Is Your Sobriety at Tipping Point? – with Suzanna Porowski

 

My guest this week is Tribe Sober member, Suzanna Poroski – a dancer, a choreographer, a singer and a piano player!

She’s recently celebrated her first Soberversary so I began our conversation by asking her to introduce herself.

In this Episode

  • Suzanna’s first experience with alcohol was at the age of 14 when she got into her father’s brandy
  • Rather than being repulsed by the taste of it, she actually drank it until she blacked out
  • As Suzanna said, enthusiasm for alcohol after the very first drink is a warning sign of possible problems in the future
  • She also remembers leaving school at lunchtime to drink beer at a friend’s house
  • Her father was a drinker and her parents divorced when she was 13 – Suzanna left home at an early age
  • Fiercely independent with an obsessive need to be liked, she would go drinking with her friends in bars at the age of 16 – then bring people back to her place for drinks
  • Drinking and driving was normalized in her friendship group
  • Suzanna worked as a choreographer at Club Med in Bermuda and created a rule around her drinking
  • She would only drink every second night – just like teenage drinking, making rules around our drinking is a sign of dependence
  • Suzanna describes Club Med as a breeding ground for alcoholics – when she left at the age of 30, she assumed that her drinking patterns would go back to “normal”
  • As a child of an alcoholic, Suzanna was familiar with the 12 steps from her Alateen meetings, so when her own drinking started to escalate, she went to AA
  • As a dancer, she was under huge pressure to stay slim so also struggled with her eating patterns – so she went to Overeaters Anonymous as well!
  • She did achieve a period of sobriety via AA but also had some bad drinking episodes
  • Like the time she was driving a rented car and woke up after a blackout with no memory of where she’d parked the car
  • Or the time when she was so shaken by a drunk driving episode that she had to sleep with the lights and tv on for fear of lying in the dark and going into her own head as she puts it – the “bad neighbourhood” I think she called it!
  • She was in New York on 9/11 when everything changed for the USA and although she wasn’t directly affected, just like the rest of the world, she was shocked and horrified
  • Suzanna lost her job as a result of 9/11 which meant she could stay in her apartment – eating, drinking and watching Netflix, trying to numb her feelings
  • She got to a point where the drinking just wasn’t working anymore, so she managed quite lengthy spells of sobriety – but always went back to drinking
  • In 2014, she lost her business so, once more, she turned to Netflix, drinking and food to cope
  • She did manage to quit drinking but replaced it with an obsessive running routine – 5 miles a day and only missing a few days in 17 months
  • She managed almost 3 years in sobriety with AA and then had a slip-up…
  • At Tribe Sober we often talk about “uncoupling positive experiences from alcohol” – the classic one here in South Africa is “I can’t enjoy the sunset without a glass of wine” – of course, we have to replace those patterns with more healthy habits like “watching the sunset with an alcohol-free drink”!
  • So back to Suzanna’s slip-up – she’d cleaned the house, done her hair and makeup and was waiting for some guests to arrive. Everything was good and she felt an irrational urge to celebrate with a drink that had been left over from a previous party
  • That’s when she started to wonder if AA was no longer working for her
  • She dived into the quitlit and started to explore different approaches
  • At the same time, she felt her body was no longer tolerating alcohol like it used to and giving her physical feedback that life would be better sober
  • She still had a mental struggle going on, the cognitive dissonance that so many of us are familiar with – our conscious mind telling us to quit and being challenged by our subconscious beliefs that we need alcohol to enjoy our lives
  • At Tribe Sober, we talk about our “Not This” moment
  • Suzanna had her “Not This” moment when she was walking along a beautiful beach but rather than basking in the beauty of her surroundings her mind was occupied with finding a little bar where she could drink her wine
  • This made her so angry she decided she was done
  • As she said “Alcohol is insidious – the way it slowly becomes your everything”
  • Suzanna talked about the Tipping Point that we get to when we’ve been trying to quit drinking for years and then one day something shifts and everything falls into place
  • All the Sober Stretches you’ve done, all the quitlit you’ve read, all the conversations come together and bring about a shift
  • We hear this a lot at Tribe Sober and as Suzanna said it’s the reason why we must never stop trying – it will work in the end
  • I love what she said about her personal Tipping Point – “It came in quietly, I didn’t tell anybody, I just knew, and I felt a quiet strength”
  • Suzanna discovered Tribe Sober via this podcast
  • As a result of the podcast, she emailed me for the pdf of our Annual Tracker – if you’d like an Annual Tracker just email membership@nulltribesober.com and Sue will send you one
  • Over the last year, Suzanna’s been throwing the book at her sobriety – she’s been to our Zoom Cafes and participated in the chatrooms – she’s still reading the Quitlit and like me, she’s a great fan of Kristi Coulter
  • I’m going to put a link to Kristi Coulters brilliant essay called Enjoli in the show notes – it’s a must-read for anyone on this journey
  • She also wrote her Goodbye to Alcohol letter which is on our website
  • After a year of sobriety, Suzanna is experiencing many benefits but she highlighted self-respect, the joy of mornings and the connection with her children
  • Her advice to anyone considering this journey is to reach out to someone you trust and be accountable
  • So many of us tried to achieve sobriety alone but as she said the trouble with that is that it’s so easy to cave when it’s only you who knows you are trying to quit
  • So if you’re ready to be accountable then just go to tribesober.com and hit join our tribe
  • Suzanna has now trained as a coach so if you’d like more info about that go to her Facebook page and send her a WhatsApp or you can email her at coachingwithsuzanna@nullgmail.com

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