Meet A Founder - Johanna Sullivan - Peachtree City Moms

Meet Johanna Sullivan, Master Coach Certified in Gray Area Drinking and the Founder of Clear + Present Strangers, Coaching + Consulting.  Johanna 
works with women who are sober curious and want to change their relationship with alcohol. She and her 
husband live in Sharpsburg, GA and enjoy the area’s lifestyle. In our Q&A with Johanna, she shares what led her to become a Certified Life Coach with certifications in Gray Area Drinking, with a mission to help others find freedom from alcohol and get off the rollercoaster.

Q&A

What is your background? Tell us about your career.
 
I spent 18 years in sports and entertainment and had a successful career selling advertising and sponsorships, working for the Atlanta Hawks, the Atlanta Thrashers, and Philips Arena (now State Farm) as well as working in radio and television.  I loved the fast pace of the industry, the diversity, the once-in-a lifetime experiences, and was a top performer in a male-dominated industry.
After leaving the sports business, I got into real estate with my husband. During this time in real estate, I realized how much I enjoyed helping people realize their dreams, build their lives, begin their families, and create wealth and leave a legacy for their children and others.

What called you to become a Life/Sobriety Coach?  
Clear + Present Strangers Coaching + Consulting came about organically as a result of my own personal healing journey that began in 2019. 
This is the juicy part…
I had always taken pride in being independent. I poured myself into my career, winning awards and accolades for performance. I earned a good living, had nice things, and had lots of friends. I got to meet famous people, and alcohol was always in the mix. On the outside, I had a dream job and looked happy, but on the inside, I was crumbling. 

I had all style but no substance. I watched my friends find love, get married, and have children. I compared myself to them and considered myself a failure because I wasn’t married and didn’t have any children. I based my happiness (or lack thereof) upon the things they had that I didn’t.  I was incredibly lonely.

I became a voracious consumer of self-help books. I was always on a self-improvement plan, never finding contentment in my constant quest. I took antidepressants and used wine to numb myself and fill the void in my life of not having a partner.  I dated and had boyfriends over the years, but never found “my person” I was so desperately seeking.  
I had a brief and tumultuous marriage at 43 and got divorced shortly after my mom died of cancer.  It was a really painful time in my life.  It was also when my drinking career escalated to a whole new level. I used wine to numb myself and the pain. Little did I know, my self-medicating was creating most of the stress and anxiety in my life.  While there was no “rock bottom” for me, I knew deep down I needed to change, and I wanted to change, but I just didn’t know how. I was sliding down a gradual, slippery slope and I knew it wasn’t going to end well.
Pride, shame, and judgment were all preventing me from seeking help.  I didn’t know there were other options besides AA and rehab, and neither of those were a good fit for me.  I put all kinds of rules around my drinking (only 2 glasses of wine), tried all kinds of things and made so many promises to myself that would all get broken (like finishing the whole bottle instead).  Every day was groundhog day for me.  Wakeup feeling a little rough around the edges, or sometimes really hungover and promise myself I’m not going to drink today, only to find myself saying “a glass of wine would be good right about now” when 5 o’clock rolled around. 
I signed up for a Dry January and during that time, I learned a lot about what alcohol does to your brain and body, and why it is so hard to stop, even though you really want to and know better.  Dry January turned into Dry February, and I just kept on going.
Once I finally parted ways with alcohol in 2019, my life changed in ways I would have never imagined. I never knew the joy and happiness I have today was possible. Giving up alcohol made room in my life for me to find my soulmate that I married at 50, and together, we live an alcohol-free lifestyle. 
I wanted to share what I have learned with others so I became a certified life coach, and worked towards 2 other certifications in Gray Area Drinking, with a mission to help others find freedom and get off the rollercoaster.

 
What is the best thing about your job?
 
The absolute best thing is seeing my clients turn a corner and have an A-Ha! moment.  They come to me in despair and leave with clarity, excitement, and a new zest for life.  I love helping them look towards the future and build a life that they love and don’t need to escape.
What is your best “work balance” tip? 
 
You can’t do it all.  Moms especially are juggling so much – bombarded with things all day long, checking off to-do lists.  Just because you are asked to do something, doesn’t mean you have to.  Think about what you want the rest of your life to look like, and be intentional with your day.  Ask yourself:  Do I want to do this? Is this a good use of my time?  In the words of Rachel Hollis…If it’s not a hell yeah, then it’s a hell no!
What is your favorite “life hack”?  
 
I love to order meal kit deliveries.  While they can seem expensive at first, when you calculate the time involved in meal planning, preparation, shopping (as well as the actual cost of impulse purchases at the grocery), it is much more efficient from a time and cost perspective.  It takes the thinking out of eating, keeps you on track for eating healthy meals, and prevents overspending.
What do you love about Peachtree City and the surrounding areas? 
 
I grew up on the southside of Atlanta, but lived most of my adult life in Atlanta in Buckhead.  My husband and I moved back to the southside in 2021 to be closer to my father, and we currently live in Sharpsburg.  We love being here in the Fayette/Coweta community and the lifestyle this area affords.  It has been so fun catching up with old friends and making new ones.  We also love exploring the restaurant scene and discovering new fun entertainment.
What TV show are you loving right now? Book? Movie? Podcast?
 
I just finished reading Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. I have so many emotions after reading it. It is a beautiful tribute to all the women who fought so hard to get us where we are today.  This story touched me so deeply for a variety of reasons – generational trauma, women’s rights, and breaking cycles. It’s hilarious, smart, inspiring, and provides an important glimpse and reminder of the past.  There is also a limited series airing on Apple TV.
While reading it I couldn’t help but think about my grandmother, who became a single mom in the 1950’s when my grandfather died.  I spent a lot of time with her growing up. She was the sweetest, strongest, most resourceful woman I’ve ever known. She shaped my life in so many ways that she never really knew and I credit my strong will and independence to her.
We are so fortunate in today’s society to have more opportunities than our mothers, grandmothers, and all of the women before us did. I am so grateful to those women who paved the way for the rights we enjoy and the way we live today.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our Moms? 
 

I do the work that I do to honor my mother.  She was diagnosed with cancer at 63 and died at 67, far too soon.  She never struggled with alcohol until her mother died.  I was following in her footsteps, even though I never planned it, neither of us did. If you might be questioning your relationship with alcohol, you are not alone.  I am living proof that you don’t have to hit rock bottom in order to make a change.

 

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