly with hangovers or you do things drunk that you wouldn’t do sober, or if you ever feel like you want to stop drinking – just do it. You are capable and you are not alone.
You don’t have to wait for a catastrophic ‘rock bottom’ before you try a new way of life. If you’re sober curious perhaps consider committing to a year of sober living to begin with and in that time throw absolutely everything you’ve got into a whole new lifestyle. There are interesting sober people all over the place, doing far more interesting things than hanging around in pubs and clubs throwing back drink after drink – you just have to find them and reach out to them, with the internet at your fingertips it couldn’t be easier.
I never in my wildest dreams thought that I’d be able to stay sober for even a few months in the beginning let alone nearly 3 years, much less be happy about it, and yet here I am; sober and happy. There was a lot of trial and error in the beginning but I kept trying and slowly but surely I built up strength and resolve and things got easier with time and experience. It’s hands down one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life so far and it could be for you too.
Jen in her own words: Hello, my name is Jen and it’s been almost 3 years since I last drank alcohol. I’ve worked in the media industry most of my adult life and I created my brand Off The Rocks after I’d gone through my own struggle with addiction and my own subsequent recovery from it. Off The Rocks is a collection of modern resources for people who are sober curious.
From personal experience I understand how stigmatised and woefully misunderstood addiction is and how hard it can be to find the right help. I don’t believe that recovery from addiction is a ‘one size fits all’ process, neither do I believe that it should have to be endured anonymously.
My ambition is to help and inspire people recovering from any type of addictive tendency and to prove that the journey to sobriety can be an inclusive, positive, applauded and supported, superior life choice. That it’s a radically creative real life, real-time adventure.