Life Lessons from Recovery


As we ditch the booze and try to navigate our alcohol drenched world without it, we often say we are “on a journey”.  My guest this week got sober and then decided to embark on a physical journey.

From Mexico to Canada – on foot! – 2,500 miles! – 5 months!

She applied the lessons from her recovery to the walk and then wrote a book about it.

My guest uses her trail name which is Person Irresponsible – P.I. for short.


In this Episode

  • PI grew up in a drinking home and married a drinker – a familiar story as we tend to seek out the familiar – our comfort zone.
  • In her twenties, she doesn’t recall being worried about her drinking but there were certainly some “incidents”.
  • She realises that she was in deep denial – hanging around with other drinkers to normalise her behaviour.
  • As she got into her thirties, her hangovers got more severe, her marriage collapsed and she started drinking until she blacked out.
  • Like many drinkers, she fell into “victim mode”, blaming others – in her case, blaming her ex-husband.
  • As she looks back on this, she can see that alcoholism prevents any rational thought.
  • PI became so unhappy during this period, she didn’t actually care what happened to her, or what harm she was doing to herself with alcohol.
  • She never read romance or chick lit but for some reason she had an urge to read Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes.
  • At the end of the book, Marian had written about AA, so PI decided to call the helpline and talk to someone. As a result of this conversation, she decided to try 30 days without alcohol.
  • She went to 30 meetings in 30 days and was thrilled to get her 30-day chip. One of the guys at the meetings said, “Now you have to do 60 days,” which came as a surprise. But she decided to go for it, after all, she felt so much better physically!
  • PI loved the stories and the drama – and the chips at AA – she wasn’t so keen on the solutions and didn’t listen to those.
  • Unsurprisingly, she relapsed on Day 72, but the alcohol she drank didn’t give her the relief she was looking for.
  • She went to a meeting and heard a share that really resonated with her – and she finally accepted that she was an alcoholic.
  • That got her back on track, and although she suffered from bad cravings now and again, she learnt how to “break the spell” – whether by talking to someone, or writing a list of reasons to be sober.
  • As she hit one year sober, she started to hear a voice saying, “Surely you can have just one now,” – as well as the voices explaining why that would be a bad idea.
  • As she said, she had a “war” going on in her head. Full-on cognitive dissonance, as the psychologists call it.
  • That made me think of the study by The Tempest that it takes a person an average of 11 years to reach out for help – that’s 11 years of listening to the battle between your rational mind and your limiting beliefs in your subconscious – exhausting!
  • She made the decision to get her one year chip and then to try having a drink. But then she got a call from a sponsee asking for help. Listening to this person’s struggle “broke the spell” for her and made her realise that she didn’t ever want to go back to those difficult days again.
  • That’s why we encourage our members to stick around even after they have got sober – it’s so rewarding to be able to help other people, and it’s a reminder of how tough those early days are. After all, who wants to keep doing the hardest bit, again and again?
  • We even have a 6 years+ group at Tribe Sober and the conversations are quite different on that group – we added up our collective years of sobriety the other day – 184 Years in all!
  • Like many of us, PI found herself with time on her hands when she stopped drinking. Inspired by a movie called “Wild” she decided to walk the worlds longest footpath – from Mexico to Canada, the Pacific Crest Trail.
  • We always say that your world will open up to new possibilities when you ditch the drink, and PI is a great example.
  • She was able to apply the lessons she had learned in recovery during the walk – she gave us a nice analogy of the initial excitement at the beginning of the walk (pink cloud), followed by the boredom and the difficulty and the need to just keep going.
  • Her walk was a perfect metaphor for her recovery journey – and she often just wanted to quit.
  • She describes the PCT as the second greatest achievement in her life (after recovery).
  • At Tribe Sober we often say that Sobriety is a Superpower, because if we can do that, we can do anything!
  • So do get hold of PI’s book which is called Everything you Ever Taught Me – I’ve read it and it’s great – very funny and full of insight.

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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?

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