My 10th Sober Summer

Audio version of post, written and read by Jean McCarthy

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Boy, it was hard to be sober that first summer. Everything felt weird and off. Backyard parties, camping, boating, outdoor meals, sporting events. I’d quit drinking in the spring so the new habits and confident replies had not quite fully manifested in time for summer socializing.

It wasn’t that I wanted to drink. It was just exhausting to constantly feel uncomfortable in the very drinky world. I’d quit quietly so the people around me weren’t aware that I was trying to do things differently. I now know they would likely have happily accommodated me, if I’d just asked.

I don’t have to think much about being alcohol-free any more. There is a secret to this, though, and it took me a while to figure it out.

I spent that first summer trying every mocktail and alcohol-free concoction I could get my hands on, trying to find the perfect substitute for wine but never feeling satisfied. It turns out that was the wrong approach.

What keeps me feeling satisfied and fulfilled now has very little to do with what’s in my glass (usually plain tonic water, by the way, or a flavoured bubble water; herbal tea at bedtime). It’s all the other comforts I take throughout the day, the little things I do for myself or make time for: a bit of creativity, a little extra time to read, a handful of chocolate chips, a run in the sunshine, chatting with a friend.

Here’s the funny part. I did those same things that first summer, but I didn’t absorb the joy they were offering. I did them and liked them but I still needed something in my glass, dammit.

It took time but the focus shifted.

One more thing to remember: sobriety means learning to socialize differently. It goes beyond the issue of what to drink or how to respond if offered alcohol. This might include making a brief appearance and ducking out early, or graciously declining an invite altogether. Asking a friend to go for a morning walk instead of evening drinks. (Many of these strategies are covered in my UnPickled Holiday Survival Guide relating to the festive season, and applies year round.)

Summer 2020 has been extra quiet and contemplative, but I am okay with that for now. I’m enjoying writing books and promoting my recent release, walking my aging dog (the one I bought online while drunk in 2010, she’s getting on), listening to the new Taylor Swift album on heavy rotation, helping my son with his garden, learning to use my new instant pot, and having occasional outdoor visits with dear friends.

My wish for you, wherever you are at on your personal recovery walk, is that you would feel the little sparks of joy that are already present in your life. They’re there, awaiting discovery.

PS – Please be sure to watch my UnPickled page on Facebook and @JeanMcCarthy_Writes on Instagram for a book giveaway this week!


  1. Inspiring, 10 years! I will be 5 years sober this December, best decision I ever made. I can remember laying there, hungover and guilty because my husband would not talk to me because I drank too much again!! I wanted to die, I hated myself and just wanted the horrible thoughts and feelings to go away.

    Slowly they did and it feels amazing. My husband hung it over me for a few years but seldom brings it up now. I still feel embarrassment and regret over my drinking years.

    Since then I have had 2 beautiful, healthy children (3 yr and 10 mth). I love them to the moon and back, they are my lives and although motherhood is no walk in the park it is so worth it.

    I am writing today as a past addition continues to creep up on me.. Smoking cigarettes! I am a nursing mother – what is wrong with me? I have been hiding it from everyone including my husband. It has not been long but I find it is the only thing that takes the edge off. I know this can’t last and everyday I beat myself up about it..

    Until today, my husband told me he could smell it and was very angry.. he has been giving me the silent treatment which kills me, making me have major anxiety. After kids were sleeping I went to him and said I did not want to lie, told him that he was right and gave him the half pack of smokes I had left. I told him I am done..

    He threw the smokes across the kitchen, I then picked them up and threw them in the garbage. He does not come from a place of understanding or concern for me – he is angry at me and told me he is done! Probably as he think this could be affecting our baby. He has a right to be angry at me, I hate me!

    The last time I felt like this was 5 years ago, laying in bed writing on this blog about how I had to quit drinking. I did that so I really really hope can kick this habit..

    Any words to console, boost or put straight a lost mother please send them my way…


    • Just sending you a big hug (pre-covid style!). Be gentle and loving towards yourself, stock up on other comforts and lovely things so that whenever your crave a cigarette you have something else to reach for. You’re not terrible, you’re just off-track. You know what to do.


      • Your response is greatly appreciated! Day 1, I did’t smoke, my husband Is speaking to me and I confided in a few people. It is out in the open now and I will fight this addiction too!

        Perhaps I need to learn what comforts me or what I find lovely.. having babies has made me lose myself… I will get back on track again..

        Thank you for your blog, second time I had the confidence to come out about a secret and not feel alone.. xx

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Jean. Day 13 AF for me. I found your blog about a week ago and have immersed myself in it. It inspires me and I am so grateful for your honesty, vulnerability and wisdom. I had my first dinner at someone else’s home last night and dinner out tonight and survived both AF! I found the first 10 or so days difficult – unpleasant physical symptoms and heavy cravings for my every-evening wines. But I persisted, and wake up each morning a little brighter and proud of myself. Thank you for helping me to get to here


    • Oh I’m thrilled for you! Well done. You’re through the worst, now keep going. It gets easier and better. Thank you for saying hello. We are definitely not alone in this!


  3. HI, Jean! congratulations on your 10 super sober years. I just cracked 5 a few months ago and honestly didn’t remember until another blogger friend with almost the same soberversary date reminded me. ANYHOO, I miss you (and also basically all human beings) and hope we can get the “band” back together some day in the not too far off future. Stay well, my friend!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Jean, Great idea to have these recorded, now I can listen while I am driving. Question, do you have any suggestions for online hypnosis help. I’ve got this silly, irritating habit of nibbling the inside of my lips. I am so annoyed by it and can’t seem to stop. I constantly twist and contort my lips which not only is unattractive it creates wrinkles around my lips which no women wants. The “wack a mole” issue reared its head when I shifted my alcohol consumption. I have listened to your prior blogs/podcasts and they are helpful. Guess I’m not the only one. My understanding is the hypnosis can reach your subconscious and change unhealthy patterns. I hope so. Let me know your thoughts.


  5. Jean I love the audio attached with the blog entry! Your voice is so comforting as always and inspiring. I am 31 days alcohol-free and like so many have been trying over the past two years but this is the longest stretch. It is different for me now. Perhaps the stress of the world today made me realize I needed and wanted to be present and free from anything that was going to bring me down further. And drinking sure did. So I am hoping someday to be saying it’s my 10 year summer anniversary and as always you and everyone is here to support. If anyone out there is reading this and struggling, we are all with you, and life is so much better being free. Thank you as always Jean.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve followed your blog now I think for close to 6 years and in that time I’ve tried all mannerisms to quit but stumbled along way. This year it’s been different and you picked on that in your blog and I thought I get that it isn’t any longer the continuous trying to replace something with alcohol it’s replacing time that spent with new exciting experiences that is making days goto weeks and now into months although I say it with hindsight that I’m still in a beginner phase my routines are drawn and have been kept to. Here’s working towards better tomorrow


    • Yes! It really clicked for me when a dear friend send me a box of chocolate covered strawberries for my sober-versary with a note saying, “now you get to have fun discovering new pleasures!” I’m happy to hear you are finding your way and living life more fully. That’s what we are after here, isn’t it?


    • Huge congratulations! This is another milestone to be proud of. On my 10th soberversary I kept on saying “wow, I’m 10 years dry”. We’ll all hang in there together.


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