How long are you alcohol free for? … 9 and half months
When you first contacted Just the Tonic (one year ago), you were asked how much you drank and you said,
I drink most days everyday around 3. I start craving a drink and by the time I finish work at 5.30 it is impossible not to drink and at the weekend I generally start much earlier because it is the weekend. I have been told by countless people that I have an alcohol problem and that means that I drink more frequently alone and away from anyone, always out of work, although 5 years ago I used to drink during lunchtimes too. I have tried and failed too many times to utilise willpower to moderate, although I look and feel great after a couple of days of not drinking yet I can not stick to it.”
Looking at this one year later that out, how does it make you feel now?
I feel so incredibly happy and proud of what of achieved and when I think about how I felt this time last year I felt pretty helpless, I didn’t know what else to do, I knew that I felt different about alcohol than a lot of other people and lockdown had confirmed that to me in a number of different ways, so to look back on that and think I couldn’t see a way out. I feel really happy that I am here now and I feel very sad for myself for a year ago.
Alcohol was a problem for you a year ago, what made you finally decide that you want to make a change?
There wasn’t really one thing, there was a series of lots of different things, I questioned alcohol about 7/8 years ago why I didn’t have an off switch when others did, I always felt so tired, I wasn’t sleeping well, there were lots of little moments.
I think the reason why I got into the coaching with you was over lockdown. My boyfriend moved in with me and it went from 2 separate houses to living lockdown together and I couldn’t hide my drinking anymore. He asked me a few confronting questions that I didn’t have an answer for. He asked me why I was drinking when I said I wouldn’t. I would wake up on a Monday morning saying I wouldn’t drink that day and by 6pm that night I would be opening a bottle of wine and he said to me why are you drinking when you said you wouldn’t and I didn’t have an answer for that I just said I thought that is what everyone does and he said no it isn’t; if I say I’m not drinking I don’t and that played on my mind for so many months and that probably was the final moment when I need to figure out what is going on in my head about alcohol
How did you come across me?
Scrolling as you do online and advert popped up – it was my thoughts on a piece of paper as it asked questions ‘do you struggle to control alcohol consumption, do you wonder why you don’t have an off switch’ etc…
I watched the webinar and didn’t for one second think it would work for me.
We had our first chats and decided it was a good fit, and you signed up … what were you hoping for?
If I dig deep I was hoping for an answer/solution, I thought the best I could hope for was a few tips to help me moderate, as I spoke to you more and the process went on I felt a bit more confident that it would work but I was adamant I was going to moderate at the end of it I wanted to be able to have a drink or not have a drink and be ok with it.
For the first 2 months there is no requirement to stop drinking, we spend the first two months building up your mindset, did you find that approach worked for you?
Yes I wasn’t prepared to say goodbye to alcohol for any length of time, I wasn’t prepared to do that from day one if I had started and you had said for the next 3 months you can’t drink I don’t think I would have learnt what I have learnt.
I think doing modules whilst you are still drinking, learning about what alcohol does to you and then drinking that night and putting in to practise what you are learning, was absolutely the right thing for me.
How did you like being part of a group?
It was so comforting and supportive to get onto a zoom call and they were all ‘normal’, they were welcoming, and I could relate to everything I was saying and they were saying and suddenly you have a network of people you can talk to, that made me feel not so unusual, they were not judging and gave frank feedback and support.
I had battled internally for so long, what was wrong with me, why couldn’t I say no, why couldn’t I stop drinking, why was I always thinking about drinking, I could open up to people in the group and I couldn’t do this with my friends outside of this process because of shame. I don’t feel the shame now that I did before.
Before we started working together how much were you drinking on average a week?
5-7-9 bottles a week, sometimes every night I would drink a bottle at weekends that could be doubled.
You’re not drinking now, is that difficult?
NO it is not tough at all, something just changed one day, it didn’t happen fully in the 30 days. It was challenging but as time has gone on and I have done more things alcohol free, such as weddings, parties, work events I have done so many of them now that I feel so happy and settled in my choice not to drink and the next day feel so amazing, there are some odd challenging when I get a craving and get triggered but I have the tools to be able to deal with them. It’s not 100% easy but it is not a difficult challenge anymore.
What was it like starting a new job and doing this process?
It made it so much easier, I started a new job 2 weeks into the 30 day challenge, so I wasn’t confident in my not drinking status but I had discovered that alcohol was 100% the reason why I hadn’t been able to sleep. I was able to focus on what I was being taught in the first weeks of my job. I was fully present for everything I was being shown during the handover.
On day 25 I went out on a works do to a wine bar, all the wine was poured in glasses in front of me; so that was a challenge, because I was with people I didn’t know, I could smell the wine but because I had the tools to work through it, I was the only one not drinking and it wasn’t an issue.
You became alcohol free and you decided to join the upgraded life programme
I was feeling so happy about where I was and positive and the things I could achieve because I saw how much better life was when I wasn’t drinking and I wanted to push that further and I wanted to keep the support and the opportunities that open up. Your brain is functioning, you have more time, you feel more stable in your emotions, you feel like there are so many things you can achieve and the group gives structure and accountability and I thought would enable me to achieve more things.
When you joined the group, there were others that joined at the same time as you, do you feel you have made good friends?
Absolutely yes I have quite a few and we often have catch up phone calls or zoom calls and it’s really nice because we have all been through this and understand the process and you open up to the group and you don’t necessarily open up to other people in your life.
What was it like to meet people from the group in real life when we met up in September?
It was so weird but so good – it was almost like you were meeting up with old friends that you hadn’t seen for 10 years. We hugged and had an instant connection, even though we had only ever met over zoom calls.
What has your partner noticed?
He said at first he was nervous because he wondered what he could do to help me and would he do anything to hinder me but when he learnt it was fine and this was a process I was going through and over time our relationship has got so much better we connect so much better now, we do so much more now, because we are not spending all our time in a pub, we do things with our day so we feel more satisfied and happy, the relationship is so much better and he said last weekend I am so happy that you did this.
What would you say to someone who is thinking that sounds like me, but nervous about doing anything about it?
I would say if you think you have tried everything you really haven’t this is something really different, it isn’t just about an alcohol break, it is a completely different process you learn so much about yourself you can have such a greater understanding of what you are doing and what you want to achieve. I would just say just go for it, don’t even think about it
It’s a far more sustainable and interesting process than just doing a dry January or I’m not going to drink tomorrow or trying the moderation techniques such as buying a small bottle wine many of the 1000’s of moderation techniques I have tried. I have seen it work for so many people, there have been so many people that have come on after me and before me and it is very successful and definitely worthwhile doing.
Someone watching this and in the JTT programme what happens after 3 months, what would you say to people who are considering doing that?
More support and accountability for a longer period, there is the Grad group where you get support but I think after the 30 day challenge I would possibly have struggled and I wanted to stay AF for longer, so it has given me accountability and support. It’s also given me the motivation to set other challenges for myself with my fitness for example, because the group calls make you accountable and give you support and motivation and a broader way to utilise the skills you have learned.
How do you feel when you come off one of the calls?,
It feels really good, you feel like you have had a great catch up with friends but also you set yourself goals, and have motivation to move forward in the week.