This article was first published in Brainz Magazine ( A Sober Life Is My Best Life! Could It Be Yours? (brainzmagazine.com)
Three lessons learned from my life as a person who is five years sober.
Do you sometimes wonder if you drink too much? If your answer is ‘yes’, rest assured you are not alone. I was once there myself. And as a Hypno-coach, I am regularly called upon to help someone who either wants to stop drinking completely or simply wants to get back to the moderate drinking habits they used to have.
In my article ‘’ How I became sober,’’ How I became sober (hypnocoach.ca) I describe my own slow but the steady use of alcohol as a coping mechanism over a period of 30 years. Today, with 5 years of sobriety under my belt, I will share the lessons I’ve learned and why, I would stay sober, even if given only one month to live!
My first lesson with alcohol goes back many years, and, one could say, it is a typical foray into alcohol abuse: I was 13 years old when I first got sick from overdrinking. I remember my feelings of shame as my father came to me and said, quite simply: ‘’Remember one thing, Ninilene, (this was my father’s affectionate pet name for me) with alcohol, everything you want to do, you won’t do and everything you don’t want to do you will do.”
My father shared this advice with me in a very solemn way as if he was giving me an important key that could either close or open doors. At that time, I already felt, perhaps in my subconscious mind, that there was something wrong with the way I was abusing alcohol I drank as if from a fire hose, to quench an as yet unnamable thirst.
Thirty-six years after this event, a very important man in my life said to me ‘’ Alcohol is getting to your brain and it is no longer fun.’ I felt instant panic knowing that someone had uncovered the hidden truth about me that someone realized my functions had started to decline and that my behavior had become noticeably problematic.
This moment was the catalyst I needed and prompted a complete turnaround ‘GAME OVER FOR MY RED FRIEND IN A BOTTLE.’ I have now been sober five years since that life-changing exchange and it was THE BEST decision I ever made the decision that made ‘’doing all I want to do’’ possible.
Five years, THREE personal Lessons Learned:
1. Labeling myself as an ‘Alcoholic’ was not helping me.
I realize that this point may be very controversial and will possibly rub a lot of people the wrong way. So, let me set the record straight from the get-go:
I do not want to imagine a world without the 12-step programs ( AA, NA, etc.) They have proven to help millions of people achieve sobriety, stay sober, as well as have had a direct, positive impact on their spouses, employers, children, and communities, etc.
The 12-step programs have also been really positive and supportive for me and my statement is not against these programs, but more a reflection of how I approach brain programming and holistic healing. I am speaking from my own experience and fully understand that, for many others in the program, using this label is paramount to their recovery. If this is your case, you can feel free to skip this first point and move on to the next.
Let me begin by saying that I am not a fan of labels. I find them reductive, but I also understand that sometimes they can be useful and even necessary. For me, personally, stating ‘I am an alcoholic’ every day, was not serving me in my journey to stay sober. If I had been a smoker and then stopped smoking, I would not say every day ‘I am a smoker.’
Rest assured, this does not mean that I am in denial, falsely believing that I merely developed a tolerance for alcohol and that it did not have an impact on my mental, physical and spiritual health. I fully recognize that my past level of alcohol consumption was justifiably categorized as a ‘disease.’ I simply chose an approach that was more conducive to reprogramming my brain, in a way that was different from continuing to label myself an ‘alcoholic.’
‘’In the past, I used alcohol in the past to numb the pain I could not deal with.’’ I self-medicated with alcohol to a point where alcohol became an additional problem, on top of the original pain it was supposed to be relieving. In short, alcohol was a solution that became a problem.
”Thus, ‘A sober life is my best life’ became my new mantra it was how I framed ‘my story and how I programmed myself.
A little bit about how reprogramming your brain works:
Used at the moment, it relies on the repetition of words that spark your imagination and get you excited. For example, It does not excite me to say every day, ‘I am an alcoholic,’ but it really inspires me to say, with a smile, ‘In this sober life, everything is really possible,’ and that ‘A sober life is my best life.’
2. My beliefs about being sober were wrong.
When I was actively drinking, I had a few beliefs (ones I truly believed) that actually proved to be very false. Many of these beliefs were simply anxious thoughts and, as we know, 95% of our anxious thoughts never become a reality.
Let me share three of these here:
If I stop drinking ‘my life will be boring. FALSE:
My life is in fact so much more exciting; I do a lot more activities, have a fulfilling career, and go to places I would not have previously gone to go because I would never drink and drive. I have more energy and am less depressed mood etc.
I am smarter when I drink. FALSE:
Oh boy! Now, every time I am at a party or a dinner and the ‘’ tipping hour’’ begins the tipping hour being when the drinkers start to speak louder and more animatedly I am sober, listening to what they say, and always say to myself, “Oh well, I thought I was so smart with my concepts and stories, etc. I realized that this was NOT the case, but merely an illusion created by the effects of the alcohol.
Alcohol helps me ‘schmooze’ and connect with people. If I stop drinking I will be alone. FALSE:
This may have been true when I first started to drink; it was one of the reasons that got me started. I felt I could not connect with people unless under the influence. I felt I was different (reality check: we are ALL different) and that alcohol made me funny and ‘’part of the gang.’’ However, in the last 10 years of my drinking life, I was connected to the bottle, not to the people.
The conversations I now have with friends and even new people are now so rich I really mastered the art of listening and sharing true feelings and true-life stories. Today, it’s a world of difference; I really ‘show up and I love to connect with people. I can really be present with them without the false lure of the bottle between us.
3. There are still stigmas attached to ‘being sober.’
I am not going to lie and pretend I am winning a popularity contest by being sober. Alcohol is part of almost every celebration. I love that there is now a movement towards choosing a sober life that has nothing to do with having problems with alcohol. Today, more and more people choose a sober life, much like the way many now choose not to smoke. In fact, I believe we are moving in a direction where a sober life will become the ‘new normal whether for health reasons or due to a more mindful approach to living.
I have noticed that there are three typical reactions when people hear I have chosen a sober life:
Curiosity: They want to know my story; people love to hear stories about someone who has triumphed over adversity. And even though they find the story interesting and even share your pride in the outcome, it remains something they themselves would never consider. There is an ‘us’ and ‘them’ type of feeling in these conversations. ‘You’ are one of those people that had problems. It almost feels like giving a conference.
Interest in the limits of addiction and alcohol; what is normal, not normal, etc.: Often, this comes from people who are wondering about their own habits or those of someone they know. This is likely to be a more ‘one-on-one’ conversation, or in the safety of a group setting. Sometimes, people will contact me afterward and become a client.
Rejection, denial, or cajoling me to drink: It typically goes like this, ‘Come on, you can have one with me now, you will be ok, don’t be a party pooper.’ In these situations, the person likely has never been close to someone with serious, similar issues so they really don’t get it, or, the mirror you are showing them is just too unbearable for them to look into. Frankly, with the latter kind of people, I prefer to just move away. I don’t try to educate them or change their minds etc. I will often say something like, ‘enjoy your drink, and, if one day you find you are not enjoying it as much, then we can talk.’ I make an effort not to reject them outright, but simply continue being in my sober life energy. Maybe one day this will call to them and if not, that’s fine.
My personal take-away: ‘A sober life is my best life because I choose to feel both joy and pain and I choose to be deeply connected to myself and therefore, to others, and because I know and have experienced firsthand what my wise father told me 30 years ago: ‘That everything I want to do, I can do’ and everything is available to me. Put simply I LOVE this life.
If you are wondering if you, or someone you know, is struggling with addiction or alcohol abuse, I invite you to join me for a free 30-minute consultation. When paired with other support services, Hypno-coaching can be your first step toward a healing journey and a happy life of your choosing.
Janylene Turcotte, Cl.hyp, ACC, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
After more than 25 years as a top level executive in the corporate world, Janylène Turcotte made a 360 degree career change and became a certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, Coach and HypnoCoach. While going through her own major life transformation, she developed a unique 3-STEP MODEL as a tool to help herself, and now, her clients, through the complex process of transformation and transition. She graduated from the Marisa Peer School as an RTT (Rapid Transformational Therapy) Therapist. She has been an ICF Certified Coach for more than eight years and host the podcast ‘’ It’s Just a Belief’’.