Walking Talking Blackouts with Anneke Roussel


Anneke Roussel is a Tribe Sober member who knows all about the work hard/hard play culture.  She worked overseas in Afghanistan and Somalia and often found herself sharing bottles of scotch with her male colleagues in Mogadishu.  The combination of retirement from her exciting career and the isolation of the pandemic saw her continuing with her scotch but adding a couple of bottles of wine into the mix.

In this Episode

  • Anneke married an alcoholic – he stopped drinking via AA and Anneke went to AA so she became well aware of the 12 Steps and became a sponsor.
  • She never imagined that she would become an alcoholic herself which shows that we should never become complacent.
  • Anneke had a corporate career but she also owned a restaurant which became the heart of her social life.
  • She had a severely disabled child and turned to alcohol to cope with the stress of managing her career and looking after her child.
  • Tragically, her daughter died at the age of 10, and Anneke turned to drink to try to numb the pain.
  • She took a job in Afghanistan where she worked with a bunch of hard-drinking men. Only whisky was available so that’s where she learned to love her whisky.
  • She moved from Afghanistan to Somalia where she stayed for 5 years – another high-stress job where sitting under the trees drinking whisky with her colleagues was the daily after-work activity.
  • Anneke returned to South Africa planning to retire and then travel the world – however Covid hit which meant that she had to live on her farm which was fairly isolated.
  • She managed to keep to her father’s rule of no booze before 5 pm but at 5 it was a whisky followed by two bottles of wine.
  • We talked about how we get to the stage where we actually prefer drinking alone to being with other people – which is a real warning sign of dependence.
  • It means we are creating a relationship with alcohol, it’s fast becoming our best friend.
  • Anneke felt that drinking had become part of her identity – that happens to many of us and that’s why our friends are so horrified when we say we are going to quit drinking!
  • Like me, Anneke suffered from walking-talking blackouts – and like me, she was horrified to learn that those kinds of blackouts mean that the brain becomes so soaked in alcohol that it cannot even make memories – it’s not just that we have forgotten stuff!
  • It was lockdown and SA’s alcohol ban that made Anneke realise the severity of her problem. She found herself searching for liquor on the black market and didn’t care how much she paid.
  • She would go out to a restaurant, drink a bottle of wine alone and then purchase another bottle to bring home.
  • She went to look at rehab but the 12 Steps didn’t appeal to her as she definitely didn’t feel powerless over alcohol.
  • At Tribe Sober, we believe in putting down our glass and taking back our power!
  • So, at Tribe Sober, Anneke found “her people” and an approach that worked for her. Tribe Sober coach Lynette helped her to find her power and to learn to be kind to herself.
  • She’s worked on her “inner child” – or inner children perhaps we should say. Anneke still has the saboteur and the inner critic – she now visualises them as children sitting on a bus – but these days Anneke is in the driving seat and just tells them to be quiet!
  • These days she is thoroughly enjoying her retirement and is so relieved that she made a conscious decision to quit so that she doesn’t risk drinking her retirement away like so many people do.
  • If you are a bit older and worried about your drinking, have a listen to my interview with British Psychiatrist Dr Tony – Tribe Sober podcast episode 35.

Anneke is now in her second year of sobriety so I asked her why she stuck around with the tribe – she had 3 reasons:
1.   She gets a reminder of just how hard it used to be when she sees new members starting out.
2.  She loves the connection – with a group of people who understand you straight away.
3.  It keeps her grounded and reminds her never to think that she might be able to moderate!

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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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