Today's Episode

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Hi, and you are so very welcome to my latest podcast episode, the Joys of Not Drinking and the Pitfalls to Watch Out For. I did a recent podcast episode on my journey with alcohol, and it got such a huge response. A lot of people messaged me on social media, on email, telling me where they were with their journey. Some of you were telling me that you would just love to stop, and others who had stopped. I was just blown away. It really sparked a conversation with us. I want to talk to you now today about having not drank now for a time now, and all the lovely benefits that there are, and kind of how I feel about it since I did the last podcast episode. If you haven't listened to that podcast episode yet, I highly recommend that you pause this and go back and listen to the episode that I discuss my journey with alcohol.

But anyway, not drinking. How has it been for me? I just want to start with really what my problem was with alcohol. Actually, I first want to start with now how much I hate alcohol. I think it's one of the biggest scourges in Ireland, one of the most legal acceptable things to do that is just devastating for so many people. It really keeps so many people trapped and stuck in a loop and stuck in a cycle that they don't want to be in. Yet it is advertised and marketed to us so much as this cool, chic, thing to do. Now, I finally managed, when I see somebody have a glass of champagne or a glass of wine, I finally have managed to say to myself, "That just looks so disgusting." But yeah, more about that later, and what's changed for me.

But I just think it's such a big issue in Ireland. I know I'm not saying anything new, but having gotten off the train of drinking, it feels new for me. I feel like I've had an awakening and it's an awakening that I want to share with you. If you're listening into this episode and you have an alcohol problem, or you feel you do, or you hate yourself for drinking, then this episode is for you. It has probably been one of the most scary things that I've ever done. Because drinking is so normalised in Ireland, it can feel really isolating even considering giving up alcohol.

There's just a few things I want to go through with you on this podcast episode. I just want to make it so clear now, I absolutely despise alcohol and I despise what it does for people, and I despise what it's done to people. It is such a negative, horrible thing. Yet it is so marketed as something you do when you're succeeding in life, that's the champagne, the Rosé; like something you do to relax, that's the red wine; out for a party, that's the white wine. Then spend a bit more money on the wine, know your grapes. I just think it is a load of bullshit now. Alcohol is alcohol and we have been fed this line bullshit for far too long.

My problem with alcohol. I drank. I moved to Paris, that's when I had my breakdown, but I moved to Paris after college and I just drank way too much for three years. Very normal for a lot of people to do that. I drank every day. I wish I didn't, now looking back, but it was just such a huge thing to do amongst the people I hung around with. But that to me, I was just doing it. I wasn't even giving it a second thought about not drinking. Jesus, it was just part of what we did over there.

But my problem with alcohol really developed as getting into my 30s and early 40s, and growing up effectively, and working hard at a business, growing my successful business now, and doing all the stuff like getting a house, having kids, and all the pressures that comes with that. I really feel my journey with my problem with alcohol started when it almost was socially acceptable. Because back when I was drinking every single night for three years in Paris, it was like, "Well, you're at that age. It's normal. You're going wild while you can." It's just another one of those bullshit, socially acceptable things, just like it is when you get older. Growing the business, running the business, having kids and all the pressures that comes with then having wine at the weekends and just having too much wine was really my problem. Just too much of it. I just drank to unwind and forget about the pressures and be silly.

I'm quite a serious person. I would struggle to be silly and let the fun side of myself come out previously without drinking. So I used drinking as a way to release, let go, be wild, pretend I was this person that just didn't have a care in the world to myself, by the way, not for anybody else. To be able to joke and laugh and pretend to myself that I didn't care, let the hair down, enjoy myself. "Stop taking yourself so seriously," all that kind of stuff. I'd get to a Friday and it would be like, "Happy days. Hallelujah. The weekend's here. I've worked hard, am I going to have Prosecco or cold white wine? How am I going to relax? Are we going to go for a nice meal? Are we going to sit in the back garden? What is the story? Where are we drinking? Give me all the wine right now."

Thought it was the most normal thing in the world to do that. Absolutely. Just, "Yeah, I am living in Ireland. I am Irish. I work hard. This is what we do." Until I started to get really deeply unhappy. I'd say about four years ago I started thinking that there might be another way, just might be. I just wondered. I'd been to a couple of Tony Robbins events, and people that I was following and admiring on social media, and my old fitness... My old coach that I had that helped me with my business was a non-drinker. You've heard me talk about him before, Sean Greeley. He was a huge mentor of mine and I still owe him so much to this day. I remember going over to one of our business meetings in London. There was a group of us, like a peer group, an entrepreneur group, and me asking him what he did at weekends if he didn't drink. I just didn't understand that part of him.

I was like, "But he owns such a hugely successful business, so God love him if he doesn't drink. What does he do for the crack? What does he do to unwind?" God, little did I know back then. Remember him saying to me, "Oh, Jessica, you won't find too many CEOs now..." I know that's a big step up from where I was sitting at the bar at weekends. I was going, "Yeah, yeah, what does he know?" Then I went to a Tony Robbins event and you're asked what your goals are and what you'd love to achieve. I remember writing down, "I just hate drinking." When I was drinking, I just felt on a loop. You know that loop where you work hard, you eat healthy, you exercise, and then you're like, "I can't wait for the weekend because I'm so tired and I need to rest."

But then you don't actually wind down. You wind up. You have a drink on a Friday night, so you're hung over Saturday. I'm talking just a few drinks. I don't mean... I mean, I've tried it all, 10 drinks, three drinks, two drinks, one drink. You still wake up, in my opinion, feeling like not as good as you can. I believe, one drink affects your mental health the next day. So you wake up Saturday and you're like, "For fuck's sake, of after working hard all week long. Then the one morning I wake up after a week of work is the day I feel like fucking shit." Then if I was to drink on a Friday, chances are I would drink on a Saturday. So you'd feel like shit Saturday, you'd feel like shit Sunday. But at the time I thought it was worth it for those few hours of escapism.

I didn't know back then that I needed to fix my reality, not escape reality. Sounds really basically simple now. It's the same with comfort eating. "Hang on, Jessica, you don't need to escape reality by eating a packet of biscuits. You need to focus on your reality, my friend." Then life will get better and easier because you're not running away from everything. Looking back, I was such a fearful person, scared of everything, scared of everything, scared of confrontation, scared of uncomfortable conversations, scared of the future, scared of bad things, scared of negativity, scared of everything. Drink kept me there. I honestly thought drinking at the weekends, I had it nailed on. Having been so unhealthy with alcohol, having been overweight to then getting to the point where I was running a successful business, I was doing well; I didn't see it being a problem, but it was a huge problem.

It was a huge problem. I didn't think... That's what I meant to say. I didn't think drinking every weekend could affect your week. It's only now when I don't drink that I realized how fucked up thinking that is. Then you drink Friday night and Saturday night, and if you're lucky, you drink just one of the nights and then you wake up on Monday, you feel like shit. Even if you've just drank one of the nights, it's in your system. You feel negative and stressed out and worried for the day ahead. That's Monday. I still felt so bad Tuesday. I was just about feeling good Wednesday. Felt top of the world, I could conquer the world Thursday, drinking Friday.

It's the weirdest thing. With my business, I used to always be wondering what else I can do? "What else can I do to improve this? What else?" Now that I don't drink, I have too much to do. That's just one tiny example of how much your brain improves, your function of your brain improves. It gives you more time to think, which helps you come up with all these really cool ideas. You kind of get the gist of the story. I don't want to go on too much about it because I did do it in another podcast episode and I'm conscious for those of you listening in, you know the crack. I just want to say, about four years ago, I started Googling people that didn't drink. I'd Googled it and for a few days and then I would let it go, and then I'd Google it.

I came across Russell Brand and a few others and I just thought, "Wow. Well, what must they be addicted to now?" It's terrible to think this, but I used to think, "Oh well, Russell Brand is really skinny, so he must now have moved his addiction from alcohol to under eating." Which is so silly, but I just want to be honest with how I saw things. I would look at non-drinkers and think, "Well, what's wrong with them? They don't drink, poor them. They've a shit life, but at least they're not drinking. But okay, they've accepted that their life is going to be shit, so they're not drinking." I just want to go through with you the things I was worried about when I finally started to come to the idea that maybe I wasn't going to ever drink ever again.

First off, I thought that there was going to be a permanent, massive hole in my life from not drinking; permanent. That wasn't true. Second of all, I thought I was going to be really bored all of the time, especially at weekends, that I was going to live this really boring life. That didn't happen. Third thing, I thought I was going to be really isolated, really isolated. The fourth thing was I thought nobody that I used to drink with was going to trust me as a non-drinker. Very interesting. Oh, and the fifth thing was I thought there was going to be no place to escape, no place to escape reality. No way to escape reality. Because I knew when I decided I wanted to stop drinking, that I was determined not to replace it with food. Because remember, I used to smoke and I replaced smoking with eating for a while and I gained weight.

So I was just determined, "Jessica, if you're going to stop drinking, you're going to stop with no crutches, with nothing to replace it. You're not going to start over exercising or overeating. You are going to start this new journey of having no stuff. No..." What's the word? No... Having no crutches. Having no crutches. I was determined I was going to face reality head on. I thought I was going to have a permanent hole, a void in my life. I thought I was going to be bored. I thought I was going to be isolated, and I thought people weren't going to trust me.

Now, what actually happened? Initially when I stopped drinking, I really wanted to prove to everybody that I was the same. That my habits were the same, I was the same person, I could still be really funny, I could still meet people in the bars late at night, nothing had changed, "I promise you so much, everything is going to be okay. I'm the exact same." What a load of bullshit me thinking that. Like, "What the hell?" It would've been so lovely if somebody in my circle had have said to me, "Well, I'm so proud of you. There's no need to be the same. I'm so proud of you, change. Change all you want. Change your habits. Change what you do things." But I didn't change my habits for the first couple of months.

I ate a bit more, so I didn't really stick to my not eating more than I had planned, but I didn't eat too much. I just was a little bit more comforty in carbohydrates for a while. But I actually think that's okay. If you're listening into this now and you're thinking of giving up alcohol, or you have and you're eating a little bit more, I really do think in the first few weeks when everything is really raw and vulnerable for you, a little bit of extra pasta in the nighttime is okay, because that'll pass and you'll recover from that.

At the beginning, I also counted the days that I wasn't drinking, which is something I definitely don't do more. Examples of ways that I didn't change my habits was I would book dinners late at night, or I would go for drinks pre-dinner in a bar and just have sparkling water. I don't do any of that anymore. It's not because I'm tempted, I despise alcohol now. It's because of the noise. I just hate it. I hate it. You get to know yourself, you see. You get to know the lovely, gentle side of yourself when that busy noisiness is gone, which is really, really terrific. I have it written down here. Okay. That's what I thought was going to happen. The hole, the boredom, the isolation, the not being trusted. Then what happened? I didn't change any of my habits. I wanted to prove to everybody I was the same. I ate a bit more. I was counting the days I wasn't drinking, and I was still going for meals and sparkling waters in bar settings.

Then a few months passed, three months I would say passed. The most wonderful benefits started appearing in my life. This is what I want to talk to you about today, if you are thinking about giving up alcohol. A few months later I started to accept that I had changed and that was okay. Not only was it okay, it was amazing that I was figuring out who I am now. I started to realize I didn't like bars, and I didn't like noisy restaurants, and I didn't like eating late, that I like to eat during the day or during the evening time, and I don't actually like being around alcohol; that's okay. Everybody's different.

I used to pretend that I was okay, I liked being around alcohol. "No bother, don't mind me. I'm just going to be drinking me sparkling water, but go for it." Now I'm like, "No thanks. If you're a true friend, you love me, you care about me, let's go for a coffee. Let's have lunch during the day or let's go for a walk." I've matured so much, so much in a few months. I'm more rational. I'm able to take a step back more. I can take criticism better. I'm a better friend, a better family member. I'm happier. I'm kinder. I'm more empathetic. I can face up to reality now.

I kind of feel like the past few months or... No, since I've stopped drinking that my insides have been on my outsides. I felt very vulnerable. I still do feel a little bit vulnerable, a little bit raw still. The only way I can describe it, and I know it might seem crazy because I was drinking at the weekends only, I wasn't drinking every day. But now that I have not drank for so long, I've realized now I still feel quite sensitive to the world every day. But I'm getting stronger and stronger. I think it must have been that when I was drinking at the weekends, having a hangover or the anticipation of drinking or drinking...

There's three things that come into drinking, anticipating the drinking, drinking, and then being hungover. It's such a distraction. I mean, you can chat to your friend or your husband about the next night you're going out on, or how hungover you feel, or, "Will we, won't we have a drink tonight?" It's a big distraction. When you get stressed out and anxious, you can have a drink. But when you don't drink, you have to face up to that stress and anxiety. You're definitely not going to be walking around stress and anxious as a non-drinker because you really want to be enjoying yourself. You don't want to be stuck with those feelings because there's no escape. So you really work on it, which is really cool.

It adds to your life so much. I was wrong about the void. There is no void. There'll be an emptiness for a few months because it's been such a big part of your life. Then that emptiness closes and everything starts to get amazingly good. I can't even begin to tell you, everything is good. Taste, smell, feel, walks, the simple things become amazing. I promise you, it is so, so cool. It's fun. You get so much more done. You've deeper bonds with people. You let go of so much bullshit. You're more straight. You're more authentic. You're more present.

I know this might sound crazy, but it just changes you in every way. Even if you've been just drinking once a week, it's incredible. You get time to heal, to soothe. You're not on a weekly cycle, you're on a lifetime growth adventure. There's nothing pulling you back every weekend. A tiny bit of growth during the week, pull right back to the bullshit. There's none of that. You have to face up and learn how to talk to people without a drink; that's growth. You have to have an uncomfortable conversation; that's growth. You have to accept that people mightn't trust you or like you, which is cracked as much because you're not drinking; that's okay. Everything just becomes okay.

Also, the really cool thing about it physically that I love to Google all the time, is that your blood pressure is lower. I used to have huge stomach issues when I drank alcohol, and heartburn. That's all cleared up. Digestion problems, all gone. My skin, so much better than it used to be. The amazing thing is for your brain, you actually, the rational part of your brain that works with rationale and helps you think better, improves. You sleep better. You become more calm. Your serotonin levels improve, which means you become scientifically more happy. Your motivation and your get-go all improves. Wow. If you're listening to this now, it will be the most exciting thing you'll have ever done.

It is daunting at the start; that's true. It's scary when you first stop; yes it is. But you're not a non-drinker counting down the days that you don't drink, you just don't drink. I've let that bullshit go. I'm not a non-drinker since X, Y, Z, I just don't drink. I just don't drink. Not an ex-drinker, I just don't drink alcohol. Apart from sharing all my stories with you guys about it, I don't think about it. I don't let it define me. It's not part of my day-to-day. I just don't drink and it's wonderful. You can do it. If you're scared, accept the fear and accept that it might be a little bit tough at the start in terms of you...

The toughest thing I found was facing up to reality. For example, what if you get bored? What if you have a void? Okay, these are things you're going to have to face. You're going to have to face your what ifs, because your what ifs are fear. Well, what if you are bored? Let's see what happens when you get bored. Okay, let's see what happens if you have a void to fill. Okay, let's see what happens if you want to wind down with alcohol, but the alcohol's taken away and you're wound up. Let's face that. Let's face it all. Let's face the fears and do it anyway.

I hope you found this episode helpful. If you have any questions, get in touch with me, jessica@jessicacooke.ie. Or you can simply go to Spotify, subscribe to my podcast so you don't miss another episode. Let me know in the comments what you thought of this episode. If you know people that would be interested in my podcast, I would love so much for you to share it. As always, you can go to jessicacooke.ie, I have so many resources and blog posts and loads of stuff helping you feel good, the best you can feel. All my love to you. Have a wonderful day. Bye.

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