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. This week I talk to Kate from The Sober School.
Another Instagram friend, Kate is doing wonderful things in the Not Drinking community, her website The Sober School is a brilliant resource with a fab blog.
Kate coaches women through early sobriety and helps them navigate alcohol-free living with The Sober School. Her mission is to remove the stigma, misinformation and fear that surrounds addiction. Kate lives near Manchester in the UK and in her spare time she likes running, reading and drinking tea.
Location: Manchester, UK
1.What led you to think differently about drinking?
There was no dramatic rock bottom for me – I didn’t lose a job, my home or do anything terrible. On the outside, I’m sure it looked as if I had everything together. But I’d always been one of those people who had no off switch. Once I started drinking, I couldn’t stop. And by my late twenties, I’d gone from being a social drinker to someone who preferred drinking on their own, at home.
For several years, I went through phases of trying to quit, followed by periods of complete denial. In April 2013 something finally clicked; I just felt done. I was fed up of trying to make alcohol fit into my life. I realised that in exactly six months time, I’d turn 30. Drinking had made me so miserable, the idea of it following me into another decade was really depressing. I initially decided to stop for 100 days – now I’m coming up on four years!
2.How would you describe your relationship with alcohol now?
I don’t have a relationship with alcohol any more. I view it in much the same way I view cigarettes or heroin – I do not want that toxic, poisonous stuff in my body! I don’t miss alcohol at all.
3.What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced since your approach to alcohol shifted?
I drank because I wanted to pull the shutters down on my brain and escape from myself for a bit. In sobriety, I had to work on the underlying reasons that led me to want to numb out, and that was challenging at first.
We live in such a boozy world, the message often seems to be, “Don’t feel your feelings! Just drink through them!” It took me a while to realise that it’s actually easier to face things head on. Drinking is a bit like sticking your head in the sand – you’re ignoring life, not dealing with it. Nothing ever truly changes when you drink.
4.What lessons have you learnt about life (and yourself) since your relationship with alcohol has changed?
I’ve learnt that I’m a lot braver than I thought I was. I can work the room at a networking event and I can chat to complete strangers at parties. I never thought I’d be able to do those things stone cold sober, but then again, I’d never really tried before. When I first stopped, I hated the idea of being ‘different’.
Not drinking forces you to go against the grain, and I was scared of not fitting in. But being different has been very good for me – somewhere along the way I found a quiet confidence and inner strength that I didn’t know I had.
5. How do you start your day? Do you have a morning routine?
I wake up just before 7am and listen to the news on Radio 4 for about twenty minutes. I like to know what’s going on in the world, but at that time of the morning I need the information delivered in quiet, dulcet tones. Then I make a cup of tea or some hot water and lemon. I try and do some writing (Kate writes a brilliant blog on The Sober School) or creative work first thing, as this is when I work best. A bit later I’ll get dressed, have some breakfast and maybe head out for coffee before getting on with the rest of my day.
6. Do you have any rituals you always make time for?
Exercise is a big one for me – towards the end of last year I stopped doing this and I really felt it. When I exercise, I sleep better, eat better and feel better. I try and get to the gym 3 or 4 times a week. At the start of this year I challenged myself to do 10,000 steps a day for 100 days and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve been going for lots of long walks and listening to audio books and podcasts.
7. What’s your favourite thing to do (hangover free) at the weekend?
It’s hard to pick just one … The best thing about hangover-free weekends is that they are actually two days long! You don’t lose time drinking, recovering from drinking or wrestling with yourself about whether you’ll drink or not.
One of the things I realised in sobriety is that I’m an introvert, and I’m happiest when spending time with small groups of close friends – catching up over coffee, going shopping or cooking food. I also need plenty of time on my own to relax and recharge.
8. When it comes to your own personal development, what is one thing that you’re working on or learning right now?
I’m always reading books and educating myself about alcohol, addiction and the way our minds work. I think that’s so important. There’s new research being published all the time, so that work is never really ‘done’.
9. What is the one thing you’re obsessed with at the moment that’s making your life better?
I’m obsessed with getting enough sleep. I’m a pretty driven person and there’s always been a part of me that feels as if I can hack the system; if I just stay up late and get up early I’ll be able to do more, more, more! But of course it doesn’t work like that. I know I need eight hours sleep to be at my best. So at the moment I’m obsessed with trying to get to bed on time!
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’re regularly drinking too much – and it’s making you miserable – then give alcohol-free living a try. Just do it. Stopping drinking is the best thing I ever did. It has completely transformed my life and my only regret is not doing it sooner.
I suggest taking a complete break from booze. (This is much better than trying to moderate your intake or cut down. Moderation rarely works and it stops you giving alcohol-free living a proper chance.) Set a short term goal and stick to it. I think two or three months is ideal. 100 days would be fantastic. Think of it as an experiment; you’re not giving up ‘forever’ (that’s way too intimidating) you’re just testing out sobriety.
During your time off booze, really throw yourself into alcohol-free living. Give it 100%. Educate yourself. Read books about alcohol and addiction. Get support, either face to face or online. And get really clear on why you drank. What were you relying on alcohol for? If drinking was your go-to stress buster, you’ll need to think of some alternative coping mechanisms.
Finally, keep focused on what you’re gaining, not what you’re losing. Sobriety is about making your world a bigger, brighter place and working out who you really are… and I think you might just love it.