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Sober Story: David

April 23rd, 2023 Interviews

David :)

This week’s Sober Story comes from David (@davidfs), a 62-year-old living in Queenstown, Central Otago.

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Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?

David: My current journey is 3 years, but I have been honestly trying to stop drinking for about the last 5 years. Prior to that, despite, on some levels knowing I had a problem, I remained in denial.

Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?

David: I was drinking more and more (I had in the last year or two considered myself a high functioning alcoholic, truth was I was a barely functioning human being). I was drinking a 3 litre box of wine every night. I’d pass out drunk at some point, only (like most of us), to wake up at 3am with the sweats, remorse . . . . so then I’d finish what was left in the box, sleep for an hour or two and drag myself into the shower to start another day. I was lying about my drinking, hiding alcohol all over the place and manipulating situations where I could be home alone to drink all day.

Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?

David: That in itself is such a huge question, I was in the process of ending a toxic relationship of 18 years (this was the last thing my partner wanted) the divorce was acrimonious to say the least, and I was drinking a lot. I remember being on the phone to my lawyer one day, I told her “Well you’re the fucking lawyer, you sort it out”. Later, when I apologized, she generously denied ever having received that call. I was no longer in touch with any of my family. I micro-managed my staff and was quite petty about the smallest of issues. My business partnership was on pretty thin ice, my anger very close to the surface and patience non-existent. A friend took a photo of me beside my bus (I had just bought it), I was horrified I looked like a scarecrow. I had lost 12 kilos in 6 months. So in answer to your question, that photo was the last straw, I had literally got to the point of do or die.

Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?

David: So many day ones and broken promises. I’d gain momentum only to crash and burn over and over. Looking back, I realise a big part of this was due to having no belief in myself or my ability to change. I didn’t like or trust myself in any way. I persevered with endless weeks of little or no sleep. There’s the answer, the most difficult was the lack of sleep, it was driving me insane, or so I thought.

Mrs D: What tool or tools did you use to help you?

David: The only thing that really helped was white knuckling through it and walking. I’d get home from work and walk. On bad days I’d walk with earbuds in and music so loud I couldn’t hear my own thoughts. On better days I’d walk around interesting areas (boat and boat harbors or marinas do it for me). I’d walk till I felt I could walk no more, then I’d turn around and walk home, often crawling into bed too exhausted to even worry about eating (by then my weight was going up as I would eat during the day). I read a bit of quit lit but the only one that really spoke to me was Dave Horry’s (@daveh) Lying Minds, it flipped a switch in my brain. The Living Sober community was a place I could scream and cry at all the injustices of my life without being judged, people believed in me despite me not believing in myself. This was a whole new concept.

Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?

David: To make myself accountable (no more lying to myself), I announced on Facebook both my alcoholism and my intention to give up. The minute I posted it I regretted it, what the fuck had I done? What idiot does that? But the next day I was amazed at the reactions, many from people I had not connected with in years. There was not one negative comment, it was like the biggest thumbs up I’d ever seen. Family was pretty non-existent by then and my social group (the people I hang with) were all drinkers to one degree or another but still all supported me. In the last few years my non-drinking is either just normal or treated as a joke with my friends, “oh yeah, he drinks the free council wine” (bottled water at the end of the bar). One friend often asks “do you want some expensive lolly water” (his reference to non-alcoholic beer), but I can laugh at myself nowadays so it’s all good.

Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?

David: I was six months sober; I’d done the recovery walk in Auckland and had life all sorted (or so I thought). Then Covid came and lockdown hit us all. I moved my bus to behind my work and spent the days and nights alone in my office. It started with a bottle a day but soon the old manic depression took hold, and I was hallucinating and being tormented by a mouse (he was a real mouse but in my befuddled mind I had given him amazing powers, he was opening and closing doors downstairs in the building just to annoy me). A friend in Taiwan rung and realising something was wrong (I was talking gibberish a mile a minute), contacted my business partner. Friends gathered and offered support (as much they could given the restrictions at the time). I moved the bus out to my business partners farm and started walking . . . . . . . . again.

Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?

David: Lotta, you ask huge questions yet with so few words. My 40 + years of heavy drinking (I’d started at 14) had left me highly anxious, depression (both low and manic) were always close at hand. My walking had kept me pretty fit physically and I was putting on weight but emotionally there was a lot of work to do. It was well into my 2nd year sober that I realised I was making steps in this area and was becoming an adult emotionally. My business partner has been a fantastic role model and unknowingly has taught me so much. I think my biggest revelation was understanding that most humans struggle in life in one way or another, we never know what’s really happening for someone else so being kind and trying not to judge is the best we can be.

Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?

David: You’re assuming I’m getting used to it! I’m not a people person (as a customer once told me) and have accepted I never really will be. Socialising never has come easily but certainly being sober gives me greater confidence. 3 years in and it’s still a work in progress, perhaps it always will be.

Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?

David: I can tie knots. Sounds stupid I know but I did cubs, boy scouts and more, yet I could never tie a knot. This is kind of symbolic of a lot of things in my life, I just couldn’t do or learn stuff. I now know that I can learn, and do. I learn by repetition, and now I understand this I know I can do almost anything I set my mind to. Knots became important because I want to learn to sail. Now I can tie them, I can learn, and that’s growth.

Mrs D: How did your life change?

David: Easy, my thinking changed from negative to positive. I love my life. I laugh and cry (at times) like everybody else but above all and on the whole, I’m a happy contented person. Thats huge.

Mrs D: What are the main benefits that have emerged for you from getting sober? (12 words)

David: Every part of my life has benefited from getting sober. (10 words ????)

Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?

David: Thats like asking “would I go back and change my life If I had the opportunity?” NO. I’m realistic enough to know that I cannot change the past but also the past does not control my future, and that future is exciting and full of possibilities. Live the moment.

Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?

David: It’s not easy. You need to be prepared to put in the hard work and face all of your truths no matter how difficult this is. White knuckle through the cravings if you have to, believe me they do recede in time. Learn that you can’t control everything, nor do you need to. Most of all enjoy the journey, it’s awesome.

Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?

David: Writing this has been a roller-coaster of emotions, reliving both the very best and the absolute worst of the last 5 years. It’s taken 3 days and a lot of laughter, and equally as many tears to get this on paper but it was a privilege to be asked to write it and relive all those memories. Thank You. If anything I have written offers even the smallest glimmer of hope to anyone starting out, then that’s an added bonus that makes it even so much more worthwhile.

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