When I was a young chick (admittedly a long, long time ago), I used to love listening to The Who singing “Hope I die before I get old” and used to be in complete agreement with that sentiment.
Well, the passing of time changes everything and now Roger Daltry is 74, living in London, going to the gym and still playing in the band – and I am 71, living in South Africa and busy running a social network for people who want to moderate or quit drinking alcohol!
While I was climbing the greasy pole of corporate life, my mantra was “work hard, play hard,” and I certainly did. I would occasionally indulge in a little daydream about retirement. I had a very clear picture in my head which involved sitting in a sun-drenched garden with a large glass of wine in my hand.
So, fast forward to my early 50s, and there I was, living in Cape Town – so that took care of the sun-drenched garden. Trouble was I got rather bored doing nothing and even I couldn’t drink wine and read books 24/7. So, I started up an HR consultancy which I ran for 10 years – reverting to my default position of “work hard, play hard.”
The “play hard” of course involved a lot of drinking, but, in 2006, the fun came to an abrupt halt. I got breast cancer. Mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy followed. That should have been a wake-up call to cut back on my wine habit – but no, I felt like I needed the alcohol to dull my fears of dying.
Back in 2006, there was very little information in the public domain about the link between alcohol and breast cancer. It was easy to remain in denial about my drinking.
In my early 60s I tried again to retire. I sat in that sun-drenched garden with glass(es) of icy white wine – and everything was perfect – or was it?
Well, it would have been if it wasn’t for that nagging voice in my head – the one that kept saying, “you’re drinking too much; I think we might have a problem here.”
I had managed to integrate Sauvignon Blanc into my life to such an extent that the first drink would often be just before midday and would morph seamlessly into a couple more large glasses with lunch. By the time 5pm came around, another cork would pop to see me through the (early) evening.
Just another quiet day at home.
If I successfully engineered an evening out, the drinking would step up a notch. Anyone unable to keep up with my enthusiastic pace would be left behind.
Always the last one to leave any social event, I felt like I was “living the life.” I had, of course, completely lost the plot – but back then it didn’t feel like it.
It felt pretty damn good, actually.
Of course, there were the hangovers, the tiredness, the weight gain and the ever-present anxiety. Surely that was just part of getting older?
It was a serious blackout that finally convinced me to stop. Of course I’d had many evenings that had got a little blurry towards the end but this one was different. This time I had absolutely no recall of several hours of the previous day. That meant my brain had been so soaked in alcohol that memories could not be made.
That was it, I was done.
I finally had to decide whether I was going to drink myself to death – or choose a different path. I tried AA but that didn’t work. People there seemed much further down the line with their drinking than me, so I ended up thinking maybe I was “OK” after all.
Then I tried a one-day workshop in London which amazingly did the trick.
Just connecting with other people who had good jobs, nice families and a bottle of wine a night habit enabled me to finally change (and probably save) my life. We were all (just about) holding it together but knew we were on a “slippery slope.” We opened our hearts to each other about just how unhappy alcohol was making us.
We realised we couldn’t do this alone, so we supported each other and connected on a deep level. For the first time I experienced the “power of vulnerability.”
Of course, I now understand that “connection is the opposite of addiction.”
I stopped drinking on May 23rd, 2015, and in November of that year I founded Tribe Sober. This has enabled me to make use of my training and development background to help hundreds of people to change their relationship with alcohol.
Like many functioning alcoholics, I had been using a lot of energy holding it all together. Maintaining the façade that everything was “fine” and keeping the show on the road. One of the (many) joys of being alcohol free is that I can now redirect that energy into something more positive. For the first time ever, I have meaning and purpose in my life.
Find a sobriety community or at least a Sober Buddy. Connection is the opposite of addiction, and it’s extremely hard to change your drinking habits alone. Starting the journey is easy, but to sustain your sobriety, you need other people to encourage you and hold you accountable.
If you are craving a glass of wine, then play the movie to the end. After the first glass you will probably want more. Then you will sleep badly and wake up feeling anxious and disappointed with yourself. Have an alcohol-free drink or a cup of tea instead!
If you’ve been numbing your feelings with alcohol for years then you’ll feel very emotional in early sobriety. Journaling is a wonderful way to process those emotions and to track the sobriety journey. Track your sober days and your wins!
Why do you want to quit drinking? To improve your health, to be a better parent, to save your marriage, to lose weight or for some other reason – what is your why? The initial motivation and excitement will fade so the “why list” is an essential tool keep you motivated and on track.
Don’t feel miserable at the thought of giving up alcohol. Be excited! Although the first few months may be tough, you’ll soon regain your energy, improve your health and begin to sleep like a baby! It’s one of the best things we can do for ourselves as we get older.
Have you tried to quit drinking? Did you succeed? What helped you to quit? Did you fail? Will you try again? Why did you/do you want to quit drinking?
Tags Healthy Aging
Thank goodness for Janet and Tribe Sober. Joining them pulled me out of a dark place. I had tried just about everything. AA, counselling, therapy, psych wards, tried on my own. I think one needs to be connected with people trying to give up and to have that easy access to ask for support and advice 24/7 which is what Janet offers. I just love how I have met people from all over the world because of it. Getting sober really has been a journey, so much so that I packed up my life in South Africa and moved to Scotland. I wanted to move for years but alcohol kept me trapped. Not anymore! Great tips Janet, useful even after nearly 2 years sober.
so grateful for all the work you for the Tribe Mon – paying it forward gives us such a sense of purpose!
Thank you for sharing your journey! I quit drinking at 38 (28 years ago). I went the 12 step route and it changed my life completely. My twin sister didn’t stop drinking and she developed breast cancer at 60. Actually, recently experts are linking many cancers to alcohol and in Canada the recommended weekly limit is now two drinks. So there’s lots of motivation for everyone to limit intake!
yes Deborah the latest research links alcohol to 7 different types of cancer and more than 60 diseases! well done on your 28 years! hope your sister has quit now – send her our way if she needs help!
Yes i had my i am done moment 18 april 2016 and i have never looked back, nearly 7 years later i am so thankful for the way my life is now , single, happy, content and very involved with Tribe Sober , i too found my pupose when i found Janet x
yes Sue we are so blessed that we listened to our “not this” moment and changed our lives! xx
What an inspirational article. Love your top 5 tips.
thank you Mandy, so glad you found those tips helpful!
You are an inspiration Janet! Your story helps me want to make a change so that I can live longer and be healthier and the best I can be for the rest of my life… and thank you for Tribe Sober and the safe place it provides for so many to start and succeed on this journey. Bravo!
we are thrilled that you have joined our 66 day challenge Shereen and hope you decide to join the Tribe Sober family at the end of the Challenge! xx