I had my first taste of being ‘drunk’ at eleven years old. I stole the alcohol my father had in decorative miniatures around our sitting room. I was with a friend, and we still talk about this memory now. We drank until we were paralytic, to the point I fell down the stairs and knocked myself unconscious. My mother was besides herself, but that didn’t matter to me – what I’d learnt was so powerful it superseded anything else, alcohol = escape.
My teenage years were marred with alcohol and substance misuse. I was known as a 'wild child,' always in trouble with the Police, always looking for the next big adventure. People described me as ‘rebellious’ when the truth was I was just lost. Chasing that feeling of escape, of reward, of excitement.
By the time I was sixteen, I had a chaotic presentation and rarely attended school. I lived life on the edge and was more concerned with immediate gratification than anything else. Something shifted when a teacher told my mother;
"Don't bother sending her for her exams, she'll fail them all anyway."
Despite the shape of me, this woke something in me and I locked myself away in my bedroom to begin studying.
I passed every single one of my GCSEs, despite the fact I was still living life chaotically.
I made a decision there and then that I was going to help people and I committed to this in my 'Record of Achievement', writing that I wanted to become a Social Worker.
Fast forward twenty years and I’d been successful in education, graduating with honours in Psychology and Criminology and then a second degree in Criminal and Community Justice. I’d also been successfully selected to train as a Probation Officer and had moved to a big city to ‘cut my teeth' where I met lots of young professionals all looking to work hard/play hard. I quickly became known as a party girl, always the last to leave, always looking for something after the after party. A good time girl, with lots of friends and a city centre flat, surrounded by pubs and clubs.
Although I'd moved away from substances by this point (I couldn't reconcile the criminal aspect of drugs with my profession) I was still sinking wine most nights through the week and then 'out out' on the weekends. Most mornings I was hungover, tired, depressed, ashamed, confused and perplexed as to why I was doing this to myself. I had a good job that involved supporting other people – many of whom were in active addiction themselves. I advised Courts on sentencing, I advised Parole Boards on risk, I advised Children’s Services on safeguarding matters and I did it all really well.
In time, I relocated back home, got married and had my children. My beautiful house was always clean, my children well taken care of. I remained a classic ‘unseen drinker’ – no one, not even those closest to me would’ve guessed the depths of despair I sunk into, how I dreaded each and every morning, even before my alarm had gone off.
I’d swear to myself every morning that I wouldn’t drink that night, sometimes I’d be successful, but most of the time the ‘wine witch’ would start calling around 5pm. By 7pm, we’d again be firm friends. I always made sure there was expensive wine in the fridge. Clean 'nice' glasses in the cupboard. I never drank in the day. These details mattered, they kept me (and my drinking) safe.
I'd often set a firm resolution that I'd only have 'one or two' - just like the actors on the TV I was watching. You know, a couple after work to unwind. I chose to ignore the reality that after 'one or two' the logic of needing to go to bed early for work would disappear and I'd often stagger up to bed way later than planned.
I’d wake early (as soon as my body had stopped processing the alcohol) cursing myself for ‘doing it again.’
Mornings often started with an anxious check of my phone. Who did I text or call last night? Did I post anything on Social Media? What was the last thing I watched on TV? Paracetamol and coffee became my day time friends. I fawned illness more times than I care to remember, yet I continued to excel at work, even achieving a promotion and several accolades.
I often wondered how many other people were just like me. If there was anyone like me. I frequently took quiz's like "am I drinking too much" and "am I an alcoholic?" Missing the point that the problem was inherent, by virtue of the fact I was taking these quiz's in the first place.
There was a strong sense of incongruence between who the world saw, who I was and who I wanted to/knew I was supposed to be. I also hated the example that I was setting my children, that alcohol was the answer to everything, just as I'd learnt when I was eleven.
In August 2020 I made the decision to quit alcohol for a month at first and then, 90 days. I’d had many day ones and even a dry January under my belt, but it hadn't stuck.
People around me were both amused and horrified in equal measure. I took the photos on this page 90 days apart and I was astounded at the difference in my eyes, skin, hair and energy levels. I knew I wanted to continue and I set another challenge to continue for one year.
I quickly established that me going sober challenged the drinking behaviours of those around me. As soon as I mentioned I wasn't drinking, people would question it and then reference their own drinking patterns. It was an uncomfortable dialogue that I wasn't equipped for. I told people I was doing an alcohol free challenge - which was true, but I never told people the real reason why. Not even my husband who would've supported me unequivocally.
The truth was that I wasn’t ready to own my sobriety, so instead I turned to books. I read any and everything about alcohol and it’s affects. I qualified as a Coach and a Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming. I qualified in EFT (tapping) to finally release some of the emotions I was holding within my body. I lent into the sober community (albeit through 'pseudo profiles') and found like minded others. I realized I wasn’t on my own after all and I learnt from those around me. I began using coaching techniques on my cases at work and the results blew me away. I knew I was onto something, but I wasn't ready to walk away from my career. I continued practicing the skills on those around me and myself. I became my own coach and set about becoming the most authentic, best version of myself, the real me - without alcohol.
I made the long overdue decision to quit my job and I re-trained selling Life Insurance. For those who don't know, there is a ton of money to be made selling life insurance - but it wasn't aligned with the authentic version of me.
I retrained again as an online travel agent, I've always loved travel and helping families create those special memories filled me with joy. I loved this role and the flexibility of being able to work from home, but that innate desire to help others wasn't being fulfilled.
No longer shackled by the rules around social media whilst being a serving officer, I decided to come clean with my sobriety. I 'came out' to friends and family and set some pretty strong boundaries. I was no longer concerned what other's thought of my journey and became focused on only being surrounded by those who would respect it - and this meant giving others a choice to walk away from me. This was one of the most empowering points of my journey.
In 2022 I re-certified as an Holistic Alcohol Freedom Coach specialising in working with women who are in the shoes I once walked in. I shy away from the term 'Sober Coach' because for me, being sober is just where this beautiful journey starts. The freedom we get to experience when we leave behind alcohol once and for all, is where the true magic happens.
I founded an incredible peer - support group on Facebook, called The Sober Sofa, for Ladies Only and on request, launched my own Alcohol Freedom Coaching business which includes bespoke 121 services.
More recently, I've developed a low cost, group coaching group, SOBER SOFA SUBSCRIBERS which is where we do The Work.
At the time of writing this, I am almost three years sober and am preparing to travel with my family to Bali, Indonesia before we look to relocate for good. I would never have been able to make these kinds of moves if I was still drinking.
I am truly free in every aspect of my life.
I went through all the pitfalls of sobriety such as isolation, managing others perceptions, boundary setting, people pleasing and a ghastly attempt at moderation. I worked really hard to remove all the beliefs I'd developed over the years that enabled FOMO (fear of missing out) and I am now truly thriving. I get to be sober. I get to be present. I get to do this thing called life.
I wake every single day with a deep sense of gratitude. I no longer suffer with anxiety or depression. I no longer carry shame or guilt and I actually really like the person I am, possibly for the first time in my life.
With the right guidance, those in recovery are able to embrace life in a way not many others are able to. We get to claim our precious lives back with a renewed sense of commitment. I often tell my clients that when you beat problematic drinking, you move forward with the awareness that anything is possible - and it truly is.
I am uniquely able to combine an almost twenty year career in supporting people, my formal education and qualifications with my own experiences of problematic drinking.
To thriving, together.
All my love,
(Someone who's been there)