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Sober Story: Shirley

March 27th, 2019 Interviews

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This week’s Sober Story comes from Shirley, a 43-year-old living in London.


Mrs D: How long have you been sober for?

Shirley: I have been in recovery since Sunday 6th January 2014.

Mrs D: What was your relationship like with alcohol?

Shirley: I was in denial about my drinking all my adult life. I never, ever drank one glass of wine, it was always a bottle. My illness progressed out of control in the last six year of my drinking. Every night I would drink four bottles of wine. I would wake in the morning not remembering how I got to bed or even how many hours of sleep I had. I’d wake in the morning counting down the hours till I could drink, planning the meal I would cook to go with my wine. I was definitely obsessed with alcohol and I didn’t even realise it. I couldn’t wait to have a drink.

Mrs D: How were the final years for you?

Shirley: The last few years of my drinking I only drank indoors in my living room with the curtains closed, the world locked away from me, as I was not safe when I was drinking outside. I watched the same movie nightly and drank the same wine. My life had become very small. I wouldn’t talk to anyone and at times the only voices I could hear were my own voice in my head. I was slowly going insane.

Mrs D: Why were you unsafe drinking out of the home?

Shirley: There were always consequences; hospital visits, suicide attempts, rape. I never put it down to the drink. I told myself I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. So in my head it was safe for me to be at home and drink. Well that’s what I thought….

Mrs D: So what got you to finally quit?

Shirley: My last drink (which I didn’t know it would be) was Sunday 5th January, 2014. A normal night for me – three bottles of wine. The same film on TV, kids in their bedroom. I finished the wine and in a blackout had left the children at home to buy more drink. I bought one litre of gin and then woke up on Sunday morning. I woke up in the living room with my youngest daughter beside me. She was six years old at the time. I woke up covered in blood and my nine year old daughter was missing. In a blackout I had thrown her out of the family home. I had no recollection of this. My mum had come to get her and I beat up my mum. To cut a long story short my parents told me they were contacting social services to put my kids in to care as they were not safe with me. I had a choice either get help or the kids were gone. This was my rock bottom. All the people I had loved had given up on me. I was a very sick woman. So on 6/1/14 I went to my first AA meeting.

Mrs D: That’s a very powerful story. It’s great you found support in AA. Have you relapsed since then?

Shirley: In my story I have not needed to pick up a drink again. I have not relapsed or even wanted to drink. I’m not saying it was easy because at the beginning it was really difficult. Even over the years there has been moments of recovery when I’ve felt suicidal because I couldn’t handle life, but not once have I thought a drink will solve it.

Mrs D: How did your family react to you quitting?

Shirley: My parents and kids noticed a change in me. They saw a positive change and are proud of me.
I’ve learnt so much about me!!!

Mrs D: That’s so great. How has your life changed?

Shirley: Dramatically. At the age of 38 years old when I came into recovery, I really had nothing. I was working as a housekeeper on the minimum wage and just accepted that was the way it was going to be.
However in July 2017 I started working as a chef in a nursery. Today I cook for up to sixty 0-5 year olds. I plan menus, I make sure dietary needs are met. I have an amazing relationship with my employers and the staff, but most of all the children. I’ve been given a second chance I missed out on my own children growing up and to see children walk to me for the first time or say my name fills my heart with gratitude and love.

Mrs D: Good on you!

Shirley: My personal life has definitely been a journey. I was two years into recovery and decided it was a good time to meet someone. My friends suggested I go on a programme called ‘First dates’ where the producers find you a blind date. I took this as a higher power moment (yes I’m still mad as a hatter). After three auditions I finally went on a date – it didn’t go great but I did it. November 2016 it went to air. I was nervous as hell as I didn’t know how this programme would portray me. But the response I received was amazing. I was called brave, courageous and the general public gave me support. Even when I went to meetings a woman had said to me how she got to a meeting after hearing my story.

Mrs D: I’m so glad you had a positive experience from appearing on that show. But you didn’t find love there?

Shirley: I found love later. I met a wonderful guy in the rooms we have been together ever since. Life in recovery hadn’t always been easy I lost a baby last year and felt so alone but I got through it by having support and love of the people in the fellowship. On a daily basis I am learning to live not just exist.

Mrs D: Can you pinpoint any main benefits from getting sober?

Shirley: I’m a mum, fiancée, daughter, sister, friend, employee, a member of society. When I was drinking I was none of these.

Mrs D: Do you have any advice for those who are just starting out on this journey?

Shirley: My advice to anyone starting on their journey is to be honest, accept help, keep it simple and live in the day. Don’t pick up the first drink. For me it’s about connecting with other alcoholics whether it be at meetings, on twitter or other social media. I also do service at meetings and today I have a voice and I like to use it. I try and help not only alcoholics but all people.

Shirley’s First Dates episode is available on the Channel 4 website here (not available to view outside of the UK) or there’s a dodgy version on YouTube here.

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