This week we're super excited to welcome Dani St James (@danistjames) to the Proud and Sober family. We've watched Dani from afar for a while now, she's a model, nightlife personality and co-hosts the hilarious (but not for the faint hearted) podcast Cocktails & Confessions. We hope you love what Dani has to say, because we sure do!
Welcome Dani! Let's get started by getting you to tell our readers a bit more about you.
I recently turned 28, I left Wales when I was 18 which was about a year after I’d started transitioning and after a couple of years in Ibiza, I moved to London. At the time I moved I was just starting to gain traction in my former work as a nightclub manager, I ran a few really cool clubs in London, the highlight was definitely Shadow Lounge, which was a staple of London LGBT nightlife for nearly two decades.
I switched all that up years ago now, I went on to manage a couple of different companies and now I'm a head hunter. Aside from my work life, I’m studying towards my degree and I'm happier with a much slower pace, I'm in a great solid relationship with someone that I've known for years who also happens to be sober (15 years!) and yeah, I guess things are all kind of falling into place as I make plans for my future.
Tell us about your sobriety journey, how long have you been sober and what has that looked like for you?
On the grander scheme of things, I'm new to sobriety, its been five months now. My choice to get sober was always on the cards, in my mind, 30 was going to be my entry year, but it came early. Clubs, booze, boys and all of the other things that came with it were such a big part of my life that I was scared of sobriety, but it had to happen, I slowly became very different when I drank and partied, I went from being the life and soul of the event, to the hazard to be avoided. Over the two years it took me to make the decision (to quit), drinking was a dark thing for me, drenched in arrogance and anger. I started to get big bouts of memory loss, even from just a few glasses of wine. Before I knew it, I had lost a couple of my really close friends to my actions, it was really fucking hard.
What method did you use to become sober?
When I knew it was time, I called Fat Tony (@djfattony), he's a dear friend of mine and I just said “I'm scared, I can't remember who I am anymore when I drink” and he just replied “It's time, you have done this enough, you have been the directory of where to go for people to get wasted for so long, and now you need to ask yourself, who are you doing this for?”
The following week Tony took me to my first meeting, so initially my method was the programme (AA). Now I’m not in the programme frequently, I go back on forth as to whether that is the right thing for me, but I'm currently not feeling any urge to drink and I know my support system is there, so for now, the method is just being happy I guess.
What are your thoughts on the LGBT+ community’s attitude towards alcohol and drugs?
The community attitude is what makes it most difficult to give up, you are deemed to be the boring one, even now we aren't socialising in the same way, I still feel the pressure from the “god, are you still not drinking?” questions that come. It's hard, you know. In the LGBT world, parties and getting trashed are the gateway and the fuel for friendships.
Why do you think members of the LGBT+ community are more susceptible to experiencing difficulties with alcohol and drugs?
Hmm, I think that there are a few very deep rooted issues that cause this, primarily because historically we have been marginalised to the point of being driven underground, and it's not like in that circumstance we get together for a book club, it's always partying. So with that becomes the normalisation of substance abuse, be it alcohol or otherwise.
What do you think we can do to change this?
I think it's important we have conversations where the narrative doesn't demonise people that chose a different lifestyle, more of a “I did this and I feel great” rather than a “you do that and you're awful”.
What’s your favourite thing about being sober?
I feel like I have gained an extra day a week, I used to spend so much time planning where I’d be going, what I’d be wearing and who would be there, that would be followed by the Sunday in bed seeped in regret and self loathing. It’s a good feeling to be able to remember everything. I have an app on my phone and every morning at 8:30 it tells me “Today I am sober because I want to remember the life that I have worked to build” and then at the end of each day it asks what I did that day and how I felt during it.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
I've gained a real understanding of the driving forces behind my emotions and my instincts to make choices. Through that understanding, I am able to decipher what I am doing and ask myself if it is conducive to a positive outcome or not.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to give up?
I take the lessons that I learned from Tony and I pass them on. Ask yourself "who are doing this for, you have no moral obligation to provide a good time to others, they are fully capable. If you do not enjoy the outcome of your actions, change them.
Dani, it was SO good to have you share your story, thank you!