A Mother’s Love with Gabi Lowe


Tribe Sober – inspiring an alcohol-free life!

My guest today is a familiar name to many South Africans.  Gabi Lowe came into the public eye back in 2015 as she fought for her daughter’s life.

Gabi has written a book about this extraordinary period – a book called “Get Me to 21” which was the name of a campaign led by her daughter Jenna as she invited the public to become organ donors and attend her 21st birthday party.

Tragically Jenna died before reaching this milestone.

This is a story full of pain – but also full of courage.  The courage of Gabi, her husband and daughter Kristi – and of course Jenna herself.

It’s also a story of resilience – Gabi explains how she has managed to survive a parent’s worst nightmare and rebuild her life.  A life full of purpose which lives alongside the aching loss of her beautiful daughter.

In this episode

  • As she took us through the heartbreaking development of Jenna’s illness, we discussed the moment when Gabi felt her role shift from that of a hopeless observer who just wanted to cry – to that of a Momcologist who was determined to fight on her daughter’s behalf – she discovered the lioness inside.
  • A lioness which kept fighting with Jenna all the way – and then re-emerged during that terrifying beach attack 3 years later.
  • Gabi found it very humbling to ask for help and talked of how activating their first fundraiser left her in tears. But then it led her to reflect on the “virtuous circle” as she discovered that:-
  1. Everyone was desperate to find a way to help and they were grateful to be able to do something
  2. She learned how to “receive” which led a the virtuous circle of giving and receiving, giving and receiving
  • She realised that everything they were doing for Jen helped others as well – one of the legacies of Jen’s fight is a clinic in a public hospital here in Cape Town.
  • Gabi explained that in spite of Jen’s campaign, dramatically increasing the number of organ donations in SA is still a dire need (ironic that only 2% of the population are organ donors when we think of Cape Town as being the home of the first ever heart transplant).
  • SA has an opt-in organ donation program whereas in some countries everyone is born an organ donor and they have to opt out – many more lives are saved in those countries with an opt out policy – so Gabi continues to fight for a change in SA legislation.
  • Pulmonary Hypertension often goes undiagnosed and, in fact, Jenna was diagnosed as having asthma during the first six months of her illness. Gabi stressed that breathlessness is a symptom that must be taken seriously.
  • I asked Gabi if she used alcohol during this period but she explained that her Momcologist duties were so complex that she had to be on top of her game 24/7 so could not risk it. Her coping mechanisms were walking in nature, meditation and yoga.
  • She talked about the listening meditation that the whole family did every couple of weeks – simply expressing how they were (or were not) coping with Jenna’s illness – Jenna herself was part of these sessions.
  • This made me reflect on the shares that we do at the beginning of our workshops – everybody introduces themselves and talks about their relationships with alcohol. Nobody comments so it truly is a listening meditation and it often strikes me that sometimes this is the first time that some people have expressed their feelings about alcohol out loud. It’s always an emotional session but it’s also very bonding as people realise they are not in this alone.
  • Gabi and I agreed that the deep listening has an effect on the quality of the conversation – which is the essence of coaching.
  • A few months after Jenna’s death, Gabi was in a dark place. A friend took her off to a silent retreat – where she cried (silently and not so silently) for much of the time – but every day she would go to a place in the grounds where she would observe a weaver building his nest. She watched him complete his nest and it occurred to her that (although she didn’t feel like it) she would have to eventually rebuild her own nest.
  • Apparently weavers build several nests in their lifetime which of course got us thinking about the fact that we may need to rebuild our lives after trauma or at certain periods in our lives (the empty nest syndrome of course!) – we can’t cling on to the old life.
  • This got me thinking about Hudsons “cycle of renewal” which we often use in coaching – your life may be going quite well for a few years and then a curved ball will come along – Covid has been a curved ball for most of us!
  • Hudson maintains that at certain periods in our life we will find ourselves

“In the Doldrums” – depressed, stuck, uninspired and powerless – when we know we are drinking too much but have no idea how to make a change – we are in the doldrums

“Cocooning” is the next stage – when we start to connect with our inner strengths – being curious and educating ourselves via podcasts and quitlit is a form of cocooning

“Getting Ready” is the next stage where we prepare for the transition by reaching out and connecting with others on the same path

“Going for it” – is when we change our thinking about drinking and start making the changes we need to

  • In early sobriety many people experience a bit of a low – what some would describe as a “void” – the drinking life has gone and they have no idea what to replace it with. That’s where our nest building analogy comes in again – we have to discover new connections, new interests and rebuild our nest.
  • We’ve entered a period of renewal – a very positive period which can lead to more health and more happiness if we stick with it.
  • One of the most common questions that Gabi gets asked is “how do you cope?” So she reflected long and hard about this – and started thinking about resilience. She thought about her own journey and that of other bereaved parents she knew and she did a lot of reading on “resilience”.
  • She disagreed strongly with most of the literature on resilience which talked about bouncing back – or pushing through with grit and perseverance. In her experience that is not at all the right way to deal with trauma.
  • So with a colleague (Pippa Shaper) Gabi began to create a 10 step resilience model – a roadmap – something she wishes that she’d had in her darkest days.
  • The first part of the model is about accepting the facts and operating from a place of realistic optimism.
  • This model can be used for any life change. If you have been using alcohol to numb your pain or just to cope with life, then you will struggle in early sobriety.  Studying authentic resilience will not only give you a tangible goal, but it will enable you to learn how to thrive in your alcohol-free life.
  • We both agreed that the hardest thing of all is to reach out for help – whether it’s help fighting for your child’s life or help to change your alcohol dependence, it’s a humbling experience. We will feel vulnerable but its not an act of courage if we don’t feel vulnerable.
  • So if Gabi Lowe has inspired you then please read her amazing book “Get me to 21” which you can get from the website…www.jennalowe.org
  • You can also help by making a donation via that website

To learn more about Gabi’s courses please go to theresiliencefactory.com.

If you are in SA, you heard Gabi explaining about the CPT workshop on Authentic Resilience on 4th March and the Jo’burg workshop on 7th May. Tickets available from Quicket or drop Gabi a mail at info@the resiliencefactory.com.

We’re already getting sign ups for our Sober Spring Challenge which starts on 20th March.

66 alcohol-free days – supported by daily emails and 66 mini podcasts.

It’s great fun as we put everyone on the Sober Spring Bus on Day one and they all travel through the 66 alcohol-free days together – its always a great vibe on that bus as everyone encourages and supports each other – so don’t miss the bus!

Sign up today – just go to tribesober.com and click on Sober Spring 2022

  • If you’d like copy of our PDF called “30 signs you may have a problem with alcohol” – just email janet@nulltribesober.com

More info

  • For an affordable monthly subscription you can join Tribe Sober – read about the benefits of membership and sign 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 Chat with Sue to find out if our membership would help you – email her on membership@nulltribesober.com


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Till Next Week

Janet x


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The 11 Year Fact

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