Ann Dowsett Johnston is an award-winning journalist and the bestselling-author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. Published in 2013, it’s a book that has helped millions of women, all over the world, understand their harmful relationship with alcohol. Ann recently celebrated her 14th sober anniversary, and to mark the occasion she compiled a wonderful list that shares vital lessons she’s learned over the years. 

For anyone new to recovery, it’s a resource that we recommend printing and reviewing regularly (post it on a bulletin board, or keep a folded copy in your bedside drawer). For those with long-term sobriety, it’s equally helpful, serving important reminders that are always worth revisiting.

Beyond her book (which has quite literally saved lives), Ann is a psychotherapist who specializes in helping women transform their lives, and regularly hosts a Write Your Recovery workshop, providing an intimate space for women to find a sense of healing through writing their story. The next 8-week course kicks off January 11, 2023.

We’re grateful to be able to share these pearls of wisdom from Ann.

  1. Connection, kinship and community: these are the opposite of addiction. Take your seat with others, stay smack-dab in the middle.
  2. Choose your mentor. Stick close to them on a daily and weekly basis. Choose Jen, choose Maria, choose me. It doesn’t matter. Stay in the middle of the pack.
  3. Make time for meetings: that’s where the magic happens.
  4. Write a daily gratitude list—with a twist: for the good and the bad! Watch the miracles happen. I am being serious.
  5. Stay humble. A terrible affliction got you to your knees. Never forget it.
  6. Start being the most ANN, LYNN, SUSAN you could ever be. Hell, you used to lose hours drinking. Find your favourite pastime and dedicate energy to it.
  7. Always have a non-alcoholic drink in your hand! Early in sobriety, Bengal Spice tea saw me through. Now it is ginger and lemon drinks. Always lime in my Pellegrino. This is NOT an exercise in deprivation.
  8. Honour your anniversaries as if they are holy days. Yesterday, I went to dinner and the theatre with one of my oldest friends to celebrate 14 years. Make room for joy, to honour your days.
  9.  Make room for the newcomer. Pass on what you were so freely given.
  10. Alcohol is ethanol. Poison. A carcinogen. I am no prohibitionist, BUT… got sober just in time: the news is not good. Remember that.
  11. Do not feel sorry for yourself. This is the road to hell.
  12. Unpeel the ever-unfolding artichoke of life: go deep, have new adventures. Me? Back to school at 65. Fell in love at 67. We get to choose: go big or go small. I choose BIG.
  13. Have rituals, and honour them: candles, praying to your ancestors, praying to a higher power, and so much more.
  14. You lost yourself in the burdensome habit of being addicted to an addictive subject. Now, find yourself through writing, reading, walking, and so much more. Do this simple exercise: chart what you will choose to do with your 168 hours every week. Love yourself back to a vibrant life, day by day, year by year. Authenticity is the key. Value what you have, knowing this—as Mary Oliver says—is your one “wild and precious life.”