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Sober Story: Olivia

August 21st, 2019 Interviews

Woman standing in field

This week’s Sober Story comes from Olivia, a 50-year-old living in the North of England.


Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?

Olivia: 3 years and 3 months. Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up? Olivia: I knew for some time that I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol – I used to drink every night, red wine was my downfall and I could take or leave anything else. I started to feel shameful when I told my husband it was his turn to settle our youngest into bed, funny – it always seemed to be his turn and if I did it I would always select the shortest bedtime story! Mrs D: Oh same, the shorter the better… Olivia: I would plan my social life and going out around who would drink and who would drive and it was never me that would do the drive home – I would do the drive there. I would also feel resentful when my kids needed dropping off somewhere or picking up. I always was the mum who volunteered to do the dropping off. However, I generally drank at home. I worked from home and as soon as the clock hit 5.30pm I would open a bottle or pick up from where I left off with the already open one before my husband got home, of course it was chic and cosmopolitan to drink whilst preparing an a la carte meal, of veggie chilli. When my husband got home I was already likely buzzed and then he was an excuse to open another bottle. The cycle continued for a long time. I woke every single night at around 3am and could not ever get back to sleep and would then toss and turn and feel incredibly guilty – I felt like crap when I got up, tired, groggy, I felt like I had a constant niggling hangover. I could NOT get thru a day without craving red wine. Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober? Olivia: I know I didn’t have a ‘bottom’, I performed well, I looked ’normal’ to most people – but I knew I was not. I was an anxious, miserable, self-hating mess and it needed to change. My mum was diagnosed with dementia – Alzheimers with Vascular – and I was convinced that she had drank herself into that. She used to drink a lot when she was a similar age to me (and I think she still does). I had no intention of risking that and so decided to lessen my risk, in my mind, and start to address the issues I had with alcohol. I know there is little scientific research around this but I am thinking it could not do any harm. Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was the most difficult? Olivia: It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t super difficult as I knew my habit was just that, a habit. I knew if I could get thru the first month then I could do it for longer. So I counted, sniffed husband’s wine, had a sip – literally a sip now and then. He isn’t a heavy drinker so that was rare. The longer I went the easier it got. I had broken the habit and pretty soon decided that I had come so far as glass of wine was not worth over-riding the hard work I had done and the awesome sleep and clarity of mind I was having. Mrs D: Amazing! What reaction did you get from friends and family? Olivia: They didn’t think I had an issue. They knew I was prone to being ‘awkward’. I gave up meat 7 years ago and they still think I am weird for doing that. My husband used to say I was more relaxed when I had had a drink, which wasn’t helpful but he is now very supportive and he can see the insidious nature of alcohol acceptance in our society and often ‘calls it out’. My brother and his wife and my sister-in-law are all heavy drinkers, I don’t spend too much time with them now. Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse? Olivia: I gave up once for a while before my 3 year run and then stupidly thought I could moderate – I went back to it hard and realised I couldn’t. Mrs D: How lond did it take for things to calm down for you emotionally and physically? Olivia: Physically not long, it certainly helps to keep weight off, emotionally I think I have some issues that alcohol certainly didn’t help. I came to terms with difficult memories and feelings and my son, who suffers from depression, got a much better emotional version of me than he used to get when I drank. I am still working through some emotional stuff. Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober? Olivia: I still find that a challenge – I cannot stand to be around drunken people. My husband plays in a band and I used to go to every gig – I could drink, right? But now I cannot stand to watch a room full of people descend into horrendous and embarrassing behaviour so I avoid most gigs. I do look for alcohol free options, but I resent paying as much for a Seedlip as I would as a G & T. I have always been honest about quitting drinking with people who ask so when out and about I say ‘I don’t drink’ they don’t usually ask any further. Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking? Olivia: That I could have empathy and patience. My husband had a very bad cycling accident last year, he got hit by a car and I nursed him for quite a long time and held everything else together. I would have been a mess if I had have still been drinking. I have no doubt about that at all. Mrs D: How did your life change? Olivia: I quit my job and went self employed with my husband – that would never have happened if I had not have had clarity. Funny, I was always a nervous wreck when I drank – I worried at the slightest thing. But now I very much have a ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ attitude to life. I could support my young son’s acting career, taking him all over the place, picking up from theatres and shows late at night – sober. I discovered an arty side, I taught myself to crochet and found a love of creativity – could you imagine trying to crochet a blanket buzzed? I would not have been able to get a hook thru a hole ???? Mrs D: Can you pinpoint any main benefits that have emerged from you quitting drinking? Olivia: Just everything – life is not easier, or no more difficult – it is still challenging but I take time to look around and let my eyes draw in more of the beauty that surrounds me. I enjoy just being in a moment and have certainly become more spontaneous. I love my ability now to see alcohol for what it really is. Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again? Olivia: No – I don’t think so. Mrs D: Any advice or tips for those who are just starting on this journey? Olivia: You will find your own way. I listened to a lot of podcasts in secret and on car journeys alone and love the Bubble Hour. I used social media to find like-minded people but had to come out of a few groups as a few of them are full of very delicate people and I sometimes shot my mouth off – they weren’t the best places for me. I of course read Mrs D’s book and Sober Mummy. I looked for alcohol free alternatives and enjoy them. However I am totally aware that at anytime I could be tempted back to the dark side. I get a smell of, a feeling for or eat a meal that I know would be lovely with a glass of red and I have to check myself – look out for the ‘Wine Witch’ whispering that all will be okay. Be honest with yourself – it won’t.

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