Kate Bee is a journalist and TV producer by trade. She is also the founder of The Sober School, a website that supports women who want to stop drinking or take a break from alcohol. In her free time she likes reading trashy gossip magazines, drinking too much coffee, running, eating cake, and building on her impressive collection of nail varnish. Check out her sober coaching program.
1) Describe your ‘rock bottom.’
There was no dramatic rock bottom for me. In fact this is one of the things I really struggled with when trying to get sober. For ages I was fixated on the idea that I couldn’t be a proper alcoholic because nothing truly terrible had happened to me yet. I felt rather isolated, stuck in no man’s land between ‘normal’ drinking and full blown alcoholism. In the end it was more a gradual realisation that I was on an escalator that was only going one way – down. I knew I had to get off before it was too late.
2) What were your first 30 days of recovery like?
They were hard and easy all at the same time. It was not my first go at stopping drinking – I’d sworn off booze a hundred times before – but this attempt felt different from the start. Previously the thought of giving up ‘forever’ had derailed me because it seemed too depressing. So I decided to focus on stopping for 100 days. I didn’t let myself think further ahead than that.
I started blogging about my experience in an attempt to keep myself accountable. I’d just discovered sober blogs and I spent most of those first 30 days reading everything I could. It was a bit of a revelation when I realised other people were going through exactly the same thing. Not only that but they were actually happy about being sober! Their stories – coupled with a lot of sweets and ice cream – got me through those tricky first few weeks.
3) What are the best things that have happened to you since you got clean/sober?
Well, where do you start!? I think the main thing is that I’ve learned how to actually like myself. The main reason I drank was for escapism. There was always a constant stream of negativity running through my head and drinking felt like pulling down the shutters on my brain and taking a holiday from myself.
It’s amazing what happens when you start to be fully present in your own life. You realise that you actually have the power to change things. And you feel like a superhero because you’ve conquered this really difficult thing. Sobriety has given me the courage to do scary things like let go of relationships that weren’t working. I left the city and moved out to the countryside. I changed jobs. I look better. I’m more open minded. I pay attention to my emotions, rather than trying to squash them down all the time. Before I got sober I was one of those people who didn’t ‘do’ touchy feely stuff. I wouldn’t have been seen dead with a self help book – I wanted to shut down my brain, not examine what was in it!
4) If you could go back in time to you when you were drinking/using what would you tell yourself?
Gosh, I’d like to say so many things. I’d tell myself to stop Googling, ‘Am I an alcoholic?’. I was so fixated on how much and how often one needed to drink in order to qualify as one. It never occurred to me that ‘normal’ drinkers probably didn’t spend their evenings googling that kind of stuff.
I’d tell myself to reach out and get help. Sobriety is something that’s near on impossible to do on your own. It doesn’t matter where you get that connection – it can be online or face to face – but we all need it.
I’d tell myself the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.
But above all, I’d love to go back and just give my old drinking self a hug. I’d love to be able to say: ‘Everything is going to be okay. This is going to be one of the best decisions you ever make.’
5) What have been the most useful things you have learned about yourself since getting sober/clean?
I’ve learned that I’m a lot braver than I thought I was.
6) Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking.
I would never have set up The Sober School if I had still been drinking. It was an idea that popped into my head quite early on in my sobriety. When I was struggling to stop I felt very alone and I found little advice that resonated with me. I was really frustrated by how much help is available for people with other addictions, such as smoking. Not only is it socially acceptable to talk about being addicted to nicotine, but people actually celebrate when you kick the habit! By contrast, problem drinking is still very stigmatised and teetotalism is widely considered to be boring and uncool.
I set up The Sober School because I wanted to create something that’s really positive, practical, and plain talking. I’ve spent most of this year furiously working on a six-week online course that helps women kickstart their sobriety. I’ve just finished piloting it with a small group of women and it’s been lovely to watch them work their way through it. It’s been an incredibly exciting, but hectic time. I juggle two other jobs as well as running The Sober School. As a drinker, I never had the brain space to do more than one thing at once, but it’s amazing what you can get done once you take booze out of your life!
7) What are your favorite recovery slogans?
‘Everything you want is on the other side of fear.’
‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’
And: ‘Don’t be afraid of being different. Be afraid of being the same as everyone else!’
8) And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Recovery rocks because it gives you the chance to find out who you really are and be the best version of yourself. It gives you the chance to chase your dreams and be fully present in your one and only life.