When you think back to July 2022 what made you want to change your relationship with alcohol?
I had been doing a lot of thinking over a few years and I had tried to monitor things and rein back my binge drinking. My spiritual friend sent me an inspirational message one Saturday on YouTube and I saw there were many messages behind that message I kept going and then there were you. I listened to your entire message and that was that it could not have felt like a better moment and my conviction was completely strong, that’s how it happened, it came to me, you came to me!
Before we started working together, how often were you drinking?
I would fall into binge drinking category. I always knew I didn’t have a stop button once I got going. It sneaks up on you and then you think I have to do something about this because I don’t like me when I am drinking. Red wine became my pretend friend. I would stop for a few weeks and then start again and even on the course I started again. This has got to stop, kept occurring and then here we are again.
When you think about your drinking at home, do you think it made it easier to slip into a dangerous level of drinking?
I would for various factors, although people say don’t drink alone, when you are alone and you want to numb out you don’t walk into a pub and start drinking, you stay at home and it fills the illusionary loneliness hole and there is no one there to comment on how much you are drinking. There is no winning in the situation at all.
You joined JTT and started the program. Were you sceptical that it would work for you?
I don’t think I was, I didn’t listen to you and then signed up to speak to you thinking I needed convincing. I had a gut feeling that it was the right thing to do, my biggest instinct said this was the right thing to do.
What was it like to be part of the JTT group, it can be nerve-racking thinking what are these people going to be like, what was your own experience?
I LOVED it. I absolutely loved it, all the aspects, the modules, the 1-2-1’s, and the interaction in the WhatsApp group. I am a very open person and enjoy socialising, very quickly it was an amazingly warm feeling that there were people out there that just got it and we were all in it together. I could say I was having a good day, or a bad day and people were laughing and crying sharing with like-minded people sometimes it could be good and intense I never once felt uncomfortable, quite the opposite.
Tell me about shame
There is such a stigma that they are not able to control their drinking and shame seems to be doled out in huge dollops if you admit to over drinking. I have never felt shame in the group and I think for me that is one of the strongest positives that I say about this programme. I have never felt I’ve been denied anything. I feel really proud and I am really proud to say I don’t drink.
When we stop drinking it feels difficult to imagine that we won’t feel deprived, that is a hard concept to get our head around and often people are concerned about this. Tell me what that feels like now to not feel deprived.
I guess everyone starts out differently, when I started my commitment was to stop, I had already stopped a few weeks before, I suppose there have been moments; Christmas day when I was with my family, they asked me to help choose a bottle of Róse; I looked at the bottle and it looked gorgeous it was like an illusion of this pretty pink bottle. Other people have said if you had said at the beginning I was thinking moderation and I think the way you address people’s lack of control with alcohol you make it much more comfortable and I never felt it was the golden elixir that I wasn’t allowed
From time to time life gets in the way, and you had a break as you were having a difficult time.
My father died in May last year and I helped nurse him. Attending his funeral was my mum, sister and me.
His memorial service in September that my mother insisted we have; I didn’t want this because it would start the grieving process again. In August I started the slippery slope again and I didn’t go to the committal of my father’s ashes because I couldn’t cope with it but I did go to the memorial service and then I really did go out of control I drank when I got home and spiralled down for a few months. When I came out the other side, I thought I am ready to start again.
How did that feel getting back into it, did it feel different when you came back?
I wasn’t made to feel that since I’d been away into a bad place, certain members of the group had changed, new people had come in and you made me feel like that period had happened but now I was renewed and starting again. I had even more conviction that I needed to do this and it’s 100 days next Wednesday.
We examined some of your old beliefs and challenged them.
I feel the preparation for the MINDSET SHIFT TECHNIQUE was really transformational. I sat with my journal and methodically looked at the distant past and stopping and thinking and telling myself some real positive home truths. It felt therapeutic, the act of saying it, sharing it, stopping and reflecting it almost like a cleansing process.
How did it feel to share that with other people in the group?
It was wonderful, I wasn’t doing it for anyone other than me, but the fact it helped other people, I bared my drinking soul to everyone and never thought what would they think of me, quite the opposite, I thought this is who I am, if it helps other people know that it is ok to absolutely tell the truth as it is, all the better. I hope it continues to help other people. The whole power of the group can’t be oversaid. Groups do help each other and the connection with like-minded people and it’s another brilliant tool in the Just the Tonic toolbox.
The idea of AA was horrifying for me when I was stopping drinking .
I know people who have tried institutional rehab such as the Priory and I know one or two people that have tried AA. The institutions cost a fortune, the success rates seem to be poor and I couldn’t see myself in a cold room on a plastic chair, saying “Hi i’m an alcoholic”; absolutely not it seemed such a sterile and shame-worthy approach. I don’t feel they have the tools that I now have with the JTT programme. Other techniques work for other people, the scientific side of this and the touchy part of this communicating with other people and making friends, and friends for life hopefully; it is an environment that feels safe and safe is very important.
Would you say you are enjoying your life more since July last year?
It is completely and utterly different. In the most positive way, I sleep amazingly, I don’t worry I don’t toss and turn but I do wake up like a jack in the box in the morning. I am probably annoyingly energetic and my outlook is pure gratitude for everything. I just think thank god for Sandra! I have no anxiety, no paranoia which was so crippling. It is freedom, it is like the shackles are off.
At the end of the year you joined Upgraded Life. How has that been for you?
I have really enjoyed it. In the beginning, it felt different because it is not as intense as the JTT program, but it’s the same but different, with lots of support and forming relationships with people but it is more encompassing about how we are trying to manage our new alcohol-free life.
Is it inspiring when you join the group to see people that are AF free for a longer time?
Yes absolutely, some people have almost forgotten how long they have been AF, because they have moved on. I am delighted I joined the upgraded life, it is something I would highly recommend to people who are finishing the JTT program. It avoided the void of not being part of that group anymore and you adjust to a different way of the group working and this works for this particular upgraded life and it is just as much fun, just as supportive, just as inclusive, safe, shame-free, you get to know more bits about people, it is different, as good if not better because we are all in a better place.
What would you say to someone if they were watching this video and they are worried about their drinking, what advice would you give them?
I would say if you can relate to even half of what i have been talking about then please do something about it as I wish I had done something about this a long long time ago. There are so many different types of drinkers doing this, and we are all doing incredibly well. It is the best thing I have ever done and thank god for Sandra we should call you Saint Sandra. I feel really privileged to be part of this. And you must feel just so full of self-admiration and joy because you have helped all these people who are going on to live longer, happier, healthy mentally and physical lives. You introduced them to this. You are the springboard. It is an enormous privilege really to be able to help people and trust in me and speak to people in the beginning and getting excited because I know that I can help them and I know how different it will be for them. It is also your understanding of knowing how to interact with people and we all know we are accountable to ourselves and Sandra. I am so energised and happy, all of those things, it is the best thing I ever did.