ANN DOWSETT JOHNSTON ON WINE AS THE MODERN WOMAN’S STEROID.
Unpacking the relationship between women and alcohol
Ann Dowsett Johnston, the best-selling author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, has described the positioning of wine in popular culture as “The modern woman’s steroid, enabling her to do everything she needs to do or tries to do”.
And there’s one problem with that description of alcohol. It’s not true and it doesn’t work.
Instead of helping the modern woman do everything she needs to do – wine is a mal-adpative, and highly addictive coping mechanism that’s exacerbating stress, anxiety and depression for the modern woman.
On the podcast today Ann and I unpack the complicated and intimate relationship between women and alcohol.
We talk about:
- How drinking after a long day of work has become a universal practice. It’s being repeated in house after house as women are standing at their kitchen counters in the evening and pouring themselves a glass (or a bottle) of wine.
- How successful, professional women are increasingly struggling with drinking even as they rise high on the corporate ladder.
- How women are using alcohol to self-medicate anxiety, depression, loss and loneliness – including suffering through events like empty-nest syndrome and depression in menopause.
- How the messaging that “Mom needs to drink to get through her day, life, kids and work” is being pushed on us – in surround sound – in popular culture and by our alcogenic society.
- Why are you able to move forward in a healthy way only once you get out of the drinking cycle. You’re finally able to work through underlying issues of anxiety, codependency, trauma, depression, and other factors that are driving you to drink.
- How writing your recovery and telling your story can help you unpack your relationship with alcohol and the stories you’ve told yourself and get to the actual truth of your drinking history with a new understanding and self-compassion.
- Why the growing movement of women telling their stories of drinking and quitting drinking, with pride and not shame, is helping other women recover in a way that the culture of anonymity in AA does not.
- Why it’s so important for women who want to stop drinking to develop many layers of support to heal – which can include connecting with women on the alcohol-free path, reading books and memoirs of women who have stopped drinking, learning about the science of alcohol and what it does to your body and mind, joining support programs and creating new coping mechanisms through psychotherapy, counseling or with a sober or addiction coach.
- How you can build layers of support to help you change your relationship with drinking – through psychotherapy, coaching, other women in private free Facebook groups online or in person, books, exercise, nutrition and more.
About Ann Dowsett Johnston
Anne Dowsett Johnston is the best-selling author of the book Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. It was named by the Washington Post as one of the top 10 books of 2013. Ann is a psychotherapist who provides trauma informed relational care to clients with a focus on women in recovery, and works from a holistic perspective using the principles of focusing oriented psychotherapy, to bring awareness and compassion to the mind-body connection. Ann also offers an online eight week course on Writing Your Recovery based on her decades of experience as a journalist and a best selling author on memoir and writing your recovery.
Find my favorite Free Private Facebook Groups to Support Women Quitting Drinking
Links and Resources mentioned in this episode
Stephanie Wilder-Taylor article on A Heroine of Cocktail Moms Sobers Up
Connect with Ann Dowsett Johnston
TEDx talk on drinking and how it changed Ann’s life: http://www.anndowsettjohnston.com/media/
Connect with Casey McGuire Davidson
Listen to more podcast episodes to drink less + live more.
Connect with She Recovers
SHE RECOVERS [Private Support Group] on Facebook
The SHE RECOVERS Intentions & Guiding Principles
Connect with Casey
Take a screenshot of your favorite episode, post it on your Instagram and tag me @caseymdavidson and tell me your biggest takeaway!
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Ann Dowsett Johnston On Wine As The Modern Woman’s Steroid
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SPEAKERS: Casey McGuire Davidson + Ann Dowsett Johnston
Welcome to the Hello Someday Podcast, the podcast for busy women who are ready to drink less and live more. I’m Casey McGuire Davidson, ex-red wine girl turned life coach helping women create lives they love without alcohol. But it wasn’t that long ago that I was anxious, overwhelmed, and drinking a bottle of wine and night to unwind. I thought that wine was the glue, holding my life together, helping me cope with my kids, my stressful job and my busy life. I didn’t realize that my love affair with drinking was making me more anxious and less able to manage my responsibilities.
In this podcast, my goal is to teach you the tried and true secrets of creating and living a life you don’t want to escape from.
Each week, I’ll bring you tools, lessons and conversations to help you drink less and live more. I’ll teach you how to navigate our drinking obsessed culture without a bus, how to sit with your emotions, when you’re lonely or angry, frustrated or overwhelmed, how to self soothe without a drink, and how to turn the decision to stop drinking from your worst case scenario to the best decision of your life.
I am so glad you’re here. Now let’s get started.
Hi there. Today, my guest is Anne Dowsett Johnston, she’s the best selling author of the book Drink The Intimate Relationship Between Women And Alcohol. And it was named by the Washington Post as one of the top 10 books of 2013. I remember it well, because the first time I stopped drinking, in fact, the first time that I actually realized that taking an extended break from alcohol was what I needed to do was in June 2013. So Ann’s book came out right after I made that decision. I, you know, read it really quickly. All the women I knew who were sort of on the same path were reading it too. And it gave us so much to talk about. It is part memoir, part journalistic exploration of closing the gender gap on risky drinking, and looks at how the alcohol industry has been targeting women specifically, to get them to drink more and more often. And at the time, it was like my eyes were open on this subject for the first time, and is now a psychotherapist. She provides trauma informed relational care to clients with a focus on women in recovery, and works from a holistic perspective, using the principles of focusing oriented Psychotherapy, to bring awareness and compassion to the mind body connection.
And what we’re going to talk about today is recovering out loud and writing your recovery, and launching an 8 Week Course based on her decades of experience as a journalist and a best selling author on memoir and writing your recovery. And I loved our conversation today. Because as we dug into the benefits of processing, not only why you drank but what was underneath it and how it impacted your life, as well as the benefits that you’re seeing now, through Psychotherapy, through Coaching, through writing your recovery. And I think it’s powerful because when we recover out loud, and I know this was true for both Anna and myself, you inspire other women.
It’s such a treat to be here and to talk about my favorite subject, which is using words, be it in the therapy room, the therapy session, or on paper, to explore what it means to recover out loud what it means to put down a drink and find who you really are find the life you were meant to live. Learn about your own skin.
So let’s dive in. I gave a quick introduction to your book drink and it was such an eye opener for me. But why don’t you tell me a little bit about what you learned from that back and also how it informs the work you’re doing now?
Oh, that’s? That’s a great question. I learned a lot in writing that book. And what I learned was that it was one thing to be a journalist and a writer and be eager to write what was to become about best selling book. But what I didn’t come to terms with and it was difficult was how hard it is to tell our stories out loud to recover out loud. The stigmas still so large against women in drinking and back in 2013. When my book came out, it was even larger. I’m the Doctor. I have a beautiful woman who became an alcoholic in the 1960s, who was cross addicted to volume and cocktails. A stay-at-home mom, who, like many, was prescribed Valium, and really lost many decades of her life to alcohol, we weren’t allowed to talk about it. So I was the eldest daughter, and it was a secret, but not a secret. And so my intention of writing the book was to take a look at women like myself, a professional woman who got into trouble, looked very different from my mom. But, who indeed got into trouble with alcohol, even though I rose very high on the corporate ladder.
And I think that’s so interesting, because I know when I read your book, I, and I listened to you on the Bubble Hour Podcast, I think I was I was walking around my neighborhood, just trying to figure this whole drinking thing out and heard your story, your story, not only your research, but the combination of the two. And you were extremely successful. You were a vice president at university, you. You know, we’re working in that high pressure corporate world. And yet you were struggling with alcohol. And I think that’s so common, and something that most people don’t talk about.
Yes, I think that the biggest part of this story, and I remember speaking to my publisher about this chapter, is self medication, whether we’re self medicating anxiety, or depression, or loneliness. In my case, I would say it was a combination of loneliness, my son had just gone off to University, and I was really suffering from empty nest syndrome. And I suffered from a terrible depression during menopause. And those two things together really made me suffer. I was working exceedingly long hours as Vice President of McGill University, and I was working late into the night every night and finding myself isolated from those islands.
Yeah, absolutely. And so, you know, as a Psychotherapist, I know you deal with sort of clinically diagnosed conditions of anxiety and depression, how does that show up in that setting, and then also just we are feeling anxious, and therefore we drink and it just sort of perpetuates itself?
Oh, you mentioned that cycle that is so key, which is you feel lonely, you feel down, you have a drink, it numbs, you wake up the next morning, you say, I’ll never do that, again. It comes around 5 or 6 o’clock. And indeed, you do it again. And we feel shame. We feel remorse, we feel negative about ourselves. I think I’m seeing a lot of women who don’t want to quit, and are absolutely determined that they will not quit, but want to learn how to manage their drinking, as we all did. I did too. I went back in the day determined to learn how to have just one. It took me a little while to realize that I was there to quit, but it’s a very complex world for women only more complex given COVID I think I was raised in that glorious, glorious fine time when we believed we could have it all. And I think that I learned and many other women have learned that having it all is very difficult.
Yeah, yeah. Because there are only so many hours in the day. And I think we put so much pressure on ourselves. And I know you did as well to be the best employee, the best partner, the best mother, and then you know, I think of it in my life. As you put so much on yourself that then you need to drink to tolerate your responsibilities and your overwhelm. You know, as we know, now, alcohol is just like putting gasoline on anxiety, right? You think it solves it, but it actually makes it so much worse.
Oh, that’s so well said. And of course, alcohol is a depressant. So you know, I remember racing in this was the thing I really felt when I wrote the book racing in from a busy job having to put dinner on the table for my wonderful young son, knowing I would be working on homework later that evening. And you know, I got to the point where I wouldn’t even take my coat off. I grab a bottle of wine and vegetables that had to be paired and stand at the cutting board with a glass of wine to unwind for years. It was very manageable. And then it was not manageable after he was gone and it was funny. I was walking through London, England one beautiful night when I was doing research on this book, and it was that time of night when people haven’t yet closed their shades. And I could see house after house where women were standing by their kitchen tables or counters. And they all were pouring a glass of wine. It was this little it was in Chelsea. And it was just this little montage of homes. And I remember thinking, I’m not alone. I’m not alone. That isn’t just me.
Back to your earlier question, the sentence that came out of that book was that it’s the modern woman steroids enabling her to do everything she has to do or tries to do. And it doesn’t work.
It doesn’t work.
Yeah, I have to say, I’m in the morning women’s workout group, and I absolutely adore these women, and they’re wonderful. And yet, yesterday, we were, you know, we’re on a string, and people were talking about homeschooling, and they posted someone posted a meme or a video for an umbrella, the booze brella where you could in the ad, pour nine ounces of vodka into an umbrella and, you know, drink from it. And you know, people were laughing. Where can I buy it XYZ, they all know I don’t drink clearly. I’m like, “out”. But, I had just gotten this shirt that I took a picture of and that’s called, you know, teetotaler, which I love. And so I put, I was like, In other news, here’s my new shirt, just to be like, not everyone is drinking out of their umbrella or thinks that’s a fabulous idea as a way to get through the first day of homeschool. But I also was like, it’s August and sunny. I’m not sure why we need a booze umbrella. But on the other hand, you know, you’re at home, why not? You know, if it’s, if it’s not a problem, why not just get a glass of wine? Like, why are you putting it in your umbrella, and it was totally a joke. And I was not shaming anyone. But I was like, this is sort of weird that this seems to be like, you know, so much in popular culture that all these working women who are super smart with great kids who are incredible, you know, women and I would say that most of them, in no way have a drinking problem. But that is the kind of thing that is out there when you talk about the pinking of the alcohol industry. And it just perpetuates that if you have a bottle of wine a night. It’s pretty normal, like they’re selling, you know, vodka umbrellas for you to take it out, you know, in the world with you. So nobody knows that you’re just getting loaded. You know, it’s just, it’s everywhere. And therefore you start to think this is no big deal. Everybody’s doing it.
Everybody’s doing it. And there was, I remember a meme from the beginning of COVID, where a mother opened her trunk with three cases of alcohol saying the kids are home for three weeks. This is what I need. We live in an Alka genic Society surrounded by sound messaging that this is how you get through whatever it is you have to get through. And I wrote an opinion piece recently in Canada’s National Newspaper on the fact that alcohol stores were considered essential services and weren’t closed down and the sales of alcohol are through the roof. And someone wrote back and said, Yes, but people haven’t been going to restaurants. I think what’s really curious is that, as a child of an alcoholic, that children are exposed right now houses are full of alcohol and children are exposed and the messaging is questionable. And I’m not a prohibitionist? Not at all. Yeah. But the messaging is, Mommy needs this to get through living with you.
If you’re listening to this episode and have been trying to take a break from drinking, but keep starting and stopping and starting again, I want to invite you to take a look at my on demand coaching course, The Sobriety Starter Kit. The Sobriety Starter Kit is an online self study, sober coaching course that will help you quit drinking and build a life you love without alcohol without white knuckling it or hating the process. The course includes the exact step-by-step coaching framework I work through with my private coaching clients, but at a much more affordable price than one-on-one coaching. And The Sobriety Starter Kit is ready, waiting and available to support you anytime you need it, when it fits into your schedule. You don’t need to work your life around group meetings or classes at a specific day or time. This course is not a 30 day challenge, or a one day at a time approach. Instead, it’s a step-by-step formula for changing your relationship with alcohol. The course will help you turn the decision to stop drinking from your worst case scenario to the best decision of your life. You will sleep better and have more energy, you’ll look better and feel better, you’ll have more patience and less anxiety. And with my approach you won’t feel deprived or isolated in the process. So if you’re interested in learning more about all the details, please go to www.sobrietystarterkit.com. You can start at any time and I would love to see you in the course.
Yeah, well, even Trader Joe’s right now, I believe one of their big sort of, you know, positioning by the door is their cases of wine. And above it, it has sort of the red ring of the bottom of the wineglass and it says school supplies right here. And so one of my friends who has five kids who quit drinking, she actually wrote, Highlight Real. Emily Paulson was like, I’ll stand here while you explain this to your children what this means. And you know, I am not judging because I was the queen of like the mommy playdates, I bought all the books like sippy cups or not for Chardonnay, and all those things I had completely bought in. But it’s not until you step away from it that you’re like, no wonder women think that drinking is required to get through a stressful day, because literally you go into the grocery store. And the message is, you need a case of wine to get through virtual school, right, like, so pick it up as soon as you get your cart in the door. And we just perpetuate that to each other. And so the reason I wanted to have you on not only because your book, you know, went into this in such incredible depth, which I absolutely loved, and you know, looked at I know, in the seven years since it’s been published, it’s only gotten more blatant and subtle, right? The two, but also the, you know, the work you’re doing around how women are using alcohol to self medicate for anxiety and depression. I know that. I did that for a very long time. And I actually couldn’t even separate, I blamed myself for how I felt for the anxiety and the inability to cope. And it actually wasn’t until I quit drinking that I, you know, was going to a therapist and doing all the things and realized that, Oh, actually, I do have, you know, some clinical anxiety depression mix. That is not my fault. And that I could never get help for when I was drinking a bottle all night.
Yes, that’s such a good point. The untangling of, where does one begin and the other, and etc. I mean, they’re so intertwined. And I couldn’t make sense of my own situation. In fact, I went to rehab in the United States specifically defined an answer to my depression and concurrent disorder. And in fact, exactly the same as you when I got sober, I was able to follow the path of getting help for what was depression. And I think a lot of women that I see, I have been working with women who suffer deeply from anxiety, deeply from depression, and a lot of shame around the issue. Or both issues. Yeah.
Well, so tell me about that. How does that show up and how what is your work with them look like
I am launched. As you know, just recently, as a new psychotherapist, I have been in training for 3 years. So I have a client base of about 20. People at this point with a waiting list, I have really noticed we penis of fatigue, and what I would call a not groundedness in the body, I think women are suffering from lack of self care, and lack of time for themselves, which is why I smile when I hear if you’re morning, my habits very good. But I’m suffering from a lack of self care. And I think that people won’t know about focusing. But focusing is a wonderful practice, not unlike, like mindfulness that we use in therapy to ground oneself. And the notion is that your body actually has a lot of wisdom, your body if you sit quietly, feet on the ground, eyes closed, go into the body. In other words, not from the top down, but the bottom up. Well now we’ll have a lot of wisdom about where your life needs to go. And my work as a therapist is to draw that out of you, help you ground yourself in your body and begin to produce habits of self care. Begin to listen to your intuition and begin to make room in a busy world for yourself.
I love that. Making room for yourself. That’s a wonderful way to put it. How do you mention that a lot of the women who come to you, you know, want to figure out how to moderate their drinking. I mean, I know I did. For the young, there’s not a woman in this world, I think who’d love to drink, who decided to stop and didn’t literally try every which way to not actually give it up, right? You want that third door, you create the rules you want, you know, you literally want to figure out how to handle it. And it’s not until you actually stop for a period of time that you realize how much harder you’re making it on yourself trying to hold on so tightly for so long. But you’re working with women who want to deal with anxiety and depression. And some of them don’t want to hear that the easiest and best step, or the first step to dealing with that is to actually put down the wineglass right. How do you work with women through that process?
Such a great, such a great question, and reminds me that the first title for the book drink was called the Drinking Diaries, because for years, I kept a drinking diary. And I would make different roles and the roles would be and we all know them, I won’t drink during the week, I won’t drink before 6 o’clock, etc. So what I do with women is, I asked them two fundamental questions. Are you drinking to numb? Are you drinking to be someone other than you are? If they say yes, then we begin to do a drinking diary, which is literally to really know themselves about whether they decide to have one drink or two drinks that evening and keep the promise? Usually, the answer’s no. Usually it ends up as abstinence. Because when a person is confounding the issue with drinking, as we just talked about, it’s really difficult to sort out what is behind all that. And frankly, I deal with clients with such rich issues, issues, everything from racism, to grief around parents Stein, to difficulty at work. I mean, you name it, it seems that I’m dealing with younger clients, individuating from parents, older clients, individuating from, you know, family members. It’s just a confounding issue, isn’t it? Alcohol is a confounding issue. And it makes things messy. And it’s progressive, in terms of its problems. And the interesting question, I’ve had to ask myself, I’m calling myself the Recovery Therapist. But the interesting question is, well, I work with people in a really active addiction. I would like preferably that people have a little bit of sobriety under their belt so that they can actually dig into their problems and know themselves.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me. I mean, you know, that I work with women who have decided that moderating isn’t working for them, and that they’ve tried to stop drinking, and are not being successful on their own. So almost every woman I work with is coming to me in early sobriety. And our mutual goal is to get them to 100 days and beyond, so that they can have, you know, have me hold their hand and work through the triggers, that cravings, how to talk to people how to change some of their beliefs and their knee jerk patterns around reaching for a bottle of wine when they’re happy, sad, lonely. But the reason I do that is because I really believe that you can’t do the work, do the coaching, when you’re in the drinking cycle, right? If you are getting four days and drinking again, or getting seven days and drinking again, your thoughts and your body and every piece of you is recovering from drinking, try not to drink wanting to drink. And again, the same thing, and so you don’t get the distance to actually deal with the stuff underneath whether it’s codependency or grief or racism or, you know, anxiety, all those things like you talked about.
So I think you’re right, in that I went to therapy for years when I was drinking. You know, my father died. My grandfather, I mean, big stuff happened. That, you know, my dad got pancreatic cancer and said he had, you know, he was told me at 6 months to live when I was 22. I mean, these are big things. And yet, I didn’t talk about my drinking, right? I was like, Oh, no, I’m feeling anxious and upset because my dad has a diagnosis. And let me process this grief while drinking a bottle of wine at night and coming to you once a week. Like it just doesn’t work. And so, it wasn’t until I stopped drinking, and worked with a really talented therapist like you that I was able to be like, okay, I’ve taken out my numbing thing and yet all these feelings are coming back. How do I deal with them without going back to this really maladaptive coping strategy that clearly has not worked for me?
Oh, maladaptive? What a great word. It is. I’m sorry, very sorry about your father. And it is, I think, a very common reality that we turn to alcohol in grief. And then it confounds us. I welcome hearing about your practice and your Coaching, because that’s where I stand right now building a practice myself. And also, I’m really curious and interested in women who want to tell their stories. So I’m starting something called writing near recovery, which is something I know you know about, because I started with a talk at She Recovers in New York a few years ago. And I’m thinking that when women bring their stories to this group, we will hear a lot about anxiety and depression, we will hear a lot about what was numb. And the journey that is all too common.
Yeah, and I think that, I mean, I loved hearing. So before we got on this podcast I had talked with and told her that when I was, I mean, put 4 or 5 months sober, my last and final time. So, about 4 years ago, I had seen the She Recovers New York Conference streaming. I wasn’t ready to fly to New York and be with 500 women who had quit drinking, but I watched and talked about telling your story, writing your story. And it was wonderful. And I think that I’m really excited for your Workshop and your Course. Because I think that regardless of whether you want to write a book or not, and you have a story to tell, and actually by just writing it, you get to process it. And you get to in the same way that you do in therapy, right, you get to look back, and for the first time say, Oh, yeah, this happened. And that happened. And it’s not just that I am weak and have no self control, and no discipline, and no need to get my shit together.
It’s that I am coping with trauma, big or small. I am coping with insecurity, anxiety, and I used this, you know, widely prescribed by friends and family in the marketing business, alcohol and highly addictive substances to quiet my mind. And here is what has happened. And here’s where I am now. I think it’s so uplifting. Yes, I you know, I spent upwards of 30 years as a journalist and an editor and I love working with writers and I love that process of taking your own path apart with jeweler’s tweezers, seeing where, you know, where did this connect to that and pulling apart the story you may have absorbed or told yourself and getting to the real story getting to the real crux of the story, which is something that we can do when we recover, we can actually look back in and see parts of the journey.
For instance, I see a part of my journey where I was a little girl and moved to Africa and didn’t speak the language and was at school in Africans and had a very difficult time when I was bullied. Those moments in our lives often we find repeating later, we can connect the dots. And writing is so beautiful in the way you can. Well, storytelling is my life.
So Oh my god. I don’t think we’ve talked about this. And it’s a little bit off topic. But my parents also well, they were Foreign Service Officers and I also moved to Africa when I was 3 to 5 years old in Mozambique in Southern Africa, and then 8 to 10 years old, in Zambia in Southern Africa. And my dad was Ambassador in Namibia when I opened the new American Embassy there when they got independence from South Africa, when I was in high school. So I hear you on moving at a very young age, to a completely different culture. Wow. And it should be 18 and yet it is hard. You know my parents were very busy differently than yours but also unavailable because their work was the most important thing in their lives and you’re kind of thrown in to just survive on your own at 5 years old and 8 years old. And it is different. So I just remembered that that part of your story was so correct and hits home so closely for me.
There you go. There is an amazing thing. We share an amazing story that you don’t know what part of your innards later responded to loss, later responded to whatever, without alcohol. Me, I think we have, I think we need to, but that’s an amazing story.
I can’t believe I didn’t mention it earlier. It’s fantastic. Yeah. Well, and so when you talk to the SHE RECOVERS® with the speaking event about writing your story, and I know your Course is going to take women through this, but you talked about starting with the event, right? You know, what is the moment that you start your story with? And I think it’ll help women just to even as they’re thinking about quitting drinking, or have quit drinking, like, where do you start in processing this when you’re ready? So tell me about that starting point, when you’re writing your story,
right? I think that there’s a classic of starting at your bottom. So if you think of Carolyn Naps, drinking a love story starts at the bottom, she’s got two children on her body playing piggyback and she falls for him, you know, so I started mine with alcohol as a lover who’s courting me. And really my bottom, I got to attempting a geographical cure that didn’t work out. I would like to encourage writers and would-be writers to look forward to this kind of story you and I were just talking about, which is, what was it like to be eight years old in Mozambique or part of Africa and not able to connect with others? What is that sense of dislocation that actually makes you seek soothing, and later leads to alcohol. So, I think that there’s so many beautiful ways to come at this. And what is so exciting for me, I’m opening up a new section of writing your recovery, because the first filled up in 24 hours, internationally, we have a woman from Ireland, a woman from the Netherlands, several from the United States. And so it’s exciting. And I think it shows the hunger for my agent said, Please tell them they’re not all going to get published. But I don’t think that’s the point.
One of the first things I do as a therapist is I say, Are you beginning with a journal, because I believe half an hour of the journal every morning, allows us to begin to take apart, our own story begins to ground us and don’t add it. Don’t be self critical. Just let whatever comes show up for your own lovely sense of being fresh and fresh from your dream world. Use your dreams, use whatever you have. And that’s the kind of client I want to work with, one that’s willing to do the work on their part and show up with me, to me with rich backgrounds.
Yeah, and every woman who drinks or has some other way of numbing out and I actually would say any woman who somehow gets through childhood and young adulthood and working and children and marriage has a story to tell right? There is a reason that you know, every single one of us goes through all of these moments of trying to become ourselves. And especially for women who stopped drinking you are forced when you do that to dig deep to actually look beyond your surface triggers, work spouse home friendships, overwhelm, responsibilities, you know, disappointment to what’s underneath that because there’s always things below so I feel like what you’re doing in terms of helping women go through that and untangle it, I think he said which I absolutely love, helps them gain clarity and also forgiveness, right, right.
Understanding compassion for themselves, forgiveness. And one of the things that I love and I’m not surprised at all that your Course filled up in 24 hours is you know, I’m a part of this SHE RECOVERS® Group and soon will be a SHE RECOVERS® Coach and I did go to a for the first 4 months I am in no way an expert but did attend sort of five days a week. The first time I tried to quit drinking, it wasn’t my path eventually. But what I love about SHE RECOVERS® is their guiding principle. After you do all this and when we’re ready, we share our story so that other women may find our movement and, and find recovery. And I think that as opposed to the idea of anonymity which is so crucial in feeling safe to do the work. And I know women do it with you in Private Practice. And me, with Private Coaching, if you are ready, if you feel brave and just open, if you’re if you do work through that shame, by telling your story, either by writing or by speaking about it, you give hope to other women, that they are not alone. They are not uniquely damaged, they are not bad people, they are simply caught in a cycle that so many other women are caught in. So even if they don’t get published just by sharing their story, in written form, or any form, you never know who you’re going to help and who you’re going to touch. And I know you and helped so many women with your book and your podcast appearances. I know you helped me, thank you.
Thank you. What a lovely thing to say. And I’m such a fan of SHE RECOVERS®. I’m such a fan of Recovering Out Loud. I’m such a fan of the alternatives that we, I mean, let’s just say it, we’re living in a revolution in the middle of a revolution where we’re not in church basements, where there are alternatives. There was a time when it was women in sobriety, and Stephanie Covington’s book, A Woman’s Guide to the 12 steps, which were really pioneering in terms of showing a different way than A, but I think that we’re living in a time when you can choose the tempest, you can choose Laura’s alternative, you can choose Tommy Rosen, you can choose SHE RECOVERS®, and we’re all really out there. And I think that this is a movement.
Absolutely, and one of the things I loved was, you know, I know when I was, I think I was 32. My son was 6 months, 8 months old. I was of course sort of vaguely quietly worried about my drinking, but then convincing myself it was no big deal. And I had bought these books by Stephanie Wilder Taylor, who is a comedian and a writer. And she had written books like Sippy Cups or Not For Chardonnay. And naptime is the new happy hour, and I bought them and loved them. And then I was downstairs at my office grabbing coffee, and a newspaper was there. And on the front cover was an article that says, you know, Queen of mommy happy or whatever it was sobers up. And she had released a blog post about how she had quit drinking. And she had been sort of the proponent of, you know, embracing and celebrating, quit drinking. And I remember going back to my desk, finding it online, and literally cutting and pasting that article into a Word doc. And it took me 6 more years before I actually tried to quit drinking, and you know, 8 or 9 before I finally quit, and yet, that article that moment grabbing my coffee, seen the headline in you know, whether it was usa today or New York Times like, that was it that was, oh my gosh, and I devoured her blog, and she used to have this blog, you know, this was many years ago.
Obviously, it was like 13 years ago, don’t get drunk on Fridays. And you know, it was it. So what you’re doing what all these women are doing the women you’re helping write their story, like it’s going to have exponential touch points with other women who have been brainwashed to think that they need to drink more and more often and that the you know, booze umbrella is a fabulous funny idea that maybe they want to order from Amazon. Okay, nobody listening to this, go to Amazon and order that I would be terrified and appalled. That this suggests it’s, it’s a bad idea. But um, but yeah, it’s gonna encourage them to just be like, Oh my God, this woman who is just like me, says it’s better and I’m going to trust her.
That’s right. I mean, I have to laugh for a minute because it was in the New York Times I to clip the article. Oh my God, I was… I put it in my book. I was newly sober. And I thought here is the queen of mummy drinking, giving up alcohol just as I give up alcohol. So it was a big deal. When she did this. She went on ABC News. It was a huge deal. And it tells you how much I mean the umbrella aside. It tells you how much and I was part of her Friday night group. It tells you how much things have changed and are changing. And I think that we are, I hope in a different time. I will say that there are members of my former group that still want to speak to me. And that’s hurtful.
Yeah. Because you’re sharing your story because you’re recovering out loud. That’s right. Because not Anonymous right?
That’s right. That’s right. So we’re, we’re in a really pivotal time, a fork in the road where I think a whole group of us. And Congratulations on becoming a SHE RECOVERS® Coach, that’s excellent. A whole group of us are saying you can do it differently. And you can do it without whispering.
Yeah, and it’s, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I mean, I know you and I are very proud of quitting drinking, of giving up this really difficult coping mechanism and realizing that you’re stronger, and that you can heal. And I feel like other women should be too but you know, you have to first do the work of, you know, working with someone like you, working with a Coach, going through a, whatever program helps you stop drinking, to heal, and get out of the cycle, and learn to trust yourself again, and, you know, show up for yourself, and then when you’re ready, and you don’t have to, but if you decide to sort of write your recovery, share your recovery, you know, in a in the in the groups, you know, it is, you know, share your your inspiration, you know, what, how it was, what happened ,and what it’s like now, your hope, straits and experience, it’s all similar.
It is all similar. And I think that there are many in the new recovery, who still gain a lot from it for sure. But I will use my own story. As an example, I needed an Addiction Coach, exactly the kind of person you’re talking about being a person who talked about triggers, a person who talked about cravings, a person who had helped me navigate my first new years, and my first birthday, and my first wedding and funeral. And all of these things are part of the journey. And I think that I look forward to being that person for others.
You already are, you absolutely already are. Yeah, and I, I didn’t know you were with the Addiction Coach, I also worked with a Coach. And that was what helped me as well, because I needed someone who, you know, not only said, you need to not drink and you need to confront all the things you’ve done and remember your bottom, like, I needed someone to like, hey, my husband got promoted. And we’re going out to a friend, a fancy restaurant with a couple friends. How do I not drink? I am 6 weeks in, like, you know, literally, what do I order? How do I wrap my head around this? What do I say to them? How do I look at them drinking without like, you know, breaking out crying? You know, that’s what I needed. You know, and going to a meeting doesn’t always help you get through that?
No, it absolutely doesn’t. And I think my Serenity Sisters, what I call my friend and the sisters who are a group of women who have been beside me in my recovery, or who I turned to her and I feel very blessed and very fortunate. And I think we all SHE RECOVERS® this so remarkable because it is just that the hands intertwine. And this sense of companionship and not being alone. I also think that the other things that we use to numb at shopping, be it food, be it God knows are things where we can use sisterhood, we can use some support. I think a lot of us probably listening to you know that this isn’t a one shot deal, that sometimes drinking isn’t our only problem. And so I think that’s the other great thing about SHE RECOVERS®. It looks at you know, we’re all recovering from something.
Yeah, and we will.
Absolutely in the show notes of this episode linked to she recovers. And you know, the founders of that Dawn, Nicole and Taryn Stronger, are incredible and amazing. And I actually interviewed Taryn on her work in Yoga for recovery, and essential oils for healing in an earlier episode.
The other thing I would say and I would love you to talk about. This is a lot of people, you know, think that when they’re listening to this, like how did you just stop? Or and it’s not one thing, right?
It is adding layers of support. I know when I finally stopped, I hired a Coach, but I also was a member of a secret Facebook group. The Booze Free Brigade (BFB), that I think Stephanie while there Taylor originally started and that’s how I found it. Through her, Don’t Get Drunk Fridays. I mean, this was years ago. And in 2013. I also, you know, once I had stopped, 60 days in did Hip Sobriety School, which is now the tempest, which is an online 8 Week Course where I found more people like me and more information, I, of course, read your book, I read other books, you know, what I call Quit Lit.
And I also went to my General Practitioner Doctor, and I got some medication for months for anxiety. And I started seeing a therapist weekly, and worked out and all that is to say is that this is hard. And it’s not the one thing, right, you know, women who work with me as a coach, and I’m sure women who work with you writing their memoir, and working with you, as a Psychotherapist, you know, I encourage people, like, if you want to work with me and go to a great if you want to work with me and see therapy, do it. You know, anything that helps you work through all this stuff is positive. And if you can’t stop drinking, and you want to, it doesn’t mean you won’t, it just means you don’t have enough support yet.
Ah, love you’re saying, “yet”. I think you’re so right. And I think part of the problem, forgive me with a is the notion that it has to be everything. And I had someone very early on saying don’t read any other literature, only read proof literature, and I’m a writer and a hungry person for reading. And that doesn’t work. So I’ll give you an example. Right now, I have a Fitness Coach. I have a Course Writing Coach, I have a Food Coach. I have a Therapist, I have my Serenity Sisters. And I believe that I’m making up for lost time, in terms of all the years that I worked very hard and didn’t have any of that support. So I’m all for it. I’m all for whatever group support or sort of support you can get. Bring it all on. I’m someone, another journalist talked to me today and said yes, but isn’t it all expensive? No, as you said, it isn’t all expensive. There are Facebook groups that are essential to me. There are companionship options that are essential to me. I think that one can find one’s way and what’s the word I’m looking for? I always think of it. People cringe by the heat seeking missile, go to the bookstore, and or the library and get what you need. Right? Find them, find their friends and support you. This is a critical, critical thing to recover from.
Yeah, absolutely. And I love that you said that people are like, isn’t that expensive? Because, you know, I know some people listen to this podcast, and they’re like, well, you don’t understand I don’t have your income. I don’t have your support. And I completely get that, you know, I can’t afford a coach. And yeah, this is, you know, private sport is expensive. But I started, I started with free, the free Facebook group. There are so many blogs, just incredible Blogs and Podcasts out there that offer all of this support. I have a Free Guide on my site that’s like the sober girls guide to quitting drinking. It’s 30 pages of all the tips and tricks and advice I give to my Private Coaching clients. And you know, I will link to it but that is free and books, you know, your book, other books, I also did an episode on the Best Quit Lit For Women. And it is I mean, you can recover just with this stuff. So you can do all the great things and I love that you also can do it without spending. There is so much out there to help you wrap your head around this. And not only that, but like look at the money you’re spending drinking. I know when I quit drinking, I had an app I loved that track dollar dollar safe. And within the first month I saved $550 by not ingesting and buying 40 bottles of wine, which is crazy. But that was the truth. And now four and a half years in I love my app. I’ve saved $30,000 I love it. I mean, it’s insane. So drinking is expensive. And getting support does not have to be but I do believe in reinvesting that money that you were spending, poisoning yourself and exacerbating your anxiety and pushing everything down to heal from it. I mean you’re gaining life skills that you’re going to take away with you, and pass down to your kids.
Yes, I think that’s brilliant. I’ll give you an example of brilliant in the sense that you know how much money you saved. I’ll give you an example. I don’t own a cottage, but my ex husband does. And he and I are best friends. So next week, instead of doing a retreat somewhere, which would be costly. My Serenity Sisters, my closest friend in sobriety, and I are taking 3 days together. We’re bringing all our favorite books, we’re bringing our journals, we’re bringing our yoga mats, we will hike and we are taking those days alone to make your retreat. We also every day, and I can’t say enough about this every day for 12 years have sent each other a gratitude list, which is five things that we and you can’t repeat, five things that we are grateful for everyday of the week, and it really does have a huge effect on my look of life to start my morning. That way, it sounds a little corny. Hollywood,
it’s not corny. I love it all.
The Whitaker once heard about it, instead, it made him feel like gagging. But I have, I have to say it is a very positive part of my morning before I get to my journal every day.
Yeah, I think that’s great. And when I was in the early days, and I do it now I have to say I don’t do it every day, I was a part of, again, a free gratitude group that I found with five other women through the Booze Free Brigade (BFB). And we posted what we were grateful for. I also have a gratitude jar that I used to write down every day, you’re reminding me I need to do it again. It’s sort of just knee jerk to write out what I was grateful for. And my kids saw it. And I remember my son would come down. And he’d be like, Oh, are you writing your gratitude list? And I was like, yeah, and it was just a post-it, I wrote it down super quick. And a lot of times it was coffee, and a good night’s sleep, and you know, seeing a girlfriend or you know, things like that, but also, like, grateful my husband did the dishes, grateful that my daughter told me she loved me. But sometimes my son would come down early in the morning. And I, I’d say, oh, you’re on my list today. And he would say why? And I tell him and it just, you know that stuff makes an impact.
That’s a present mother. And that is, and that is a gift of sobriety. Because I’ll tell you in a home where there’s a lot of alcohol, that doesn’t happen. In fact, the mother often isn’t awake, children making breakfast for themselves. And you know, this is really amazing, the daily experiences that we can have when we make the changes we’re talking about.
You’ve made me think, Oh, I well. And I think to just I mean, my parents were not heavy, heavy drinkers. They weren’t. But there was a bottle of wine on the dinner table every night. I mean, and I just thought that was normal. Every party was, you know, the rebels read the voices, the glasses clinking you know, they were in the Foreign Service. They were diplomats, there were a lot of events at our house, you know, hosting people. And I thought that was the best thing ever. And I still love the sound of the talking and it’s just filled with conversations and laughter. But I didn’t realize before that that could happen without drinking. And I actually really feel grateful that my kids don’t think mommy drinking a bottle of wine and night is required, or normal.
You know, I have no doubt that they will drink. My husband still drinks beer, he’s what we call a normie. But it’s not required. And first, they know for some, you know, for mom, it wasn’t healthy, and that you don’t have to drink. And so it’s, you know, I just think that’s changing patterns. Because if I had kept drinking, certainly my daughter would think that what you do at 6pm and sort of open a bottle of wine and keep drinking it until you go to bed. That would just be what she knew.
That’s right. That’s right. And it’s an amazing legacy to leave for your children and, and one that we really have to think about modeling and modeling, in terms of what happens when young people go to college and the modeling of what happens to young women in terms of playing drinking games, and the story goes on and on.
Oh, yeah. And I was the queen of that brilliantly. Oh my god, I was on the Women’s Rugby Team in college and like it was, you know, a shot a minute for an hour like it was not healthy and yet you know, it was fun. I don’t remember all of it. But uh, but yeah, and think that if either one of my kids wants to play Rugby, I mean, I adored it, but I would be like, nope. I would really discourage them because it is a breeding ground for problematic drinking and thinking it is normal.
But I love this conversation. I love the conversation about recovering out loud about using Psychotherapy and doing the work to dig into your story, what’s underneath your story, and understanding it, forgiving yourself and having compassion for yourself. So I know your first Course filled up in 24 hours. But if women want to work with you and learn more about what you do, what’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?
The best way is to go to my website, which is anndowsettjohnston.com. That website, as of this week, is changing format. So if you go do it now, it looks like I am still a journalist and in school. Not true. But my website is being reborn. There’s a place to contact me. And I would love to have you in my Course. Whoever you are listening.
Yeah, that’s amazing. Well, thank you so much. It’s been wonderful to talk to you and I really appreciate you coming on.
I loved being with you. It was a great conversation. Thank you so much.
So thank you for coming on here. I couldn’t appreciate it more.
Thank you for listening to this episode of The Hello Someday Podcast. If you’re interested in learning more about me or the work I do or accessing free resources and guides to help you build a life you love without alcohol, please visit hellosomedaycoaching.com. And I would be so grateful if you would take a few minutes to rate and review this podcast so that more women can find it and join the conversation about drinking less and living more.
ABOUT THE HELLO SOMEDAY PODCAST
The Hello Someday Podcast helps busy and successful women build a life they love without alcohol. Host Casey McGuire Davidson, a certified life coach and creator of The Sober Girl’s Guide to Quitting Drinking, brings together her experience of quitting drinking while navigating work and motherhood, along with the voices of experts in personal development, self-care, addiction and recovery and self-improvement.
Whether you know you want to stop drinking and live an alcohol free life, are sober curious, or are in recovery this podcast is for you.
In each episode Casey will share the tried and true secrets of how to drink less and live more.
Learn how to let go of alcohol as a coping mechanism, how to shift your mindset about sobriety and change your drinking habits, how to create healthy routines to cope with anxiety, people pleasing and perfectionism, the importance of self-care in early sobriety, and why you don’t need to be an alcoholic to live an alcohol free life.
Be sure to grab the Free Sober Girl’s Guide To Quitting Drinking right here.
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