Stronger Together: Jill and Me


There are many things in life I can’t imagine getting through without my sister, Jill

When I remember our childhood, we’re huddled together under a blanket tent laughing and crying and planning our escape. We even slept in the same bed. We didn’t know what life could be like outside of our dysfunctional household, but we knew we’d find it—together. 

We were largely isolated from our peers and were best friends to each other. First out of loneliness and necessity and later because of our shared values even more than our shared life experiences.

Jill once punched another kid in the face for calling me fat. She helped me live through Catholic school and later navigate a wholly different range of circumstances when we were college students in New York City together. She's now lived three states away for seven years and we still talk daily--sometimes multiple times a day.  

In late December 2016 when she asked if I would commit to the “Dry January” challenge with her for moral support, I didn’t hesitate for a second. “Of course,” I said. “We’ll do it together.”

When you live 300 miles away from your life-long best friend, doing something like that as a team mostly takes the form of even more phone calls and texts than usual. We shared apps and playlists, words of encouragement and warning, big wins and near misses, slip ups and climbs back up on the horse. 

When January was over, we talked about how we liked not drinking too much to go back to drinking just yet. I had a conference coming up in March, and I very much did not want to drink there.

The last time I had attended this particular conference, the annual meeting of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, I barely slept, I had conversations I couldn’t remember later, I missed opportunities to connect with my colleagues, and I headed home early when I realized I was getting nothing out of being there. Thanks, alcohol! So I had a goal of staying off the sauce through February and March, at the very least. 

Jill supported this goal 100% and talked me through the sticky spots that came up. I texted her when my husband was bummed out that I wasn’t drinking and I when I foolishly thought one glass of wine would make a bad day better. She also supported me by continuing to not drink herself. We were both afraid to think of this of a permanent shift, but there was no arguing with the results: We felt better. 

As I write this we’re rounding the 100 day mark. She’ll be visiting Philadelphia soon. I made a reservation for the two of us to celebrate at a fancy vegetarian restaurant with a killer mocktails list. I can’t wait to toast this shared achievement with her. 

We have done a lot of things together, but this has been one of the best.

Research shows that accountability sets most people up for success when it comes to habit change. We were lucky to have an accountability buddy right from the start when we decided to do a Dry January together. If you are thinking about experimenting with an alcohol free month, try to recruit one. There are more people in your life curious about not drinking than you think.


joy manning