Sober Stories

The Goal Isn’t To Be Sober. The Goal Is To Love Yourself So Much That You Don’t Need To Drink.”

— Anonymous

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What a great honor to be interviewed by the inspirational Lotta Dann … otherwise known as Mrs D:

“Mrs D is the name Lotta Dann gave herself when she began anonymously blogging in 2011. Through her long-running blog, Mrs D Is Going Without, Lotta discovered the incredible power of online support for people quitting drinking. Her best-selling memoir, telling the story of her recovery, was published in 2014, and later that same year Living Sober was launched. Living Sober takes all of the powerful aspects Lotta discovered about online recovery, and condenses it here into one space, making it readily accessible for thousands of people so that they can also turn their lives around.”

Mrs D, a journalist, blogger and author is a relatively well-known name in New Zealand recovery circles. She has written several books about recovery and is an advocate for people in recovery in NZ.

She says her work and social environments made it easier for drinking to become a regular occurrence.

“The main thing that I think contributed to my drinking is the booze-soaked society I live in, where alcohol is normalised and glorified and used liberally at every turn,”
My interview is this week’s Sober Story.
This week’s Sober Story comes from Patti, a 62-year-old from the US now living in Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula. 

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Mrs D: How long have you been sober for?

Patti: This latest time – over six years.

Mrs D: What can you tell us about your childhood growing up and the impact that had on your drinking?

Patti: I was raised in an extremely dysfunctional family. Both my parents were alcoholics. My father was an alcoholic, workaholic and adult child of an alcoholic. All un-treated of course. He was charming at times, Irish and told a great tale. My mother’s alcoholism looked bad – she was a sloppy, sad drunk. She’d sit in our kitchen, drink bourbon and often cry listening to opera records. My dad drank high end booze at nice restaurants, a ‘functioning alcoholic’. He drove a nice car and wore a suit. My mother stayed at home in her bathrobe. You get the picture. My mother died of alcoholism when I was only 16 years old.

Mrs D: That must have been tough.

Patti: This was in the early 1970’s in the San Francisco Bay Area, there were lots of drugs everywhere to help me numb the pain. I learned at an early age how to numb the pain with drugs and alcohol. I drank and used drugs throughout my teens and twenties. I blacked out right from the beginning, almost every time I drank. Somehow I got a degree, sometimes that still amazes me. When I was in my early twenties I was absolutely out of control – waking up in strange places; losing my car, forgetting where I had left it; waking up next to people I didn’t know… it was a time of intense shame and humiliation. Eventually I met my husband, and he didn’t drink much, so I curtailed my drinking and using while I was with him, and that probably helped to save my life. Just before my thirtieth birthday we started talking about starting a family, I knew that I did NOT want my children to have a mother like mine, so I went to my first AA meeting 2 days before my 30th. I found a woman’s meeting and I walked in and felt at home.

Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?

Patti: I was in the pink cloud of recovery for the first year, grateful and excited. By the 2nd year, when I started doing some intense counselling and looking at my family of origin, I went through some intense grief and anger, but also relief that it was finally coming out. There were about twenty women in the room, mostly my age, and mostly caring and empathetic. I was so lucky, at that first meeting, I found my tribe. A few years later we moved to New Zealand and when I went to my first AA meeting I was devastated! There were about five people there, mostly old men who were pedantic Big Book thumpers. I felt like I had lost my tribe. It didn’t take long before I quit going to meetings.

Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?

Patti: Yes. I had two babies and was focused on being a good mother with no alcohol on the scene. But as my sons got older and started school I fell in with other mums who often got together and drank wine while the kids played. These were the ‘cool mums’, ‘The Yummy Mummies’, drinking good wine on the deck after school. I had ventured away from recovery circles and had become very complacent in my recovery, and it wasn’t long before I had my first glass of wine after being sober for almost 13 years.

Mrs D: How did that go?

Patti: When I picked up again, I drank with a vengeance and it progressed quickly. Soon I was waking up feeling remorseful and promising myself I wouldn’t drink so much, or that I’d give up booze for good…until the next time. I started hiding my drinking from my husband. With sheer luck, I didn’t get in any accidents nor hurt anyone in that time, except myself. I felt shame and had horrible hangovers every time I drank. My middle-aged body could not cope with alcohol like it did as a teen or in my twenties. I ended up drinking for the next 13 ½ years until 2014.

Mrs D: What led you to stop again?

Patti: In 2014, after drinking at a work gathering, my business partner said to me, “You really shouldn’t drink with workshop participants; it’s not a good look.” And I knew that was true. I talked too much, got too loud, and made stupid jokes. I thought I was the life of the party, but no one else did. At the same time, I was writing my first book, a self-help book for women. I felt like a total hypocrite! I was advising others to ‘live their best lives’ and yet I was screwing my own life up. So I decided to give up alcohol again. This time I was not giving up alcohol for my husband or for my kids; I was doing it for me! That was in 2014, and I haven’t had a drink since.

Mrs D: Where have you found your support this time.

Patti: I was still in that same small town, and the meetings had the same old men with the same pedantic ways of doing meetings. If I had an emotion, any emotion, I was told “Just don’t pick up and go to meetings.” Sigh. So another woman in recovery and I decided to start our own meeting. We started it under the banner of NA – but opened the doors to anyone with any addiction. We focus on Emotional Sobriety, empathy and caring. I consider my sobriety now, a bit of a patchwork approach. I read voraciously and am in the process of writing my second book now – focusing on women and recovery – finding our own path on that journey.

Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?

Patti: I really liked my own company! That totally surprised me. I was afraid of being along with myself when I was drinking, thus drank alone at home quite often.

Mrs D: What are the main benefits that have emerged for you since you last got sober?

Patti: My health improved: I started meditating daily, doing yoga, eating better, sleeping better, and ALL of my relationships improved – every single one!

Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?

Patti: I wish I had started my own 12-step group earlier on, before I relapsed. It makes all the difference in the world to feel like you’ve found your tribe. However, with that said, my relapse taught me a lot – about humility, about empathy and I can totally be there for anyone else that has relapsed.

Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this
journey?

Patti: Jump in completely! Immerse yourself. If you don’t like a meeting, if you don’t feel at home – then go to another meeting or find someone you like and respect and ask them what meetings they like, or start one yourself, or go to a Zoom Meeting – there are hundreds of them from all over the world! Find good TED Talks, read good books on various topics related to sobriety and keep going – Don’t Give Up On Yourself! You are Worth It!

Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?

Patti: You can read more about me and my journey on Thrive Global, on my blog site, or my website.

 

 

In other news … I will be a part of a free online summit this month that might interest one or two of you:

How-To face a Devastating Diagnosis or the anxiety of “What If”…

This Online Event will be nurturing and informative:
Here are some of the topics to be covered:

  • How someone outlived her Doctor’s diagnosis by 20 years
  • How-To let pain out instead of numbing it.
  • How-To empower yourself when facing a devastating diagnosis
  • To move through emotional pain with confidence
  • How-To face future fears after a diagnosis
  • Strategies for emotional freedom
  • Why creativity is powerful

The summit begins on July 13, lasts for 5 days, and ends Friday July 17. 

Each interview is about 30 minutes, packed with helpful information. You can join me on Thursday July 16.

I hope you can join us. Reserve your spot now!

 

I’ll close with an informative talk about addiction by one of my favorite addiction specialists – Dr Gabor Maté

I’d love to hear your thoughts about what I have shared. It’s always a bit awkward being so visible . . . so feedback is always appreciated!  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

A Tale of Two Countries

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, 

it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, 

it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, 

it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, 

it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

— Charles Dickens

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I’m not unbiased. I would never claim to be. I have made my views clear on every occasion. And with dual citizenship in The US and New Zealand, I believe that I have a right to make a comparison between these two countries. And in the middle of Covid-19, the differences between the two are stark. I think it is obvious that the main reason behind how these countries are emerging from the pandemic is the difference between the two leaders …

‘The age of wisdom, the age of foolishness… The spring of hope, the winter of despair.’

I sought information from as many different sources as possible:

News sources from the US, from NZ and internationally…

And almost unanimously, from mainstream, established, internationally respected news sources, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, has done a stellar job in handling this crisis; whereas the President of The United States, Donald Trump, has done a dismal job.

… Although for the sake of transparency, I did not go to Fox News where an alternate reality exists… As I said, I never claimed to be unbiased.

In terms of handling the outbreak, Jacinda has been direct and most importantly, empathetic. She did a great job at getting New Zealanders on board:

Jacinda Ardern Sold a Drastic Lockdown With Straight Talk and Mom Jokes

Leading New Zealand from isolation, Ms. Ardern coaxed her “team of five million” into accepting extreme restrictions. But the lessons of her success go beyond personality or charm…

Whereas Trump has shown little leadership, and when he has spoken up, many feel that he is more interested in himself than the people he supposedly leads:

Trump sees the coronavirus as a threat to his self-interest – not to people.

Trump has made it clear he sees this pandemic chiefly as a threat to the market and wealthy people’s interests (and relatedly, his political future)

Jacinda has been described as empathetic and caring, yet strong.

Whereas it has been stated that Trump is incapable of empathy. And Trump has been described as self-serving and authoritarian.

New Zealand has had one or two new cases of Covid-19 in the past several days, all from people coming in from overseas, and all in isolation. Their containment of the virus has been described as observing ‘good science’ and being well-communicated.

Trump’s handling of the virus has been described as ‘dismal!’ And it has been said that US could see 100,000 coronavirus daily cases in the near future.

And because of the better handling of this crisis, New Zealand is in a much better position economically at this point. “The Covid-19 pandemic is expected to leave a lasting scar on the world’s economies but New Zealand is likely to fare better than most.”

Whereas the US economy is far from healthy; as a matter of fact, CNBC stated thatNearly half the U.S. population is without a job, showing how far the labor recovery has to goThe employment-population ratio — the number of employed people as a percentage of the U.S. adult population — plunged to 52.8% in May, meaning 47.2% of Americans are jobless.

Now I know, it isn’t fair to compare the US to NZ in many ways. New Zealand is a small country, only five million people; it’s located at the bottom of the world, a fair distance from any other countries; and it is easy to close the borders of an island nation. It is much easier to keep New Zealand safe from this virus than it is to keep a much bigger country that shares its borders.

However a comparison of these two countries does give a strong message. Good communication and empathic and caring, yet strong leadership helps a country through a crisis. A recent article in The New York Times argued that women led countries are doing much better in this crisis. ‘A new leadership style offers promise for a new era of global threats.’

Ultimately, I think it is fair to say that Jacinda Ardern is the Anti-Trump.

Vogue coined the phrase:

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, Is Young, Forward-Looking, and Unabashedly Liberal—Call Her the Anti-Trump

 

I’d like to close with what has become Jacinda’s iconic Facebook Live post as New Zealand prepared to go into lockdown. Her empathy, caring and just plain humanness is evident.

 

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts about these two leaders and their leadership styles.   And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.