Location, location, location…
Leaving our chilly shores for a new life in the sun is something many of us dream about.
For Gayle and her young family, that dream became a reality.
In our chat we discuss the added complexity of kicking the booze and building a career as a recovery coach.
I’m so grateful for Gayle’s time putting this together – she talks frankly about her transition from drinker to sober thinker, from G&T to, err… the odd chocolate!
Thanks again Gayle – I think a road trip for part two is definitely on the cards.
Gayle, hi… let’s start with finding out a little bit about you…(what you’ve been doing/ are doing/ going to be doing)
I am a mum of two boys, aged 17 and 9. I am from the Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK but I’ve lived in a tiny village in Andalusia since 2004. I worked as a language teacher in secondary schools in the UK before coming here. Now I teach English online and most recently I am a recovery / sobriety coach. I feel that I have finally found my calling – helping people is what I love and this is the area in which I am concentrating.
So what brought you here? I mean, you must have some kind of “drinking/ drugging/ addiction story”… care to elaborate?
Well, I am kind of an all or nothing person and take everything I do seriously – including drinking unfortunately!
I was probably quite late to the drinking scene I didn’t really start drinking ‘properly’ until my twenties and never really went wild, partying or anything like that. Growing up, there was never any alcohol in the house and to be honest it scared me. However, as I got older, I started drinking socially and then drinking at home became such a normal thing to do.
It really got out of control over the last 5 years when I came to rely on alcohol for everything.
I hated myself because I knew I was much better without it. I was sober during both my pregnancies and when my boys were babies – I gave mothering my all! The truth is that I felt amazing during those times but slowly slipped back into the routine of daily drinking as my kids got a bit older.
What was your drinking like at the point you decided to quit?
I was unhappy for a long time.
I knew that I had a problem because every time I thought about quitting I used to get scared and panicky – even the thought of just going a day without would terrify me – I had no idea what to do.
Slowly the atmosphere at home started to go downhill, there would be frequent arguments, terrible sleep, wasted days. The more I felt guilty, the more I drank and this made me quite depressed and anxious.
The worst of it was that I knew my kids were suffering. Once we cracked open the beers, then that was it – we did nothing else, never went anywhere and sometimes we would avoid planning any afternoon or evening activities because it would interfere with the drinking.
It’s stupid because here we were, in a beautiful part of Spain, trying to give our kids an amazing opportunity and yet, we were holed up in our cave (literally) drinking our lives away.
… and the final straw, for you, was what, exactly?
I had a really horrific incident when I got so drunk and got into an awful argument with my husband.
I blamed him for everything and decided I couldn’t take it anymore so got in the car to leave. I had my youngest son with me and he started crying because I didn’t know what I was doing, where I was going and he didn’t even have any clothes with him.
Thankfully I didn’t actually drive anywhere, I just sat in the car and cried.
The pain I felt that night was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Unfortunately, such is the nature of the drug, I did the only thing I knew that would take away the pain and that was to carry on drinking. That night shocked me and I was careful not to let myself get into that state again but it was a good few months before I finally stopped.
So, you stopped & changed your lifestyle (congratulations!)… 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 people seeking to do the same?
Thank you so much! I do feel really proud actually!
My husband and I stopped together (well he stopped the day before I did because I had to drink all the temptation left in the house).
We just realised that it was getting out of control and we couldn’t carry on like that anymore. So many aspects of our lives were suffering and to be honest I was just sick of feeling like crap all the time, always tired, anxious and thinking about drinking.
The fact that we were in it together (and still are) really helped, especially in the early days. We didn’t really change that much at first, just drank lots of tea and ate chocolate!
I walked a lot with my husband, the kids and our dogs – getting out into the fresh air really helped, made me appreciate what we actually have and the beautiful area in which we live.
If I struggled, my husband would always say to me, ‘just think of the morning’ and knowing that I would wake up the next day without a hangover, without the guilt and the shame, really kept me going.
As time went on everything just got a whole lot calmer, lighter and simpler. The kids started to notice too and seeing them happy, spending time with them and really being present made any difficult moment much easier to deal with.
I would say to anyone in the early stages to really understand why you are doing this, focus on the positives, don’t look back and try to appreciate every sober second you have.
Oh, and lots of walks, tea and chocolate!
Do you see yourself as being in recovery… If so, how? What do these words mean to you? If not… how so?
I like to think of myself as being in ‘discovery’.
To me, recovery kind of implies that I am recuperating from an illness, that I need to be cared for and looked after. But, I feel really strong and amazing now. Yes, I need to look after myself but not in a convalescence kind of way – does that make sense?
I like the term discovery because that’s what I am doing now, discovering new things about myself, new interests and rediscovering who I was before and learning to be a Mum again without the wine.
I know it’s a journey, a process but that’s what’s so exciting. I feel genuinely happy and positive and better than I have done in a long time.
Not drinking alcohol can be a very stigmatising thing… were you prepared for that? How did you deal with it? How did others around you deal with it?
To be honest I didn’t tell anybody until a good few months in, not even my mother in-law.
We kind of told her when she arrived for a visit and was offered a cup of tea instead of the usual G&T. I knew that people would react strangely, I mean I was the last person anyone expected to stop drinking!
Also I didn’t want to hear, “Oh, you’re not that bad,” or “surely one won’t hurt.” As I knew that if I did have just one I would end up right back where I had started and I just couldn’t do that. Even now friends and family are still fascinated by my choice but they can see just how happy I am so accept it as being part of who I am now. I do get the odd weird comment and people will often try and justify their own drinking which is a common trend. But anything negative or unkind just washes over me now.
I am doing this for me and if you don’t like it, well you know what you can do!
Were you successful from day one? Any relapses? How did you cope, emotionally with all this?
No, no relapses at all for which I am truly grateful because I know how easy it is to fall back into old habits and I just can’t go there again. Plus, the more time I have sober, the better I feel and I never want to feel ill again. In fact sometimes, I look back and jUst can’t believe I did that to myself and for so long – crazy!
You’ve been sober for a while now – are there any manifest benefits in your life that not drinking has afforded? What are they?
Gosh! There is just so much.
I’ve lost a ton of weight, I no longer have truckers arms or a puffy face – and that is even with carrying on with chocolate. I have so much more energy now to do so much more and the amount of time I have gained is just mind-blowing! I have clarity and focus to really concentrate on my business and I have met so many wonderful people.
Mornings now are extra special – there is nothing better than waking up early, greeting the moon and walking with the dogs before the rest of the world is awake. I have started yoga which I do early, by myself in the dark during those precious hours before my kids get up and I wouldn’t swap that for anything.
The most important aspect though, is the time I have with my children, real, genuine time. They grow up so fast and I don’t want to miss out on another second with them.
Any advice for people reading this… heh, can we learn from any of your mistakes?
My biggest mistake was not starting this journey sooner, so if your drinking is making you unhappy, then do something about it now – don’t wait for a ‘rock bottom.’
Don’t compare yourself to others either, or try to justify how much you drink. It doesn’t matter how many units you drink – if your drinking is making you miserable, then take responsibility and make a proper commitment.
Also take it easy and look after yourself. I kind of wanted to do so much because I had loads of energy and time, then felt bad because I didn’t play the guitar, meditate, run, write 5 blogs, clean the house from top to bottom every day.
Sometimes a duvet and DVD day are just the ticket, so if you need to, do it.
So… Sober Bliss – what’s that all about?
Sober Bliss, is my way of helping others and it was something I started quite early on.
I really did feel brilliant and want to tell the world really that you too can feel just as brilliant by removing alcohol from your life. To me, sober is blissful – you know those first few moments when you wake up, before you start thinking about your day or anything else and you just enjoy the blissful peace and quiet, the magic of a new day.
That’s what it feels like to me and I want to help as many people as possible experience that.
Sober Bliss is a personal blog and I also write articles about different aspects of stopping drinking. Things that i struggled with or wanted to know more about. I also run a coaching program which helps Mums, just like me break free from the hold that alcohol has over their life. I believe that I am a much better mum without wine in the mix and I want to help other Mums see that too. Yet we are told that we need wine to do parenting, encouraged even to combine to two as if it makes us better parents – it doesn’t.
Mums can feel ashamed to take this step and I want to help them see it is a positive lifestyle choice, not something to feel guilty about.
What do you get from blogging, writing & sharing?
It keeps me grounded and on the right path.
It is so easy to forget the worst of past drinking behaviours and glamorise the ‘good times’ I never want to forget just how bad it was and how much worse it could have become and writing keeps me focused. I feel that in order to be successful, people need options, opinions and as many resources as possible and by sharing as much of my own story and experiences as I can I hope to reach out to anybody who needs it.
If one mum changes her drinking patterns after reading one of my blog posts then that makes me happy.
I do love connecting with people and hearing their stories, we are such an inspiring group and I have met some wonderful people. Being part of a bigger community through writing and blogging is important to me and I would love to keep contributing and inspiring in my own way.
I see you’ve got a Youtube channel…that’s brave – how do you feel about doing that? What kind of connections are you making doing this?
Because we do everything online these days, I feel it is important to see the real people behind the stories and videos are a great way of doing that.
My clients, and future clients know that they are working with ‘me’ and that’s important – not to hide behind the screen but to be out there.
To be honest, I need to work on my videos! They are a lot of fun and I get to give so much but I do get nervous! I kind of go into ‘teacher mode’ like when I used to stand in front of 35 teenagers at school! I am enjoying learning and discovering though and the videos are getting better – the real me is starting to emerge!
I love the Sober Bliss Meets series, where I interview people doing wonderful things with their sobriety. I have met some lovely people, who have shared their stories – it is brave and beautiful. I want to do more of that.
It’s clear that your passionate about the subjects you write…”Why can’t I just moderate”, for example – could you tell us a little bit more about the subjects you choose, why you address them and what your message to others is?
The subjects I choose are born from my own struggles in this journey, both before and after giving up drinking.
If I had a problem, then someone else probably is struggling with the same thing.
My experience and advice will hopefully help someone get past that. If any part of my story resonates and helps then that makes me happy. I wrote the ‘Why can’t I just moderate’ post because it is a huge issue.
I know that the idea of stopping completely is scary but honestly, trying to moderate or cut down is so much worse – it’s exhausting!
Yet that’s what we are told to do! It was only since I stopped drinking that I could see moderation is not an answer. Alcohol is addictive, so it figures that if you keep drinking, you will always want to keep going and drink more and more.
To be really free you need to stop all together. Really knowing and understanding that life is much better without, makes the process so much easier and to be honest you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and upset by making the positive decision to commit to an alcohol free lifestyle.
There seem to be a few subjects predominant on social media at the moment (Moderate Drinking… Mommy Drink Culture) – what are your thoughts on these subjects? Where do you stand, personally on these?
As I just mentioned, if you already find yourself struggling with alcohol, then moderation is not going to work for you.
It didn’t work for me, I found it impossible to stick at just one or two I was drinking far too much and all my time was spent either drinking or thinking about it. It was a relentless struggle and I hated it. Breaking the cycle completely is the only way forward to a true and beautiful life.
I was so guilty of being part of the Mummy drinking culture, I used to drink through every aspect of my kids’ lives. Homework, bath time, playtime. I drew the line at story time but as soon as I was finished I would ‘reward’ myself with yet another drink.
I wasted so many precious moments with my kids thanks to alcohol and they missed out on so much too because I was either too drunk or too ill to do anything with them.
I regret all the broken promises and the times when I confused them or let them down because I just wasn’t me. Children need consistency, genuine love and authentic lessons in life. When you drink, you can do none of this and what’s worse is that my kids thought it was okay to have wine or beer with everything, to celebrate, to relax, to have fun and it’s just the wrong message.
Ok… I think that’s enough work for you!! So finally, what’s next for you? For Gayle?
Phew, well it’s Sunday and the sun is shining, although it’s cold so I’m gonna take the afternoon off and go for a walk.
The Sober Bliss site and program needs all my attention at the moment and I’m looking forward to carrying on connecting, inspiring and helping.
I would love to meet more people face to face so I’m toying with workshops and meet ups for the future.
About our author, Gayle:
Gayle is passionate about helping other Mums transform their lives and the lives of their families by choosing to live an alcohol free lifestyle, through self awareness, self care and self discovery. Being a sober Mum is the best thing that she has ever done and has led to so much freedom, peace and clarity. Gayle’s mission is to help women just like her see that living an alcohol free life is wonderful, empowering and liberating and should be celebrated.
If you need help with your planning, intention setting and how to make those changes stick then let me guide you through your first 42 days with the Sober Bliss.