Published On: April 23, 20221409 words7.1 min read

Unpickled with Jean McCarthy

If you have been sober for a while and are ever tempted to drink just “one glass of wine” then it’s worth remembering this well known saying, “You can change a cucumber into a pickle, but you can’t turn a pickle back into a cucumber.” In other words, once we have crossed that line into alcohol-dependence there is no going back – we must go forward and create a life we don’t want to escape from.

My guest this week was obviously inspired by the pickle analogy as her blog is called “Unpickled” and I’m sure many of you have listened to her awesome podcast the “Bubble Hour” which has been going for almost a decade.

I began by asking Jean to introduce herself.

In this Episode

  • Jean was a teenage drinker, going to bars at 15 years old as she looked older.
  • She got married and had her children young – then got into the mommyjuice culture.
  • Her drinking escalated throughout her 20’s and 30’s.
  • By the time she got to her 40’s, her children were teenagers, her career was demanding and wine was her “off” button.
  • She went from one glass to two to a few – to opening a bottle the moment she got home from work.
  • Like many of us she would wake up and think “I won’t drink today” but by lunchtime that thought was gone.
  • Since her teenage years, she had an inkling that alcohol was not doing her any favours but by her 30’s she was trying to make a change and setting “the rules” – which of course she promptly broke.
  • She finally quit at 43 – which led us to discuss the Tempest Study – that the average time it takes people “from realising they had a problem to actually quitting” was eleven years.
  • One of the things that kept Jean stuck in her drinking was that she was labouring under the misconception that one had to reach “rock bottom” before making a change – a myth that keeps many from ditching the booze.
  • That myth kept Jean from going to AA – not only was she worried about being recognised but she also felt that she couldn’t fit – that she would be seen as a lightweight because she hadn’t lost everything.
  • So let’s take a moment to debunk the rock bottom fallacy – if your drinking is on your mind and you have a suspicion that you would be healthier and happier without it then just do it. No need to keep digging…
  • There has never been a better time to give up drinking. There are many online sobriety groups like Tribe Sober, not to mention a plethora of alcohol-free drinks.  Go to and check us out if you’d like to meet other people who have decided to avoid rock bottom and ditch the booze before they get there!
  • So Jean didn’t go to AA but she did confide in one friend and that made all the difference – she got empathy from that friend and it made her accountable.
  • Sometimes just telling one person is all it takes – so if you’re stuck then that’s a great place to start and if you feel there is no one in your friendship circle who would understand than check out and join our international community.
  • To beat those early cravings Jean had a whole list of things to do when she felt a craving – for example, she would eat an ice cream, or orange slices or take the dog around the block or drive to the store. Doing her grocery shopping in the evenings took some of the pressure of her schedule the next day.
  • She started her unpickled blog – anonymously like Clare Pooley – and just like Claire she got responses and realised that she was not alone in this.
  • With the perspective of a decade of sobriety, Jean is able to look back and see that for the first 2 years she was “white knuckling” it.
  • During those early years she stayed sober because she was ashamed of the possibility of relapse – that stopped her healing and also prevented her from experiencing the “fullness of recovery” as she puts it.
  • Jean was on this journey alone for the first two years and it was only when she discovered a sober community that her recovery really started. We often get people joining Tribe Sober who have been sober for a while but are feeling isolated and miserable because they feel lonely and don’t realise that recovery is about so much more than “not drinking”.
  • She went on a sober retreat and sat in a sharing circle for the first time – that’s when the magic of recovery started for Jean – she cried constantly during that retreat and came through the other side.
  • We talked about the money we spend on beauty and anti-ageing products when the best thing of all we can do for our health and our beauty as we get older is to ditch the booze.
  • Staying hydrated is so important for our skin – yet for every glass of wine we drink we lose the equivalent of four glasses of water.
  • Many of us feared that sobriety would mean a life of deprivation, but, as Jean says, the reality is that it is a life of abundance – and that is the joy of a sober community. You will meet people further down the line who can confirm that is the case!
  • Jean explained that recovery helped her to stop doing things that weren’t serving her – which made me think about a discussion we had in one of our chat rooms recently – many of us realised that we were drinking to make other people more interesting and had wasted far too much time hanging out with people who we didn’t really connect with.
  • I asked Jean to share some of her tips with us:-

Find alternative ways to comfort yourself, tell someone, decide that whatever happens no you will not drink – and join a sobriety group.

  • We talked about the magazine Hola Sober and how wonderful it is to be part of this modern recovery movement.
  • So do take a look at Jean’s blog which is called “Unpickled”, if you don’t already listen to the Bubble Hour then there are plenty of episodes to catch up with!
  • You heard her reading that beautiful poem about recovery circles from her book “The Ember Ever There” which is available on Amazon.

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This episode is sponsored by the Tribe Sober Membership Program.  If you want to change your relationship with alcohol then sign up today
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