The Secret To Thriving Alcohol-Free – Janet’s Naked Life

Drinking was part of Janet’s lifestyle ever since college. How could she ever do life without it? After a few wake-up calls, she realized she had to do life without it and is now thriving alcohol-free. Read on to find out how This Naked Mind played a part in her story!

Janet's NAKED LIFE thriving alcohol-free

Alcohol is a Magic Potion

It wasn’t my upbringing that led me to drink. Neither of my parents were drinkers – in fact, a bottle of wine between them was a treat for a special occasion (rather than a daily staple). Meanwhile, I thought alcohol was a magic potion! I learned how to drink during college. Quickly realizing that my social anxiety melted away after a couple of drinks. I still felt like myself, just an amplified version. It was my first time living away from home so I wanted to enjoy the freedom. And, of course, to fit in with my new peer group of students.

Equal Opportunity Drinker

Growing up in the UK in the 1970’s drinking was becoming normalized. As a feminist, I was looking for equality in the workplace and was prepared to work hard to get it. I worked at the BBC in London and was told by a mentor that I should be spending less time working late at my desk and more time “networking” in the BBC club (a bar). I followed his advice and soon became part of the “work hard, play hard” culture that prevailed at the BBC, and at every other corporate I went on to work in.

A Drinking Lifestyle

I married a heavy drinker and all our friends were drinkers. We were very functional alcoholics, holding down good jobs and bringing up families. In my forties, I got divorced and remarried. My new husband was a normal drinker and was bemused to see me putting away at least a bottle of wine a night. He started to warn me of the health risks and asked me to cut down.

I tried – and I couldn’t.

Unable to Maintain Moderation

That’s when I realized I had become dependent and my drinking had evolved from socializing to self-medication. I couldn’t imagine my life without wine so I spent the next decade trying (and failing) to moderate. I got breast cancer at the age of 55 but was unaware of the link between alcohol and breast cancer so continued to drink. My blackouts became worse and more frequent – evolving into “walking, talking blackouts” where I would sometimes “lose” several hours of the previous day. I was getting older and started to realize that I must be harming my brain as well as my body – so I eventually quit. Sobriety has changed my life and I have regained my health and happiness.

The Road to Waking Up

I divide my story into 3 wake-up calls – the first two I ignored, but wake-up number call 3 led to me (finally) quitting…

WAKE-UP CALL ONE:

At the age of 25, I was living in London, sharing an apartment with four other women. We all had good jobs, good social lives, and a wine habit. One evening we’d been sitting around chatting and drinking our wine when some friends turned up unexpectedly. The evening evolved from an after-work glass of wine to a party. For me, the evening evolved into a serious blackout situation and I woke up in a hospital the next day.

My flatmates had to explain to me what had happened as I had absolutely no recollection.

Apparently, I had announced that I was going to bed and then gone to have a bath. I used to have a bath before sleeping every night so was obviously on “automatic pilot”. I locked the door. A bit later one of my flatmates wanted to use the bathroom so she knocked on the door. No reply. A few other people tried to hammer on the door and get it open – but no reply. They called emergency services so the Fire Brigade and the Medics turned up. I was under the water. They had to resuscitate me.

Rather than reflecting on this life-threatening experience, I laughed it off. It became one of those legendary drinking stories – “Did you hear about Janet and her bath?”

WAKE-UP CALL TWO:

Since the “bath” incident I continued to drink heavily – at least a bottle of wine a night and a bit more at the weekends. I integrated the hangovers and occasional blackouts into my lifestyle which was still very much “work hard and play hard” although by my 40s I had discovered the joy of drinking alone to “relieve my stress”.

At the age of 55, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through a mastectomy and chemotherapy. Even though my cancer was hormone related, I made no link between my drinking habits and my illness. I continued to drink to dull the fear of dying. Switching from white to red wine as I had read in a magazine that it was good for your health!

I was fortunate enough to survive this and asked my oncologist if I needed to change my diet or give up drinking alcohol. (At the time, I was so scared of a recurrence I think I would have quit if he had suggested it.) However, he said that I should now get on with enjoying my life. That there was nothing wrong with a glass of wine. I took that as carte blanche to go back to my nightly bottle of wine.

WAKE-UP CALL THREE:

I was away for the weekend with a group of friends. We rented a gorgeous house on the sea. It was a boozy weekend with champagne at breakfast to set the tone for the day. I woke up on Sunday morning feeling terrible (but pretending I was fine). At breakfast, I announced that we should walk to the next village where there was another house we could rent the next time we came this way. There was a strange hush around the table and everyone looked at me. Somebody said, “But Janet we did that yesterday and you were with us, you were walking and talking normally – surely you can remember it.”

I had absolutely no recall of the entire afternoon of the previous day. For some reason that really scared me.

Ready to Quit

That was the moment I saved my life – today I am 7 years sober and feel that I’ve been given a second chance at life. I told my husband that I was done with alcohol – I couldn’t do this anymore. Rather than say “I’ve heard that before” he said “I’ve never heard you say that before – you always said that you would cut down – not quit. He is French and their attitude to alcohol is quite different from the Brits.

He was always worried about my drinking and asked me to cut down repeatedly. I wanted to stay with him so I tried really hard. It never occurred to me to give up drinking altogether. What kind of life would it be with no wine? My goal was to drink like my husband. A glass of wine with dinner and maybe two on a special occasion!

I looked up the “low-risk limits” and discovered that one and a half bottles of wine a week was the recommended limit. In one evening, I could easily drink that amount but decided I would aim to drink within the low-risk limits. I had a notebook and would log every glass I drink but sadly my quota had usually been used up after a few days.

The Rules Before Thriving Alcohol-Free

Of course, I created “rules” – no wine in the house (I made my husband go out every night!), smaller glasses (I just drank more of them), buying wine I didn’t like (I drank it anyway), cutting social events short so I drank less (would just drink when I got home instead). I could “white knuckle” a couple of weeks of drinking moderately but then the wheels would come off and I would drink until I blacked out.

I recall a few weeks of drinking “moderately” before a holiday in the Caribbean. We had agreed that I could relax my drinking “rules” for the week we were there. The first night we were sitting at a beach bar and I drank several Rum Punches in a row (before dinner). Apparently, I just slid from my stool onto the sand and passed out. My poor husband was mortified as he had to carry me back to my room through all the diners in this smart resort.

Another holiday ruined.

My Decade of Moderation

I call this my “decade of moderation” and it was not a happy time. The white knuckling and the blackout drinking was of course punctuated by many rows with my husband. My self-esteem was on the floor and I was full of shame.

When I decided that I had to stop drinking I went to AA. Here in South Africa, there was nowhere else to go apart from rehab. I found it depressing and too dogmatic. Most of the people there were much further down the line with their drinking so it was counterproductive – I ended up thinking that I wasn’t “that bad”!

Slowly Finding My Way

I eventually found a one-day workshop in London which gave me some tools and techniques to change my habits. More importantly, I met other women like me. Women with good jobs, nice families, and drinking a bottle of wine every evening. We swapped numbers, formed a chat group, and stayed in touch. It worked – and for a few months, I stayed sober and felt good. Felt relieved and happy that I had finally done this thing!

However, after a few months, I started to feel very flat and rather miserable. The excitement of being newly sober had passed and I started to panic. Sobriety seemed to be rather grey and boring – was I going to be stuck here for the rest of my life?

The Secret to Thriving Alcohol-Free

One day I was browsing Soberland on the internet and came across Annie. It was a video and she was telling the story of returning from a business trip and drinking a morning cocktail at Heathrow airport.

I used to work for Christie’s Auction House as an HR Director and international business trips were part of my job. Annie’s story really resonated with me as I remembered how much I used to drink at airports, on the flights – and then of course when I was wining and dining Art Specialists which was part of my job description! I downloaded This Naked Mind on my Kindle and read it that day.

It blew my mind.

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Why I’m Thriving Alcohol-Free

This Naked Mind made me angry. I had always thought of myself as a feminist and Annie’s book made me realize that I’d been manipulated by the Alcohol Industry for most of my adult life. They had managed to convince me that to have a full and happy life I would need to drink wine. Apart from socializing, it was an essential parenting aid.

Annie’s book helped me to recognize my own limiting beliefs around alcohol and then to overturn them. A classic belief I had held since the age of 18 was that “alcohol is essential to socializing”. I recognized that as a limiting belief and then overturned it by going out several times a week and socializing without alcohol. It was a huge effort and for a few months I didn’t enjoy myself but I treated it as a challenge. I still remember coming home in a cab one night and reflecting that I’d had a great evening – without alcohol! Who knew? My subconscious had finally realized that this was possible.

thriving alcohol-free

Being a Rebel

Quite simply I could see it as the toxic substance that it was, I no longer desired it and felt grateful to be free. To be a Rebel and not a Sheep!

No longer would I have a “lifetime struggle” to fight this “disease” a “day at a time”. I had put down my glass and taken back my power!

My life has changed beyond recognition! Toward the end of my “drinking career” my world was shrinking. I was becoming isolated and had lost interest in most things except wine.

After a year of sobriety, I was feeling amazing. I had regained my health and happiness. I was also retired from my corporate job and had time on my hands. (now that I was no longer planning the drinking, doing the drinking, or recovering from the drinking. I was a qualified Executive Coach with 25 years of experience in training and development and a newly discovered passion for sobriety. I dedicated myself to helping others do what I had done.

Paying It Forward

I designed a one-day workshop covering Mindset and a Toolkit. They were physical workshops in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and London at first. Then Covid forced us onto Zoom, we now have people from all over the world attending the workshops. I retrained as a Recovery Coach and run challenges, Dry January Fundraisers, and Sober Springs.

My podcast was launched on my 5th Soberversary and now has more than 120 episodes/110k downloads.

What It’s Like Thriving Alcohol-Free

thriving alcohol-free

My personal life has improved. My long-suffering husband is thrilled and I am much closer to my adult son. I have met the most wonderful people in Soberland and for the first time in my life feel that I have discovered meaning and purpose. Don’t waste your time “moderating” alcohol. You are dependent and there is no going back. Ditch the stuff completely and learn to thrive in your alcohol-free life. It’s actually much easier to quit completely than to try to “moderate” an addictive drug. Don’t worry about what other people think – be a rebel, not a sheep. The smartest and most successful people often don’t drink. Even if alcohol doesn’t destroy you it will prevent you from reaching your potential.

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