Danielle Fleming on the hospitality industry, motherhood and more!

Danielle Fleming on the hospitality industry, motherhood and more!

Join us for an exciting and insightful episode as we delve into the world of the hospitality industry with fellow coach Danielle. Discover how she conquered the intense pressure to drink in this industry and turned her passion into a thriving career. Hear firsthand about Danielle’s personal journey from heavy drinking to living a fulfilling life without alcohol.
Danielle speaks about 3 female forces in her life led her to stop drinking and how being sober has meant a different life for her daughter who will never know her Mother as a drinker.
Danielle now has a course for Leaders in the Hospitality industry. You will find link to Danielle’s info below.

Am I an Alcoholic?

Am I an Alcoholic?

In this episode, we talk about the term “alcoholic”.  The phrase “am I an alcoholic?” is frequently googled and many use this as the starting point for exploring whether alcohol has become a problem for them. We explore the derivation of this term, why some people with alcohol use disorders do not relate to or identify with this term and what are some alternatives to this label.  Two important points to note in relation to this episode: firstly, if you are moderate to heavy consistent drinker and you feel you may be physically addicted then it is important that you seek medical advice to detox safely.  Secondly, we respect everybody’s right to use the label that feels right for them and if you have opted to use the term “alcoholic” to describe your own relationship with alcohol then we 100% support this too.

Anna Cusack on Alcohol and the Stresses and Joy of Motherhood

Anna Cusack on Alcohol and the Stresses and Joy of Motherhood

In today’s episode we talk to Anna Cusack.  Anna is a Postpartum Doula, Parent Supporter, Certified Motherhood Studies Practitioner, Author, Podcaster and a mum who supports and mentors women in pregnancy, post-birth and early parenthood. Anna has also been alcohol free for 4 years. We start by talking about Anna’s decision to go alcohol free and then we have a lively chat about the pressures woman face during motherhood, how hard it can be when choosing between your career and motherhood, the allure and risks of mummy wine culture and how alcohol can become a crutch to get through the stresses of raising our little ones, often masking our need to connect and seek extra support. Be sure to catch this episode. There will be so much you can relate to.  Apart from thinking “oh I wish I knew Anna when I was having my babies…” (like we did!), you might also look back on your parenting struggles with a little more self-compassion (like we did!) or if you are in the midst of it right now you might feel a little more understood (also us!) and keep Anna’s number handy nearby just in case you or a friend need it.

Sober Sex! Let’s talk about it…

Sober Sex*

Let’s talk about it. Why?! Because it comes up a lot. Discreetly and tentatively at first but it presents as a major issue often when alcohol is removed from your life. Also, if drinking has been part of your whole sexual history then you may not even know if you enjoy sex at all! So… sober sex.

Why is this important? Because it is about connection and we know how important quality connection is to an alcohol-free life. It’s the opposite to addiction.

Moreover, quality connection and intimacy with our partner, the person that we are most close with in the world and the person we spend most of our time with is likely to be high on your priority list. There are exceptions to this but if this is the case for you then read on.

Uncomfortable feelings created through lack of connection and issues with intimacy can feel stressful and can create urges to reach for alcohol. So best to address this head on.

Does any of this ring true for you?

  • Have you only ever had sex while under the influence?
  • You and your partner met and bonded over drinking. Drinking was part of the courtship, drinking and sex was a regularly thing, or
  • You are freaking out about sober sex, like freaking out!

Geez – I was…

The quick facts

In short, alcohol may lower your inhibitions, but it decreases your ability to become and stay aroused.

Drinking reduces testosterone in both men and women. For women, low testosterone can mean hair loss, weight gain, broken sleep, depression and anxiety and on top of all of that it decreases your libido! Alcohol messes with that part of your nervous system that is essential for orgasm and arousal. So, you may have difficulties reaching orgasm.

For men, alcohol can lead to difficulties maintaining an erection or erectile dysfunction.  In fact, a study resulted in rats testicles decreasing in size by 50% when they were fed a steady diet of ethanol. Alcohol causes dehydration which increases a hormone, angiotensin, that is associated with erectile dysfunction.  It also decreases blood volume and interferes with circulation, both of which can contribute to performance issues. Men may also experience decreased sperm production, breast enlargement and lowered libido.

Why do drinking and sex go hand-in-hand?

Usually because we’ve always done it. Awkward tense sexual exchanges with partners and one-night-stands may always have been associated with alcohol for you.  Images of women drinking and then having wild, sexy and crazy sex were everywhere for me growing up. They are so destructive and disingenuous.

If you drank a lot when you were young then you might have been someone who lacked confidence, experienced social anxiety, was a little nervous.  Alcohol numbed that. You likely developed deeply ingrained beliefs that you need alcohol to have sex or you need alcohol to be good at sex. These beliefs can really impact your self-confidence and connection to your own body.

Alcohol allows you to abandon yourself emotionally and mentally and when it comes to sex, alcohol facilitates you abandoning yourself physically too. This sounds quite frightening doesn’t it?

You may never have learned how to get comfortable with being sexually intimate or just intimate generally with another person without alcohol being present. This is ok as it’s never too late to learn, but if alcohol was frequently present in intimate moments ever since you became sexually active then abandoning yourself may have become the norm. So, you never developed these skills.

No wonder you feel alarmed at the prospect of sober sex!

You already feel raw, vulnerable, and naked venturing into the world fully sober and now you need to consider the prospect of being physically naked too!

Sober sex is way better than drunk sex

You get to experience it all, physiologically, emotionally and mentally.  This can feel a lot to deal with at first, but over time, it is way better.  Your brain, nervous system, senses, circulation are all alert and unimpeded.

I never really remembered sex the next day. Perhaps it was more a performance rather than a real experience. It was never really a genuine connection. It was an experience that was just one of those things.

However, without the alcohol and the numbing, you are literally more in touch with your body. It’s worth it – promise.

Hot saucy tips 

If you are in the early days of sober sex and it is all just too daunting, then go easy on yourself.  Cut yourself some slack and postpone the moment until you are ready.  You may very well be feeling fatigued, emotional and stressed as it is trying to navigate life without alcohol. Adding sex to the mix may be too much for your right now. This is normal and understandable.

As you remove alcohol, you may be uncovering connection and communication issues in your relationship that may have related to you drinking as you did in the first place.  So it may be complicated. Sort these issues out first. You need to feel comfortable.

Also, when you are taking a break from alcohol, it is not just about alcohol. It is about landing back into our bodies and feeling comfortable in our skins again. A rebirthing of sorts. So you may be re-learning how to connect with your partner and yourself again on a sober basis. Go slow.

This may very well require doing some reframing work (alone or with a counsellor) on beliefs that you may hold able around sex, like “I believe I need alcohol to have sex” or “I believe I need alcohol to be good at sex” or “I need alcohol before I reveal my body to my partner“. There are many that I could list here. These beliefs can really impact your self-confidence and connection to your own body. Cognitive reframing work can really help here to untangle the historical stories, experiences and assumptions that you have developed over the course of your life that have lead to you feeling hesitant or scared about sex.

Engaging in any movement (think exercise, dancing, swimming, yoga) does wonders for connecting you back with your body, as does breathing exercises and meditation.

Wait until you are relaxed, feeling happy and connected with your partner and have faith that your body will remember the moves!

Finally, acknowledge this to yourself for what it is. If it works for you and you feel safe doing so communicate your nerves with your partner.

It’s a new experience, potentially a sober first and it is going to be uncomfortable initially but you’ll get your old groove back.

If there are any long-term issues, then consider reaching out for one-on-one counselling to discuss these matters further.

*Note: If you have a history of sexual trauma and your alcohol use is connected with this (which is common) then you may need additional one-on-one support from a trauma-trained specialist to talk through your concerns

Going forward

If you would like some help to drink less consider:

  1. booking in a confidential no obligation discovery call with me to discuss how I can support you, or
  2. join the Alcohol Revolution Program, an online self-guided course.

Isabella xo

Alcohol Use: Red Flags

Red flags

Alcohol temporarily masks feelings of anxiety, nerves and doubt but becomes problematic when you start using it to make you feel “normal” in stressful, traumatic and emotionally uncomfortable moments.  You’ll start believing that alcohol helps you feel better and when this happens the habit and belief is formed and this is reinforced over time.

5 Red Flags to consider

  • Are you regularly waking up at 3am after drinking the night before? Alcohol provides 20 minutes of relief but your brain then releases stress hormones (adrenalin and cortisol) to counteract the depressive effects to stimulate and maintain homeostasis. These hormones stay in your system much longer than dopamine.  Hello 3am wake-up! Feelings of unease, restlessness and anxiety last for days.
  • Self-medication: Your alcohol use can quickly escalate if you are using alcohol to self-medicate anxiety or depression. Plus alcohol exacerbates these symptoms. Drinking alcohol is like pouring fuel on anxiety and stress.
  • Moderation fails: Do you often fail to moderate your drinking? You go out to have two or three and end up having a lot more? It’s common and it’s not your fault. Alcohol is physically and emotionally addictive but perhaps it’s time to try differently not harder.
  • Are you no longer enjoying activities without alcohol? After years of drinking, alcohol lowers your normal dopamine release and increases your stress hormones even when you are not drinking. Frightening right? Alcohol takes away your ability to experience pleasure and joy in the small things. Think of those activities you used to enjoy, perhaps with your kids? This encourages you to drink more to feel “normal”.
  • General risks to be aware of: Did you start drinking quite young? Is there a “problem drinker” in your extended family? Did your drinking increase after a traumatic event? Do you find you charge up and get more energy during a night of heavy drinking while others fade away? Keep these factors in mind as these things elevate your risks of developing an alcohol use disorder.

The way out

We have so many more options now to help us drink less. Read a quit-lit book or listen to an alcohol-related podcast and learn what alcohol does to your brain and why you drink it. Join a 30-day online alcohol course designed to support you to drink less. In my experience the best ones are those that help you to reframe your beliefs around alcohol so you no longer desire it. Also, find a counsellor or coach with alcohol qualifications to get one-on-one support.

*Consult your doctor as soon as possible if you are worried you are physically addicted. About 10% of the drinking population falls into this category. Handy to know: there are medically-supervised options to confidentially detox safely at home under supervision.


Alcohol use can sneak up on you and you can find yourself stuck in an overwhelming drinking cycle. Alcohol is addictive and is marketed to appeal to your vulnerabilities to “help you” feel relaxed, confident and successful. It is not your fault but perhaps it’s time to turn the trajectory around. Drinking less will profoundly improve your life. There is support for you out there if this is something you would like to achieve.


Finding your voice to ditch the booze! 

Finding your voice to ditch the booze!

I was incredibly lucky to be part of a group listening to the very wise Ann Dowsett Johnston, the author of the amazing book Drink, this morning and we discussed how finding and expressing your voice can be so helpful in recovery.

Ann mentioned that she believes our bodies hear our voices and I believe this is so true.

Many people, particularly women, reach for alcohol to find their voice, to be heard and express their opinions.

I know I did. I am short, I have a quiet voice and was quite shy growing up but I had a lot to say. Alcohol made me louder, certainly less eloquent, but confident. This set up a pattern that lasted decades and formed beliefs that I needed something external to me to express myself.

Does this resonate with you? This feeling that you are not enough can be grounded in thoughts around whether you fit in, belong or have meaningful things to say that others want to listen to. It can start in childhood. Also, expressing our voice is integrally connected with discovering who we are, feeling comfortable in our own skin and developing into the adults we want to become.

Were you given an opportunity to express your opinion? Were you encouraged to debate topics and be heard?  You may come from a loud family and there may not have room for you to speak and be heard.  Or your voice may have been criticised, shouted down or ignored.

It can be really helpful in recovery to find meaningful ways of expressing yourself and do this as much as you can, including book clubs, connecting with friends, dancing to music, painting, writing.

Many use alcohol to find their voice but finding effective ways to use your voice can be instrumental in losing alcohol.

Isabella xo

Kids & Socialising: My very very basic tips

Kids & Socialising

My very very basic tips

After school yesterday, my 13-year-old mentioned that at drama practice a few girls had asked for his mobile number.  He said he couldn’t remember it (which was true). He was a little thrilled, a little scared and a little frustrated as he just wanted to be friends and now he felt it was a little awkward going to drama practice.

Anyway, I’m glad he mentioned it as it is nice to know where he is at and what is going on out there. I was also happy that he wanted a little guidance going forward.

On this front, I wasn’t very helpful. I just asked a few open questions and said that I was always here to help workshop a response he feels happy with if it happens again.

On the inside I was like, “oh, its happening… this social thing has hit a new level…!”

It was just another indicator that independence and all that that brings on the social front is calling loudly in our household.

I have created some very basic household rules with my kids around our expectations when they are socialising outside of school just to make sure we are all on the same page and I share them with parents who are keen to have the discussion with their kids about alcohol.

These are just a basic template that can be useful as starting point.  I list these in the full knowledge that everybody’s household is different and that my tips are not going to suit everyone.

I also know that these rules do not guarantee that there will be no bumps in the road (I’d be silly if I did!) but I do believe it is incredibly helpful in starting the socialising conversation and highlighting to both of you that this is teamwork.

These are my very very basic tips:

  1. Create the rules together:

Create your household rules (or your expectations with your kids around socialising) with your kids.  Pull out a notepad and pen or butchers’ paper and do it together.  It only needs to take 30 minutes but collaborate and include them in the creation of them so they know them and own them. It also opens the door for them to feel like they can always talk about socialising rules with you.  It creates mutual respect, trust and openness, the ingredients for good connection.  (PS – I would go in knowing what your rules are but be flexible to tailor it a little to include their suggestion).

  1. 3 short & simple rules:

Create 3 short and simple household rules.  Ours are:

  • We always need to know and be happy with the details of where you are going, who you are with, if parents are supervising and how you are getting home. Plus you need to be contactable (have your phone on!)
  • Socialising is important but it is also teamwork between us and you in terms of making sensible decisions and keeping us informed of the details
  • You can come to us with anything and tell us anything that happened when you are out and about and we will react calmly in the moment, check the facts and talk to you about our response. If there is a safety issue then of course we need to do what we believe we need to do.
  1. Be flexible with your rules as they get older:

Be flexible. Your rules for a 13 year old will be different for a 15 year old and so on.

Good luck out there in the socialising wilderness!

If you would like some additional tips on how to talk to your kids specifically about alcohol:


Teens & Alcohol with Paul Dillon

In this episode we talk with Paul Dillon of Drugs and Alcohol Research and Training Australia (DARTA) all about teens and alcohol.  Paul has been working in the area of drug and alcohol education for over 30 years both nationally and internationally and is also the author of ‘Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs’ and host of the sensational 5-part pod series for parents called Doing Drugs With Paul Dillon.  Paul is also a legend in Bella’s household! We discuss what parents can do to reduce the risks associated alcohol when it comes to their teens, how to create household rules around alcohol that their teens will be more inclined to follow, whether it is wise facilitate undertake drinking in the family setting and a whole lot more.  This is a ripper of an episode and one that we invite all parents and carers of teens and (up and coming teens) to put on their pods-to-listen-to-list!

Kids & Alcohol – Good news: More kids are choosing not to drink

More Australian students between the age of 12 – 17 years old are choosing not to drink!*

1 in 3 students in this age bracket have never consumed alcohol.  This compares to 1 in 10 in 1999.

This is terrific news indeed! Non-drinking is increasingly becoming an option that more students are feeling comfortable to choose. Could alcohol be becoming “uncool”?! I hope so.

As a mum to 2 teenage boys I am excited by what these stats show and it is great news for those of this age that prefer to opt out of drinking.

This news also reinforces current recommendations  to parents to refrain from encouraging “safe drinking” of our teens in the family setting but rather to delay underage consumption as long as possible.  They may in fact be opting out and that is a great thing to support.

Those that do choose to drink however tend to do so in years 9 and 10 with a concerning number binge drinking at risky levels. (Also surveys are yet to be released around the impact that COVID had on this cohort.)

Preparing our kids for their inevitable exposure to alcohol is a good idea from as young as 10 years old and reading up on how to support our teens as they approach the year nine stage can help us parents feel that we are not battling this alone. It takes a village!

More information

For more information on how to talk to your kids about alcohol:



* Survey information viewed at

* Guerin & White (2017) ASSAD 2017 Statistics & Trends: Australian Secondary Students’ Use of Tobacco, Alcohol, Over-the-counter Drugs, and Illicit Substances

New Blog: Going Full Circle

Going Full Circle

The core reasons why you drink will be the core things you need to work on to break free.

Seems obvious right? Well, it is but it isn’t and it wasn’t for me until I was free from alcohol and reflecting on the whole nightmare of it all that was my early 40’s.  And it often all starts in childhood.

There are 4 themes that I can pin-point that were present in my life since my early teen years:

  1. lack of confidence
  2. need to find my tribe
  3. desire for my voice and opinion to be expressed, and
  4. a low simmering of mild anxiety,

all of which I drank alcohol to overcome.

I don’t think this is too uncommon. Everybody reaches for alcohol for one reason or other.

I had to tackle these 4 themes head-on in order to successfully become alcohol free.

What’s more unbeknown to me at the time, alcohol exacerbated these 4 things! It tricked me into believing I was not enough with it. It took away my ability to be wholly present and connect meaningfully. It made my voice loud and confused and it added fuel to my anxiety.

So insidious is alcohol’s addictive nature that it can make you think you need it for 101 different reasons that you don’t know of until you find yourself trying to untangle yourself from it.  Full circle!

Going full circle can sometimes mean going right back to where it all started – high school or university or where you were when alcohol became a constant crutch for you.

And slowly the untanglement begins and you can emerge stronger and happier than ever.

It’s worth it!

So what are your themes?

Next steps

If you would like some support to drink less, book in for a free 30-minute introductory call and let’s see if we are a good fit.  Book here.

Isabella xo