As Sober for October progresses, it got me thinking about a client I started working with last year. I felt that now would be an excellent opportunity to illustrate just how transformational coaching can be the difference that makes the difference.
This article shares Louise’s experiences over the last year – her journey from a high-functioning corporate employee struggling with alcohol to a sober self-employed business owner. If you’re enjoying the benefits of a Sober October and want to continue, or if you’re on your own sober journey, I hope you’ll find Louise’s story inspirational.
Louise, thanks for agreeing to share your story. Let’s go back 18 months. How would you describe your life back then?
I’d describe my life as being pretty unmanageable. I was putting on a front to everybody else and trying to cope with the truth by myself. Yes, I was a high-functioning professional, but I got through the days by masking what was going on. I’d go to work, perform my role, and then in the evening sink into wine to knock myself out.
It got to the stage where I’d pour wine into a mug to hide it from my partner and family. Then, later on in the evening, I’d drink more wine. I was easily putting away 2 bottles a night minimum, drinking to knock myself out and go to sleep. And then it would start all over again the next day. I was functioning, but I certainly wasn’t living.
I found myself becoming more and more depressed and, at one stage, ended up thinking very dark thoughts. I felt my family would be better off without me, that I wasn’t a worthy person deserving of their love. It was one of the most challenging periods of my life.
When did alcohol come into your life? Was it a gradual slide into 2-3 bottles a night?
I’d probably been drinking too much most of my life from the age of 16. I come from a family of social drinkers, so I’d grown up around alcohol. Everything from parties to funerals was associated with drinking. It was just always accepted and never really questioned. Over time, my drinking increased and the amount I drank built and built.
I was able to stop drinking throughout my pregnancies. I actually looked forward to having an excuse not to drink. Perhaps it was then I realised I had an issue with alcohol. I needed that excuse to not pour a drink, and I didn’t touch a drop while pregnant and breastfeeding.
But unfortunately, that happier time didn’t last. As soon as I was back at work, the feelings of overwhelm and pressurised life returned. And I very quickly fell into old habits. It got so bad that I would pray to be sober. If I’d had one wish, it would have been to be able to stop drinking. But I didn’t think I could. Alcohol was the answer to everything, and I didn’t feel I could exist without it.
Where did you go when you decided to seek help?
I knew I had to do something, especially when I started thinking dark thoughts, so I booked an appointment with my doctor. I’ve known my doctor for years and felt comfortable opening up to her. She referred me to a 6-week program in my local town for addiction.
At the addiction centre, they gave me a cup designed to help me measure my alcohol and I worked with a coach. He was lovely and talked me through how to reduce my intake bit by bit.
But for me, this approach didn’t work. I was still drinking while I was going there. Not as much, but certainly what I thought I could get away with.
After the addiction centre therapy, I started a new job, an even more high-profile job as a University Director. I honestly thought I could use what I’d learned to moderate my drinking. Not give up completely but stick within manageable limits like other people do. But then, of course, the pandemic hit. As the workload increased and fear of Covid set in, the stress levels and pressure ramped up, and so did my drinking.
Why do you think traditional styles of therapy failed?
The addiction centre therapy was quite clinical. It aimed to help me cut back on drinking by telling me how much I needed to reduce week by week. My coach was lovely, but it was all centred around cutting back and didn’t touch on the reasons why I was drinking or the emotional aspect of addiction.
I already knew I had to cut back, but I needed more support to work through my feelings, thoughts, and emotions. It might work for some people, but for me, it just wasn’t enough.
Our paths crossed when we met as part of FFS (The Fish Followers Society), a private Facebook community membership group set up by Sober Fish Dawn Comolly. Apart from your need to stop drinking, what triggered you to sign up for FFS?
One Sunday, I reached breaking point. I’d already drunk a bottle of wine, and in my head, I knew it had to stop. So I grabbed Catherine Gray’s book “The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober” off the shelf and started reading it. And I didn’t go to bed until I’d read the whole book.
I’d followed Dawn’s public Sober Fish account for a while, always thinking, “I wish I could live sober like that.” I’d actually lurked in the background for a bit, not wanting to sign up because I didn’t want to fail anybody. I already felt like a total failure. But I love Dawn’s down-to-earth style, she swears a bit and has a fabulous sense of humour, and I felt like I could do this without it being too much pressure. So I signed up the same Sunday as reading the book.
The Super Sober Challenges launched as a collaborative effort between Dawn and myself in December 2019. They’re offered to anyone who is an FFS member who is looking for long-term sobriety.
You joined a challenge group 3 weeks after signing up for the FB group. How did this challenge help with your sobriety?
I managed to stay sober for 3 weeks before the challenge. I couldn’t believe I’d managed to stay sober for those 3 whole weeks. I didn’t feel on my own anymore, and that made a massive difference. A group of amazing people surrounded me, and I was bowled over by the level of support. People who had been sober for several years were telling me I could do it, and for the first time in years, I didn’t feel any shame. I was with people who had either been in the same situation as me or were on a very similar sober journey.
There was never any pressure in the challenge group, just plenty of encouragement and genuine support. The challenge group was small, and meeting on Zoom twice a week helped a lot. During our first Zoom meeting, I spoke first which really pushed me out of my comfort zone. But it was a positive push. It was the first step to unlocking so much within me.
Both you and Dawn come from such a place of compassion that although it was scary to open up, I knew it was important and needed doing. It was the next step in my recovery. And that’s continued since that very first challenge chat. I learned that it isn’t just about drinking. It’s about figuring out the whys and putting in the work to uncover deeper issues.
I did 3 challenges in total, and each one made me stronger in my sobriety.
From the work we started in the challenges, you signed up to do some transformational coaching sessions with me. How have these sessions helped you discover your soul purpose and strengthened your sobriety?
Once we’d worked together on the challenges, I knew from your support and encouragement that I could put my trust in you and open up a little more on a 1:1 basis. I felt a bit like a volcano, I knew there was so much inside that needed to come out, but I didn’t know exactly what it was or how to approach it.
To be able to tell somebody the inner workings of your heart and soul, and to be supported without judgment from someone who’s been there and who’s done similar things, is life-changing in itself. So just having you there, Jojo, and knowing that you come from a place of empathy and pure compassion allowed me to open up fully and honestly.
After the hard work of the first few weeks, getting through the day-to-day cravings, I knew I had to look deeper within. Alcohol used to be my coping mechanism, and that was now gone, and you helped me learn how to move forward and become my own best friend.
The coaching sessions are a journey back in time to unravel and unpick false meanings that I’d created. One of the things that helped me massively was the inner child work. And also the work on self-worth. I’d lost what I stood for and who I was, and you helped me piece all that back together.
I did have support from friends and family, but it’s a different kind of support. My partner didn’t really believe I could get sober, so there was always doubt sitting there. But, with transformational coaching, there was never any doubt in your eyes that I could change my life. And when another human has that much belief in you and is there to help you when you stumble, transformation starts to happen.
What does the future look like for you now? Has transformational coaching worked for you?
Working with you as my transformational coach has definitely transformed my life! With you helping me navigate my thoughts and emotions, I’ve been able to stand on my own two feet, and I recently made a life-changing decision to leave my job and set up my own business. I’ve always been a keen gardener, and I’m now working as a horticultural therapist. It’s something that I never dreamed would be possible 2 years ago.
Transformational coaching has been truly transformational in helping me work towards my soul purpose.
I know that if I hadn’t done the additional coaching, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
What advice would you give to other women who want to step away from alcohol?
To reach out and find some support that helps them, whatever form that comes in. It’s an arduous, difficult, and never-ending journey to try to get sober on your own. Find the courage from somewhere to open up and trust somebody. There are people who’ve been through the same experiences as you and who want to help. Don’t lurk in the shadows and expect your problems to go away. You have to step out and find the help, and that’s the hardest part. But it gets easier, and you CAN do it.
Transformational coaching can help you find true happiness too
We all have our individual stories. By sharing them, we encourage others to seek a different path and try something new. I sincerely hope Louise’s story resonates with you and inspires you to make the changes you desire.
If you’re struggling with alcohol-related problems, my 12 week 1:1 sober coaching programme will help you overcome any obstacles holding you back and map a new way forward. After 12 weeks, you’ll have activated a new level of self-belief, using your new superpower to make empowered choices feeling alive, excited, and free.
Just like Louise, you can find a new direction and live happier and healthier.
Or, if you would like to chat about bespoke 1:1 time, this is also possible.
Book a free discovery call with me today. Step out of the shadows and head towards 2022 with clarity and purpose.