Book Review: The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober

Day 3 of my sobriety.

Catherine Gray shares her incredible journey to sobriety, leaving nothing to the imagination in this heartfelt book displaying her raw and honest highs and lows, without any criticism or judgement but with a high dose of much needed humour along the way.

Following a recommendation from my sister, I recently finished reading Catherine Gray’s book which I briefly mentioned in my last post, as a means of throwing myself into my new-found sobriety. I wanted to share with you this essential read for anyone looking to go sober or at least cut down their alcohol intake. Heck, even if you don’t want to do that — you should definitely read this book regardless.

Opening up with a personal letter to the reader, Catherine shares her method of dealing with the early stages of sobriety, declaring her want to not to remain anonymous because she sees no shame in addressing her addiction to alcohol and wanting to get sober.

Her way of handling with her incredibly tough journey was to write, which is the very foundation of how and why this book exists. From the get-go Catherine suggests what a lot of us are thinking but are too afraid to admit to ourselves and others: The way society portrays alcohol and lifts it up like a God is wrong, when for so many people it is nothing short of the biggest demon they will ever face in their lives.

Within the first few pages, Catherine drops a number of facts which really blew my mind, including this outstanding statistic: “Why do 43% of British women and 84% of British men want to drink less?”. First published in 2017, this book is just as relevant now (if not more) as it was when written.

Starting with the frightening and shocking real-life tales of what her life was like before going sober, Catherine exposes her battles with the bottle, leaving no stone unturned. There’s probably not a single story that leaves you admitting to yourself that you’ve also been that person to some degree. Be prepared to have your own past unexpectedly rise to the surface with every page you turn.

As you delve deeper, Catherine’s journey exits her isle of drinking and takes a turn into Sober Town, visiting the various neighbourhoods of life that you’ll see changing along the way. From dating and sex and social interaction, to just being an all-round nicer human being to both yourself and others. Mix that with a dollop of solid advice, recommendations and awesome quotes, reading this felt like a real-life version of Sue Townsends’s Adrian Mole books, which allows you to really begin to understand and invest in Catherine’s story as she walks you along her path.

Personally, I loved how Catherine reached out to people in her life to share their thoughts and feelings along the way. A full 360-degree review of Catherine’s behaviour is laid bare for all to read with no holding back from her closest loved ones. The level of research that has clearly been undertaken in piecing this story together is not only well thought out, but simplistically broken down to make for an easy, yet informative read.

The more I read, the more it felt like Catherine knew me as an individual and as such, knew exactly what to say to me. Nothing is watered down, from her stories shared, to how hard staying sober really is and the added bonuses that come along with it. As an alcoholic who read this about three days into my sobriety it made me realise that although I was giving up alcohol, I was going to be gaining so much more (see pg. 89 — Surprising Sober Bonuses) with new, healthy tricks and methods I could learn to help me adapt in my brand new habitat with the urge to become a better me.

Just as Catherine describes the woes endured whilst drinking, she equally informs the reader of the real honest truth that sobriety doesn’t come preloaded with the rewards of a perfect life. However, you will learn new, healthier ways to manage these bumps in the road when you are one day faced with them. She schools the reader based on her own experience, again enhancing that relatability.

This book should be read by everyone, not just those who are looking cut down on alcohol or banish it forever. It’s a real eye-opener into the world of addiction and what damage it can do to people. If you know an alcoholic and you want to support them — stop what you’re doing and read this book. Gain a little insight into how they are feeling. If you don’t want to stop drinking yourself but want to support them, this book will show you how to do just that.

Like Catherine, us alcoholics are not judging those who drink. If anything, we’re probably more envious of the fact you can have just one or control your limitations. The only time we’ll really say something is when we see it’s getting out of control and trust us — we know exactly what that looks like.

The final scores…

5/5 — This book was everything I didn’t know I needed in my life. The ways in which I could relate to Catherine’s journey was equally terrifying and enriching. The recommendations, guidance and suggestions were all very helpful. Definitely one I will need to re-read at some point and highlight or bookmark all the important bits to help me on my journey. If you read one self-help book in 2020, this should definitely be it!

I’d love to hear your recommendations on any ‘quit lit’ that you’ve read or listened to. You can get in touch via the socials or by emailing me via my website via the link below.

C x

Originally published at on August 24, 2020.




Sober-living, originally from London but now living in Hove (Actually). Comms & Copywriting guy by day, book-loving, movie fiend by night.

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Christian Dolan

Christian Dolan

Sober-living, originally from London but now living in Hove (Actually). Comms & Copywriting guy by day, book-loving, movie fiend by night.

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