82. How Big Alcohol Hijacked the Feminist Movement – with Ann Dowsett Johnston


Tribe Sober – inspiring an alcohol-free life!

When I was contemplating sobriety I read a couple of books that really resonated with me – one was Caroline Knapp: Drinking a Love Story and the other one was Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol 

That book was published back in 2013 and it was a book that predicted the huge rise in risky drinking for women – a prediction that sadly has come true.

In her book Ann skillfully combines in-depth research with her own moving story of alcohol abuse.

She highlights the positive fact that women have closed the gender gap in their professional and educational lives BUT they have also achieved equality with men by drinking at unhealthy levels.

Unfortunately our bodies are not equal to a man’s body when it comes to metabolising alcohol – we get dependent quicker and it damages our health to a higher degree.

Ann explains how the alcohol industry had been ruthlessly targeting women for the last two decades – and how successful they have been.

In this episode

  • Ann’s drinking became problematic as she hit menopause – her son was going off to college and she had empty nest syndrome.
  • She became depressed but didn’t want anti-depressants (as her mom had fallen prey to the combination of cocktails and Valium) so she started to rely on wine to “take the edge off”.
  • In her 50’s Ann became so worried about her drinking that she took herself off to rehab. However it didn’t work.
  • Leaving rehab she had no idea how to navigate normal life and we agreed that this is a “missing piece” in some rehabs.
  • She found herself sneaking drinks for 3 months and then began to feel suicidal – her ex-husband suggested a meeting which was the beginning of her recovery.
  • Ann’s recovery meant she had to unpick her life and rebuild it so that it didn’t involve alcohol – this took years and year one was particularly hard.
  • This got me reflecting on our Tribe Sober community. We sometimes get people saying “I haven’t had a drink for 2 weeks – why do I still feel rubbish?!”
  • When we embark on this life changing journey I think we have to be patient and play the long game –  listen to Tribe Sober podcast number 61 and you will hear Dr Dawn explain that for every year that we drank we should allow a month of recovery.
  • What I’ve observed after helping hundreds of people to get sober is that it takes a year for sobriety to stick – 6 months of focusing on changing your behaviour so that you no longer drink, followed by 6 months of reconfiguring your life so that you can create a life you don’t want to escape from.
  • As we always say, you have to “throw the book at it” and give it your all – you heard Ann say that this journey is not for the faint-hearted but the rewards are huge and the rest of your life will be healthier and happier – you know you’re worth it (as the hair colour ad used to say!)
  • We talked about my decade of moderation and Anne reminded me that in Caroline Knapp’s book she says that the average period of “negotiation” we do is about 12 years. There has been a more recent study by the Tempest that says that it usually takes someone about 11 years between recognising that they have a problem with alcohol and reaching out for help.
  • This is where the power of community comes in – if I had been in a sober community when I was trying (and failing) to moderate my drinking, they would have told me to stop wasting my time trying to control an addictive substance.
  • Of course, now I know that once we have crossed a line with our drinking there is no going back – we just have to ditch the stuff and learn how to thrive in our alcohol-free lives.
  • So if you are in that period of “negotiation”, setting rules, trying to moderate, don’t waste 11 years of your life – go to tribesober.com and join our community today.
  • We agreed that the liquor industry has hijacked the feminist movement convincing us we need mommyjuice to parent and wine for self-care. Anne highlighted these facts in her book 8 years ago and she feels that things have got even worse since then.
  • Women have to get smart and as Ann put it, “democratically we are equal but metabolically and hormonally we are not equal to men.”
  • Ann is part of the Hola Sober team with the wonderful Susan Christina (you can listen to Susan Christina on Tribe Sober podcast episode 67). Ann is excited about the way the modern recovery movement is evolving and how there are so many different ways to get sober these days.
  • We talked about the fact that sobriety will give us so much more than it takes away – if you are having a wobble in your sobriety then do the exercise that Ann’s son made her do – a list of gains and losses. She talks movingly about this on her fabulous TED talk – I’ll put the link in the show notes.
  • Ann loves writing and runs an 8-week online recovery writing course which will help you to write your memoir and then get published – check it out on her website which is https://www.anndowsettjohnston.com/. I’ll put the link in the show notes.
  • I loved her story about carrying Caroline Knapp’s Drinking a Love Story book in her brief case when she was contemplating getting sober – that’s what inspired her to write Drink so make sure you get a copy of that on Amazon and carry it in your bag – whether to inspire you or to keep you on track!
  • It’s still January as we record this so if you are ready to dip your toe in the waters of sobriety and test your dependence then please check out our January Challenge on tribesober.com – for a small donation to a good cause you will get online and community support for an alcohol-free month.
  • And if it’s not January then just go to tribesober.com and hit “join our tribe” – as a new member we’ll chat to you about your needs and design you a tailor made sobriety journey that will change your life!
  • If you are listening to this and it’s not January don’t worry – we’ve got you covered – all you need to do is to go to our tribesober.com and hit Join Our Tribe and we’ll put you on our 30 day starter challenge for new members.

More info

  • Subscription membership for Tribe Sober is just R85 (£4/$6/$8AUS) a month – you can join up HERE
  • To access our website click HERE
  • If you would like a free copy of our “Annual Tracker” or our e-book “66 Days to Sobriety” please email janet@nulltribesober.com
  • If you would like to come to our Saturday afternoon Zoom Cafe as a guest and meet our community just email janet@nulltribesober.com

Episode Sponsor

This episode is sponsored by the Tribe Sober Membership Program.  If you want to change your relationship with alcohol then sign up today
Read more about our 7-step program and subscribe HERE. Book a Discovery Call with me to find out if our membership would help you.

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Till Next Week

Janet x


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The 11 Year Fact

Did you know that the average dependent drinker will struggle alone for 11 years before reaching out for help?

Don’t wait for 11 years – join Tribe Sober today!