My guest this week is author Lisa Bennett. After a career in marketing, she ditched the booze in her early 50s, left her job, and wrote a book about the joys of sobriety. Her book is called “My Unfurling” and emphasises how many aspects of our lives will change when we stop using alcohol to numb our feelings and our dreams.
Lisa lives in Maryland with her husband, her mom, two cats, and a dog. She enjoys paddleboarding, yoga, and dancing in the kitchen!
In this Episode
- Lisa started drinking in her teens and says that her first 6 years of drinking created deep pathways in her brain.
- The heady combination of being away from home and having access to cheap alcohol, together with the fact that she was a bit shy, meant drinking was a great way to connect and fit in with the other students.
- On reflection, Lisa realises she could have done so much better at college if she hadn’t been partying so much!
- After college, she went to live in the heart of New York City where the party continued! So easy to go out drinking and pour herself into a cab to get home.
- So she left NY at the age of 29 with a very well-established drinking habit – 3 or 4 nights out a week was the norm and like many of us, Lisa discovered she had no “off” switch.
- She ended up in an AA meeting to do research for a work-related project. That experience simply confirmed to her that she was “not an alcoholic” as she didn’t relate to the people there – so she had a drink on the way home to celebrate!
- This also happened to me and with hindsight, we agreed that we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves with some of the hard-core alcoholics in AA. We should be comparing ourselves with the best version of ourselves that we could be – quite simply, alcohol will prevent us from reaching our potential in life.
- Going back to Lisa: she of course tried to moderate – and set and broke “the rules” many times.
- We talked about “rock bottom” and how crazy it is to wait for “rock bottom” – the trick is to get off that slippery slope the moment you realise you are on it!
- We talked about wake-up calls – as she reached her 40’s Lisa found she could no longer predict the effect that a few drinks were going to have on her – I also experienced that and now realise that it’s a real warning sign of dependence.
- She explained how a relatively modest amount of alcohol had led her to a blackout which ended in her throwing charcoal up to her bedroom window to wake up her husband in the early hours – as she puts in “she will never forget the disappointed look on her husband’s face as he came downstairs to let her in!”
- We talked of the difficulty of being a woman who drinks – we mustn’t “get drunk” because that’s not cool but if we don’t drink we are no fun!
- In fact, Lisa’s husband told her that he didn’t think she had to give up drinking completely – this was a few months into sobriety so Lisa was able to remind him of all the things she had started doing that she never would have done had she still been drinking.
- This attitude of well-meaning friends and relatives is another reason why we need a sober community – they will just tell us to “cut down” – not realising that we’ve crossed the line into dependence and cutting down is not an option.
- Go to tribesober.com and hit “join our tribe” if you need a community that understands what it’s like to have tried (and failed) to cut down over and over again.
- One day Lisa very wisely realised that she was getting no “joy” from her drinking anymore – and that it was taking too much away from her.
- For most of us, it actually takes a period of sobriety before we recognise that we gain so much more than we lose when we ditch the booze. So, well done to Lisa for having that insight when she was still drinking!
- Lisa’s turning point was reading an essay by Laura McCowen called “Am I an Alcoholic” – https://www.lauramckowen.com/blog/am-i-an-alcoholic.
- We are great fans of Laura here at Tribe Sober and her book title “We are the Luckiest” just about sums up how we feel once we’ve ditched the booze and learned to thrive in our sobriety.
- Like all of us, Lisa had to “do the work” in early sobriety – her husband and friends were still drinking so she would often go to bed early when the socialising got difficult.
- She also had to work on “uncoupling” everyday experiences from alcohol – as she put it, alcohol was so woven into her daily life she was not entirely sure whether she enjoyed various activities or if it was just the alcohol she was enjoying.
- For example, she thought she enjoyed cooking and it was part of her identity that she was a “good cook” but once she removed the wine from her cooking experience she realised it wasn’t really her passion after all!
- This raises an interesting point about how we lose touch with what we really like doing when we drink – for example, you may discover that your Drinking Buddies are not that fascinating after all and that you would rather be learning to do something creative instead of spending time with them!
- Sobriety really is a journey of self-discovery – bumpy at first and then full of joy. It’s an “Unfurling” of who we really are.
- Lisa explained that she has built a lot of emotional strength in sobriety – by pushing out of her comfort zone and engaging in new activities and just by learning how to socialise sober.
- She’s gained so much confidence since being sober – confidence non-drinkers would have built up at a much younger age!
- Alcohol saps our motivation to “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” to quote one of my favourite book titles. We stay trapped in our boozy little rut.
- Lisa’s been trying so many new things since she got sober – aerial yoga, spinning classes, and creative writing – and she’s written and published a book.
- Her accomplishments are a reminder that we will never reach our potential in life if we are drinking – as she says “I’m so glad I gave myself a chance to see what I could do in sobriety”.
- I asked her for some tips for newbies and she suggested journaling – obviously, not everybody is a writer like Lisa but she recommended getting some journal prompts from people like Glennon Doyle.
- Getting outside in nature is essential – it helps us to realise we are part of something so much bigger – and to be in the moment.
- She also recommended doing a Challenge and finding Facebook Groups which means I’m going to give ours a plug.
- We have a brand new Facebook Group called “Sober Sprinters” where we hosted our recent “5-day Sober Sprint” – that Sprint is over now but there is so much engagement on there we decided to keep it open as a home for all future Challenges. Just search Sober Sprinters on FB and come join the conversation.
- Lisa’s book is called “My Unfurling” and describes how different aspects of her life “unfurled” as she quit drinking – it’s available on Amazon and you can also find it on her website which is called www.lisamaybennett.com
- I loved Lisa’s book which is a mixture of her story mixed with plenty of inspiration – her time in New York City as a twenty-something made me think of all that cocktail drinking we used to watch in the Sex and the City series!
- We both agreed that stopping drinking was just the beginning and that’s what makes the decision to quit such a gamechanger – it really alters the trajectory of your future.
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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