Published On: January 21, 20231365 words6.8 min read

Most of our Tribe Sober members are quite mature – like me!  They drank socially in their 20s and 30s and it was only later in life that they found themselves becoming dependent.

But now and again we come across a younger person, and my guest this week is Ellen Newstead who is in her early 30s.  She was smart enough to realise at an early age that alcohol was messing up her life and that she would be happier and healthier without it.

Ditching the booze at 30 changes your future – and that’s exactly what she did.

Ellen’s drinking career was short but it was intense and she very sensibly decided to get sober for her wedding – which she did, and she’s never looked back.

In this Episode

  • Like many teenagers, Ellen was quite shy with self-esteem issues and found that alcohol helped her relax and have fun.
  • She enjoyed the buzz and was soon chasing that feeling.
  • Her first experience of drinking was Alcopops which are between 4 and 8% alcohol.
  • If you listened to last week’s podcast, you will have heard marketing expert, Nigel Jones, explain how we are groomed by the alcohol industry to drink alcohol from a very early age – groomed to be their lifelong customers.
  • Of course, alcohol tastes unpleasant to a first-time drinker – so they get around this problem by flavoring the alcopops to taste like cola or lemonade.
  • Teenage girls are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of Alcopops, and drinking before the age of 18 will increase the likelihood of dependence as we get older.
  • When she thinks back to those years of teenage drinking, Ellen realises that for her “fun and alcohol” became so closely linked she couldn’t imagine one without the other – a situation that continued for the next decade.
  • For many of us, alcohol is perceived as the “gateway to fun” and Ellen talked about the “false promise of alcohol”.
  • Millions of us bought into this false promise and it took me decades to realise that alcohol is just 10% ethanol and 90% marketing!
  • The fun comes from the people who are with you and the environment you are in.
  • When Ellen went off to Uni she was expecting to find lots of other enthusiastic drinkers but soon realised that not many of her contemporaries were in her league – she was the ringleader,  always the one wanting to make every social event about drinking!
  • By her second year at Uni, she had found a weekend job in a bar and had started to enjoy drinking alone, at work, and at home.
  • By her early 20s, a bottle of wine a night was the norm.
  • She went through a period of unemployment when she was 25 and that was when she totally “lost it” as she puts it.
  • She treated the pub as a social club and went there every day, and she met someone who invited her to his house to continue drinking and sleep over if she needed to.
  • She would often drink to oblivion and wake up not quite knowing where she was.
  • Ellen would lie to her boyfriend and parents about where she had spent the night.
  • Fortunately, Ellen got a job that put some kind of structure into her life so her drinking was confined to weekend binge drinking.
  • Then came Covid, so home drinking became the norm as the pubs were closed – as she no longer had access to the pub, she recreated her comfort zone in her spare room.
  • A home pub – complete with beer mats, signage and bar snacks!
  • The pubs were busy delivering containers of alcohol to people’s homes so the drinking could continue in spite of the lockdown.
  • As the UK gradually opened up again, drinking was allowed outside in beer gardens.
  • Ellen was so excited by this development that she drank to blackout the first 3 times she went to the pub!
  • In spite of this, she maintains she wasn’t physically addicted – her addiction was more psychological.
  • If you listen to Tribe Sober podcast episode 48, you can hear Molly Watts explaining why only 10% of dependent drinkers are physically addicted – for the rest of us, it’s psychological.
  • Ellen began to hover around rock bottom – she lost her wallet, she lost a weekend, she was refused service in a bar…
  • More importantly, though, she was beginning to lose patience with the chaos that alcohol was creating in her life – the constant threat of blackout or doing something stupid was wearing her down.
  • She was coming to the conclusion that alcohol was taking away an awful lot more than it was delivering.
  • After three boozy weekends which she describes as “hideous,” she decided to quit completely.
  • She didn’t even contemplate moderation so, unlike many of us, she didn’t have to waste years in the moderation trap.
  • When she decided to quit she was 30 years old with a wedding coming up.
  • She told her friends and family – and the fact that nobody questioned her decision would indicate that they realised that Ellen had a drinking problem.
  • She’d been scrolling on the internet and was excited to find a vibrant, diverse community with lives like hers but all the better for not including booze.
  • She did a few sober stretches and started to sample the benefits of sobriety.
  • She found a sober role model in Millie Gooch – Millie is the same age as Ellen and explained how to navigate festivals and bottomless brunches without alcohol.
  • She didn’t even bother to wait for the “perfect date” when she had no plans – after all, she always had plans.
  • She was fully aware that there is never a perfect time to stop drinking and that she had to do it now!
  • Ellen began to work on her mindset – she treated every event as a challenge and rather than saying “I can’t” she started to say “what if I try?”
  • She started to realise that fun was more about who she was with and what she was doing – she started to see through the false promise of alcohol.
  • She started to question various aspects of her drinking and began to see a pointlessness in it.
  • Ellen was sober for her wedding and honeymoon and remembers every wonderful moment.
  • You can follow her on IG @thesobercrow – I’ll put the link in the show notes.

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