Kate's Blog

The Alcohol Trap: Breaking Out Of The Wine Prison

When I’m helping women to escape the alcohol trap, I often use strange analogies. 

I do this to get people thinking about booze in a different way. A big part of successful sobriety is unlearning old thought habits and being open to the idea that some of your beliefs about alcohol are not true. 
But recently, one of the women I’m working with said something that made me think, “Doh – why didn’t I realise that before?”
It’s all to do with the alcohol trap, prison cells, life stress, lockdown and freedom…

The prison cell exercise

Imagine you’re locked in a prison cell. All you’ve got with you is your favourite wine or alcoholic drink. If you believe that drinking truly makes you happy and fulfilled – because alcohol really is joy in a bottle – then you’re all set for a good time, right? 
It’s obvious that drinking wouldn’t transform this situation into a happy one. And if alcohol can’t transform the prison cell into a pleasant experience, why do we expect booze to do exactly that in other, more realistic situations? 

The lockdown prison

Recently, we’ve all been through some kind of lockdown where we’ve been forced to stay at home, in a ‘prison’ of sorts (albeit with much nicer furnishings and Netflix).
Did alcohol turn lockdown into something wonderful? Did it bring the good vibes, 24/7? No! We are constantly giving alcohol credit for providing joy and pleasure in our lives, but look how often it doesn’t work.

The real alcohol trap

Perhaps you accept that alcohol doesn’t make you truly happy, but you feel that drinking helps you numb out and ignore problems in your life. If that sounds like you, here’s what I want to invite you to think about. 
What if drinking is making your problems worse, rather than relieving them? Could alcohol actually be causing some of your headaches and making existing issues harder to overcome? What if alcohol is keeping you stuck?
Think about it. When you drink, you start the next day feeling bad. This makes stress harder to cope with, and you’re unlikely to get round to dealing with the job / relationship / life situation that’s making you unhappy… and so the cycle continues. 

The real prison is caused by booze

Alcohol keeps you stuck in the same patterns, the same feelings and the same life. It’s like groundhog day, every day. It’s not really making your life better – it just temporarily covers the cracks, whilst keeping you stuck in a life you don’t like.
The good news? You’re not locked in this alcohol trap. You can leave this prison any time you like. You have the keys and the power to walk away. So go and enjoy the freedom that’s waiting for you outside. You’re going to love it. 

Hi, I'm Kate

I founded The Sober School to show you there’s another way out of your shame that doesn’t involve AA or rehab. 


63 Responses

  1. Drinking really is a trap. Kate, I am 22 days sober thanks to your course and already I’m noticing an improvement in my relationship. I’m still stuck in a job I don’t like (a major source of stress for me) but I feel more positive about making changes and quietly, I’m quite excited about what I might be able to make happen.

    1. Congratulations on your 22 days Louise! It’s so good to hear you feeling more positive about the future. I also changed jobs after I quit drinking and it took a while to sort out. But you will get there – and with a clear head, you will make the right decisions for you 🙂

    2. This was a great post Kate
      Love the part about just wanting to numb out for little while and escape my problems.
      You are so right that next day problems are their ready to smack me as I now have to deal with life and a massive hangover.
      I have to constantly remind myself to use other things than booze to numb out for awhile.
      My favorite is taking quiet time by closing my bedroom door to read or take a nap !
      I am on day 573-1 so day 572 and I know for a fact I wouldn’t be meeting new goals and dreams if I was still expecting booze to make me happy or solve my problems.
      Thanks Kate for your support and practical approach to living alcohol free!

      1. Such a good point – if it’s a break you need, or a bit of escapism, there are plenty of other things that can help you achieve that. Congratulations on your sobriety Sophie!

        1. Oh. My. Gosh. What a great video today! I am now 98 days alcohol free—two more days to a major milestone. Freedom reigns. Your analogy between this current pandemic lockdown and prison was so right on. Alcohol hasn’t made the lockdown better but just less able to CLEARLY deal with the current crisis and if I may, we need as much clarity as we can muster. Alcohol just murkies the water so we can’t see a clear way of dealing with a very murky present. Again. Great video!

          1. I’m glad that resonated with you Denise. Congratulations on your 98 days! Well done 🙂

          2. Kate, thank you for this. I’m keeping notes from your timely bits of good info and visit those notes from time to time. I’m on day 55 AF. It’s been easy so far but I am on guard. Alcohol IS the prison. Thank you for reminding me.

      1. Hi Kate
        Even though I didn’t sign up for your class, I was so happy that you reached out with this video. It makes so much sense. I have been on and off alcohol for a long time. But ever since my husband died, I’ve been drinking too much. The loneliness is sometimes unbearable.
        I thought alcohol would help…but it makes it worse.
        I want to quit alcohol and give life a chance again.
        Thanks for being there.

        1. Hi Laura, it sounds as if you could really do with some support. This can be a lonely journey on your own, and addiction thrives in isolation. I do hope you will consider joining the October class 🙂

        2. Join the class Laura! I was on the edge of joining for a long time. I joined in July and am SO GLAD I did. The lessons are powerful and the sense of community helps tremendously.

        3. Laura, I am in the same boat. My husband passed eight years ago. I drank a little then but now I’m out of control. The pandemic has gotten to me because like you said the loneliness is horrible. I drink every night and pass out every night. Like Kate said it’s Groundhog Day.
          So I’m going to give this program a shot. Thanks for your post. It hit home with me.

    3. When I took your course over 2 years ago now Kate, this exercise / visual of the prison cell worked as a huge catalyst for change for me. I was convinced back then that alcohol would make a prison cell bearable but soon realised what absolute nonsense that belief was. Play the video to the end etc and you still wake up the next day in a cell but grumpy, tired and smelling stale to boot.
      These past few months have been very odd and challenging but one thing I’m SURE of is alcohol would have made it awful and I’m so so glad I’m alcohol free. It’s liberating.
      I’ll always be grateful for this course. Xx

      1. This shows what a long way you’ve come in these past two years Jenny! I’m so excited to hear that you’re alcohol free and you’ve stayed on track during this incredibly strange year. Congratulations ❤️

  2. Hi Kate, it was a great blog and so very true. I was good for 8 days, then my husband and I went out to dinner Friday night and I caved and had a glass of wine which resulted in me buying a bottle. Failed……so hear we are Monday and a clean slate and no wine. I did feel great for those 8 days finding it hard as I love my red wine. There have been times in my life where I was alchol free for 3 mths at a time for for 4 yrs. I was training for Body Building comp’s 58-61. I drink because I’m happy, sad, lonely, LIFE. I have to stop…for my marriage, Thank you

    1. Well done for continuing to work on this – it sounds as if you’re getting clearer and clearer about what you want Irma. If you need any help and support to quit drinking, my online course will help you go alcohol free (and actually feel good about it!) Here are some more details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
      Keep going!

      1. Thanks Kate! This post was really helpful.
        Today, I have been having an overwhelming urge to eat poorly and drink alcohol. Instead of doing that, I looked inside myself to figure out what was stirring up these urges. I realised that I am frustrated and bored with lockdown. I don’t feel like I have anything to look forward to and am worried and scared about what the future holds in store for my family in the near future. We have financial concerns at the moment.
        I managed to cook a healthy dinner with my daughter and am about to do some meditation and sober reading after that. I am hoping to have a restful night’s sleep. Last night was a struggle!

        1. Well done for staying on track Katie. Times are tough right now, but knowing that alcohol won’t change anything really helps. Keep going! 🙂

  3. Every single word here resonates 110%! I’m loving these moments of my life and I haven’t felt like this in years. The prison analogy couldn’t be a better one.

  4. What a great video Kate. Alcohol really is a trap. I can relate to so much in the video, using alcohol to “Check Out” all the time, and of course losing the control and becoming more trapped. I am a Jan 2020 graduate and I am now over 200 days AF (Not a drop has passed my lips) and moving into 7 months completed. I am feeling really good and definitely have got my life back again. Thanks again Kate XX

    1. That is fantastic Mary! I’m so pleased to hear this – congratulations on your 200+ days! Well done for finding your way out of that trap and making this change happen. You sound very happy and content now ❤️

    2. Hi Mary!
      I am part of the January 2020 class too and just passed 6 months! In March my husband decided to join me because of COVID thinking drinking is ONLY going to make things worse…..in this “prison” of lockdown. Instead we took the time to endulge in guilty pleasures of Netflix and naps! He experimented a few weeks ago with moderation (and did not tell me until me until recently) that it doesn’t work. I could have told him that. Anyway, here is to you and me for keepin’ on keepin’ on! Thank you Kate for this great post! I’m going to pass this on to my sister! Oh and hubby is back AF with me again too.

  5. I’m just beginning my journey towards an alcohol-free life; still haven’t completely given it up but the more I learn, the closer I get. Thank you, Kate, for your candid and accessible remarks which resonate strongly. I’m on the list for the next course and wish it were now! Feeling like I want to jump in but also need more support. These blog posts certainly help. I appreciate you!

    1. No problem Ellen – just keep chipping away at this in the meantime. I look forward to working with you in October… it will roll round very quickly, I’m sure! 🙂

  6. It truly is like groundhog day everyday! Waking up feeling horrible and wondering when my next drink will be, or will I be brave enough not to have one! 29 days sober today and things are looking very different from this angle!!

  7. I thought this was very interesting although I don’t identify with having a hangover after a glass of wine or a drink. It’s not all wine. However, I think I will feel so much better if I go alcohol free – like your continual trap analogy. I suffer from chronic fatigue symptom/M.E. and have hope that cutting out alcohol will make a difference. Thank you for your inspiration & encouragement

    1. It’s interesting how many people don’t get hangovers (or certainly not bad ones) so they assume they’re not that affected by alcohol. But when they cut it out, they notice such a difference! I hope you see a big improvement in your chronic fatigue symptoms Nicky 🙂

    2. Dear Kate I find your advice and others so helpful. My problem is that my husband drinks as much as me If not more now since he has been stood down . There is always alcohol in the house and boy is it hard to stay away from it . I’m even on medication to help to control my drinking but I don’t find it’s helping much …. help !!

      1. Hi Debbie, I work with a lot of women who have partners who drink. It’s not a problem – but it is going to be important that you have lots of support. If you’re not getting the help and encouragement you need at home, then make sure you have it elsewhere, so there are people with you to motivate you, cheer you on and troubleshoot the challenges that inevitably come up. I’m happy to help you with this – here are some details about my course: https://thesoberschool.com/course
        That is the best way for us to work together 🙂

      2. When I’m not drinking my biggest problem is my husband drinking, he only drinks on the weekends but a lot. I count his beers and after 6 he becomes a awful person. That’s my biggest problem with quitting.

  8. Thank you Kate. I’m 3 weeks out from alcohol and intend this to be the last time I quit. My Covid anxiety was much worse with alcohol plus sleep disturbances. Your insight is just what I need to hear.

    1. Congratulations on your 3 weeks Kim! Alcohol really fuels anxiety, so it’s the last thing we need during times like this. Well done for choosing a different path for yourself 🙂

  9. Kate – this is a great analogy. I drank for a long time to avoid some very difficult things I was going through. Honestly I just couldn’t wait to numb myself out to the point where I just didn’t care. I kept a sentence of the day journal which spans 5 years. So each day you can look at what you wrote the year(s) before on that day. What I noticed is that the entries were almost the same. Over the few years I hadn’t grown much and the common theme was how much my drinking was bothering me Fortunately in the past year I’ve made some changes and I’m no longer drinking. I’m already noticing some big improvements and much more hopeful outlook. I’ve got things I’m looking forward to now that I’ve escaped “alcohol prison”

    1. This is so interesting – you (unknowingly) collected some very useful data there about how alcohol was affecting your life! It’s brilliant to hear that you’re feeling more hopeful and positive now. Well done. Enjoy life outside the alcohol prison! 🙂

    2. Susan, i can soooo relate. For ten years i kept a journal and there were hundreds of pages marked “day 1”!! I burned all of those journals one day, when i spent an afternoon looking through them and realized that in ten years…i had changed nothing and that i was just repeating the same chaos day after day. Get drunk…crash into bed early…wake up at 2 am in a panic…hangover…recover..promise myself never to drink again …get drunk… over and over again.
      Now I’m 25 days sober and i Know i will never have a tortuous day like that again. I started a new journal and its all about gratitude and the wonderful things that are going on in my life. What a delight to live with no secrets and no shame!!! To be my real self every minute of every day! Being drunk never ever felt that good

  10. It’s definitely amazing how much extra time seems to appear without alcohol getting in the way!
    Thanks for helping me escape out of that alcohol cell Kate with your getting unstuck course – 113 days now and I’m so glad 🙂

    1. Great to hear from you Carla! I’m excited to see you continuing with your sobriety and going from strength to strength! 113 days already… wow. That is wonderful ❤️

  11. I ask myself often if I regret NOT having a drink, if a drink would have made the situation better. And do you know, it never would! Day by day I think, nothing bigger. And its been a week and already see difference with how I look. I go to the gym every day and usually drink away the benefits doh! But one week in see the difference. Each day hard but remind myself of what I really want

    1. Great point. No one ever wakes up and says, “I really wish I’d drunk loads last night.” Or “I was feeling bad, so I drunk loads and loads, and everything has been fine since.” That just never happens. Well done on your week AF! 🙂

  12. I’m finding it difficult to quit, because I am so used to having a glass in my hand in the evening. It feels like it gives me something to do. I am bored in the evening. Has anyone else experienced this?

    1. It sounds like you might be drinking to cover up your boredom. There’s a great opportunity here for you to look at doing something more fulfilling with your evenings that you feel good about – or having something nice to look forward to at the end of the day, when other commitments are done. Remember, sobriety isn’t about not drinking – it’s about creating a life you don’t want (or need) to escape from.

    2. Waking up feeling sluggish again! This video really resonates with me. I am in an alcohol prison. The comment about alcohol making my life smaller (something like that) is a real wow. My life revolves around it. I need to make a move! But it is scary. I am 61 and have been generally successful in my life-family,job,friends. I am just sick of this alcohol part. I wake up saying this is the day to stop and guess what I am doing at 5:00?

  13. I’ve tried numerous times in the past to stay 100% sober and haven’t been able to do so. I come off as a high functioning individual and no one around me thinks I have a drinking problem, but I know that I’m emotionally dependent on it. When on the rare occasions that I drink too much, I not only get a physical hangover the next day but I also drown myself in guilt, ruminate in what I may or may not have done while inebriated, and as a result suffer from severe anxiety. What one of your commentators said really resonated with me – I drink when I’m happy I drink when I’m bored I drink when I’m stressed I drink both to celebrate and to wallow. I want to keep trying and be free.

    1. It’s great that you’re continuing to work on this Lipton. It sounds as if you could do with some help to process these different triggers? It would be good to dive a bit deeper and look at what’s really going on here for you. If you’d like my help with that, here’s how we can work together: https://thesoberschool.com/course

    2. I also thought people didn’t think I had a py, but I was wrong. They just don’t say it, TO ME. I also am a high functioning alcoholic, but every once in awhile I hit the bottom. Now I want to change.

  14. Hi Kate! Everything you say always resonates with me! You have truly helped me out of my alcohol prison! I am one of your January graduates and I am now 188 days AF and enjoying an actual life that I didn’t have before! Alcohol did put me in a prison and made my life so small but I didn’t realize it! I still listen and read lots of inspiring quit lit and it keeps me going in my resolve when I think hey maybe I can just have one! Ha! Thanks again Kate! Xoxo

    1. Wow, 188 days – that’s amazing Mitzi! It’s great to hear from you. I’m so happy to know that you are enjoying life outside the alcohol prison! Congratulations ❤️

  15. This was a nice addition to our daily class. I am loving all the insight you share in class and in videos on your blog. I have been able to look at alcohol and AF living in a way I never thought possible. And I am happy to say I am 22 days sober and feeling so happy about it. I still have a long way to go, but there is no going back…I only see the blue sky on the other side of the prison cell now!

  16. This blog made so much sense to me. This year has been tough for lots of reasons and I’d convinced myself that having a drink which leads to several would make things more bearable! It doesn’t things remain tough but I also feel rubbish because of a hangover. It’s early days but I feel now in a better place to stop.

    1. I’m so pleased this struck a chord with you. You have nothing to lose by quitting drinking… but there is so much to gain 🙂

  17. I loved this. I so wish I was stronger. If I make it past 5pm I’m fine, not to mention so happy. I just can’t make it past two or three days. Then this voice inside convinces me that some wine will make me feel good. Then in the morning, shame and disappointment in myself. I just keep trying to be strong.

  18. I am really enjoying these blog posts and people’s reactions to them! I am 8 months and 3 days AF, and I just found this – the Sober School-about 6 weeks ago. I just wanted to quietly stop drinking- for a very long time I wanted that. No meetings, no big announcement. I only told my husband (after being in a stalemate from an argument for weeks) and my BFF, that moderation wasn’t working for me and I intended to step away from drinking. I told them (separately) as we were embarking on a joint vacation. That trip was nerve wracking, but I navigated the vacation, the holidays, a subsequent trip, and lockdown, sort of feeling my way through. I was so happy to find this! Hearing other people’s stories reassured me that I am not the only one feeling like this, and also gives me ideas on approaching sticky situations. I am noticing how society normalizes drinking and felt bewildered as to why I didn’t seem capable of drinking “normally”. Now I see it’s not normal for a lot of people. Each blog reinforces that I am now in a better place and I want to stay here. Thank you, Kate, for your wisdom and encouragement, and to others who freely share their reactions to your insights.

  19. Your video analogy about prison resonated within me as I feel that I am truly imprisoned by wine. Living alone, I have no one to account to for excessive drinking, and no one to notice a hangover, yet I continue to awake with that dreadful guilt and physical sickness and tiredness that starts each day. I am so tired of this and want to stop until it becomes wine time, and the circle begins again. Looking forward to your class and reading posts from others.

  20. I would love to join this site, how do I do it? It has been one year since I have drank so now, I just want to think about some kind of a class? not sure how it works? what do I do?

    1. Hi Erin, the best way to join my community is to take my online course – here are some more details: https://thesoberschool.com/course/
      This class is aimed at people who haven’t yet quit drinking, although I do also have people take it if they’re struggling and need some extra motivation to stay on track 🙂

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