About

The podcast

Zero Proof is a biweekly podcast featuring writers Shelley Mann Hite and Jackie Mantey. On each episode, these two former journalism colleagues/ bar buddies read and discuss one book about sobriety, self-growth, or surviving—and then thriving—in spaces that profit when we numb ourselves, from ourselves.

The club

You don’t have to be sober to enjoy Zero Proof Book Club! The same way (um, as we’ve learned one day at a time) you don’t have to be drunk to enjoy life. To join the club, just like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram, where we’ll post new episodes (which you can also find here), Zero Proof drink recipes, discussion questions, author quotes we really like, stuff we’re reading about the stuff we’re reading, and more.

Your hosts

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Shelley Mann Hite, left, and Jackie Mantey circa summer 2016 at a party celebrating Shelley’s second pregnancy. Here, Shelley is more than a year sober, and Jackie is just a couple months in (hence white knuckling that good-good baby shower H2O… posing without alcohol in her hand was still uncomfortable).

Shelley and Jackie met in 2012. Shelley was an editor at a weekly alternative newspaper and Jackie was interviewing for a job there as a reporter. Shelley hired Jackie, and the two became friends in the office and, eventually, went out regularly with colleagues for happy hour after work.

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Happy hour 2012.
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Jackie’s goodbye-from-the-newspaper happy hour in 2013.

In a tale as old as wine, the drinking grew right alongside their friendship. The social nature of their work made it easy to thrive professionally while crumbling personally.

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A work event in 2013.

Shelley was the first to make a change and started her path to sobriety on May 3, 2015 (read why below). She’d still hang out with Jackie but it was… awkward. As Shelley navigated how the hell to get and stay sober, Jackie just talked about it—only to Shelley and only after she was approximately four drinks deep.

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Halloween 2015, a party at Jackie’s apartment. In this pic, newly sober Shelley (AKA Nancy Sinatra) is trying to hide the fact that the drink in her hand is non-alcoholic. She’s holding the bottle so the label is covered so it looks like a hard lemonade. She never does this anymore. (Eventually you stop giving a shit what others think about the fact that you’re not drinking.)
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Halloween, 2015. Jackie at her party. At 9 am that morning, she started making these super rad decorations. That is also the time she started drinking. By 2 pm she finished all the decorations and food prep… and all the alcohol she bought for the party. Oops. That always seemed to happen. By 3 pm she took a disco nap (read: blackout). By 6 pm, she walked to the store to restock the pumpkin beers and vodka. By 2 am, she passed out again.

After several progressively worse encounters with booze, Jackie had her last drink of alcohol ~around~ April 15, 2016. (She isn’t sure of the exact day and thinks of it as a birthday for a stray feral pet.) She moved to Chicago two weeks later.

Since that spring 2016, Shelley and Jackie have forged a long-distance friendship that, interestingly enough, feels more genuinely connected than ever beforeeven when they saw each other every day for eight hours or more.

Jackie credits Shelley with helping her see that life without booze was possible. As long-time friends who have known each other when their lives were BS (before sobriety, though bullshit works here too) and afterward, they’re able to talk about sobriety—its struggles and rewards—in an easily forthcoming, honest way.

As writers and voracious readers who were consuming these Zero Proof book selections on their own anyway, starting a book club podcast was a great way to keep building their connection to each other and understanding their recovery as it unfolded.

 

Meet Shelley

Shelley is a freelance writer and editor, and a retired boozehound. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband, Pete, and two daughters. She’s a former magazine editor whose current obsessions include: estate sales, thrift stores, reading memoirs, Midwestern food, yoga, any and all holidays, and Netflix.

Where to find her:

Sober-versary?

May 3, 2015. I’ve always had that thing where once I started drinking, I didn’t have an off switch. But my drinking ramped up significantly after I went through a divorce and started sharing parenting of our daughter with my ex—50 percent of the time with me, 50 percent with him. I quickly fell into a pattern of going out drinking every night I didn’t have her, and staying out until 2 a.m. or later. In the end, it came down to seeing that it was an unsustainable lifestyle. I’m so much better at being a mom and way more effective at my job, too, now that I’m no longer drinking or constantly hungover.

What books were most influential in starting your sobriety and why?

  • Jason Vale, Kick the Drink … Easily! This book literally changed my mindset on drinking for good. I had to order it online and have it shipped from the UK. (These days I recommend people check out Annie Grace’s book This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, which is the same concept but easily available in the U.S.) It’s basically designed to de-program all the messaging we’ve been subjected to our whole lives that alcohol is a necessary and enjoyable part of life.
  • Caroline Knapp, Drinking, A Love Story. This was a title that was recommended over and over again in my online sobriety groups. The way she talked about drinking as being like an affair with someone who you know is bad for you, but you just can’t give up, definitely resonated with me in those early days.
  • Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget. Like all the best writing on addiction, Sarah’s story is, in many ways, my story. The daily agony of filling in all the details of the night before is one of those things I will never, ever miss.

What reading or writing tools do you use for living your sober-life/best-life now?

I write stories about my drinking times and superimpose everything I’ve learned since as a way to process my experiences and forgive myself. I can’t imagine I’ll ever get tired of reading other people’s sobriety stories (books, blog posts, Instagram captions, etc.) as a way to stay motivated and always remember why I stopped drinking.

Number one tip you tell someone who is thinking about quitting drinking?

You are not alone. When someone tells me they’re thinking about quitting drinking, I usually point them to my favorite blogs and Instagram accounts. When I was thinking about stopping, I had no idea there were sober communities and people who loved sobriety and talking about it. I knew no one who had stopped drinking, and that made it seem like an impossible thing for too long. My top two recommendations are always Holly Whitaker and Laura McKowen, because I love everything they write, do, and podcast. The She Recovers Facebook page is a great resource. Just a few of my favorite sobriety-related Instagram accounts are Tell Better Stories, Dry Life ClubThe Sober Glow, but there are so many great ones out there.

Number one tip for someone who is a few years into sobriety?

Whatever works for you works for you, and that’s amazing! Don’t presume that what works for you is the only way, and don’t worry that you’re doing it “wrong.” Everybody’s recovery looks different.

 

Meet Jackie

Jackie is a freelance writer and author who lives in Chicago with her husband, Justin. Faced with hours upon hours of free time after she stopped drinking, she discovered a newfound love for embroidering on top of black and white images. After years of writing about artists as a journalist, Jackie debuted her first solo art show as a multimedia embroidery artist in Chicago in 2018!

Where to find her:

Sober-versary?

~April 15, 2016. After waking up, for the thousandth time, with no recollection of the night before, I decided I was done-fucking-done. This was after about a year and a half of “step zero,” which, for me, included reading a ton of self-help books, listening to podcasts about sobriety, and escalating my binging nightmares as addiction tried to hold onto me, because it could sense I was trying to let go of it.

I considered myself a big party girl who liked to work hard, play hard! I did everything to an extreme because that is how I was “successful,” socially and professionally. It is now laughably clear that I was trying to find answers in things that hurt me—because their painful distractions meant I didn’t actually have to do any of the work to find the answers I said I so desperately wanted.

What books were most influential in your beginning sobriety and why?

  • Mary Karr, Lit. Honestly, I wanted to read about getting sober, but I wanted a book that didn’t have a title and book cover that screamed I HAVE A PROBLEM AND YOU CAN JUDGE ME NOW. So I picked Lit. That’s literally the only reason. Lucky me. Mary Karr is a brilliant writer, and the way she described why she drank and how she drank felt so familiar (though our specific circumstances are so totally different). It was like watching my own pain unfold on a page. Feeling seen, understood, and not-like-a-total-monster-or-an-especially-unique-individual-in comparison-to-others is life changing; I get why confidential group work is key to so many professional recovery programs.
  • Marsha Lineman, DBT Skills Training Manual. I have relied on substances or obsessions, in one form or another, to escape feeling whatever I’m feeling since I was 15 years old. My cycle of alcohol abuse was related to this and related to my inability to regulate any emotion, ever. This book gave me practical tools and “skills” for learning to cope with and manage strong feelings on a daily basis.
  • Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. Oh la la, being comfortable with being uncomfortable was one of the most challenging aspects of newly sober life. I felt like a scared little bird learning to leave the nest! I didn’t know how to just beespecially at a party or in an environment where I usually would have a drink to feel at ease. This book is one of those that you can just open to any page and get a paragraph or two of courage and/or strength. It’s all about staying present and living in the moment, even when that moment is hard. I wasn’t used to doing that before sobriety, and this book helped me learn how.

What reading or writing tools do you use for living your sober-life/best-life now?

I love working on my blog, my books, and my artwork. I used to care so much about what publication I was writing for, what client I was working for, or what award I could win (my husband used to call me a Trophy Hunter and that was really real). But that ambition wasn’t healthy, really. It was just me chasing validation and trying to escape a feeling of inadequacy. Now, I find so much joy in writing and making whatever I want and sharing it on my own terms.

I read a lot about brain science, mindfulness, reframing thoughts, and radical acceptance. Sobriety is about more than just not drinking alcohol. It’s all connected, and the more I understand how I work as a human, the better I get at living as one peacefully in each moment.

Number one tip you tell someone who is thinking about quitting drinking?

Think of a non-alcoholic drink that looks like it’s alcoholic that you can order when you’re out at a bar. For me, it was (and still is) a club soda and cranberry in a rocks glass. And a lime wedge if ya got it, please. (I always ask for it in a rocks glass. Otherwise, some bartenders, usually young ones, give it to me a pint glass, like I was just super thirsty and wanted a pop or something. Ha! Some bartenders, mostly older ones who have obviously seen some shit, read between the lines and know exactly why I’m asking. I think others just think I’m pregnant.)

Listen, you don’t owe anyone shit and don’t have to—and probably won’t have the words to—explain yourself in those first few fragile months of sobriety. But you will feel like you have to explain yourself to others. You will feel like you are letting them down. Especially if you’re the type of drinker who was always drinking and that’s how people know you and have come to rely on you. Having a “drink” that looks like a drink will help put you at ease in situations that feel so foreign and painfully awkward to you without alcohol. It will get easier to be honest about your life, but you don’t have to do that until you are ready. Stay sober and you’ll eventually be ready.

Number one tip for someone who is a few years into sobriety?

Don’t be afraid to try something that maybe didn’t work for you in the first few years. I avoided AA for a long time and recently started attending meetings near my house. It’s been great for me in terms of evolving my recovery process, but it wouldn’t have worked when I first got sober. I would have resisted every aspect of AA and used my sense of alienation in a meeting as a self-pitying justification to go drink. I also knew I was extremely co-dependent and I worried about swapping my drinking buddies for non-drinking buddies, with nary a deep connection in sight.

Now, I find that the thinking/ living/ growing I do because of AA is an important piece of working through some behavior patterns that became ingrained in me while I was drinking. In the beginning, I just needed to stop drinking, plunk myself back into my own body, and stay put for a while. Now, I need to show up for myself physically, and AA is an easy and free way to do that. Something that I didn’t need before is exactly what I need now. Sobriety has taught me to always stay open to change. This is just one example.

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