Sober Solstice

Jun 21, 2023

Funny, as wrote that title the words jarred with me. Sober still has the connotations of being staid and boring, serious and restrained. My experience of sobriety has been anything but. The first year of the sheer rollercoaster of white knuckling, the blowing wide-open fierce North Wind of hope which took my breath away, the intense friendships of others I was meeting online, in this secret club called Soberistas. I felt like Sisyphus, pushing that boulder up a mountain and at other times I was flying on a carpet, other times I was crying and doing labour breathing in my garage before Xmas as my Sister in Law opened a bottle of fizz in front of me.

It’s settled over the years to a bedrock, a foundation so precious, that it feels like my own patch of land. I tend it water it, cultivate it. If it’s a flame I keep it burning. I have had to learn to manage stress, find and practice self-compassion, find out what boundaries are, learn to process feelings, tolerate old traumas being triggered and hold my nerve and ground long enough to find my way out again, or get help. My yoga practice has provided the body-up part of my well-being and on the mat four times a week I know I can find stillness. I know I can get behind my thoughts, plug into the whatever it is and breathe with a gang. The ‘soft animal of my body’ exhales, stretches and curls up when I’m there. ( Apart from when I am doing Warrior Three - my least favourite posture - when I am sweating and swearing under my breath.)

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This post is finding its form as I go and it’s about reflections again - this time under the daytime zenith of the Summer Solstice.


 My first reflective point of reference is sober journey is tied up with motherhood because it was in that seismic shift when I had my children and we are forever changed it was only a matter of time before the hangovers and sense of disconnect would become too painful. It was on the eve of Summer Solstice 16 years ago that I went into labour for the first time and 6 hours later at 3 am my son was born. All I can remember was that it was light all the time.

The liminality of your first as you prepare for labour, descend into the birthing process and then emerge with a thing called a baby is SO weird. It’s a rite of passage and mundane and extraordinary and we are changed for good no matter how hard we try to hold onto our old identity, with the Converse and All Saints ( me) It was light and we slept fitfully and listened to Ry Cooder on a loop and felt like the centre of everything. The sun revolved around us. I was kept in for a day for meconium observation and my husband smuggled me in fish and chips and a small bottle of red. I should have known something was up then, really.

As my eldest child turns 16 this week I feel a sense of huge relief that his school years are over. It’s been a rollercoaster. That is a massive understatement but I am protective of this information as it’s not my story to tell. My youngest is in Year 7 and has hit puberty at 100 miles an hour which is another chapter and again a wind pocket. These practices are not about living an insta-worthy airbrushed and rarified life, rather they keep me well. Sometimes pull me back from the edge.

The Highlight Reel


I reflect on what I call The Highlight Reel at the Summer Solstice. This is the lightest, longest day before we tilt on the axis and draw slowly toward the darkness again - it’s fleeting and precious. My memory will of course leave much on the cutting room floor and is drawn to a few points today.

The Highlight Reel for me over the last few years if it were a CV has been some pretty great career stuff - bear in mind that when I had my daughter at 41, I had left working on London on the national press, was living in a small conservative town, having moved from Swingin’ Hove and was deep in an identity crisis that was to last a few years. It was another two years before I would get sober, hit the perimenopause and get derailed. It was another three till I would know exactly for real what my book was going to be about - Motherhood and Sobriety & Self-care, to train as a coach and win an award.

I was working with a coach as a practice client and cried when we did a future self visualisation because I felt I was ‘too old’ and it was ‘too late’. My husband built me a blog site called Love Sober. I posted my first public blog. Things sped up.. I met Mandy and we started Love Sober Podcast ( her genius idea), another book - this time about the Seasons and Cycles we experience as women and in nature through a sober lens. I began working as an Associate Coach Trainer for The Coaching Academy, where I had trained. These cycles felt good to me. They feel good to me. They are achievements.

But as I reflect in this brightest, longest day, my highlight reel if I am honest is staying on the sober path through bereavement, a pandemic, an awful time with the school system, a chronic caring load of extra needs and two redundancies, and the breakdown of a business partnership on top of daily life stresses. I had a narrative about myself when I was a drinker that I was flakey, anxious and weak willed. My self-esteem was sourced from the outside, I was at the mercy of others shining a favourable ray of light refracted by a mirror before disappearing behind a cloud. I had no relationship with myself. I cycled through the 3 day rhythm of drinking too much hating myself and feeling better , rinse and repeat. Not enough for a crisis , too much to be fully alive. Now I realise, from calibrating through the cross winds of life that I am tenacious, brave, strong, fierce and resourceful.

The Summer Solstice is a powerful moment to pause. And to reflect on the half of the year that's ending.

When you live sober, the shitty narratives you have about yourself start to fall away with brand new evidence. We can’t see these shifts without cultivating some kind of reflective practice and that means carving out some time. It’s also important to pause, reflect and really own this achievement of sustaining our efforts and sobriety. After the solstice, the Earth continues on its cycle and begins tilting away from the sun, and the days start growing shorter again. We’re already beginning the shift inward. The days will continue to shorten until the Winter Solstice and we begin the cycle of growth all over again. This season our zest for life has been reignited in sobriety and we can capture these feelings and conserve them for the when we move into the more reflective seasons of autumn and winter.

This is a zenith – a moment of glory, and a great time to focus in on the power that sobriety gives us, the force of intention, the bloody-mindedness of going against the grain. We burned away the dross of others’ expectations and opinions and can now bask in the sunshine of the wellbeing we are creating for ourselves. We feel like winners. We are winners, we have gone for gold! Or maybe we need to retreat into the shade and rest ….we get to choose.

A note on Sun Triggers

This super social season was, for many of us, a peak time of drinking socially, and a lot of effort has gone into reframing this period and creating new habits. We may have had some sadness or nostalgia around the occasions we associate with alcohol, so we can use the metaphor of the sun, shining a clear light on those associations, to remember hangovers in the heat and to use the clarity and purpose that comes with this energy to stoke the sober flame in us to keep strong. 

Love Your Sober Year by Kate Baily and Mandy Manners BUY HERE


 Perhaps you like to perform a ritual to honour the passage of time at the solstice, and to use it as a time to pause and reflect. You can light a fire, watch the sunset, sunbathe, light candles – whatever way you tune in to the energy of the heat and the sun, take a moment to really enjoy it. At this time of ritual, note your inner highlight reel: what are your proudest moments of bossing it sober, coping with a challenge or setting boundaries this season?


The Summer Solstice Journaling

An invitation to look back through a strength-based and compassionate lens on your own highlight reel.
  • What were my wins?

  • What challenges did I overcome?

  • What am I proud of?

  • How will I reward myself?

  • What is my sober power mantra?

  • If I secretly knew the answer – what would it be? Because I was sober, this week I . . .

    Reflect on how far you've come already this year – what was happening in your life back when this cycle began, on the Winter Solstice? What were you dreaming of? What plans were you making for the year to come?

Or perhaps you are more visual - you can look back at your photos over this first half of the year and do a collage? Maybe you make a playlist of songs the images remind you of or the songs you listened to on walks or in clubs. As Tammi Salas calls it - it’s these moments we capture Proof of Life , and they can be nurturing and empowering practices.

You've come far since the Sun started this cycle.

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