“Not Drink Alcohol At All?”
My chat with Eddie Nestor, BBC London, May 3, 2017
I was on the radio twice on May 3rd (that never happens). For the second one, my cell phone rings, and it’s: “Can you talk for five minutes about being a sober coach, and can you get a penpal from London to come on too?” Turns out the answer was YES.
And for you, here’s the written transcript.
Eddie Nestor: Are you somebody who’s worried about how much you’re drinking? You’re not an alcoholic, you’re just having a glass or two of wine when you really feel you probably shouldn’t. That’s most of us, isn’t it? You might look for help from a sober coach. A sober coach [said with some incredulity]. The number of admissions to hospital due to drinking alcohol has increased by over 20% from just over a decade ago. I thought you told me this was as a happy-clappy subject? Gracious me. It’s people earning over £40,000 who need to worry, so the rest of us don’t need to worry. But all those people who earn over £40,000 are more likely to be the bigger drinkers. Belle Robertson is the author of the blog, Tired of Thinking about Drinking, and a sober coach. What’s a sober coach, Belle? Good afternoon.
Belle Robertson: Hello there. I think a sober coach is somebody who you can talk to as you’re navigating this ‘getting used to not drinking’ thing. There are a lot of people who know that they’re over-drinking but they don’t classify themselves as an alcoholic. And so, that makes AA an uncomfortable option for them.
Eddie: Yeah, but most people who have a drink don’t actually think that they’ve got a problem at all. This seems to be talking to the people who are a little worried about it.
Belle: It is for those who are a little worried about it, but you know one way to check whether or not you’re a little worried about it, is to try to go 30 days with nothing to drink. And you realize that it’s harder than you think it is. That’s exactly what happened to me. I thought I would quit for 30 days and I got to about Day 7 or Day 9 and I thought, “This is actually a lot harder than I thought,” because we rely on alcohol (emotionally) for everything: happy things, bad things, good weather, bad weather.
Eddie: And what’s the — let’s say you’re a young parent, a young mom, and you have that child all day and you’re just kicking back, sit down, watch the telly or Netflix or whatever, and there’s a bottle of wine, and between the couple of you, you have that bottle of wine. What’s the problem?
Belle: I think the problem is when it affects you, and you’re waking up in the middle of the night and you’re thinking: “Gee, I sleep so much better when I don’t drink.” Or when you think: “Gee, it’s so much easier to get up in the morning with that kid if I haven’t been drinking the night before.” And it can be two glasses or three glasses or five glasses, or two bottles or three bottles. What I figured out with the people that I work with, the sober pen pals and the coaching that I do, is that …
It doesn’t matter actually how much you drink. It matters how it makes you feel.
You know, like not showing up in the morning, not feeling great, not showing up 100%, not being your best you — or rushing through the bath with the kid at the end of the day so you can get back to the wine, when that starts to like get in your head, you think “OK, maybe I’ll take a break from alcohol. I’ll take a break and see how I do.”
Then you find that it’s actually harder to quit than you thought it would be.
Eddie: Well, that’s interesting and I’m sure we’ll talk to you again. I know there are lots of people who think “I drink too much,” and then they look at the recycling bin at the end of the week and go: “Who drank all that?” Most people don’t think they have a problem. Maybe that’s the trouble. Maybe I’ve got it wrong. Belle Roberston, sober coach.
Tom, good afternoon to you.
Tom: Hi Eddie.
Eddie: Have you used a sober coach?
Tom: Yes, I contacted Belle via her 100-Day Sober Challenge over three years ago now and I’ve had contact with Belle ever since.
Eddie: Just how bad was it?
Tom: It wasn’t bad or terrible and I think a lot of my friends initially thought, you know, it’s just Tom going through one of his …
Eddie: Excuses to throw away money, getting a sober coach.
Tom: No, not at all. The contact I had with Belle, the 100-Day Sober Challenge, there’s no charge to join in with that side of things. There are other elements on the site that I’ve decided to register with and use to keep the support going.
Eddie: What’s the difference between Tom now, and Tom then?
Tom: The big difference I suppose was particularly on my work. Within those first three months of giving up, I got a promotion at work, and then I decided if things are going quite well maybe I should carry this on, so I committed to another 100 days, another three months.
Eddie: Of not drinking alcohol at all?
Tom: Yes, not drinking alcohol at all. I tried it before, I tried to do it on my own before, but like Belle said, it got really hard. Then I’d put a lot of pressure on myself and started to convince myself that I deserved a drink.
I found, for me, that I needed the support.
I needed that person I could turn to and say, “You know, I’m feeling yucky today,” and she’d help me out and I’d get an encouraging email back, and it’d remind me what I am doing and why and then I can get through another day. I just found it worked in my life — everything — like I was finding myself with more time. Like suddenly I’m waking up in the mornings on the weekend and I’ve got all day, rather than just the afternoon, feeling horrible.
Eddie: Now, when you put it like that Tom, it actually does make sense. But give it up altogether?
Tom: Yeah, great question. I know. This goes back to the choice of saying I know how it makes me feel, and I’ve tried since I was 18 years old, I’ve tried stopping and moderating, and just having a couple. For me, once I’ve had one or two, I want to have more.
Eddie: Yeah, I don’t think you’re on your own there. Wonder if anybody else listening has given up? Given up? How long for and was life better? Sober Coach…
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Belle Robertson, 4.75 year sober, blogs and writes and records daily sober audios. She’s been sober penpals with 2,634 people, and works as a text designer, baker & caterer. She is a sober coach but she does other things too. Like bakes lemon ricotta cheesecake.