Katie Scrafton: Things I Did Sober Founder | Podcast Interview Transcript
KATIE [00:00:09] That's something that I found really difficult about sobriety, was I didn't want anyone to think that it was about them or anything that they had done or their lifestyle choices, because there's no way that I would judge or ever be in a position to judge anyone. It's really just about the individual person that's wanting to make a change for whatever reason that is.
KATIE [00:00:38] I'm Katie Scrafton. In my spare time, I run a sober account, so I share my sober musings and tips for people that want to maybe manage that drinking or are sober curious.
KATIE [00:00:54] I'm an advocate for mental health and talking about mental health on that page, because I think that's really important. And we actually went to school together! So we've known each other for quite some time. So, yeah, that's a little bit about me.
RENA [00:01:17] Katie has been diarising her journey with a sober-curious lifestyle since 2019. By charting her successes and feelings, what she's getting out of it and what she's finding difficult, Katie inspires others. She offers the curious a window into her world and she gives the sober encouragement to keep going. I've been sober since 1st August 2017, and it's been one of the most life-changing decisions I've ever made. While Katie has made her journey public to help others. I've rarely discussed sobriety on my own social media.
RENA [00:02:01] Sobriety is what I call radical self care. I don't think we'll change the world on our own. Collective actions - that is working with others - is, in my view, what can and does change the world. But I do believe that looking after yourself is a really important part of being an activist to be strong enough, literally, to fight the system on every front. It's a health issue we should take seriously with alcohol so embedded into the society we live in and the alcohol industry making huge amounts of profit on our hangovers, sobriety is just one way to practise radical self care and to reject capitalist norms. And to anyone struggling with addiction, relapse or recovery in alcohol or drug addiction, please search for services in your area. Katie and I have a similar experience of quitting drinking through self-help. But just as there are different forms of addiction, there are different ways to recover. Helplines, addiction support groups or 12 step programmes are just some examples of more thorough support that is available. If you live in the UK, the NHS website has a directory of addiction services you can search by postcode. We're all different and it's about finding what works for you. This is Future Heist, conversations with people making change. My name is Rena Niamh Smith.
RENA [00:03:45] So, Katie, thanks so much, for sitting down with me to talk about this. Welcome to the podcast.
KATIE [00:03:52] Thank you so much. It's an absolute pleasure. I've admired this podcast from afar for a long time, so I'm very grateful to be a guest.
RENA [00:04:01] You did your first post on your account. The handle is, @thingsIdidsober. So you did first post on the 9th of August 2019.
KATIE [00:04:11] Yeah. I'd actually been dabbling with sobriety for a good few months before I started the account and I was really finding my feet in the sober world, you know, and realised there was this huge community on Instagram a really welcoming, sober and sober-curious community, and once I started kind of delving into that, I thought, you know, I'm going to put my message out there because I had learnt a lot from kind of delving into my own shit basically, and thinking about the reasons that I drank, the reasons that I'd wanted to stop drinking. And I thought that message will definitely resonate with somebody else, just like the other accounts had resonated with me.
KATIE [00:05:10] So I think I just thought, I'm going to do it and I'm going to get it out there. And the reason the handle is @thingsIdidsober is because I wanted to keep it really simple and just kind of post about the things that I'd done sober. Not like I went to the supermarket sober because that's quite a it's quite a standard thing to do sober. But maybe like I really wanted to start talking about my weekends and my time that I'd spent sober; let people see that we don't always have to have a drink in our hand, everything that we do. So, yeah, that was kind of that was the birth of Things I Did Sober.
RENA [00:05:49] What led you in to try and sobriety then?
KATIE [00:05:52] A multitude of things. It really is a multitude of things. It's quite a complex kind of... So many layers to wanting to go sober. I mean, a lot of bad hangovers, a lot of really boozy nights and late nights and regret and self-loathing. You know, I giggle about it, but really it it does feel awful at the time when you're going through it. Really wanting to break that cycle of doing that all the time and thinking I'm really ill, I'm throwing up, I can't move.
KATIE [00:06:26] And having that hanxiety where you've got and you're anxious the next day, you know, days after big nights or big weekends and just feeling like I really wanted to make change, I was like, I've done this a lot, you know?
KATIE [00:06:43] I mean, drinking since the age of realistically like 13, 14, you know, that was quite normal. I mean, where we grew up to just start drinking at about age. I'd been in that cycle for years, like, oh, well over 15 years. And just thought there must be something different that I can do here. I knew that I was a bit all or nothing with alcohol. And, you know, it's very it's something that's very difficult to manage. I don't think that anyone's a bad person for not being able to manage how much they drink because it's highly addictive and, you know, some of it is really fun. It's just often that we all take it a bit too far. And that's the thing with alcohol, isn't it? So I knew I was one of those people. I knew I was susceptible to doing that a lot. And I just wanted to break the cycle. Break free!
RENA [00:07:32] What I really love about your account is, is the way that it focuses, like it says in the name, Things I Did Sober, it really focuses on the initial step that I think you need to take when you do start trying sobriety, whether it's a lifestyle overhaul or just and every now and then thing. But it's the act of doing something sober is so simple and yet it's so profound when you grow up like you say, like we did with teenage drinking and a binge drinking culture that we grew up with and then going into kind of uni years and that real emphasis on just getting wasted, basically.
RENA [00:08:14] And people think people might say, oh, well, it's obvious you can do things when you're sober. But I think we know from our own experience and we know friends who... You know, it's people that we love, but they can't imagine doing things without a drink, being in there somewhere. Yeah, go for a walk, then go to the pub afterwards and have a drink and do anything sober is so simple. But it's it's definitely like a really important part of the journey. And so to what extent do you think that people need to kind of try it out in order to see past the myth?
KATIE [00:08:49] I mean, certainly for me and I know for a lot of people, my weekend would be centred around alcohol. So it'd be like, well, we'll do this, but then we'll get a drink. So it almost prevents you from being fully present because you're doing something and you're not actually letting yourself enjoy it because the final destination is actually get wasted in the pub. It's something I didn't even realise until I started working on my own. I did a lot of journaling around alcohol and my habits. And once I start to delve into that, I was like, whoa, I've been in this trap. It's a trap with alcohol that I hadn't been aware of until I'd taken a step back. So, yeah, that was quite a big realisation.
KATIE [00:09:34] And then going back to what you said about the smaller steps, that is the way that I would suggest people do it is like just start really small, start with a really simple win that you can celebrate. Like it might just be all you go to your mates and a few other people are drinking. You decide not to drink. I mean, I know certainly if there's anyone lesson that hasn't done it, I know like relating it back to what I feel is like I became very aware of certain things that I maybe hadn't been aware of.
[00:10:04] I think everyone to a little degree has got a bit of social anxiety. So you become aware of like, oh, I feel a bit uncomfortable in this situation, or I would have used alcohol as a crutch to dissolve whatever I'm feeling in this situation. And it doesn't really do those things. It's just we've convinced ourselves in our minds that it does. So then it becomes [a crutch] and then that's how the cycle just carries on. It's just doing something really small and really simple. I would say, like, you know, like go into a pal's.
KATIE [00:10:35] The night out is the big one, isn't it? That's the the big one that I think people are nervous that they'll just never be able to master. But it's totally possible. But yeah, [00:10:49]I would say start small, fill your weekends with boozeless activities like nice meals, long walk, do a bit of exercise, hang out with a dog that's always a winner. You don't need to be drunk to hang out with a dog and just start to kind of find joy in life outside of booze. And I think that's what helped me to pull myself out of it, was seeing the world without my being tinted goggles on. [26.5s]
RENA [00:11:16] I can so definitely relate to that. You obviously know my twin brother, Niall, who gave up drinking for a couple of years back when we were at uni, I remember at the time it felt quite radical because that was an age when we were all so self-conscious and we were all chasing that party high and wanting to be popular and liked and everything else that's going on in your early 20s.
RENA [00:11:46] But I remember him talking about how when you go on a night out, it's really hard at the beginning of the night because you have that social anxiety where you want one, but then that fades and you're OK again. And then I would add to that that there's another point where everyone starts repeating themselves. And, you know that bit where everyone gets really hammered and you think, "actually I think I'm going to go now. That's me done". But actually, it's kind of fine because you've got what you needed out of the night and, you know, everything's fine. Would you?
KATIE [00:12:19] Oh, it's like, yeah, you've got what you want out of the night. And I think that's what's a shock. You know, you're like, "oh, I'm going to just I think I might head off now!" I certainly realised that I didn't stay in situations longer than I perhaps needed to. My energy levels felt way less drained than they had done when I was drinking all the time because I was in that cycle. And it would be like, I can't just have one. I've had five now. And the conversation is good. You know, you feel like you're having a really good time. And a lot of the time, two, three drinks, you are having a really good time. But it's then it'll be like ten o'clock. You wanted to go home because you had something big to do the next day and it'll just escalate. And before you know it, it's like 2:00 a.m. and you're in a cab to Soho like "whoo!". But, you know, the next day it just doesn't feel like it was worth it. And it also wasn't something that you really wanted to do.
KATIE [00:13:16] [00:13:16]So I always felt like my energy was really drained, like I was running on depleted energy all the time, A, because I was hungover all the time, but B, because I wasn't living the way that I wanted to. I'd have an idea in my head and then alcohol would come along and it would have its own plans to make me stay out longer. I mean, it wasn't alcohol, it was me. But, you know, we worked together. I would end up just like overstaying places and what alcohol does, sometimes you overshare or you do something silly or there's all sorts of things that come with being super drunk. You end up just like doing you building and being quite comfortable. It's just like, oh, well, it's 10 pm now. I'm a bit tired. I'm going to head off. If I had a few drinks, I would have been like, Oh, everyone's going to hate me if I leave early. It's like no one really cares. Like everyone's on their own vibe. Anyway, sobriety is kind of giving me that.... I've taken back that kind of power, which is just like, oh, I'm just going to do my own thing and really, like no one's that bothered. [63.1s] But I feel like we build stuff up in our head that makes us feel that they will be.
RENA [00:14:24] Which I think is part of the really interesting things about sobriety in general. And it leads really nicely into my next question, which is, you know, when I stopped drinking, I noticed a lot of things changed in my life. But what for you was the biggest change when you started doing things sober?
KATIE [00:14:41] I would say the change in me was one of the biggest things. Certainly in early sobriety, I was really evaluating what was in my life, what served me and what didn't really serve me any more. It been a gradual process with stopping taking drugs and then stopping drinking heavily and then getting to a stage where I really could limit my drinking. So it was a gradual process. But I mean, it was I was kind of like grieving for the party girl, kind of saying goodbye to that part of my life and also working out how I could keep some of the things that I loved in my life but do it in this new way. Now, I was sober. So how can I go to gigs still and furiously Googling like day parties in London so I wouldn't have to stay up past like ten pm. But letting go of certain things that I'd done in my really boozy days and bringing them back in a way that was more fitting with my current lifestyle. So that was a big change.
KATIE [00:15:47] And then naturally, you know, you won't see certain friends that you saw as much if they were big drinkers just because they'll be in the pub. You might want to pop in and say hi, but you certainly won't be sat there for like ten hours like you were previously. That's quite a biggie is understanding that people will kind of come and go from your life. I think I've been quite lucky in the sense that a lot of my pals, even though I might not sit and go on a bender with them now the love is there and they'll always be in my life and I'll be able to see them in other ways, but [00:16:21]does kind of tip everything on its head a little bit like a. So I've got all this time, I feel great, I'm not hungover, but all my mates are in the pub, what am I going to do? [10.9s]
[00:16:33] [00:16:33]You know, it's just trying to it's a lot of self-evaluation, I would say [3.9s] a lot of kind of, you know, walks and really digging, digging in deep into your own soul and thinking about this, like, newfound kind of sense that you've got. [00:16:50]It's like, whoa, this is what the world looks like when I'm not hung over and dying every weekend. [6.9s]
RENA [00:17:03] I think there's a lot of myths about alcoholism and alcoholism, looks like and people have this cartoon idea of alcoholics are these people inside bedsits who drink gin at nine a.m. on a Tuesday morning. You know what I mean? They don't associate it with, you know, just normal everyday life. And of course, there are people who unfortunately find themselves in really extreme situations and their life really is dictated by alcohol. And it can get to a very serious stage. But I think that alcoholism has a lot of different forms. And I think it's really interesting what you were saying about friends as well. And did you find that people got self-conscious around you with their own drinking?
KATIE [00:17:47] Well, I think I've been really lucky in my experience that people have been really supportive. But I know when I was drinking a lot that I mean, I think I was one of the people that would be like, "go on, have a drink". Even if someone said that they didn't want to. It's hard to tell whether or not me abstaining from alcohol made other people feel self-conscious. But that's something that I find found really difficult about sobriety was I didn't want anyone to think that it was about them or anything that they had done or their lifestyle choices, because there's no way that I would judge or ever be in a position to judge anyone. It's really just about the individual person that's wanting to make a change for whatever reason that is.
KATIE [00:18:39] And as you say, we do all have this image of someone like on the streets drinking. And it's like actually alcoholism is real and it's so normalised that people are probably like, this is kind of normal, isn't it, to have, like I say, like a or two bottle of wine a night if we share it and we have it with dinner and as a society - and the alcohol industry, of course, has to take some you know... They chuck billions and billions of pounds in advertising. But as a society, we've got to take some responsibility for the fact that we are always pushing it in everyone's faces. Any occasion is marked by alcohol, and I can't really work out what came first, whether we as humans start doing that or whether the alcohol industry that's got billions and billions of pounds. Oh, it's a birthday. Have a drink. It's this. Have a drink.
KATIE [00:19:30] I mean, [00:19:31]I didn't have anyone say, oh, that's making me feel really uncomfortable that you're not drinking. But I can certainly imagine that it was felt. So I always just tried my best to just well, I didn't have to try. I was just myself. Any kind of funny feelings people have about it. I think it does dissolve as they see you a couple of times sober. And it's just like, oh, I kind of just normal. And they're just as they were. And, you know, I can still be silly. You know, people can still be silly and fun when they're sober. I think that helps when they see that like you're not this weird. I don't know what I don't know what people think you're going to be like like some sort of weird robot that doesn't drink anymore and doesn't want to have any fun, [41.4s] but it's not the truth!
RENA [00:20:15] Yeah, no, I can definitely relate to that. I definitely know what you mean about how some friendships changed and evolved because of the lifestyle choice that I've made or whatever and it sounds like it was the same for you. But then it does settle down, doesn't it? And as time goes on, they just get used to like, oh, that's that's you. I don't know if you found this, but I found it more difficult actually not with my good friends, but with like colleagues and people that I knew quite well, but who weren't proper friends. And they would be a bit more like trying to get me to drink or insinuating that I wasn't being fun, I wasn't being part of the gang by having a drink.
KATIE [00:20:58] Definitely. I mean, you do just get used to it. It just becomes the normal life. But I'm always shocked, like people are genuinely gobsmacked, like you say, more like acquaintances or colleagues or whatever. So I went round to some lovely friends of ours to their house for dinner. So it was two couples and us, as a couple, and then another couple that I hadn't met before. And it was such a lush night, we were just chatting and we had dinner and those guys were drinking, but I wasn't drinking, but it wasn't even really a thing.
KATIE [00:21:33] And then the guy from the couple was wanting to make this like drink. It was lager and some sort of spirit. And he was like, "oh, my God, it tastes like Dr. Pepper!" So I'm thinking, "oh, my God, like that sounds rank", but OK. But anyway, he was such a lovely person, but he was just dead set on making everyone this drink. And I was like, "oh no, I'm not that keen". You don't have to launch into the story. So I was just like, "I'm not really that keen. I think I'm going to give it a miss". And he was just like, "what!?".
KATIE [00:22:07] He wasn't mean about it. He just genuinely could not believe that I didn't want to drink this, like, wild concoction of lager and whatever spirit it was, it was just like, "what? No, surely - like surely just one!" And I just think it blew his mind that someone would just not want to do that. It shows even this far into my journey with it like which is still a very fresh new journey, some people have been sober for like forty five years or whatever, but it shows how ingrained into our culture.
RENA [00:22:42] Yeah. Sometimes it surprises you how much they are surprised that you wouldn't want to drink kind of thing. And it's funny isn't it when you meet people who then only know you as a sober person because you kind of like, "listen honey, like, oh my God..." But it's funny. I met my partner now, like after I stopped drinking and he's never in any way sort of pressured me to have a drink or anything like that.
KATIE [00:23:14] That's brilliant.
RENA [00:23:15] And he's not a big drinker himself, which is interesting because I always dated drinkers before - not in a conscious way, but I think you just end up with people who are similar to you. But it's nice that he's somebody who has never... he never gets wasted or anything. But he was surprised, though, when it was coming up to my 30th birthday and he asked me if I was going to have a drink. And I said, "well, no, I'm not." Because for me, it just I don't know. Even though it was my 30th birthday, by then, I felt completely in control that I didn't feel like doing that to celebrate that moment. If I had've done, I'm sure I would have had one. When I first went sober, there were one or two times when I maybe had a glass of champagne to join in with Christmas or something, when I did feel like it. But in that I knew that I just wasn't into it around that time. I didn't say it in a way that made me feel pressured or anything. He was just surprised that I wouldn't at least have one. And again, it just shows how ingrained it is and what saying no to alcohol means.
KATIE [00:24:20] Totally. Yeah, it's that thing, [00:24:23]it's like, oh, well, there's an occasion, so you will mark it with alcohol. This occasion cannot pass without alcohol! And I'm not sure where that came from, whether it was the alcohol industry or whether we just started doing it as something fun because it can be really fun and then it just stuck. But it's literally everything. It's like, oh, you're sad - drink; you're happy! Drink. And I think that that's when it gets dangerous, isn't it? Well, that's when, you know, it is a dangerous point now because it's like, OK, so every single mood we drink, when do we give ourselves a break? When do we abstain and let our bodies just thrive naturally as they are? [39.8s]
KATIE [00:25:06] But it's quite funny going back to what you said about, you know, when you're like, "listen, honey." You know when I meet people now? I sort of think like, do they think I'm a square? Like, do they think I'm a bit of a, like, sober nerd? Yeah, totally. It's like, should we just dig up the archives and just, like, get the old pics out? If I gatecrasher when we were like, I don't know, 16!
RENA [00:25:26] Yeah definitely! But by the same token, if you them I found though sometimes I'll say something like, "oh yeah, that time I was really wasted" or I will mention it and then people are a bit like, oh God"". Like I don't know, I think I was talking about this work trip that I did a few years ago where we were drinking every night of the hangovers, just kind of like layered on top of one another. And I think I said something like that to somebody and they kind of were a bit like as if I'd admitted that I was one of those cartoon alcoholics, you know what I mean? It's like people are there, like they can't imagine you just being normal. It's one or the other, you know, you're the square sober person or...
KATIE [00:26:08] Yes! There's no in between in people's minds and I found that as well as like new people that I meet. Oh, do they think that? And I'm like, oh, do they think that I was like a really bad problem, which luckily I'm grateful that I didn't have a really bad problem and I genuinely didn't feel that I was addicted to alcohol, but I was definitely socially addicted to it. And it had worked its way right into my life, you know, in the kind of spot that it was. And but luckily, I didn't have this terrible addiction.
KATIE [00:26:44] But I think people like you say they cannot... Some people kind of understand why you would abstain if it hadn't come to this... Like, so what we need to wait until we're like on the streets, having lost everything and addicted. That's the only time we should really, like, not drink. You know, that's what baffles me about the whole thing is like, when are we going to question what we've always done and just maybe change on our heads and mix it up a little bit.
RENA [00:27:15] 100%. It's interesting about how my twin brother quit, because I feel quite lucky in that my parents brought us up to be independent thinkers, you know, there's things that we do or we don't do in our family that other people just do. For example, like we grew up without a TV and in the 90s, that was like a big deal. Like that's like not having the Internet now.
KATIE [00:27:40] That's huge! That's pretty radical!
RENA [00:27:45] At the time I hated it, but now I'm really pleased because it's like it showed us that you don't have to do things just because everyone else does them. And I think around alcohol, this definitely this idea that you do it because that's what you do, because everyone does it. Do you know what I mean? And I think that that comes a time in your life where you have to - I think it's maybe part of growing up - but I think everyone can benefit from a little bit of independent thinking and not just doing things just because everyone else does them.
RENA [00:28:21] To you, to what extent is it about confidence - is not drinking about confidence?
KATIE [00:28:28] Well, you've definitely got to delve deep and find your own confidence to be able to do it because it's big, it's big in a society that's obsessed with alcohol. It's definitely a bold move. Bold moves do require a certain amount of confidence.
KATIE [00:28:48] So certainly for me, I don't often come across as a shy person, but I can be really shy in certain situations. And I had convinced myself that alcohol had given me this kind of Dutch courage that I needed to be funny and be silly and be hilarious. Alcohol kind of tricks you into thinking that you need all these things to do all this stuff and you really don't. Yeah, I think that it's something that grows with time as well. Certainly I felt super shaky and again, like I said earlier, really aware of a lot of stuff that was going on when I first went out. And it was quite overwhelming, but it was quite cool. It was like, "oh, this is what it's like to just not be blind drunk when everyone else is!" So it was like these new feels, which was cool.
KATIE [00:29:35] And then, like you say, people ask a lot of questions to begin with. And then when they see that you just yourself, you know, good pals will be grateful to be hanging out regardless of whether you're drunk or not. And then as that starts to happen, the confidence just really grows, I think. As you're more confident in what you're doing, other people are just like, well, that's cool. They did that for them. And, you know, that's a cool thing.
RENA [00:30:05] And what about in other aspects of your life, or rather I'm thinking about not even just on a night-out level, but on an everyday, ongoing, long-term level, do you think taking alcohol out of your life or massively reducing the amount that you drink; has that affected your confidence in the long term, do you think?
KATIE [00:30:26] Yeah, definitely. Generally, I feel so much more calm without booze again, because we're all -well, [00:30:34]I was certainly in a cycle with it. I just thought the hangovers would go. It started off with this kind of like one line, which was "I don't want to feel like this anymore", which was when I was hungover. You know, quite quickly I realised that so much more came alongside not boozing than just not hangovers. Like it really does affect every other area of your life. And so, yeah, I just feel so calm. I know, like, we were texting earlier and I was just like, it's New Year's Eve and I feel so calm and just chilled and it feels really good [37.6s] .
KATIE [00:31:13] I think it's been a really turbulent year. But I do feel really grateful that I personally haven't drunk through it because I know I would just be feeling shaky and jittery and just, you know, drinking a lot made me just not really feel like myself. So I think that kind of calmness has this huge ripple effect over everything that you do in life. Yeah, because I think not boozing does require an element.... It does require a lot of confidence.
KATIE [00:31:44] So then I do feel like I've been able to take that into other parts of my life, which is super cool. I didn't think that it would be this. I knew it would be life changing. I had a feeling it would be life changing because it's a big thing. But I certainly don't think that I realised the true extent of like. How just chilled I was going to feel. Chilled and not hungover. Man, what what a dream!
RENA [00:32:09] It totally is. And what sort of makes me laugh is that when you are big into parties and big into going out and getting wasted or whatever, you're chasing a kind of confidence. Aren't you sort of doing this, like you described it before, as Dutch courage. We're all familiar with that feeling, but it's like, you know, that phrase getting high on your own supply about drug dealers taking their own drugs. But actually, you get high on your own supply of like endorphins. The confidence you have.... And this this isn't meant to sound smug or anything because it's more just like this incredible discovery that I feel like I made, and it sounds like you might as well when you realise that you've actually had it in you the whole time. And alcohol was drowning it out!
KATIE [00:32:58] Oh, my God. Absolutely. Yeah. It's like, alcohol is tricking us to thinking that we need it to become the best version of ourselves, but we know how to do that, really, I think deep down we know how to do it, and I think it's hard sometimes it requires some difficult self work. It can sometimes require therapy, journaling, really putting the work in and really, you know, getting to dig in deep to the soul, which I keep saying. But it does feel true. That's quite tough and challenging work sometimes. So I know certainly for me it was much easier to ignore what I felt that I needed to do, that was going to be hard and pick up a glass and just become a fun version of myself and dance around and be a bit of an idiot, which was great a lot of the time. Most of the time it was great, but it was preventing me from doing the work that I felt I really needed to do on myself. You know that digging deep, it requires a certain level of patience that I don't think I really had when I was drinking because my vision was a bit clouded by hangovers and when I was next going to go out boozing. It brought a lot of clarity.
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RENA [00:35:33] You talk on your account about self acceptance, there was a post you made the other day, you're enough without alcohol, something that people have said to me about drinking. And it's not to say often at all, but it has come up a couple of times. Somebody at work said to me, "I don't like myself enough not to drink", and it kind of broke my heart when she said it because she is an amazing person and she shouldn't have that...
KATIE [00:36:01] She didn't want to face up to herself.
RENA [00:36:03] Exactly. Have you experienced something like that in your journey of self acceptance and getting to know yourself? I mean, you were talking before about patience. Was that was that part of your journey and was it hard to learn?
KATIE [00:36:17] Oh, absolutely. And I think everyone has a bit of that, that self acceptance is hard. It's hard work, sometimes. When we're younger, all sorts of different messages are given to you, and that's when you're at the most susceptible age for drinking, I feel. And I think that's definitely where I fell into it quite heavily, was that I didn't really know who I was. You know, what am I going to do at uni? You've got all these huge questions thrown at you when you're young. Like "who? Who are you going to be?".
KATIE [00:36:48] I think it did spiral from that self acceptance and not really knowing how to get to a place where I was comfortable just being who I was without alcohol. It's so strange because like when were kids, kids have the best time ever, they're all just having a wicked time on, like, bouncy castles, doing fun stuff like, I don't know, like running through fields and just loving life. And it's actually like we've still got that in us. But suddenly when you get to a teenager, you meant to become an adult. And that means like you drink and you smoke cigarettes and you try and act to really cool. And it's like, no, I want to go back to being a kid and just doing the fun stuff!
KATIE [00:37:35] For me it's like the self acceptance that I've got now is realising that actually there's a big kid still totally trapped in me that still wants to do loads of silly things like, you know, activities that are like silly and fun when you're not boozing. You know, adulting is not necessarily being in a pub talking. That is a fun part of adult thing sometimes. But for me, accepting the a big part of like the kid that was in me had been sort of shut down and ignored by doing a lot of boozing. You might feel a bit more calm when you drink, but it numbs so much out for me, it numbed so much out of my personality that I'm grateful I've been able to let that shine through in sobriety.
RENA [00:38:26] But I think it's true. And I think you touched on this earlier when you were talking about, what came first? Was it people's desire to drink or was it people wanting to make money out of people's desire to drink, and we grew up at a time when alcohol companies were launching alcopops or they had just launched alcopops. Which was a really cynical attempt by the drinks industry to monetise the drinking of very young people. And I mean, of course, they would say, oh, we're targeting 18 year olds. But I think everyone at the time knew that actually it was 13 year olds and 14 year olds like us would be buying them, and getting people to buy them for them. And the really unethical side of it, where you're getting people who were actually underage. And appealing to kids really, and hooking them on early.
RENA [00:39:15] And I think we have to recognise - for me - we have to recognise that we live in a world where like big business is allowed to sort of rule people's lives and exploit people and people's desires, in order to make money. And it applies to so many products. I mean, that's what I really loved about your post, you're enough without alcohol, because actually we're enough without a lot of the products that we are told that we need. We are enough.
RENA [00:39:45] And it's quite a radical thing in today's world where we are sold things at every opportunity. I mean, the amount of social media we consume, we see more adverts than any generation before us, we're sold to all the time. So saying "actually I'm enough without this", and especially a product which, without going into the... You know, we both had a great time with alcohol. And I'm not saying that it's all evil at all, but it is a substance which causes a lot of harm to people and can clearly destroy people.
KATIE [00:40:20] Yeah, and it's funny, isn't it? Because we're trying to get confidence from alcohol. Yet it can completely destroy your self-confidence and gets you trapped in a place where you feel like you really need it. But actually, I didn't feel like I could go anywhere else other than just stay in this place where I'm just boozing and, yeah, it goes back to saying that I didn't realise how much was sort of centred around alcohol and how freeing it would be stopping doing it.
KATIE [00:40:49] But yeah, and you're so right, I mean, to feel to be able to feel enough without anything that's being thrown at us in this, you know... It's not just this day and age, really. It's been forever since advertising was invented. But certainly on Instagram now where we're seeing like, I don't know, if you scroll, it's like two hundred images a minute or something. So our brains can't compete with this. We're not designed to see that many images. And certainly it is a bit worrying about all the like the messages you're seeing and not really... It's subliminally going into your mind, you know, like makeup and fillers and Botox and all the things that are really affecting the younger generation, like everyone wants to look like a Snapchat filter, and it's so scary, all of that.
KATIE [00:41:49] So I think if my account could empower someone to actually start to go on that journey where they think about themselves and what is it that they rely on to feel confident... And when I start to look at my crutches; so cigarettes, one of my crutches and alcohol was definitely a crutch, so were drugs, I was like, "OK, I'm going to have to do some pretty tough work here to get to the bottom of..." to really realise what these what I felt these were bringing to my life and certainly what I was trying to mask and cover up that I didn't want to feel. And I think on Instagram, social media has got its downsides.
KATIE [00:42:28] But I definitely think there's this wave of people on social media that are really taking back that power. And just like they're not wearing makeup all the time. They're not done up all the time. And and I think that all of the social media platforms, that's something really beautiful to come out of it. The big corporations behind them are pretty questionable a lot of the time. But I think there's definitely a wave of people that are really realising that. Yeah, you know, like we we are enough as we are and that super cool.
RENA [00:43:05] You know, I think social media has evolved a lot since. I mean, Instagram, for one, is evolved a lot since it first launched. And I think more and more there's people who are setting up accounts like yours or who are putting out a much more consciously positive message and using it for social good, rather than everyone posting selfies and trying to look like a certain ideal or, it just being kind of this sort of advertising space.
RENA [00:43:36] I love your account and I think that by posting up these stories, like you say, I think it is the kind of thing that will inspire people. And I hope that with this podcast as well, somebody listens to it who is maybe curious about it, was thinking about it, or maybe even previously thought, "ah I could never do that," I should definitely take away the idea that they can try it.
RENA [00:44:04] The campaign dry January was launched by Alcohol Change UK in 2013, when they think about 4,000 people took part. Apparently this year, record numbers of people wanting to take part in it, about 6.5 million people.
KATIE [00:44:23] Wow, isn't that so cool!?
RENA [00:44:24] Which is huge. And it's up it's even up from - so last year they think about four million people took part. So it's already even a big jump compared to last year. You obviously launched Things I Did Sober in the summer time, which is interesting because I quit drinking in the summer as well. But had you ever tried Dry January before?
KATIE [00:44:44] I love that. I love that it's snowballed. It's gone from like 4,000 to 6.5 million. I think it's brilliant. I think it goes back to what we were just seen in the previous question. It's like people are just starting to question stuff. That's what it comes down to. Oh, why have I always done this? And really looking at what serves them and what doesn't. And [00:45:07]even if they just try it for a month, I think it's a brilliant reset. I think it's a good way to start the year with a clear head. So, yeah, I'm all for Dry January. I love that. I think it is great that people that even do go back to drinking in February. I just think it really gives them a taste of what sober lifestyle is like and it's brilliant. [21.1s]
KATIE [00:45:29] So for me, I had tried Dry January before. I mean, I tried and failed a good few years, like, you know, really failed. Like I said I'm not going to drink. And then by the fourth was just fully on it. And then, of course, my drinking mentality would be like, "oh, well, I've fallen off the wagon now. I'm going to go extra hard in January, and go like anti-dry January.
KATIE [00:45:52] You know, it was like I don't know if I resented it. I just felt like I'd set these constraints in my mind that I wasn't the sort of person that would be able to do dry January. You know, all that's for people that.... I don't know, I just felt it wasn't for me, I'd made my mind up that it wasn't for me, and I think that alcohol's got a huge part to play in that. That's what it kind of does. It keeps you thinking that you're not a person that would ever be able to do it.
KATIE [00:46:21] Actually, two guys that I worked with, at Kerrang!, one guy was sober when he joined, and I was just totally inspired by that. I mean, he's a really cool guy. And I was just like, that's so cool. So I'd ask him questions about it. And then there was another guy that used to go, used to do dry January and then just carry it on til like April and go dry for four months. And again, I was just like, "what!?".
KATIE [00:46:46] I mean, like to me that was like it was just huge, you know, like this is coming from and I'm sure you'll do the same. Someone that hadn't actually been sober for a long stint since they were about 14, 15 years old. I spent Christmas dry for the first time this year and realised that I hadn't been dry on Christmas Day with no alcohol for 17 years. I was like, "oh my, this is a long time!".
KATIE [00:47:13] Yeah, [00:47:13]I tried dry Jan and failed. So I would say to anyone that's tried and fails, that's totally normal. If you really interested in dabbling with sobriety and learning more about it and getting more involved, just keep trying. You know, don't don't stop trying to do it, whether it's in January or whether it's later on down the line. But I think January is that good reset time, isn't it? [27.4s] I mean, I don't have any New Year's resolutions, actually, but I think it's that time when it's like the indulgence of Christmas and New Year, you just kind of want to wipe the slate clean. So I'm all for it. I love it. Good old Alcohol Change, I think it's brilliant.
RENA [00:47:58] Yeah, I agree. I think it's really good. And yeah, like I say, I think the first time I ever did sobriety was with a dry January, although I have to say I found it very hard and I do think to anyone who struggled. I do think it's a lot to do it in the middle of winter. I have to say. Because it's so dark and miserable! I do feel like if anybody's failed in January, I'd encourage them to try again when it's a bit warmer and it's a bit more light. You don't have to only do it in January because actually it's quite a tough slog, isn't it? Doing it in January.
KATIE [00:48:38] Well, the summer is fun because you can get outdoors. And I feel like you can you can do stuff and it's easier to not have a drink in your hand. Getting outdoors and walking and appreciating nature played a huge part in the earlier days when. It was more of a struggle, really rely on nature to kind of come through and just make me feel a bit more chill, and it definitely did. [00:49:02]So, yeah, try in the summer, try to, like, just just try it whenever, like like, you know, like I said, I think just just don't give up trying if it's something that you really want to do. [9.7s]
RENA [00:49:19] It wasn't like one day you just said, right, I'm never drinking again, and then you never had a drink after that. It's been a journey and it's been a process. For you, to what extent do we have to be careful with perfectionism? Because I feel that in the wellness community and within the actual community, but also what people think about the community is that they think, "oh, if you're not doing it perfectly, what's the point of even trying? It's almost worse to get it wrong than to just not bother", you know what I mean? Whereas, to what extent is it about finding your own path with it?
KATIE [00:49:58] That that resonates so much! Earlier when we were talking about starting the account, I can't remember if it what it was when we were recording or not, but I was saying that I definitely felt some apprehension to post, to create the account. And I've actually had some kind of like months off here and there on the account. And the reason being is because originally when I started it, I'd felt like, what will the sober community think if I'm going to just break this and want to have a glass for a wedding or this or that. So there was definitely some worry from my side: "Well, I'm going to have to be completely sober now because I've done this." And that was more about me really than other people.
KATIE [00:50:46] But definitely everyone's feeling that... This level of perfectionism, that's just crazy. I look at some accounts and I'm like, "you must be killing yourself to to hold that up, to create that much content". But it's great. I love all the content and they're doing them and good for them, and people seem happy. [00:51:04]But it's like, you know, this level of perfectionism that we have to feel that we feel we have to withhold. I think it's about finding what's right for you. You know, every every individual has different needs and they have different triggers and different things that work for them. So. For me, I have got to a place where I feel that I could drink for one night and then I would literally I just wouldn't drink again for like another four, six months. And I'll be cool with that. [33.0s]
KATIE [00:51:39] But it's like you said, it is getting to a stage with me where I'm like, do I really want to anymore? The desire to do it does fade away. [00:51:48]The more you do it, you just crave it less. And that's another thing that I would say to people is it does get much easier. It's suddenly just becomes the norm. And you couldn't you don't crave an ice cold beer on a sunny day. You want a nice lime soda. And, even if someone listening can't ever imagine getting to that stage like you will, because, I mean, I did. And I'm sure you would've done the same. Yeah, it's just about finding what works for you. [27.4s]
KATIE [00:52:16] [00:52:16]For me, I didn't ever want to hold myself to I will never drink again because I didn't feel that I needed to do that. It's really that simple is that I didn't feel I needed to do it. So it would just be like "I will drink if I want to". And actually what I found is that that's very little now. You know, it's once in a blue moon, so, yeah, it's just about finding what works for you if it's like every other want to do every other weekend, whereas you were doing it every weekend, just start small with these things and it spirals and then you get into a groove, don't you know? [39.4s]
RENA [00:52:56] Definitely. And actually, it's it's funny because when I started, I only quit for a month and then it just sort of spiralled and it just evolved. And like you say, I decided to start drinking again when I wanted to. But that day never came. You know, it became like, this is my life now and I'm like you, I think I was quite scared of the idea. "You may never have a drink again". I found that really scary.
RENA [00:53:32] You mentioned earlier, and I totally agree with this, that you would have found lockdown really hard if you had been drinking, it would have been a completely different experience. Did lockdown affect your sobriety at all? Or did you already feel quite comfortable and established in your routine?
KATIE [00:53:50] Yeah, I think I mean, it would have been a totally different ball game had I been drinking. It didn't kind of shake my sobriety that much. I feel the hard work was over the last couple of years, really, and now I feel in a good place with it. And it feels really good to be able to say this for now because things can change. But I just don't turn to alcohol when times are difficult anymore. Whereas I used to, I used to have a hard day and go out for a few and that was how I coped with it all. I'd be like, well, we'll have a big weekend, you know, I need this big weekend because X, Y, Z.
KATIE [00:54:27] Because I know how hard it's been for people over lockdown. I think a lot of my friends have been quite open and honest about it and just been like, well, we would just crack and open the window like 3:00 PM because we weren't in the office, or we were on furlough or whatever. Yeah, I hope the wind crack it open the line at 3:00 p.m. when they were like on Zoom's - I bet people have been doing that though! But yeah, it just the boundaries just got a bit blurred, I think when everyone was at home and it just felt like, well, nothing's normal, so I'll just kind of drink my way through it. So I do feel lucky that I wasn't in that headspace because I think it's difficult.
KATIE [00:55:06] It's been like nine, ten months now, hasn't it, that we've been at home. And I think it's quite hard to shake those habits once they kind of feel a bit set there. I think I might have had a gin and tonic on, you know, when we went through the quiz phase of Zoom's. That was cute, wasn't it? I think I had a gin and tonic. I mean, honestly, I can't even remember. It must have been like... Because I'm used to it and I'm sure you the same. You just totally used to not drinking. And I'm like, I'm quite shocked that I've only had one drink, but I just don't really think about it anymore. It's just the norm!
RENA [00:55:43] Honestly, what I couldn't get over as well is how many other things it changes in your life. Do you know what I mean? Because I really feel like there's a mark in my life between before and after that decision. You know, as I said before, was not one decision that I made on one day. It sort of evolved over a couple of months. But somebody was asking me the other day about what skincare products I use. And I listed them off. And they were like, oh, that's actually quite a lot. And I was like, do you know what? I never used to wash my face. Basically, I used to be really bad at taking my makeup off. And to be honest, I'd be very lucky if I managed to brush my teeth before I went to bed. But when I stopped drinking, that was one of the things that I just have the headspace for. And it's just built up from there. So now I've got this like eight steps we have to do every night.
KATIE [00:56:34] And I love that! It it creates room, doesn't it? I really feel it creates room for me to become the sort of person that I'd wanted to be, perhaps that I couldnt, you know, and that sounds quite like deep and profound, but it's kind of true. Like that's kind of wating on the other side of a more sober lifestyle, I would say. You're going to be presented with a lot of time, depending on how heavy you drink if you're not a heavy drinker, you're just going to maybe not have a hangover every now and again, but if you're a heavy drinker, it's just going to create this room in your life for whatever you want to put there and what you want to focus on. And like you say, it could be the eight step skincare routine that's waiting or it could be something totally different. It's just like it creates this amazing room, I think, for you to be something different or be more of what you want it to be, whatever that is?
RENA [00:57:40] No, definitely. It's the single biggest thing that changed my life, definitely. If people have been struggling under lockdown, I mean, I don't believe in only resetting at this time of year. As I said before, I think you can reset any time you want. But I think if people are curious about it, just take a chance and reset now and see what happens, because I'm sure that now that we are at home more, that extra time and extra energy is going to be really helpful for people, basically.
KATIE [00:58:11] Yeah, I love that. Take a chance on a more sober lifestyle and see how you feel. Really start to notice your energy levels and your thoughts and kind of let it come through and see what happens and you're right. I mean, we need energy more than ever. Let's be real. Whatever we're going to face in 2021 having plenty of energy and being fit and healthy is more important than it's ever been considered. There's a global pandemic. Yeah. Just just go for it. I would say if you thinking about it, just go for it. There's lots of content online. There's a huge sober community on Instagram certainly. I'm sure it's the same on Facebook, although I'm not on that platform as much and read some quit literature that really helped me is like read the books. And, you know, a lot of people have kind of paved the way and had their journeys that you can read about and it really helps.
RENA [00:59:11] How can people find your account? How can people support what you do?
KATIE [00:59:15] Well, I live on Instagram, so that's the main platform that I'm on. And the handle is @thingsIdidsober. So you can find me there.
RENA [00:59:27] Can you name any single book or a couple of books or films or documentaries or anything that really inspired you in your journey that people can check out?
KATIE [00:59:37] Oh, my God, yes. So my favourite book is by Catherine Grey, and it's called The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober. I mean, it changed my life. It changed the way I viewed a sober lifestyle. And I really resonated with a lot of Catherine's story because she was working in London and going to all the free parties that I'm sure you did when you first moved to London. You know, there's free booze everywhere you turn. And the story really resonated with me and certainly how much alcohol I was drinking at one point.
KATIE [01:00:12] And reading that book really made me see that there's there's a big kid trapped in us that wants to kind of break free and just do some fun stuff and she made me realise that there was a world kind of waiting out there without alcohol that I hadn't seen because it just been clouded by alcohol and bad decisions. So definitely check out Catherine Grey because she's amazing. And she also does I think she does The Unexpected Joy of Being Single. And she's got a couple of other books that I've heard are all incredible.
[01:00:48] Bryony Gordon is a great one. She's got a new book out about her sobriety [Glorious Rock Bottom]. And Holly Whitaker has got a book. I can't remember the name [Quit Like a Woman], but they're all great. Yeah, there's loads and there's loads of sober accounts. I do really feel like that's really helped me, just reading other people's accounts and being like, yes, I totally agree with that. It really helps to know that you're not alone in your thinking or the way you're feeling about your drinking.
RENA [01:01:21] I guess I don't really follow any other accounts apart from yours, but I definitely had that experience reading your posts, even though I'd started on my journey a little bit before you. I guess so. Certainly before you started publishing on Instagram about it.
KATIE [01:01:35] Definitely - you were one of my sober inspirations! You were, I remember we met in because it was one of our friends birthdays and we met and everyone was having cocktails. And you were like, "I'm just not drinking for a bit", you know, like. You were keeping it casual and it was really good, like that was inspirational in itself, it wasn't like, "I'm never going to drink again." You was just like, "yeah, I'm not drinking". And I was just remember, I was asking loads of questions. I was just like, OK, so, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and asking you all this stuff about it because I just couldn't.... It was a new concept to me. "Oh, people just don't drink because they just don't fancy it. What is this madness?"
RENA [01:02:25] And because it was December as well. So, again, sort of that...
KATIE [01:02:29] The heavy boozing!
RENA [01:02:29] It was going out and all that stuff. But it's interesting because I I've always been very conscious not to make anyone feel uncomfortable about my sobriety, if that makes sense. So I have always tried to be very careful about not appearing smug or anything. And I think that I've may be taken out too far in this podcast. Is the first time really that I'm properly talking about sobriety with somebody, whereas what I really loved about your account was that you then put into words a lot of the things that I've been thinking in private, but put it out there into the world for other people to be inspired by. So I think it's really great.
KATIE [01:03:15] Thank you so much. I'm very flattered that I'm the only sober account that you've chosen to follow. That's pretty cool. But yeah, I'm glad I'm glad you're talking about it as well. I'm so glad we can both sit here and discuss it in an open way that I really like, you say, I really hope it doesn't come across as judgemental or smug. I'm none of that, and neither are you. It's not about that. It's just about... It's kind of about self growth and self acceptance and... Just taking that first step to do something that's different to what you've always known. That's kind of it, isn't it? I'm glad we could have this chat. I think it is really cool. And I hope it's resonated with.... Even if it's resonated with one person, I think is great!
RENA [01:04:08] Definitely. Yeah, I hope so, too!
RENA [01:04:10] The books Kate recommends are the unexpected joy of Being Sober by Catherine Grey, Glorious Rock Bottom by Bryony Gordon and Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whittaker. You can find details in the show notes. And please remember to avoid Amazon and support your local bookshop. If you want to know why we recommend watching Ken Loach's film, Sorry We Missed You.
RENA [01:04:44] And have you got any final words to people who are thinking about making a start?
KATIE [01:04:49] You know, I hope that kind of listening to me and you talk about it really gives people a more well-rounded view of what it means to stop drinking, even if it's for a short amount of time. I would say that you'll surprise yourself with how much it'll affect your life by cutting back on alcohol, because it really is life changing. And you'll probably be surprised yourself by how strong you are and how, you know, once you get in the flow of it, how much easier it becomes and how much stronger and confident you feel. So I would say start small with with with a small win. Do something sober that you wouldn't have done so previously. Watch it snowball and see how you feel and let it grow from there and just go for it if you think about it, because life's really show, isn't it. It's too short to spend time over all the time.
RENA [01:05:45] I would say wise words to end there. That's brilliant. Thank you so much, Katie. Thank you for your time today!
KATIE [01:05:53] Ah Rena. It was an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for having me. Thanks.
RENA [01:06:09] Future Heist is recorded and produced by me, Rena Niamh Smith, with original music by Benjamin Tassi, artwork by flowback. Ben Weaver Hinks is our podcast consultant. You can find original illustrations for Future Heist by Charlotte Rose Watts on social media. Follow us @Future_Heist on Instagram and Twitter or feature his podcast on Facebook and YouTube. You can find a transcript for this episode on RenatheJournalist.com/podcast. Special thanks to Chloe Vasseghi. And if you like this episode, please subscribe and tell a friend.