Alex and Lisa did everything together – including drinking. It’s no wonder they undertook the sober experiment together as well!
Lisa and I met at secondary school through our parents. My grandparents, mother and father owned pubs during my early childhood and my dad was a musician, singing and playing guitar in clubs on the weekends. I was brought home from the hospital after my birth and plonked onto a bar at 3 days old. That was where I spent my childhood – in a pub, one way or another. All I had ever known was that environment. Although there was a party atmosphere in my house for the majority of my childhood, it was also difficult, as alcohol took hold of my father, led to many arguments, and eventually led to his death in my early adulthood.
Lisa’s grandmother also owned a pub and she, too, spent the majority of her childhood in bars. Her early childhood was pretty non-descript as far as alcohol is concerned. Her mum worked in bars and restaurants, so alcohol was very normalised. Lisa’s mum was a great entertainer and often had house parties. Lisa would serve alcohol to the guests from the bar they had in their sitting room.
My earliest memory of drinking was at 5 years old. My younger sister and I poured drinks from the bar, playing a pub game and drank some. Although I know that on a much earlier occasion, which I don’t remember, I drank red wine that had been left lying around the house.
Lisa’s earliest memory of alcohol was when she was about 6 years old. Punch was being served at a family barbecue and she was sneaking the punch with her friend, who had to go home drunk (she was about 7).
The Drinking Experiment
During our early teens (because our parents were such good friends and would often be out either in one of our pubs or watching my dad perform somewhere), we started to explore drinking regularly. Drinking every weekend on the streets, getting drunk on the back of the bus on our way to the regular under-18’s disco and coming alive. Lisa was the life and soul and for the first time in her life, she felt at her most sociable and funniest. I agreed. Lisa used alcohol as a social lubricant to reduce her anxiety about meeting new people. I used it because I had been such a geek at school. Alcohol made me confident. I would sing on the karaoke and dance like a crazy woman, thinking I was the life and soul of the party. Lisa agreed. We actively encouraged and excused each other.
Doing It Together
In our late teens, Lisa and I worked for her mum in her mum’s pub. We were an amazing bar team and the customers loved buying us drinks and we loved drinking them. After work, we would go out late at night or lock the doors when the pub shut and carry on partying. We were well known as the girls who could “drink everyone under the table”. We loved our craziness. On several occasions, we would get each other into trouble. On one occasion, we came back to my house and then decided (even after 3 bottles of wine and shots), that we hadn’t had enough and went back out again. We have lost each other, left each other, used each other as excuses, and defended each others’ disgusting behaviour – on more than one occasion.
Fast forward to our early 30’s. We both had young children and became calmer. We now lived quite a distance apart, and although it was rarer, when we went out, it was still crazy. For example, we had an annual messy weekend in Dublin and our poor husbands dreaded it. With cause. On one of the trips, we lost each other again, got into a random taxi and let him drive us to a random pub and tried to miss our flight home so we could stay and drink for another day. When we couldn’t go out, it didn’t really stop us. We moved to using video call on an evening, just chatting and drinking wine together, apart. Actually, we said “this is great, it is our night out but in”. We embraced the mummy wine culture and we were leaders of the pack.
However, we were functional and held down good jobs, families, and friendships. But each weekend, we would call each other on the phone, crying and ashamed. We both went through marriage breakdowns, the death of a mutual friend to alcohol, and we both lost our fathers to alcohol. We were each others’ metaphorical worst enemy and best friend at the same time.
Weighed Down By Alcohol
Fast forward to our late 30s. Lisa called me regularly filled with regret and anxiety. Alcohol had snuck up on her and she hated it. She remarried and her relationship was suffering, as he was a heavy drinker. Lisa felt she was being dragged further into it, drinking more regularly to get on the same level. The alcohol was impeding her ability to deal with life. Her now teenagers were going wild, she was working so hard in the week, and at weekends she was going out binge drinking. She noticed that she was living for the weekends. Upon realising this, she was setting herself rules of staying in but breaking the promise over and over. She used alcohol as an escape from reality and felt she deserved the drunken weekends to be her ‘real self’. She knew she had a problem.
I was working all week and rarely had a drink, but I always wished for Friday. Every Friday and Saturday I would drink 1-2 bottles of red wine in the house. I had tried to quit after throwing a sandwich at my husband’s head because he was going out to the pub and I had to stay in. I drank myself into a stupor, alone in the house. The only reason I stopped was because I believed he would leave me. Then I found out I was pregnant, which took away any effort, as I never drank with any of my pregnancies. Unfortunately, I lost the baby at 3 months and went straight to the pub and drank. This went on for another 10 months and I became bitter, angry and resentful when drunk. I knew I had a problem.
Ready To Stop
In July 2018 after many arguments with her inner voice, Lisa called me and announced she had quit drinking. I was supportive and a little bit jealous. She started to thrive. With two other women she had met through Instagram, she set up Bee Sober Mcr. Meanwhile, she did not preach at me but she did say “I think you’re going to stop”. She was right. I had decided enough was enough and took the steps to quit. In June 2019, I had my last drink. Both of us knew we would never drink again and we still do. Both of us woke with a horrific hangover and that sealed the deal.
Together, we started to discuss the benefits of sobriety and I had already seen my beautiful best friend growing up. I was genuinely happy for her and wanted to be the same. She helped me. She recommended my first book, yours Annie, and I knew I would never drink again.
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The Sober Experiment
Since then, we have both read every sobriety book we could find. We both noticed that other people were curious about our journey because if there were any two people in the world who would stop drinking, it would never have been us. They were gobsmacked and intrigued and we helped several people to become sober; Lisa’s mum, my sister, and old school friends. In September 2019 we set up Sober Experiment, a Facebook Support group to help other people and tell them what worked for us. It started to evolve and we became serious about making a difference. We have now taken on a huge project, whereby we are about to embark on workplace presentations to support improved health and well-being. We have studied coaching, mentoring, recovery, and used our self-education to support others. Next steps……. The Sober Revolution!
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