In early 2016, I was amongst the first group of students to complete an online course created by Kate, creator of The Sober School, called Getting Unstuck. I’ve mentioned this course before, and The Sober School and Kate, and how much participating in the program helped me when I decided I didn’t want to drink alcohol anymore.
There are now multiple groups of people who have completed this course and Kate is really on a roll with her program, it’s amazing!!! She is adding a mini interview series to the Getting Unstuck course. Every Sunday, part of the lesson will involve an interview with a graduate of the course, talking about their experience of sobriety. I feel really proud that she picked me as one of the people to interview and it was really interesting answering the questions. Revisiting this stuff was pretty cool after almost 500 days! Here’s what we talked about.
Kate: How were you feeling about your drinking before you joined the course, and what made you decide it was time to stop?
Jamie: “Before joining the Getting Unstuck course, I felt like I had serious issues with alcohol and I was stuck in a vicious cycle that I wanted to break for a really long time. Over ten years. When I drank I’d adopt a “YOLO, who f*ckin cares” attitude and disregard everything: next-day responsibilities, money, my physical and mental health, relationships with friends, family and significant other. Priorities temporarily didn’t exist. I also had a lot of friendships that weren’t really based on anything except drinking.
Then, when I wasn’t drunk anymore I’d be totally swallowed up by loneliness because a lot of the “fun” I’d been having was fake. I’d experience extreme guilt, anxiety, depression and shame and reality would set in and those priorities that went out the window mattered again, and my life would feel out of control. I would have physical symptoms like nausea, shakiness, acid reflux, dizziness, low blood sugar, irritability, etc and I would tell myself I had to stop treating my body and mind this way. I felt needy and paranoid about the tiniest things when I was hungover and I would research how to quit drinking all the time but never found anything relatable until I found Kate’s blog.
I knew it was time to stop for a long time, but then I basically wrecked Christmas and had to sit and deal with myself for 8 hours at work on Boxing Day and it was actual torture. I finally decided enough was enough and took some action.”
Kate: What was early sobriety like? How did you feel during the first month or so?
Jamie: “At first I was obsessed. I’m like that though, I usually approach new things 100%, not sure if that’s healthy or not, but whatever, it was the way I knew I could succeed. I read Kate and Belle’s blogs all day, every day when I wasn’t busy doing other things, and I went on Amazon and bought a bunch of books. I also went out and did a big grocery shop to stock my new non-alcoholic beverage cabinet at our house. I read every article I could find about non-alcoholic drinks and I was meticulous about planning out the social events I was going to go to and what I’d bring with me to drink. Non-alcoholic beer was pretty much my saviour. I went out sometimes, but I usually went home early when I was feeling awkward or annoyed by drunk people, or if I noticed that the situation was genuinely not that fun..which I’ve found happens a lot!
I made sure my now-husband knew how serious I was about this sober mission. It helped that I simultaneously started training for my first full marathon and I used that as a way to get people off my back when they’d ask why I wasn’t drinking. The first month or so it was a project that I was fully engaged in and committed to. I had to be excited about it or it would be a chore and I’d have failed like I did a hundred times before. Every time I arrived home sober it was a win. And every morning I woke up without a hangover was one too. Once it became more natural, it was a little anti-climactic because I no longer had to focus all my energy on being sober. I had gained some momentum. But I adapted, obviously,, and transferred my focus to the bigger picture of my life and what I wanted to do with it. Hands down, planning what to drink instead of booze was the number one thing that helped me at first and still does.”
Kate: What’s life like now?! What do you love most about alcohol-free living?
Jamie: “Now, I feel like my life is what I wanted it to be like before I quit booze. It’s what I was looking for but never found long-term. I would drink for all sorts of reasons that I didn’t recognize at the time, like to feel confident, free, alive, pumped up, to “give zero f*cks”, be funny, social, etc. Once I figured out that I didn’t need liquor for any of those things it was like a light bulb went on.
Everything is more authentic now. I hang out with people I can have good conversations with, I do my favourite things with a clear head and not feeling like shit, and I’m generally just a way more efficient person with way more time and money. What I love most for sure is that I never ever feel guilty and depressed about being irresponsible the night before and spending too much money and treating my body like a garbage can. And I feel like I’m way more grounded. Life is just really good.”
Kate: What sober tools are in your toolbox? How do you deal with emotions or situations that you might have previously drunk over?
Jamie: “The most important tool I learned is playing out the situation to the end when I feel like drinking. Asking myself, “do you really want to wake up tomorrow dehydrated with all your makeup still on and a smaller bank account, a migraine, nausea, the shakes and on the verge of an anxiety attack all day long?” NO, I don’t. My other tools are non-alcoholic beer and virgin Caesars as my go-to drinks, or soda with lemon. Drink something you like! Another tool is I buy something I want and then remind myself: this costs the same amount as a night out back in the day, but this is useful and will last – not get guzzled away. Rewards are important. It’s also really fun to get ready to go out and wear something new and remind myself that I’ll look healthy, happy and my makeup will be good the whole evening instead of gradually getting smudgy, getting a red face, wine lips and droopy eyes and looking like a trainwreck by midnight and possibly embarrass myself or do something I’ll regret.
When it comes to emotions, I no longer have such extreme emotional experiences as I used to when I was drinking all the time. I feel more grounded and resilient as a whole. But when I do have a shit day or something stressful or overwhelming is happening, I usually just go for a run or have a nap or talk about it with a friend or my husband. Getting drunk and postponing dealing with things is WAY worse than just taking a deep breath and handling it head-on and in my right mind.”
Kate: What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to deal with since you stopped drinking? How did you overcome it?
Jamie: “The biggest challenge was initiating the decision and sticking to it at the beginning. Change is really hard. That involved learning about why I thought I wanted/needed to drink. Nowadays, very rarely, when it randomly feels like summer or I smell campfire and get caught off guard, I get a random urge to start day drinking or “get f*cked up” but then I think rationally about it and I’m like wait, that’s just an old reflex, no I don’t. Gaining momentum at the begining was hard because it was new and different. People question you. I still question myself. Occasionally I have moments where I think, am I missing out and being antisocial because I’m chilling at home on this particular Saturday night?? I have felt unsure and sad for a split second, but then I remind myself of how good my life is and I get over that moment of uncertainty. I socialize in tons of other ways and I still go to parties when I feel like it!
These days I don’t really feel like there are many challenges. It’s simple now because it makes sense. I don’t enjoy feeling like shit! Sobriety is like a secret weapon that makes my life amazing and no one can take it away from me. When people ask me if I’ll ever drink again, I don’t even think twice about saying no. It actually makes zero sense to me now, to drink alcohol. It serves me in zero ways.”
Kate: Tell us about something wonderful that would never have happened if you’d still been drinking!
Jamie: “I wouldn’t have run 3 full marathons (so far!) and be training for my 4th with the goal of breaking 4 hours this time! I wouldn’t have the healthiest, most amazing marriage I can imagine. I wouldn’t have a life that feels good, manageable and organized the majority of the time. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be a role model for other people who are or were in my previous situation. OH and I wouldn’t have taken my best 2 vacations of my life so far; a week long health retreat in the Mayan Riviera, and Walt Disney Marathon Weekend in Florida.”
Kate: Do you have any tips or advice for people taking the Getting Unstuck course right now? What do you wish you’d known, when you were on the course?
Jamie: “My advice is to commit to it fully and even if one of the exercises or discussions doesn’t feel important or relevant to you, just go with it because it’s all valuable. What I wish I’d known when I was doing the course was that one day I’d be proud of what I was doing, and not unsure and embarrassed. But all of that comes in time.”
Kate: a few quick-fire questions:
My favourite sober book is…”Unwasted – My Lush Sobriety by Sacha Z. Scoblic”
My favourite quote is … “always changing, but I love quotes about running from amazing female elite marathoners like Kara Goucher, Deena Kastor, Shalane Flanagan, Paula Radcliffe, etc”
My favourite alcohol-free drink is…. “Virgin Caesars and fake beer! Ginger beer too, and a super easy one is soda with lemon.”
My favourite sober treat is … “online shopping for running gear, fancy baths with candles and essential oils and a good book or Instagram, going on running trips to out of town races!”
WOW!! I loved answering these questions and being so sure about my answers. I remember sitting at work on Boxing Day 2015 wishing that I could fast-forward to a time where everything felt better and I felt healthy and grounded. In about a month it will have been 500 days since I had any alcohol at all, and it seems to have flown by, looking back. If you relate to anything you’ve read here, I encourage you to check out Kate’s website, The Sober School. It is awesome. And if you have any questions or need a hand, contact me!