I normally blog on a Monday, but today is an extra special day – I am celebrating 5 years of alcohol-free living!
It has gone sooooo fast.
I’ll always be grateful to that curious, little part of me that wondered if taking a break from booze might just be a good idea.
Initially, I set out to quit for 100 days. I promised myself that if it was boring, or miserable, or a bit too much like hard work, then I’d go back to drinking after my break – safe in the knowledge that I had at least given sobriety a proper test drive.
Back then, I had no idea that I’d fall in love with this alcohol-free lifestyle and decide to keep going… and going… and going!
Nowadays, you couldn’t pay me enough to drink alcohol. I just don’t want or need that poison in my life! 🙅☠
I’ve learnt so much over the past five years, but there’s one thing in particular that really stands out.
I was thinking about this as I was out walking this morning, so I decided to record a quick video all about my biggest takeaway from 5 years of sober living.
(It’s a bit rough and ready, but you’ll get the gist!)
P.S. If you’ve been thinking about quitting drinking or taking a break – and you’d like my help to make that happen – it’s not too late to join my stop drinking course, Getting Unstuck.
It’s a six week class that will guide you, day by day, through everything you need to do in order to create an alcohol-free life you love.
How many times have you asked yourself, “Do I really need to stop drinking?”
Answering that question can be tough.
Towards the end of my drinking career, I found it helpful to hear about other people’s experiences and the moments that made them decide that enough was enough.
Life isn’t black and white, and sometimes the call to be sober can feel pretty subtle. Other people’s stories had more of an impact on me than filling out some online quiz, or going through a checklist of warning signs.
I thought this might be something you’d appreciate too – so a few days ago, I asked some of my Getting Unstuck students to answer a simple question: “How did you know it was time to quit drinking?”
Their responses are really interesting (and probably not what you’re expecting!)
“On Mother’s Day 2017 I invited my mum and daughter for Sunday lunch and was really looking forward to spending time with them. As usual I had lots of wine.
Before I dished up the meal, my daughter asked me if I was OK and I knew she could see I was drunk. I felt really bad. I don’t remember the rest but my mum and daughter were really sad for me and I felt disappointed in myself.
I knew then that I had to do something. I’m so glad I did – giving up alcohol was the best thing I’ve ever done, and my mum and daughter both say how proud they are of me.” Christine
“I had a 2 week booze break before Christmas, but then I started again. I was horrified one night to find I’d drunk a whole bottle of wine in about an hour and a half, on a work night. I thought to myself… if a whole bottle is now not enough on a Tuesday night, where is this going? I knew I had to stop it.” Kathy
“For me it was no one thing, just a gradual acceptance that it couldn’t go on. I was moving into my 60s and worried about my health. I had tried to moderate – it didn’t work. One day I was scrolling through Facebook and The Sober School popped up! I thought ‘this is an omen and this is my time!’ 265 days later, it is the best thing I have ever done.” Lynne
“I’d been trying for 5 years to cut back and moderate, but things just seemed to be getting worse. The day after my best friends 50th birthday party was my decision to stop – it took me 3 days to feel ‘normal’. It just wasn’t worth it anymore and I deserved better.” Sharon
“I came home drunk from a work do again, having failed to meet my husband at the station as planned. A colleague had to put me in a taxi and to this day I don’t know who paid. The next day my husband said he’d had enough of my shit and if it happened again we would be looking at a divorce. That’s the day I signed up for your course.” Tessa
“I was supposed to wake up early to make my daughter’s favorite birthday breakfast. Instead I overslept due to drinking the night before. When she left for school, I went back to sleep and dreamed that my younger self was crying and begging me to take care of her.” Stephanie
“For my birthday I got all alcohol related cards and presents – things like a make your own cocktail set, drinks glasses, bottle stopper, signs saying ‘in the garden drinking prosecco’. It struck me that to all my family and friends, alcohol was my thing. I felt shameful.
I’m 173 days AF now and the gifts I got for Mother’s Day made me realise how much my life has changed for the positive. My children see me in a much different way now.” Rebecca
“I had known for years that I needed to stop drinking. The tipping point for me was when my grandson was born with serious medical issues and I realized that I couldn’t help care for him unless I quit drinking. I deeply regret that I didn’t stop drinking when my own children were young and equally needed an alert, attentive mother.” Kristen
“One day I looked – really looked – in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. It seemed the only thing I looked forward to was the end of the day, so I could hit the bottle… again.
I had to get out of the vicious cycle I’d been in for so many years. Googling ‘how much is too much’ etc, is how I believe you ended up in my inbox Kate. Lol.
The best decision I ever made was to trust your statement that ‘If an AF life was really all that terrible, I’d have gone back to drinking long ago’. I’m paraphrasing….but you get the gist. Turns out it IS amazing.” Madeline
“I knew that my drinking was escalating – I was alone and depressed after the death of my husband. Wine seemed like an answer but it was isolating me. Then there was the family dinner when my siblings all glanced at me when I opened yet another bottle of wine as the meal was winding down… Celebrating day 352 today.” Cheryl
“I had some silly misunderstanding with my husband. After he went to bed, I decided I needed to go out partying in random clubs. I am like, 39, trying to be, what, 25? Random old dudes hitting on me and younger ones screaming NO!! to me trying to salsa with them…” Jody
“Valentines Day coincided with the first day of Lent. I decided that it was time for me to start loving ME! My Heavenly Father gave me one body while I am on this earth – it is time for me to take care of it.” Lisa
“My daughter attempted to take her life. As I sat in the hospital with her the next day, listening to the psychiatrist talk to her, I knew without a doubt that my drinking had, in some part at the very least, contributed to my daughters despair. I also knew I needed to be sober if I was going to be able to support her back to full, strong, mental health. She needed a positive role model, not a pissed one.” Susie
“Losing my Mum to cancer made me wake up to the fact that I was wasting and probably shortening my life.” Tracey
“I tried and failed to moderate for the whole of 2017. When I looked at my New Years Resolutions for 2018 – with the moderation ‘rules’ included again – I knew that however much I wanted them to, they wouldn’t work… Sober was the only way forward.” Hilary
“The main thing for me was that I could not moderate my drinking, and thinking about drinking was consuming every moment of my life. I was reading books, feeling like so much was wrong with me, but mainly I got tired of worrying about it. I heard Kate on The Bubble Hour and signed up for the course. It has been so helpful and I am grateful to have found the way for me to stop!” Sharon
“I made some bad decisions whilst drunk but those were rare occasions so I pushed them to the back of my mind. It was realising that I struggled not to drink every single day that made me feel utterly pathetic and worried for my health. Now I feel like the old me is gradually coming back.” Nicola
“My 9 year old son asked to drink from a wine glass. When I asked why, he said he ‘needed to get used to it, coz wine is what adults drink’. I signed up for your course the next day.” Cher
“Too many things to mention! But the massive wake up call was going out with the girls from work, getting absolutely plastered, coming home and falling over twice. I woke up the next morning at my brothers house, because my partner had rang him to come and get me as he couldn’t cope anymore…. it was so embarrassing.
I had a choice… give up the booze or lose my relationship. Day 256 today and I love living AF.” Janice
“I was literally sick and tired of looking at my face in the mirror and making the same deal that I wasn’t going to drink today… to then fail again at 5pm!!! I celebrate one year next week of not having to make that bullshit deal.” Liz
“I realised that alcohol was taking much more from me than it was giving – it was beginning to affect my health, my energy levels, my job performance, and most of all, my relationships with those closest to me.
One day at the middle school where I work, I saw a colorful bulletin board advertising this year’s senior slogan, ‘Today I choose to be the best version of myself’. I was ashamed to realize that I wasn’t choosing that, and hadn’t been choosing that for quite a long time.
I made the decision right there in the hallway that I wanted to make a different choice going forward. I wanted to stop wasting time drinking and start living the active, exciting life I knew I was capable of living, and that I believe I was born to live.” Mary
Be honest with me – have you ever typed any of these questions into Google:
Am I drinking too much? How do I stop drinking? How much wine is dangerous? Am I an alcoholic? What is the definition of an alcoholic? Can I cut down instead of quitting? What is normal drinking? How do you quit drinking for good?
Towards the end of my drinking career, I spent hours looking up this kind of stuff on Google.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of contradictory information online and frankly, some of the ‘advice’ I stumbled across actually put me off alcohol-free living!
So today I want to talk about 3 common myths about sobriety that can hold you back from quitting. Don’t fall for these!
You need to call yourself an alcoholic, or else you’re in denial
If you identify with this label and it supports your efforts to change, then that’s great. But if you don’t like this label – and it doesn’t feel good to you – then you really can ditch it. I certainly have.
I consider myself to be someone who chooses not to drink, because that’s what makes me feel my best. It’s a lifestyle I enjoy. I choose not to drink in the same way that I choose not to sniff glue, pop pills, smoke cigarettes or eat cheap burgers.
The problem with the term alcoholic is that it implies it’s abnormal to get addicted to alcohol, when that really isn’t the case. Alcohol is a widely available, well advertised, highly addictive, mind-altering drug that tends to be presented as the solution to all our problems. Who wouldn’t get addicted to that?!
If alcohol is making us feel unhappy – and we’re ready to recognise that and take action – then we should be able to change our behaviour without having to justify ourselves, or be forced into acquiring some new alcoholic identity.
You need to hit rock bottom
The idea that you need to wait until your drinking is ‘bad enough’ before you quit is a dangerous myth. I still see this idea referenced in articles today and it makes me mad.
What exactly is rock bottom anyway? It will vary from person to person, surely? There is no definition of it. And doesn’t the idea of hitting rock bottom imply that sobriety is so hideous, it can only be a last resort – something to be considered when your life is falling apart and all other options have been exhausted?
Trust me, you do not need to wait until you’re pouring vodka on your cornflakes in the morning before you decide it’s time to quit. It’s perfectly fine to stop drinking without a collection of booze related war stories.
Ultimately, drinking is all about how you feel, and if alcohol is not making you feel great, then that’s all the information you need. None of us need to be anywhere near rock bottom before we decide to stop hurting ourselves.
Sobriety will always be a daily battle
When I was thinking about quitting, this is something that really worried me. The idea that stopping drinking meant entering into some kind of continuous test of willpower made me feel depressed.
Here’s what I’ve discovered since then.
Yes, changing a habit does require effort in the early days. It requires commitment. But alcohol-free living is NOT hard work forever. Honestly – if it was, I would’ve gone back to drinking a long time ago!
I talked last week about alcohol basically being engine fuel. If you want to put this toxic poison up on a pedestal, romanticise the heck out of it and continuously mourn the fact that you can’t have it, you can do. That’s one option.
Alternatively, you can educate yourself about booze and learn about the myths and illusions (i.e. what science tells us alcohol can do, vs what we’re led to believe it can do).
This myth-busting approach makes sobriety a lot easier, because you start to see that a lot of the ‘benefits’ to drinking are really just smoke and mirrors, and a bit of wishful thinking. (We cover the myths and illusions in detail on my stop drinking course)
Before I quit drinking, I was sure that life without wine would be boring, flat and a bit too much like hard work.
Having grown up on a diet of Bridget Jones and Sex And The City, I was convinced that cocktails and chardonnay were an essential part of living a fun and fulfilled life.
I feared that without booze, everything would feel a bit ‘less’ somehow, like something was missing.
I was reflecting on this during my recent trip to New York – a city I’ve always associated with living life to the max. So I filmed a quick video for you, with some tips for being happy and sober.
1. Remember that alcohol is just ethanol
Ethanol is a great antiseptic, a fabulous disinfectant and a good engine fuel for our cars. But we really, really don’t need to pump this stuff into our bodies too. That’s just not the key to happiness!
Don’t romanticise booze or pretend it’s something it’s not – alcohol doesn’t have special powers. It’s just a toxic poison. Choosing not to sit down with a glass of engine fuel in the evening is always going to be a good idea – one that will make you very happy in the long run!
2. Become aware of your confirmation bias
We all have a tendency to interpret events in a way that confirms our existing beliefs. So once we’ve decided that wine = party time, we unconsciously seek out information that supports this belief, and we ignore (or forget) evidence that contradicts it.
My stop drinking course is six weeks long, and during the class many students will experience their first night out, sober. When they report back the next day, they often mention how surprised they were to spot lots of other teetotallers, or people who were hardly drinking anything.
Honestly, I’ve heard that feedback soooo many times! And it makes complete sense to me. When you’re drinking, you look for other people who’re drinking a lot too, because it’s reassuring. You make assumptions and often don’t ‘see’ the people who’re quietly sober.
So – just know that if you’re a drinker, you WILL have some beliefs about booze that are false, but right now, they feel true to you. Be aware of that and be open to changing your beliefs.
3. Make a list of all the great stuff you could do if you weren’t drinking
Maybe it’s that Saturday yoga class you keep saying you’ll do but you never get round to. Or maybe you’d love some more quality, hangover-free time to spend with your family. What is alcohol stopping you from doing right now that could be really fun and enjoyable?
Start thinking about the life you might be able to have if booze wasn’t getting in the way and holding you back.
Alcohol-free living opens up SO many great opportunities. Most of all, it gives you chance to create a life that’s so good, you don’t need to numb out from it… and that’s true happiness.
I want to help you get March off to an incredible start.
If you’ve vowed to turn over a new leaf this month, something you’re definitely going to need is the right mindset.
Sure, strategies for stopping drinking are great, but if you’re not in the right state of mind, sobriety is always going to feel hard.
Here are a few of my tips and tricks for developing an awesome, alcohol-free mindset.
Clear your story about sober people
When I was drinking, I’d often say stuff like, “I don’t trust people who don’t drink!” I made lots of lazy assumptions about sober people and how dull they must be – perhaps you’ve done the same?
Now’s the time to let go of those ideas because a) they’re just not true and b) that stuff will hold you back.
Challenge the story you’re telling yourself by finding sober people online (Instagram is great for this). What are their lives like? Are they dull and boring? No way!
Choosing not to drink is a bit like choosing not to smoke – it really doesn’t say anything about you as a person.
Remember: you can’t figure things out from the safety of your comfort zone
You’re never going to know what alcohol-free living is really like unless you do it and keep doing it for at least a month (or ideally two – that’s when a lot of people see a big shift)
Success happens when you take action and you have nothing to lose by trying. Even if you fall flat on your face, you’re still moving forward (even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time).
You’re putting yourself out there – learning, growing and making progress. Seriously, when this finally clicks, you’ll look back and think ‘Oh, so that’s why all that happened.’
Your inner reality creates your outer reality
Recently I was out with a group of friends and one of them was frustrated she couldn’t drink because she was driving. When I offered to give her a lift home, she leapt at the chance, ordered some wine and immediately brightened up.
This is a great example of how powerful your mindset is.
My friend believed that by not drinking, she was missing out on something. The second she realised she could drink, her attitude and perception of the night changed. She felt better before she’d even had a sip!
My point is, if you think a month off booze is going to be thoroughly miserable, then guess what – it probably will be.
However, if you go into it from the perspective of what you’re going to gain, it’s much more exciting. I’ve written before about all the awesome things that happen when you stop drinking – why wouldn’t you look forward to that?
Make a firm decision, not a flimsy one
If you go into a break from booze thinking, ‘I’m going to try not to drink’ or ‘I hope I’ll be good this month’ then the chances are you will end up drinking.
That kind of approach means drinking is still on the table and you’re going to keep wrestling with yourself about what to do. If you let yourself drink then how much do you have? When? Where? The decision fatigue is exhausting.
It’s so much easier to make one firm decision and give it your all – no ifs, buts or maybes. (If you’d like some help to take a proper break from booze, check out my online course for more support.)
Understand that willpower will only get you so far
If alcohol-free living always feels like being on a strict diet, the chances are it won’t last. For long term, happy sobriety you need to get out of the willpower game and change your thinking about drinking.
Start analysing your thoughts and assumptions. What are you telling yourself about alcohol, day in, day out? Write down all the reasons why you think you drink. Then, go through your list point by point and explore whether those reasons are really true.
For example, if you think alcohol makes you happy, now’s the time to stop and analyse that. Is that really happening? What about all those times drinking has made you feel worse? And if you believe alcohol is helping you cope with stress, make sure you check out this blog post 🙂
This week I’m writing to you from sunny California!
A few days ago I was in LA doing lots of touristy things in Hollywood, where they’re getting ready for the Oscars. Walking around such an iconic place got me thinking about sober celebrities.
In this crazy, boozy world of ours, it’s easy to assume that everyone drinks – especially in showbiz, with all that glitz and glamour.
But the truth is that some of the most successful people on the planet have got to where they are because they don’t waste their time, money, health and energy on alcohol!
As I mentioned in the video, not every sober celebrity has a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.
There are tons more sober celebs who don’t get a mention in the video, so I wanted to give them a namecheck here:
Kristin Davis (Sex And The City) Bradley Cooper (star of The Hangover films!) Jada Pinkett-Smith (actress) Simon Pegg (actor) Sarah Millican (comedian) Jim Carrey (actor) Fatboy Slim (DJ) Gerard Butler (actor)
Christina Ricci (actress) Ewan McGregor (actor) Stephen King (author) Russell Brand (comedian) Robert Downey Jr (actor) Kendrick Lamar (rapper) Jonny Wilkinson (former rugby union player) Frankie Boyle (comedian)
Freddie Flintoff (former cricketer) Calvin Harris (DJ) Rachel Stevens (singer) Brad Pitt (a new edition to the sober club) Anna Wintour (Vogue editor) Blake Lively (actress) Christina Ricci (actress) Davina McCall (TV presenter)
Eva Mendez (actress) Leona Lewis (singer) Natalie Portman (actress) Zoe Ball (TV presenter) Chris Martin (from Coldplay)