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The Go Get Sober Story

It’s Saturday morning and my son has rugby practice.

I wake up to a rhythmic thudding in my head. I’m in the back bedroom of my little Victorian cottage with sun streaming through the gap in the curtains onto the pale blue walls and the floral Kath Kidston bedspread. Outside, I can hear quiet and comforting neighbour noise close by: a car radio, tyres on gravel; laughter over clinking crockery; dogs barking.

As I slowly surface into consciousness with stale alcohol fumes hot in my breath and emanating from every pore of my body, I remember flashes of last night. I feel the familiar wave of shame and dread crashing through me. I can’t remember going to bed and I can’t remember what I said or did or who I spoke to. I’m certain I embarrassed myself and have every reason to fear the conversation with my boyfriend later on.

My brain and body feel crushed and battered. I’m foetal and almost rocking under the duvet. My hangovers these days don’t involve simple physical symptoms like nausea and headaches, they cripple me with mental and emotional ill health – panic and anxiety attacks like I’ve never known before.

Worse, though, is knowing that I have to face the day. I have to get up, be normal, chat to my son, behave like a happy weekend parent, be there for him, be the responsible adult. I can’t bear the thought of letting him down. If I don’t drive him to rugby practice, I’m a terrible mother (for putting my needs before his). If I do drive him to rugby practice, I’m a terrible mother (for driving when I’m not fit to and putting our lives at risk because I’m still over the limit). I’m already feeling ashamed for getting myself into the state I’m in and being so out-of-control.

This dramatic and soul-crushing start to the weekend is totally normal for me: it’s the routine - it’s how my weekends go. I have an unhealthy alcohol habit that’s getting in the way of my life.

On this particular Saturday, I manage to get myself up and I drive my son to the school where the rugby practice is happening. I drive through gritted teeth and shallow breaths, white knuckles gripping the gear-stick. The car windows are open to make sure the alcohol fumes aren’t too obvious – if I can’t smell it, there’s less of a problem.

I consciously concentrate on every minute manoeuvre I make.

I put on a good, light-hearted conversational show and pretend I’m fine, all the time counting the landmarks and seconds to when I can drop him off and get back home. The effort and energy it takes to do this is monumental and draining – it takes every ounce of self-control I have. Luckily, he’s meeting friends after so I have the rest of the day to recover.

And, that’s exactly what I spend most of my precious weekends doing – lying in bed, recovering. Not meeting friends, not keeping appointments, not getting fresh air, not being productive, not having fun with my son, not even good old-fashioned lazy relaxing. Just lying in bed, waiting. Waiting to start feeling better, waiting in vain to fall back to sleep, and waiting for a respectable six o’clock to arrive when I can start drinking again and relieve my symptoms.

For decades, I nurtured an unhealthy relationship with alcohol that kept me in this cycle. Drinking to relax, de-stress, unwind, socialise, laugh, feel uninhibited, feel more confident, enhance my joy, drown my sorrow, reward myself, console myself, celebrate, relieve boredom, fit in with other people… you name it, I always had a reason to drink. I drank to get drunk and then I would feel awful. So, I would drink to stop feeling awful. If I wasn’t drinking, I was thinking about drinking, recovering from drinking and counting the hours till I could start drinking again.

Now let’s fast forward to this last weekend when, if you’d have taken a stroll in one of the meadows down by the river in Sudbury, Suffolk, UK, at about seven o’clock on Saturday morning, and if you’d wandered peaceably by the woods under the warm blue skies and rising sun, you might have been puzzled to come across me, standing stock still in the undergrowth behind a tree, trying to hide behind the trunk at the same time as trying to save my bare shins from the thigh-high nettles.

The reason for this bizarre behaviour was that my boyfriend had phoned me unexpectedly at the crack of dawn with an impromptu invitation to join him and our dog, Arly, for a bit of early morning “man-trailing”. This is a new game we’ve recently discovered which is loads of fun for us and, even better, great mental stimulation for Arly. The game is super easy - we take it in turns to be hunter and hunted.  One of us runs and hides while the other stays with Arly and waits before giving him a command and letting him take the lead, using his nose and all his scenting powers to track the other person down.

I feel like an excited seven-year-old when I play this game. It gives me a real adrenalin rush as I run away from a highly excited, barking, lunging dog, through fields, along muddy tracks, weaving through woods, trying to rummage about in the undergrowth for a good hiding spot. I feel like a character in a movie. It’s good healthy, clean fun – a mixture of cardiovascular exercise and nature therapy that gets me out-of-breath and pink-cheeked in minutes. It’s physical, it’s energetic, and it’s therapeutic. It’s also joyful – there is nothing quite as happy-hormone inducing as being licked all over by a wagging dog when he finally finds you.

After the excitement and adrenalin of the man-trailing, we took our dirty, scratched and sweaty selves to a local café where we sat outside in the sun and treated ourselves to a pastry-heavy breakfast while we people- and traffic-watched and planned our respective days quietly and happily.

By mid-afternoon, I had been shopping, I had spring-cleaned most of the house (a proper cupboard-shelves-and-window-ledges clean) I had written some more of my book and I had recorded and posted a video for my Facebook group. I felt that smug satisfaction you only get when you’ve made a plan and stuck to it – when you feel like you’ve earned your treats and rewards. I’d accomplished more than I’d set out to do and that made me feel good. I relished the prospect of an evening free to relax, cook, enjoy some good food and generally do whatever I wanted.

Saying yes to a spontaneous and unexpected invitation to a bit of man-trailing fun at seven o’clock on a weekend morning and being generally productive and busy with my weekend time might not seem like a huge deal – for a lot of people this is just how they’ve always lived - but it is enormously significant to me because it demonstrates just how much my life has improved since I changed my drinking habit.

I’m now in control: of my time, of my decisions, of my mental health, of my fitness, of my life. Instead of spending my weekends lying in bed waiting and recovering, thinking about drinking, I spend them getting things done or taking time for myself to relax. I look after myself and the people I care about. I am content.

It took me decades to finally knock the drinking on its head and change my alcohol habit for a healthier sober one.

Had I disclosed to any medical professional the amounts I was drinking, the pattern of my drinking, the effects of my drinking… had I filled in the SEVERITY OF ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE QUESTIONAIRE (SADQ-C) honestly and had my doctor assessed my drinking, I would have been classed as having an alcohol disorder of “severe alcohol dependence.” I would have been told I needed “assisted alcohol withdrawal” and would have been signposted to detox/withdrawal support and my local Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Group.

I did none of these things. I didn’t disclose my fears about my drinking to a doctor, I didn’t fill in a questionnaire and I didn’t get any kind of diagnosis. When I finally decided I was going to stop drinking, I knew I didn’t want to go down traditional and medical roads to sobriety.

There were a couple of reasons for this:

  • I didn’t want to have anything to do with AA or give myself a label like alcoholic or addict;
  • I was a qualified Life and Leadership Coach and Master NLP Practitioner. I had spent the last two decades supporting, leading and coaching people to transform their lives and had all the resources, tools and techniques I needed. I knew it was possible to change my drinking habit into something healthier and to do it in a way that was positive, uplifting, joyful and liberating.

So, I spent a lot of time online hunting, researching and investigating – looking for the kind of support that was effective, evidence-based and would fit with my belief system.

When I didn’t find what I was looking for, I decided to create it myself.

I did three things:

  1. I used the knowledge, skills and expertise I had at my disposal, stopped drinking and changed my unhealthy alcohol habit into a much healthier sober one - I did it happily and healthily and haven’t looked back since;
  2. I created an online coaching programme specifically for people who wanted support and guidance to stop drinking and this became the Go Get Sober Guidance Programme;
  3. I set up a Facebook Group for people who wanted to feel part of a supportive, encouraging and non-judgmental community.

I created Go Get Sober as something accessible and motivating. Most of all, I wanted it to give people ideas, guidance and strategies that they would find useful, that were easy to follow and that would work. I wanted to show people that anybody can stop drinking and, with the right mindset and approach, they can stop drinking more easily than they might expect.

Go Get Sober shares tried and tested, evidence-based strategies from coaching, NLP and neuroscience that are renowned for ensuring lasting and transformational behaviour change.

The driving ethos behind Go Get Sober is that when you stop drinking, you free yourself. Using the Go Get Sober approach means you get to experience stopping drinking and staying sober as liberating, positive and joyful.

Life doesn’t stop when you stop drinking, it starts.

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