Has changing your relationship with alcohol led you to a new passion or a new life calling? Sometimes we have to go through the mess, learn the lesson, and then become a voice for others who find themselves in the same situations we used to be in.
This week I talked to Jenn, otherwise known as @sobersis on Instagram. She is from Fort Worth, TX and has been sober for over three years. Jenn is a big supporter of the non alcoholic craft beverage movement.
Through her own journey, she has created a platform and community that she wishes she would have had back when she started reevaluating her relationship with alcohol.
Jenn’s Background with Alcohol
At 49 years old, Jenn mentions that she didn’t start drinking until her early 30s. Drinking wasn’t a part of her social life in high school or college, so she never had to brand herself as a non-drinker. Being sober wasn’t a mindful decision, she just simply didn’t drink.
But she later entered the happy hour scene, and soon started to catch up to everyone else. Her husband started drinking too, and it became an activity they both enjoyed.
She found herself immersed in the “wine o’clock” culture, where wine is endearingly referred to as “mom juice.” Being a busy mom and having a glass of wine to unwind doesn’t carry much stigma in our society.
“I’m not a wild and crazy young party girl, I’m a working mom, taking the edge off.”
In her late 30s, she started to notice that she was looking forward to five o’clock every day. Because of that, she decided to take one full year off drinking.
But all she did was quit drinking. She didn’t change her mindset or do any of the inner work that was causing her to drink to begin with.
No Good Options
Had she had better options then, she believes she may have remained alcohol-free even longer. The only NA options available at that point were not exactly something you would look forward to drinking.
“You’re at the kids’ table, drinking water again.”
Because of this lack of options, she fell into the trap of moderation. She still wanted to be able to enjoy a drink. She just didn’t want to go overboard.
“I’m just going to moderate and not make it such a big deal in my life.”
For most people, moderation doesn’t work very well. And Jenn was no exception. For 5 years, she was a yo-yo drinker. She frequently took small breaks, and she never felt physically addicted.
She describes her drinking habits with an 80/20 pattern. 80% of the time, her drinking wasn’t heavy enough to make her want to stop. She never felt great, but the consequences weren’t terrible enough to swear off alcohol. That other 20%, however, are the times that she drank too much. While there was no rock-bottom, she was mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Her Turning Point
Once her daughter turned 13, it would have been easy to keep drinking. After all, she was raising two teenagers. She was 45 years old, and started looking ahead to 50. The mommy wine culture was shifting before her eyes. It was socially acceptable, even encouraged, to drink in excess. But after five challenging years of feeling stuck in her relationship with alcohol, she decided it was time to make some massive, long-term changes in her life.
“If I want to show up at 50 different than I did at 40, I’ve got to make some changes. And I can’t just do that overnight.”
Jenn found herself at a crossroads, where she could end up drinking more if she stayed on the path she was currently on. Being an empty-nester was on the horizon, which meant a lot more free time and money to spend.
“Well I can be 50, and be an empty nester, and hit the patio scene with my husband and we can just live in the happy hour world.”
Doing the Work
But she knew that wasn’t the direction she wanted her life to take. She felt herself moving into a new chapter of life, and decided that alcohol needed to be the first thing to go. She made a goal to give up alcohol for six weeks, and this time she did the inner work.
She brought alcohol a little closer, examined her relationship with it, and questioned society’s message about it. After six weeks, she made her next goal 100 days. And the rest is history.
She is certainly on her way to showing up at 50 better than she did at 40.
Being Sober Minded
For Jenn, the hardest part about giving up alcohol was navigating a new sober lifestyle while her friends and husband still drank. She lacked the tools she needed for such a big lifestyle change, and she had no like-minded community. This is what inspired her to create Sober Sis.
She focuses on being sober minded, which is about more than just not drinking. It’s about being present, sharp, and able to navigate through stressful times. Our current reality amidst this pandemic is what Jenn likes to call “The Olympics of sober minded living.”
“I need my sharp mind. The good news is, I have it. It’s mine, I own it. I retain it. And it’s my secret weapon, it’s my asset. It’s something I really guard now, and protect.”
Now that Jenn is sober, she loves mornings. Her worst night of sleep alcohol-free is still better than her best night of sleep while she was drinking. She likes to “play the movie forward,” and asks herself what kind of morning she wants to have the next day.
“I plan my nights now based on the morning I want to have.”
Creating Sober Sis
When her kids grew up, she needed a new passion. She was able to find that by creating Sober Sis at 8 months alcohol-free, and becoming a voice in the sober community.
Sober Sis is a community created for gray area drinkers who may not resonate with the extremes of Alcoholics Anonymous. When Jenn started questioning her relationship with alcohol, AA was the only tool available. And it didn’t resonate with her. Now she has taken it upon herself to make sure women have a space to examine their relationship with alcohol while being free of the stigma and stereotypes that they want to avoid.
Instead of solely focusing on not drinking, she helps women do the inner work to figure out why they are drinking in the first place. And when it comes to counting days, she believes you never have to go back to Day One.
Starting Over Vs. Progress
Jenn stresses progress over perfection. If someone has gone 300 days without drinking, one slip-up doesn’t erase those 300 days. She compares it to running a marathon, stating how you don’t return to the starting line if you fall at mile 17. The first 17 miles didn’t go to waste.
“Just get back up. Forget the mistake. Remember the lesson.”
Her Vision of an NA Future
Jenn dreams of a future where restaurants have an option for everyone. Whether you’re gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, or alcohol-free, she believes we should all have options. She wants to be able to sit down at any restaurant and be handed a mocktail menu, as well as have an NA beer on draft.
But first, we have to make sure we’re asking for these options. We have to show a demand.
“We can be the change we want to see in the world.”
Favorite NA Beverages
Apple cider vinegar drinks: Firebrew & Element Shrub (She mixes these with sparkling or mineral water to create her own mocktails)