my chat with Catherine Gray

I had the lovely pleasure of speaking with Catherine Gray last week. She’s penpal #270 and is on day 1,949 today. 

She’s the author of three books ​(no kidding) — two about being sober and one about being single — and I’ll put in the links to her books below. 

We talk about leaving parties early, how to text your friends in advance, and what she might write next (you may be surprised and excited).

​I sent out this podcast today (episode SP283) to podcast subscribers ...

​Here's an extract from our talk, this is the first 3 minutes or so.​​ ​If you'd rather download the entire audio, you can use the link below in the blue box.

Extract from ​Sober Podcast 283. ​Catherine Gray

book links:

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober >

The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober Journal >

The Unexpected Joy of Being Single >

... and you can find her on instagram @unexpectedjoyof

hugs, belle xo

​Download ​SP283. ​Catherine Gray​

Sign up for the ​podcast membership
(1-2 new full-length audios each ​week, you can cancel whenever you like ... but you won't. more sober tools = good)

​If alcohol is an elevator that only goes down, you can Exit. Get off the elevator, and stay off. Art thanks to Mr. Belle. This is a closeup from painting #586.


I want to put this online, to hold myself accountable. I want to document the noise in my head. I'm tired of thinking about drinking. date of last drink: june 30, 2012

  • I’m 70 years old and found Belle via Catherine via The Universe?? I decided to quit recently when I realized that (a) it wasn’t making me feel any better/happier/more numb; (b) my very low alcohol tolerance means I get stumbly after 1 drink; and (c) there isn’t enough wine in the world to really change who I am or my life in a good way. I feel a little bit like a poseur because I’ve never been [able to get] really drunk or passed out or non-functional, but I drank every single day and knew that I was dependent on it for all the wrong things. This is to say: thank you so much for your words and kindnesses …

  • Thank you for sharing this with us. I kept smiling during the whole thing. It was great to hear Catherine’s take on things – you girls are quite alike, and very different at the same time. I think I’ll buy her first book, I really liked her honesty and her humour.

  • Lovely interview between 2 sober chicks – pleasant, cheerful and reflective. Just the very tone of it is to be noted and appreciated as an example of what sobriety is all about. Also loved hearing the tidbit about Catherine first sharing what she’d learned about AVRT with you! So that’s where it all started! When I first found the article about it I too thought it was a bit cheesy but at the same time I was thunderstruck by how much it resonated with me. Thanks for sharing and heading over to check out the UJOBS-Journal now.

  • I listened to the entire recording, and found it useful, thanks. I did not know about her, and now I am considering buying her book, too.

  • Thanks for this – loved Catherine’s book – that must have been where I found you! Great to hear the 2 of you speaking-

  • Thank you so much for making this podcast available to everyone. It’s wonderful to have my brain filled with hope. My determination to move forward through whatever challenges may pop up on my sober path feels strengthened today. “One day it will click when you least expect it.”

  • The timing of this (for me) was perfect. I got your email yesterday regarding this podcast with Catherine and I also received her book yesterday afternoon. Very cool! I am newly sober (10 days) and feel things are lining up in a positive way to help me finally succeed in my journey to becoming AF after many, many, many failed attempts.
    I found the interview interesting and I agree with Julie who commented that she was glad that Catherine did not know how many days sober she was. I too don’t want the rest of my life to be defined by being sober. So encouraging to hear that with time, it becomes effortless but for now, being sober is priority #1. Thanks for this Belle!

  • Lovely to put a voice to the words I’m reading (2nd time reading the Unexpected Joy of Being Sober). I was so disappointed that I had to leave the Mindful Drinking Festival early on Saturday to catch my train so I didn’t get to catch Catherine’s talk, so thankyou for posting this Belle. I’m married, but I am a love addict for sure, so I’ve ordered the Unexpected Joy of Being Single for a nosey. I have a feeling it will resonate even though I’m very much in a relationship.
    Really enjoyable listening so thankyou ♡

  • I was delighted to listen to this podcast. A funny story about how I got the book 6 months ago: My small library (in my small town) where I am a volunteer did not have it. I worked up my courage to request that the library purchase it. The person said, “Is this for YOU?” And I replied, “Yes it is”. A few weeks later I saw this individual in a local store and she stated, “That book about being sober is in now if you want to check it out”. I thought this was incredibly inappropriate but I did not feel shame – I felt pride that I was able to be honest and be myself. I devoured the book and it had such a positive impact on me. It was one of the most meaningful books I have read about getting and staying sober. I look forward to reading her other ones!
    PS – I found your name in her book. 🙂

  • Absolutely lapped this up. I’m still so early that every positive comment I hear about sobriety reduces me to tears so thank you both for this.

  • So Nice to hear her ( and you of course). Thanks Belle! Good to know that it gets easier and easier. I liked the sentence in which she said that in the beginning it was like studying for a new course. I also spended many hours of the day to get my mind let it click and fully resonate.
    Now I want to read her single book!

  • Great podcast. I found you Belle, through Catherine’s book. It was her being a pen pal of yours that inspired me to do the same.
    Interesting re Wolfie. I read about AVRs in her book first so realised that’s who Wolfie was, but I always imagined the Big Bad Wolf. Now I find out it’s a whole other wolf ha ha!
    Loved Catherine describing being sober as effortless. I aspire to that
    Bobby xx

  • I decided to take two weeks off drinking last January before I went on holiday. By coincidence I read an article by Catherine the next day which kicked off my journey through numerous blogs, books and podcasts and led me swiftly to Belle who I have been lurking around ever since. Little reminders every day have certainly helped me. Now 1+ year sober and haven’t looked back. I’ve had a few moments where I thought, ‘Well, I didn’t have a serious problem, surely one red wine now would be fine?’, but then I remind myself not to go down that road as it’s really a slippery slope. Don’t try harder, try different is a mantra which I think should apply to all life’s conundrums.

  • Thanks for sharing and presenting a real voice to her; who I only “knew” as a character of her own book and now have this strange “oh! it’s not fiction at all, it’s real!” feeling.
    Can you please ask me also in five years what my sober supports are? I think that was the most important question for me to be remembered already to not forget …
    And in the meantime I’ll go get used to this giving myself permission to leave parties early thing!

    oh, and the german translaters really really have to come up with an adequate word for “being sober”! I saw it on my amazon suggestions this morning and the title is pretty creepy. Maybe I’ll have to make it up on my own some day 😉

    • Haha Lena, same with Dutch Language. The direct translation is so negative, so directly the opposite of drunk or it means someone who stands with his feet on the ground, who doesn’t dream.

      • I remember in the book that Catherine gives all the definitions of the English word “sober” and even she commented that these didn’t match up with her own experience. She also said how the definition/idea of being sober put her off giving up the booze for so long!

  • just a short observation on your podcast with catherine grey- i was relieved to hear that she did not know how many days sober she was. from a personal point of view it scares me when i see however many days sober someone is. as if defining the rest of ones life and the fear that i will never stop counting and by counting being a non drinker will never become the norm. so yes it was a relief to hear she didnt know and from that i got the impression her life was not defined by being sober. i now recognise that you probable use the days sober as an encouragement or to highlight how thinking changes with more days under your belt. not sure how much sense this makes take care jxx

  • Great interview, I think you should have guests more often who are former or current pen pals talking about their sober journeys. Obviously I love the name of the book😉

  • It’s so crazy listening to that conversation. I’m in California and I’ve just finished her Single book on audio. I’m almost done with Sober and I didn’t know about the journal. But I’ve heard her read to me so I feel like I know her. And then you guys talking about her readers bringing us to you, Belle, and here I am. It’s like you’re talking about me lol. Which in it’s own weird way is helpful for me. Because I don’t have a lot of people to talk to so I feel connected and not alone. Catharine is like my role model right now a lot because she does remind me so much of me. Right down to writing a book in sobriety. Which is what I’m hoping to do. It’s what I wanted to be sober for and then I found her and she’s living my dream. And she brought me to you and you’re getting me through my workdays. Thank you for this.

  • Hi Belle and Catherine,

    I loved listening to this, and I have just realised that the pair of you were my main reasons for still being sober today (246 brighter days)
    I signed up to the 100 day stay sober plan which is such a fantastic tool, I did not want to fail.
    The main thing for me was having will power, I have been here before too many times and thrown it all away, I do believe you can only make the same mistake so many times before it begins to resonate.
    Having Belle as a tool has helped me greatly (I took you on my holiday to Cyprus when pretty much everyone was drinking every day, it was really tough! I nearly crumbled but you kept me strong), and I read for weeks in the early days, knowledge is power, and you need all the power you can get.
    I give thanks to inspirational people like you who have been so honest and up front to help people like me stay sober.
    I now love my life and cherish it and treat my sobriety like a precious gift.
    Thanks again
    Sasha x

  • Thanks for sharing that awesome interview! I can’t remember which one of you I found first but your voices both ring true with me. I participated in a thing called “sober spring” where Catherine matched up her Instagram followers with others in small groups and we emailed each other daily with encouragement and support each day for 100 days last spring. That was huge for me as I had no other support in real life! And Belle, you are my daily ongoing sober Angel that sends me little email reminders everyday as well as replies to my personal emails when needed. A little over 1 year and yes it does get easier and yes there is Joy in being sober! Thanks to you both for sharing yourselves!!

  • I love the idea of going to a spin class and the out to lunch with your friend vs. sitting at a bar drinking. Perfect ! Catherine is an inspiration. Great interview.

  • I loved this! Thank you Belle and Catherine. You have both fast become my favourite inspirational sober peeps! I stumbled across Catherine’s book whilst doing my daily hours of research, reading, listening to Belle’s podcasts etc (early days still, Day 42) and only this weekend whilst reading the book did I notice she mentioned Belle! What a small world!

    For me, key is putting sobriety at no. 1 of my priorities list; initially it felt weird to do that like I was being selfish, but I now see it as nurturing myself in the short-term for longer gain as won’t always need this much effort! I keep adding to my toolkit and trying different. It’s working! It’s great to hear it won’t always be “all consuming” forever!

    Next time I’m asked why I don’t drink… I’m gonna try ‘coz I don’t want to’ as I’m finding that the most awkward part at the moment. Lovely to hear that it gets easier!! Thank you for the great work you’re doing to support.


  • I found Belle through Catherine’s book too – I quit for 40+ days in Oct./Nov of 2017, then started drinking again, then bought Catherine’s book (I had to order it from a UK bookseller as I live stateside and it wasn’t available here yet) and decided I needed to try something else to get me past 40 days when I tried again. I’ve reset my Recovery Elevator app 10 times and I’m on day 106 now thanks to Belle and Catherine! Both of you women are such an inspiration, I’m truly grateful that I found you both before I hit a horrible rock bottom – after drinking everyday for the past 26 or so years it’s a miracle something awful didn’t happen! I start each day with hope and end each day with a clean and clear mind -what can be better than that?!

  • Nice interview. You asked super questions. Three things that I relate to: 1. It gets easier. Yes, hallelujah, it does get easier. A whole fucking lot easier. (On Day 154) 2. Yes. Stay away from triggers and things that make you wobbly, especially at the beginning. Lighten your social calendar to just the basics for awhile. I have been able to get back to most of my social life, but mine never involved purposeful drinking like pub crawls, etc. Hell, I could get drunk at an afternoon tea. 3. Add new sober tools, distractions, if you want to call them that, to your repertoire. If something doesn’t work, ditch it and find something else. Keep trying new things. Oh, and definitely keep staying in touch with someone about your trials and successes. For me, that is tool # 1. 4. This is YOUR sobriety. You make it what you need. There are no rules and you ultimately answer only to yourself. This is no one else’s life. Thank others for their concerns and suggestions then do what you know is right for you. I am making my own sobriety and I do answer only to myself. And that has gotten me to 154 and still leaning forward.

  • Thank you for sharing this! I really enjoyed hearing from someone who is longer term sober. It never fails to surprise me how we all hear the same voice in our head.

  • Belle and Catherine,
    The thought of my new lifestyle being “effortless” is such a hopeful possibility. I’m not getting ahead of myself, but Ive never heard anyone say that. Maybe it won’t for everyone (me, possibly), but it could. I feel encouraged. Thx, Lynn

  • Oh I loved this! I met you through Catherine’s book…I was three weeks sober when I got her book as an audio book, then the actual book, and then I wrote you an email, never thinking you’d respond. Both of you have such great voices…They convinced me that sober was not only better for my heath, it was also good, and fun, and full of humour.

  • Excellent
    AVR… interesting
    Going to read the Unexpected Joy of being Sober
    Trying different…..
    thanku Belle,

  • This is my first time commenting anywhere I’ve been lurking on the sidelines. Loved hearing you both. I’m 51 days sober and have been reading lots of books and discovered you through Catherine’s book. I’ve been drinking almost daily for at least 28 years. Tried all kinds of moderating. Only drink 4 days a week, only on weekends, no drinking on Monday or Tuesday. Went 11 days last summer that’s the most ever. Couldn’t imagine ever not drinking seemed so unfun….that’s not a word I know. I love the whole aspect of drinking and having cocktails with my friends and tried to moderate because life without drinking was not an option for me…..just seemed so terrible. I didn’t have a bottom or DUI I just realized it wasn’t good for me and I needed to see if I could go 30 days take a break and reset.. Seemed like that was that magic number of not being an alcoholic going 30 days without alcohol. Started my quest of how to get thru 30 days and realized I should quit for good but couldn’t even wrap my head around that. Didn’t tell my husband until 30 days was up that I thought I had a problem and should probably not drink anymore but I didn’t want that. He doesn’t really get it and doesn’t understand why after a while I can’t just have a drink here and there. I live in a country club community where it is party time 24/7. We’re all mostly retired and have lots of activities that include drinking. I’m realizing I can still have fun and have stayed away from some of the nighttime get togethers that mostly revolve around drinking. I’m committed to do 100 days and beyond but it is really hard. You two are such an inspiration and I hope to be where you are someday. Thanks so much!!!

  • This was amazing to listen to.
    I am on Day 2 so new to this.
    Having a drink everyday for the past 7 months and over the past 2 years, gives me some hope to make it to Day 100.
    Thank you Belle & Catherine

  • I loved this podcast, I have been following Belle for years and to hear a pen pal is five years sober is inspirational.

  • I really enjoyed this…..I have always liked listening to (or reading) your interviews with longer term sober folk. At first I had to take a leap of faith that sober people were not lying – oh wolfie, really? – when they described how sobriety gets easier…and then I was able to get comfort and confidence from knowing there were people in front of me (as well as you) who knew the path and potential pitfalls. Now I’ve just nudged over the 1000 day mark and listening to this was a reminder of the early days when sobriety took a lot more effort – 3x daily emails, podcasts on loop, OMMs, sober blog reading into the early hours, sober rewards etc. The main job, day by day, was to be sober, that is enough! It takes less effort to maintain momentum than revisiting day 1 (yes I did that to too). And occasionally now too, some days it’s still the most important thing, avoid overwhelm, do less, be sober 😊

  • I have just finished reading Catherine’s book, so can’t wait to hear this. Two great minds coming together! 🙂