The eagle-eyed amongst you will soon spot that in our previous ‘’She Recovers” post I stated that the series would focus on three women, over three days. Almost true… because today we talk to two women, Kate & Mandy of Love Sober.
Erm, that’s two women right there and we still have one to come. Go figure!
Thing is, whilst there is no doubting they are individuals, together Kate & Mandy represent the Love Sober Podcast. They think that anything that helps anyone in the realm of recovery and/ or sobriety is fabulous and necessary… they put their own very unique spin on things, as mothers, as they found only disease/ addiction conversations and rock bottom rehab stories in the press rather than looking at alcohol as a potential problem generally.
In short, like us, they want to blow the conversation wide open and that is exactly what led us to have a good natter on the subject.
Hope this resonates with you – read and enjoy!
Kate & Mandy, hello! Could you please tell us a little bit about yourselves?
(Kate) So, I am a mum of two. I was a national press journalist for years and stopped when I had kids. I work from home and have been interested in coaching for many years and am now training as a life coach to help people quit booze and create a life they love. Mandy and I found each other on Soberistas … Mandy lives in France now, but strangely we realised after chatting we had lived on the next road to each other in Brighton! We are working on a self-care workbook for the “sober/ sober curious” with a Mum focus, together and the potential for a wellness retreat in France. I started my blog Love Sober a year ago, after blogging on Soberistas for getting on for five years, and it was Mandy’s idea to do a podcast together.
(Mandy) I am also a Mum of two, I work as a university professor, and freelance language teacher, however, I am looking at what’s next as I need a change. I grew up in the UK the west country, Brighton and London and have lived in France for 12 years, 9 years in the North and now 3 years on the west coast.
What brought you here? Tell us a bit about your story with alcohol…
(Kate) I am a mum of two young kids in my 40s. I juggle family and work and a smelly dog. Before I became AF, I looked on the surface to be ‘normal’ and drank about the same as most of my friends did. A few glasses of wine a few nights a week and a bottle or so on a Saturday night, whilst I nicked my husband’s fags. The odd wild night which would result in a four day hangover but not vodka on the cornflakes, by any means. It was after a had my youngest that I stopped drinking in earnest. She was three and my son six. My diaries in between her birth and my sober birthday are full of lists and goals and shoulds such as losing weight and detoxing. These were punctuated with regular hangover entries, saying how fed up I was of drinking, how I was going to give up that day, as I went round and around in circles. With hindsight, I realised there were two main problems: a) I thought I was being too hard on myself, which I was. And b) I thought that it would be a good idea have a glass ( bottle) of wine, which it wasn’t.
I had actually tried before to give up alcohol before many times over the years. Each time I had a really bad hangover I would say to myself ‘That’s it,’ and vow to quit only to find a few days later, after the pounding head, dehydration and anxiety had abated that I would be fancying a glass of wine. Three weeks was my longest stint of sobriety apart from pregnancies.
Although obviously drinking problems are not the sole custody of mums, it’s a key time for many women when self- care goes out of the window and we can become depleted and overwhelmed. The shift in identity/role, the loss of freedom, time and financial constraints bore down on me down on me it became all too easy to see the answer to all evils in a wine bottle shaped hug, that sparkling white medicine.
(Mandy) I started drinking when I was 14. The first time I abused alcohol was at the age of 22. I had had some traumatic experiences as a teenager that I hadn’t dealt with and when I ended the secure two-year relationship I was in everything that had happened in the past overwhelmed me. I would go to the shop and buy a bottle of red and drink it in one go. This was the first moment when I realised that alcohol could be a powerful tool to numb my pain. A year later I met a man and we fell in love.
In January 2005 we did Dry January (before it was ‘Dry January’) and it was fantastic, so fantastic that we decided to carry on and not drink for a year, and I have such fond memories of that time. We got pregnant, and decided to change our lives and move to Europe. I had my second child in 2008 and I started to get depressed. I was alone a lot of the time, I was a stay at home mum, I was sleep deprived and, having not dealt with a lot of my history, consumed with overwhelming fear.
I hadn’t stopped partying either. I was only in my late 20s and that lifestyle was all I knew. I went back to work and was very successful but I drank every day. I had blackouts, I had accidents. I made a fool out of myself; I had lost my sense of self.
I knew I didn’t want to be that party girl anymore, but I didn’t know how to change. I wanted to be an adult, but I was terrified of the responsibility. All I wanted to do was be a good parent, but I felt I was doing everything wrong. I felt guilty, ashamed, anxious and depressed all of the time. So I used drink to punish myself.
What was your drinking like at the point you decided to quit?
(Kate) My drinking was not too bad by ‘normal standards’ about 25 units most weeks… but if we went to an occasion … then I could put away scary amounts. But what I didn’t realise and what I think was so shame filled and secretive was the effort involved in keeping to that level. So it dominated most of my waking hours, planning, deciding, regretting, controlling… that’s why I don’t believe in moderating.
If you need to moderate then it’s already got you no matter what the units look like, and quitting will give you freedom. I was miserable, isolated and bored in a new town with two small kids. It became my best friend and worst enemy.
(Mandy) It depends at when we’re talking about… in 2012, probably a bottle a night most nights and then more at weekends or more when I went out. In 2017 mostly just at weekends (2 bottles a week) with the odd crazy binge, and then half a bottle-ish everyday-ish in the holidays.
… and the final straw for you both, was what, exactly?
(Kate) The final straw was one more feeling sick and tired of being sick and tired. Decorating on my own.. Other half at work, ( he worked late into evening) kids in bed and I drank 17 units on my own, woke up in a sweat and found Soberistas , having googled ‘Am I an alcoholic?’ for the thousandth time. I found a site that didn’t scare me half to death or offend the eye with awful design and blogged for the first time in my life!
(Mandy) Similar to Kate, really, feeling exhausted, constantly tired and stressed and disappointed and frustrated that no one wanted to drink with me, so finishing all their drinks…
Do you consider yourselves to be “in recovery”? What does this word mean to you?
(Kate) Hmm… no, I hate the word. LOL. I see myself as having given up taking an addictive drug which I was emotionally reliant on, and being in the process of designing a well-being scaffold for living. I think other people would call that recovery! haha. But the thing is, I think problem drinking is normalised and so still lots of people are doing it and considered normal by society so I feel like why should I wear a fricken label just because I’m making good choices to make all ‘you’ lot who still drink feel better? Fuck that. Discovery, choice, freedom. If anything I’m in recovery from emotional scars from childhood , self-esteem issues etc … I think we are all in ‘recovery’ from one thing or another as we try to live and love with open hearts.
Everyone’s got ‘stuff’ .. it makes us human.
(Mandy) No I don’t consider I am in recovery because I don’t believe I had a disease. I had a problem and I found a solution (not drinking) to solve that problem. Recovery seems too connected to the past somehow… But that is what feels right for me, each to their own.
Interesting… and honest (given the title of our site. LOL). So, you stopped and changed your lifestyles… how did you do that? How did you manage after you stopped? What did you do to motivate and maintain your abstinence? Any hints or tips, sources of inspiration for others seeking to do the same?
(Mandy) Yes, books, This Naked Mind by Annie Grace, The Sober Revolution, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray; podcasts – The Edit Podcast with Aidan Donnelly-Rowley and Home by Holly Whitaker & Laura McKowen (Ed: search for this in any good podcast app… they’re all still there!). Also the sober community, Soberistas and Club Soda, I also went to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to look at where this self-destructive behaviour was (well, that I knew) but how to get better.
Not drinking alcohol can be a very stigmatising thing… were you prepared for that? How did you deal with it? How did those around you deal with it?
(Kate) I quickly came to feel very proud of my decision . I’ve never been one for running with the herd so being AF fitted my ‘special/ rebellious ‘ thing lol. I just feel so much better I honestly don’t care what people think.
(Mandy) Yeah it is quite hard to be different, to go against the crowd, it takes some time to find the words and responses when people question my decision. It’s all good now though I am much stronger in myself so I can handle people’s inappropriate delvings! (is that even a word?)
Any relapses along the way? How did you cope emotionally with all this?
(Mandy) – Oh many, I first gave up in 2005 purely to lose weight, and prove to myself and then it has been back and forth since then! But I know this is the life I want, I choose to be Alcohol Free and I love it
You’ve both been sober for years now. Are there any manifest benefits in your life that not drinking has afforded?
(Kate) Yes 2 years AF now … wow the benefit … apart from the obvious health benefits .. the work I think you do to be sober … the daily work basically brings unbelievable rewards … so gratitude, awe walks, yoga, prioritising my happiness, baths, lovely things, friends, hugs … all this stuff makes you feel good. I could get to grips with my authentic needs when I stopped drinking. The first year was incredibly hard work… just rinse and repeat each day until the wine witch stopped yelling and I tried to get through trigger times and learn better ways of managing stress.. BUT it was very exciting too. I feel like I’ve come home, I can hear myself.
(Mandy) It’s a spiral/snowball effect; when I stop, everything gets better and I am mindful and aware of that, when I drink everything is not so good, slowly deteriorating but I don’t have the clarity to realise.
So, guys, “Love Sober” – What’s THAT all about?
(Kate) – Love sober is the name of my blog . I love being sober and wanted to spread the positive messages and rep for the alcohol free community. I wanted something that felt like me. Then Mandy suggested a podcast and we decided to do it under this name.
I had planned to use it as a brand to coach under too and publish under. It seems like it’s what it says on the tin LOL. The idea Mandy and I had for the podcast is to just chat about stuff that comes up for us living sober in our lives, we don’t have lots of answers but we love to chat, research and stay curious to have the conversation about life, sobriety, mental health , self care, parenting … just life and all its warts and sunshine… through a sober lens.
It has a strong mental health focus and Mandy’s openness about this has really helped me to be able to talk about my own mental health.
The “female sobriety scene” is pretty active & intense… How do you feel about that/ Who has been inspirational for you? How so?
(Kate) Female sober scene? Over to you Mandy ! Im mainly on Soberistas but recently ventured to IG which Mandy got me into. I just love the Sober Sisterhood… I love Hip Sobriety, Sexy Sobriety and Soberistas too. I love sober people full stop. We now meet up with sisters and they are amazing .. I see us a bit like the freemasons lol .. don’t print that .. we look out for each other! Lucy Rocca.. huge inspiration, love Bex Weller, Sarah Turner of The Harrogate Sanctuary.
All those that went before and had the guts to speak out.
(Mandy) Yeah, I think there is something very complex and inspirational in people’s stories and obviously being women and mothers we tend to connect and gather those around us which give us empathy and understanding. I have sober friends through Instagram all over the world and I love that, all their stories have blown me away there are some very strong warriors out there! Saying that the male experience and the need for expression and openness and the safety to speak out is extremely important, the suicide rate in men is extremely worrying so I hope more men will join and speak out.
Love Sober… what’s in it for people who may be interested in getting involved?
(Kate) Love Sober? Whats in it for peeps? Hmm… hopefully a sense that you are not alone, that two normal AF mums are having real conversations about real stuff and having a bit of a laugh, probably saying things we shouldn’t, swearing a bit but that we really feel better alcohol free and want to share our journeys and insights … we want to hear from other people too. I also coach so if people want to have extra sobriety support then that’s on offer too. We’re taking one day at a time with it… but we have loads of plans for the future… advice? Pop along and have a listen!
Interestingly, there’s not so much of this kind of help for us blokes in this arena… why do you think that is?
(Kate) Blokes … yes… I know what you mean … we want to get some fellas on the podcast. I feel like the “sobros” I know seem to have different needs and like to be very straightforward and like clear goals and not to think too deeply … so I do feel like this is more suited to the women I have met … over thinkers anonymous LOL. Um… Sarah Turner campaigned for years for ‘gender appropriate recovery support’ … Maybe men have not found their voice yet ? Interesting to look into … maybe your site will provide a good forum for guys – I think the push factors and pressure on men are very different and I really hope the boys get to get support.
(Mandy) There are some good examples of progress in mental health with men finding their voice and speaking out. Sanctus in London are doing some very good work, hopefully this will trickle down and out into talking about sobriety. We have a long way to go to treat us all as individuals and not through a gender filter. Men are supposed to compartmentalise their feelings, from about the age of four onwards they are told not to cry, internalise and fight, so yeah… there is a lot of unpicking to be done to help men and boys.
Where can people find you?
(Mandy) – Subscribe on iTunes or Soundcloud to the podcast and to Love Sober site for news and blogs and watch this space! And send us comments! Please!
Just about there now… phew… so, what’s next for Love Sober, Kate & Mandy?
(Kate) What’s next … working on the book, series 2 of the podcast… surviving summer hols (eek), coaching training for me and finishing the online coaching program and at some point we want to do Love Sober wellness retreats … we need an avatar each to do all this work but yeah to just keep talking, living , growing as sober people and sharing the love!