J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 42.
K: Everything you want is on the other side of fear. All of us have a tendency to spend a bit too much time in our comfort zone, you know, playing it safe and avoiding those things that might make us feel uncomfortable or lead to failure or rejection or… or anything kind of painful like that. And the fact that you're feeling fear isn't a sign that you shouldn't do it, it's a sign that there is something there for you to explore.
Intro: Welcome to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, stories of vibrant women living happy lives. And now, your host, Jen Riday.
J: Hey there, Jen here, and welcome to Vibrant Happy Women. So this is a big week, it's the last week of the year which means you're probably thinking about your New Year's resolutions and the things you want to do to make 2017 amazing. Well, if that's the case, then you need to join me for my last master class of the year, it's called ‘5 easy steps to find your purpose and get organized in 2017’. It's happening this Thursday at noon Central Time and it's all online and it's free. You can sign up by going to jenriday.com/jenclass, j e n c l a s s, or if you're a texter, you can text the phrase ‘Jen class’, J e n c l a s s, to the number 44222. On our last episode, I spoke with Shawna Percy all about reclaiming your power and talking about pain and grief, rather than just swallowing it. Shauna shared 2 really great stories about overcoming her own pain and grief, rather than being silent and holding that pain inside. So if you have some pain you'd like to let go of and you'd like to finally talk about it, that's the episode for you.
On today's episode, I'll be talking with Kate Bee all about how she gave up drinking for good. She often found herself drinking alone or drinking too much when she was out with friends and it didn't make her feel amazing, so she has a cool journey she shares today about giving that all up and helping others do the same. If there's something you want to give up in 2017, whether that be alcohol or food or anything else, then you'll love this episode. Kate has some great advice on pushing through the fear and being vulnerable and also how important it was for her to establish strong relationships so she could form a connection to people rather than things like food or alcohol. So with that said, we'll go ahead and jump into this great episode.
Hey there, welcome to Vibrant Happy Women, I hope you had a wonderful holiday. And today, I'll be talking with Kate Bee, she's the founder of the Sober School where she coaches women through early sobriety and helps them navigate alcohol free living without feeling deprived or miserable. Kate's mission is to remove the stigma, misinformation, and fear that surrounds addiction. Kate lives near Manchester in the UK and in her spare time, she likes running, reading, and drinking too much tea. Welcome to the show, Kate.
K: Hi, Jen, thank you for having me.
J: Yeah, I'm so glad you can be here, and I would love to hear a favorite quote that you'd like to share with us today.
K: Yeah. My favorite quote is, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” I just love this quote, I have it written on my desk actually on a little post-it note, because I think all of us have a tendency to spend a bit too much time in our comfort zone, you know, playing it safe and avoiding those things that might make us feel uncomfortable or lead to failure or rejection or… or anything kind of painful like that. And I know we're going to come on to talk about my drinking but, you know, my drinking used to make me so miserable, but in a weird way, it was also comfortable, it was my comfort zone, and it was a safe place to be because it was, you know, the thing I knew. So it's taken me a really long time to learn that actually feeling fear is good and that anything that is worth doing will bring up fear. And that's actually, in a in a roundabout way, fear is a kind of indicator of what we need to do.
J:So let's apply that a little so I can wrap my brain around it and maybe help our listeners do the same. So let's say someone wants to stop drinking after New Year's Eve this week, they're done, they know that's kind of an end…
J: … they're ready to start the new year off and there's this wall ahead of them; it's kind of fear of the unknown. So what kind of advice would you give them to get over that wall of fear?
K: I would say that… like I say, really often, we feel that fear when we know there's something that we need to do, that we need to work on, that we need to kind of build ourselves up to do. And the fact that you're feeling fear isn't a sign that you shouldn't do it, it's a sign that there is something there for you to explore. So get as much support as you can, you know, gather support, whether it's online or with your friends and family, maybe you do it with someone else if you're going to have a dry January, and give it 100%; don't let that fear put you off or hold you back.
J: Mm, great advice. Well, let's dive right into your low point and… and hear more about your story.
K: Yeah. I was thinking about how funny it is really that my low point, I always thought wasn't a very low point. I don't if you've heard of them people who have alcohol addictions or problem drinkers talking about their rock bottom, you know, that… that dramatic moment when they realize, “Oh my goodness, yes, something has got to change,” and maybe they lose a job or a relationship or they get caught drink driving, you know, something really bad happens.
K: Well, my problem was that I never had that dramatic rock bottom.
K: I didn't lose my home, I didn't start drinking in the morning. In fact, on the outside, I probably looked like someone who had everything together. I was holding down a good job, working hard, I was definitely partying hard but, you know, so was everyone else on you. So it was really easy to convince myself that I was normal. So for such a long time, I felt really, really torn. I felt like, on the one hand, I knew I was drinking way too much. I mean, once I started drinking, I could just never stop; I never had an off switch. And increasingly, my favorite way to drink was on my .
K: I knew that wasn't okay. Alcohol was making me feel so drained physically and mentally, but at the same time, the idea of quitting altogether seemed slightly ridiculous; it was just not something I could imagine. You know, here in the UK, alcohol is such a big part of our social life; as I know it is in the States and in many other countries. I even went to my doctor once and, you know, spoke to her about how alcohol was affecting me and her advice was that perhaps I should just try again to cut down.
K: And I’m left thinking, “Oh my god, don't you think I tried that already?” So for a long time, I really felt as if I didn't have that low point; I didn't have that turning points. But with the benefit of hindsight, I think January, 2013 was when something shifted for me.
J: So how old were you at the time, Kate?
K: I was 29.
J: 29. So you had a job and… and you would go out after work and just party too much?
K: Yeah, I think I thought I was like living the Sex and the City lifestyle.
J: Okay, so keep going. January, 2013 hit, and then what happened?
K: Well, I decided I was going to do… I was going to have a dry January.
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
K: Lots of people, you know, don't drink throughout a January to try and make up for everything that happens in December.
K: And so I thought, “I'm going to get this off for the best possible start,” and I brought myself onto a health and fitness boot camp. So I spent New Year's Day of 2013 being made to run up hills in the rain…
K: … by this is really scary ex-army personal trainer.
K: And so I came back home a week later, a few pounds lighter, and determined that like this was it; I was going to be so good. And I was really devastated to find that just after a few days at home back in my old routine, back on my own left my own devices, I was drinking again; and not just a little bit, a lot.
K: And I just… I felt so awful that I'd wasted all this money going to this expensive boot camp. And to make things worse, for once, none of my friends were drinking because they were actually doing this dry January.
K: And so I had to pretend that I was doing it with them. And I think that was the first time I thought, “Oh my god, you know, something… something really is wrong here that I'm lying to my closest friends.”
K: “And this isn’t that different.” So I think that was a moment that I thought, “Okay, something really has to change,” but it took me a while. It took until April of that year when I stumbled across a blog, and that's when everything started to click into place.
K: I must have Googled for help a thousand times. This one time, pretty late at night, with, you know, glass of wine in one hand and the other hand on the computer, I must have typed something different into Google and I found a blog that was written by someone who sounded just like me, drank the way I drank, really described everything in a way that I could relate to. And I thought, “Oh my God, if she can stop drinking and if she is having a much better time because of it, maybe I should.” And I remember work… looking at the calendar and realizing that, in exactly 6 months’ time, I was going to be 30.
J: (Gasps) Oh yeah.
K: And, you know… yeah, and if there was ever a time to get a grip of it, it was now; you know, I wants to leave that stuff in my 20s.
K: And so I decided to write my own blog that I'd do that to try and make sense of my own thoughts, keep myself accountable, and hopefully get a bit of help from anyone that might happen upon it and, you know, leave a comment or write to me. And that's exactly what I did and that was really where it will started to change for me.
J: So you started a blog and you kind of had to be accountable to your readers, and how quickly did your blog grow?
K: It agree quite quickly. I was quite lucky that I… I wrote a review of a book that I'd read. It was a book about being an almost alcoholic and it described this weird gray zone. Because, as we all know, you don't… you're not a normal drinker one day and an alcoholic the next.
K: And, in fact, I don't think I ever was. You know, I certainly wasn't a stereotypical alcoholic, but I wasn't that grazing.
K: So I wrote a review of this book and a journalist working at the BBC was writing an article about the concept of drinking in the gray zone, being an almost alcoholic, and she picked up on my blog…
K: … and quoted me and so I suddenly got a load of readers out of nowhere.
K: Yeah. That was a real blessing in disguise. I mean, I was scared stiff at the time, I thought someone… I used to write that blog anonymously, I thought, you know, someone would figure out it was me. But it was one of the best things that ever happened.
J: So let's back up. You started this blog, did you go dry the minute you began the blog?
K: Yes, I did. And a lot of people, when they read the blog, they think that that was the first time I stopped and that I just did it perfectly the first time. But I always say, “Well, you know, what you don't see is my behind the scenes. You don't see all their previous attempts I had.”
K: Because I did have some stints at not drinking, maybe up to a month or 6 weeks in the past.
K: You know, I've been trying on and off and I'd even gone to AA meetings and things like that and had periods of time when I sort of experiment with different things.
K: So, yes, my blog reads pretty perfectly, but that is not the whole story.
J: So on your blog, you wrote exactly how it felt to give up drinking and what you were experiencing as you did it so people could really relate to that?
K: Yeah, yeah. And that blog’s still out there if people want to read it.
J: Yeah, what's it called?
K: If you Google ‘the sober journalist’, that's me.
J: Nice, okay.
K: Yeah. And so it was from writing that and building up some recovery and… and realizing that I wasn't the only one that I started to think, “Gosh, there really is a lack of support in this area and we need something to change.”
J: Mm-hmm. So you had all these followers join you from this article that was written by… in a newspaper, was it?
K: Oh, no, it’s an online article.
J: Oh, an online article. And you start helping them, tell us some stories of some of the lives you were able to touch as you did that.
K: Yeah, I met an amazing group of people along the way, from people my age who were just sort of struggling to live that party-girl lifestyle to, you know, full-time working moms who drunk their whole lives and suddenly, it just become a bit of a problem. And I met a lot of men as well who were kind of inspired by my blog to start their own and who used to, you know, email me personally to kind of keep in touch and be a bit of a pen pal with them.
J: Aww, nice.
K: So, yeah, it was really inspiring and eye-opening actually to just… it sort of felt like I'd lifted the lid on this hidden corner of the internet that I just didn't know existed.
J: Yeah. And you said you wanted to do it anonymously, but then your name was out there, how did that change things when people knew it was you?
K: Well, I managed to keep my identity a secret until I set up the Sober School, which is what I now do, and I'm much more vocal about that. I've got my picture and my full name all over it, which I never thought I'd do. And yet, that took a lot of adjustment.
K: But I think, as time’s gone on, I've become more and more comfortable in saying, “Yeah, I am not one of those people that can drink and actually I'm really happy about it. And I'm… I care much more about setting an example for other people and showing them that it's nothing to be ashamed of really. You know, I'm quite happy to be that person that’s sort of, I wouldn’t say, leading the way because sounds a bit big-headed, but, you know, I'm happy to put my name to this now.”
J: Mm-hmm. And I was on your site and I saw the before and after pictures, can you tell us a little about your before and after experience?
K: Oh no, I have this feeling that you've seen the picture with me dancing terribly.
J: That's right, yeah, that's the one. I think you had on funny glasses.
K: Yeah, yeah (Laughs). I mean, my life is so different now from what it was. I mean, the before pictures I've got on my website are quite funny in a way. I think they show like, yeah, the funny bits of my very drunken lifestyle in the past. But actually, those are just the bits that I've got photographs of.
K: My before is actually pretty sad really. I spent a lot of time at home drinking on my own and, you know, passing out on the sofa and waking up in the early hours of the morning on a… you know, and on a Wednesday morning and when I like should have been tucked up in bed.
K: And I could never really understand why I kept doing that, but I think it was just my way of… yeah, of kind of coping with… with everything from stress to, you know, the fact that I… at the time, I was sort of single and in a job that I didn't like and living in a city where I didn't know many people. It was… alcohol was my coping mechanism.
K: But rather than looking at the things that were wrong in my life or the things I could change, I just… you know, I just drank instead. So my before was, yeah, it wasn't all bad, but it was pretty sad at times.
J: So you mentioned the coping mechanism and that's kind of a big thing we talked about on the Vibrant Happy Women podcast. We all have these emotional issues we have to learn to cope with, you know, as healthfully as possible. So what was your replacement or how did you learn to cope without using alcohol as that mechanism?
K: Mm-hmm. Yeah, it took a really long time because I felt like I’d grown up in a home and in an environment where alcohol was the coping mechanism. And when you think about it, people drink at weddings and funerals and birthdays and Christmas and New Year and every occasion, whether you're sad or happy, alcohol is the kind of go-to thing. So it took me a really long time to realize that actually there were other coping mechanisms out there. And, for a little while, I think I transitioned from alcohol to food, which, you know, isn't ideal; isn't perfect. I ate way too much ice cream during my…
K: … first year of sobriety so, you know, that's not… not perfect, but… but better than drinking.
K: And now, I think I've got it nailed a bit better. I know that I have to exercise like at least every other day, like that nothing beats running, for example, for being a stress buster and helping you cope with your emotions. And here's the other crazy thing I learned. You can talk to people, and actually that really helps you deal with whatever is going on in your life.
K: I used to never talk to people. I was a real… used to really keep everything inside. I was not very good at talking about how I was really feeling.
K: So that was like a big learning curve for me.
J: You had to go from being alone on the couch with your glass of wine to getting out and having to form these connections; that's great.
K: Yeah, yeah.
J: Well, if there are people out there struggling or who want to set a New Year's resolution to become sober, what advice would you have for them?
K: I think, first of all, realizing that something may not be right is a really big step forward. We live in this culture where drinking is so normalized, but actually realizing that all is not okay, that's… that's a great step. I would say to people, if you think you have a problem with alcohol or you think it's holding you back in some way, it's great to take a break from it; ideally a month maybe 2 or even 3 months. Because someone who is a truly take-it-or-leave-it drinker who truly has a healthy relationship with alcohol should be able to leave it for a period of time.
K: So I definitely recommend experimenting with having a break, doesn't have to be forever. And I hate talking about the ‘F’-word, forever, because it freaks everybody out.
K: So just a short-term target’s great.
J: Hmm, I like that; seems more doable. Okay.
J: So step one is realizing that something might not be right, would the Sober School be something that could be helpful for them as well?
K: Yeah. So at the Sober School, I run a 6-week course which is really designed to help people go from struggling on their own to getting 6 weeks of sobriety under their belt and feeling a lot more confident and feeling happy to be sober. And we cover a whole range of issues. We do some of the really, you know, practical stuff like talking about dealing with cravings and getting a bit of momentum, and we look at alternative coping mechanisms and new ways of dealing with emotions. But the really big part of the course and the bit that I enjoy the most is the myth-busting.
K: And this is kind of the… the stuff that's behind everything I do really. I feel that the key to sobriety is changing the way you feel about alcohol. Because if you always keep alcohol up on a pedestal, if you see it as, you know, the… the chocolate cake that you're not allowed to have, it's always going to be… when you’re not drinking, it's always going to be of some kind of deprivation; you're always going to feel as if you're missing out. So what we do on the course is we break down every single reason why people say they drink and we look at whether alcohol really does those things. You know, is it really the thing that makes you have a great time at the party? Is it really the solution to all your stress? And so I take people through a series of exercises to try and get to the bottom of that and its really transformative and it's what made things click into place for me and it works for a lot of other people too.
J: Wow, that's amazing. And where could they find the Sober School if people are interested in learning about that?
K: Sure. So I'm just over at thesoberschool.com, so there's all the information about the course there. And if you just want a bit of help getting through like that tricky period between 5 and 7 o'clock, I've got a free little download on there, my Wine o'clock Survival Guide; so check that as well. It's right on the front page so you can't miss it.
J: Okay, Wine o'clock Survival Guide.
J: Alright, so how often do you have the Sober School launching?
K: We do it every couple of months, so we're just about to start one next week on Monday, the 2nd of January; so we'll get the New Year off to a great start. But after that, yeah, probably the next one will be in… in April and every couple of months after that.
K: Everyone starts the course on the same day so a really big part of it is the fact that you're not doing this on your own, you're doing it with a tribe of people who are all out to, you know, achieved the same thing.
J: Hmm, that sounds wonderful. Well, kudos to you, that's amazing, and it definitely sounds like it fills a need so, well done. Let's talk about a few of your favorite things, Kate. So share a favorite habit that has contributed to your success.
K: I think, at the moment, sleeping better is contributing to my success. I've always been one of those people he thinks, “I'll just stay up late,” or, “I'll get… get up earlier.” You know, if I fall behind on something like a project or with work, I've always tried to kind of trick the system by cutting back my sleep and thinking that I was breaking or bringing extra time into my day. But actually, that's so bad because you never function as well when you haven't slept properly. And I know I can't really function on 4 hours sleep, I'm much more of a kind of 7 hours a night type person. So recently, I've been really strict with trying to make myself get 7 or maybe 8 hours sleep, and it's made such a difference.
J: Oh, wow. So you're more productive that way?
K: Yeah, I think I just feel so much better that I get more things done. So, yeah, it's… I mean, sleep’s everything, isn't it? Just makes you feel so much healthier and stronger and clear-headed.
J: (Laughs). You're starting to make me think you have an iron will because you could give up drinking and now you can get 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
J: I don't drink, but I do have… I do need more sleep; so hopefully I can follow your lead. (Laughs)
K: Well, Jen, I don't have children, you have 6 of them. So…
J: Okay, thanks for giving me an excuse. (Laughs)
K: Yeah. (Laughs)
J: What's your favorite easy meal, Kate?
K: I can be terribly lazy and just get a takeaway sometimes. But when I'm being good, but lazy, I do a Moroccan dish that I quite like. It's just chicken in some spices and you like just throw in some vegetables, courgettes, peppers, whatever you got around and put it into slow cook and it comes out really nice.
J: Slow cook, is that the British version of a crock-pot?
K: I think so. It… it's like a kind of pot that you plug in and you maybe cook the…
K: (unclear) [24:37].
J: Yeah, that's a crock-pot; oh good. I didn't even know that the UK had a different word for that; slow cook, good.
J: Favorite kitchen gadget.
K: Either my cafetière because I love coffee, or maybe my dishwasher because I hate washing up.
J: Ah, dishwasher or cafetière.
J: Okay, you're going to have to spell that for me.
K: Do you call it something different, a cafetière, just for… for making coffee?
J: We call it a coffeemaker.
K: Oh, that does make more sense. I think we try and be like all French about it and, you know?
J: That's great. So that's the standard word in the UK for coffeemaker? That's impressive.
K: Yeah, for the one where you put the ground coffee in and add the hot water and leave it to stand.
J: Okay, okay.
J: That's great.
J: Your favorite book.
K: I struggled with this one, but I think I'm going to go for Brené Brown's book, ‘I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't)’. I don't know if you read that one; I love Brené Brown. But this particular book was the first one of hers that I read and it was the first time I'd heard someone write about shame and perfectionism in such an open way. And I think it's a real must read for anyone who… who has ever felt that they are, you know, not enough, not good enough, not pretty, enough, not strong enough, whatever; it's… it's really good.
J: And the best advice you've received.
K: I think the best advice I've received is, “Success happens when you keep taking action.” Since I started my own business, I've heard this phrase a lot from business mentors and people who kind of advise me on what to do. They always say, “Just do things,” you know, “take action. It doesn't matter if you make a mistake, that's better than not doing anything at all and staying kind of locked away in your head.” But I think this is just great advice for life because I'm a brilliant procrastinator, I could think about things all day long.
K: But that's not when you… you don't find out if things work that way. So whether it's drinking or losing weight or, you know, relationship issues, you have to just keep taking action.
J: Yeah, I love that. And that reminds me of a quote I kind of heard, but it's something about, “The more often you fail, the more success you make. Failure equals perfection,” or, “Failure is your chance to tweak,” so not being afraid of those small failures because you learn from each of them.
K: Yeah, absolutely; success is built on failure, yeah.
J: And I think when we don't take action, it's often a fear of that failure, so that's a great quote, “Success happens when you keep taking action,” good. Well, I want to tell our listeners that they can find links to everything that we've been chatting about by going to jenriday.com/42. And now, Kate, we would love to hear your happiness formula.
K: For me, the happiness formula is living an alcohol free lifestyle, obviously, moving my body, staying fit and well, and connecting with others. When I first stopped drinking, I read this book called ‘Chasing the Scream’, and there's loads of really interesting ideas in there. And one of them was that human beings are designed to connect with things. Like, we should connect with people and we should have strong and healthy relationships, but if we don't have that, we're far more likely to connect with things like alcohol and other unhelpful, addictive substances. So something I've really tried to work on in the past few years is maintaining good, strong friendships and relationships with the people I care about. So I think that's a really important part of the happiness formula.
J: Well, I love that; thanks for sharing that. That's ‘Chasing the Scream’, the book?
K: Yes, ‘Chasing the Scream’.
J: ‘The Screen’; s c r e e n?
K: Yeah, ‘Chasing the Scream’.
J: Oh, ‘Scream’; okay, got it. Well, Kate, this has been amazing; you're really inspiring and doing good things. And before we say goodbye, leave our listeners with a parting challenge.
K: I think, for anyone who feels that they're drinking too much or that… or just that alcohol is holding them back in some way, a great challenge would to start keeping a drink diary. It's really good to get things down on paper or just make a few notes on your phone so you can see what's happening in black and white, you know, take things out of your head and put it somewhere where you can look at more objectively. Keep a record of what you're drinking and write down why; what is it you're looking for in that drink and how are you feeling at the time. I think that's just a really good place to start if you have a suspicion that all is not okay. Because once you're able to identify how much you're really drinking and perhaps the reasons why you're drinking, you're in a great position to take action and make some changes.
J: Well, thank you so much for being on the show, Kate. And, again, everyone, you can find Kate over at the soberschool.com; and we'll have all the links on our show notes page at jenriday.com/42. Thanks so much for being here, Kate.
K: Thank you so much for having me.
J: Take care.
I had a blast talking with Kate and I love how she said that some of the best things for us are waiting on the other side of fear. So if stopping drinking is one of those things you're a little afraid of but know you need to do, go over to Kate's website at thesoberschool.com and sign up for her new program. It starts on Monday, January 2nd and I know she's running an early bird pricing special right now if you sign up before December 29th. And be sure to join me next week when I chat with Ruth Soukup who is the author of ‘Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life’. Ruth shares her story of going through severe depression and shifting out of that place to find more light and hope and ultimately live the good, life like her book says. So I will see you next week. Take care.