Being alcohol free is all sunshine and roses, right? Annie visits with Jamie, who decided to give up drinking in September of 2017. Although Jamie has no regrets about quitting, she gets real about the struggles that can arise after quitting – including learning how to ‘feel feelings’ after 20 years of using alcohol to deal with them. This interview is a refreshing reality check, dealing with what it’s like when our expectations simply don’t become our reality after we’ve accomplished the first step – which is going alcohol free.
I don’t even remember specifically my first drink, but I know that I definitely drank since college and I think a little bit in high school, but not very much. It’s pretty typical I think of people that are problematic, whereas I had a really high tolerance. I really could hang and really enjoyed it and really had a good time and partied pretty hard. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t really a problem for a pretty good long time. In addition to having a high tolerance, I was also really functional. I very rarely got hungover, and there was just all these factors that just led to me having this long drinking career, when really I probably shouldn’t have. Other people I drank with always seemed to have a much healthier relationship with it. They were just like, “Well, it’s fun,” and I was just like, “Okay.”
I had a lot of shame with it from the beginning. I was always really embarrassed. Not really trying to hide things necessarily, but just bad feelings. Negative feelings associated with the whole time. Drinking off and on throughout my entire adulthood. I’m in my early 40s now. I have had two kids, and I stopped during pregnancy, like no problem. It was no big deal. The thing that probably started to change is after my second kid, I started blacking out more and more.,That was always problematic and I always blacked out a lot more than I admitted Eventually, I was really good at just playing it off like everything was cool. In reality, I didn’t remember a lot and was really embarrassed and really felt really ashamed of all that.
Once, I had a really bad blackout where I was on a trip for work, which is super humiliating. In a foreign country, I woke up and I was in a hotel room. It was mine, fortunately, but I didn’t know how I had gotten there. Honestly I had no idea what had happened from about dinnertime on. It just wasn’t good. I wasn’t necessarily in trouble or anything, but I felt terrible about it.
I don’t know that it was rock bottom because I think people will associate rock bottom with losing your job or losing your family. It was just my personal rock bottom, where I was just like, “This just can’t continue,” and I started looking for ways to quit. Having considered AA off and on throughout the years, I just knew it wasn’t the right fit for me. I don’t even know that it was something I could specifically articulate. It was not something that would work for me. It wasn’t until I found some people that are on Instagram and who had blogs who were some of this new type of sober person that I didn’t know existed. Where you’re not deprived and it’s not like you’re being punished and it’s really just choosing a new, great way to live your life, and that was really transformational for me.
That led me to your book and I was really deliberate about how I read the book. I prepared for it and said, “Okay, I’m really gonna do this and I’m really gonna sink in.” Not that the book wasn’t super helpful, but I think I’d made up my mind before I even started.
I just knew I needed to cement this mindset in myself, and I thought from what I knew about the book that that would be a good way to do it, and I’d say it has been.
It’s been a year and some time. You alluded to the fact earlier that it’s been a little troublesome, and it has been. It’s not though that I’ve been tempted. It’s that the aftermath was not as rosy as I’d hoped. I’m still struggling alcohol free.
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Sunshine and Rainbows
You talk about how there’s this impression that it’s going to be one way. Those before and after pictures of people glowing and thin for the after, that never really happened for me. If anything, I’m probably heavier than I was, but I’ll tell you why in a minute. I stopped at the end of September, and I live in England, and the winters are quite cold and they’re quite gray, and I was looking forward to this idea of, I don’t know, maybe doing a spiritual exploration, maybe doing some meditation, that something is very calming in a lot of people that I had read about. I bought a book that was supposed to help me do that.
Doing The Work
I had also internalized this idea that even if you can quit easily, the recovery may take some work, and I think even knowing that going in, I, for myself, I really underestimated how much work it would take.
First of all, a lot of people will talk about an instant healthy feeling and an instant lift and instant positivity or clarity or whatever it is. I felt better. Don’t get me wrong. I was always pretty low-lying, tired, and stuffy, just from I was drinking wine every single night. Sulfates will get you. That went away, and I was really happy about that. That was pretty cool, but it wasn’t like this veil lifted that people talked about or anything like that. That, in itself, was not particularly transformational, and all the stuff I tried, it just didn’t stick.
It was just too hard to get out. It was crappy out, and I don’t drive. Everything was just a pain, and I have two kids, and I work full-time, and I was commuting into Central London from Greater London, and time was a huge issue. I would just go, go, go, go, and then I’d have two hours at the end of the night maybe, after the kids would go to bed before I should go to bed, and I felt like, “Oh, I should be using this time for this newfound productivity I’m supposed to have,” and it just didn’t happen for me.
Tune in to the complete podcast to hear why even struggling alcohol free is still better than any day spent drinking.
Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
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