This week's Sober Story comes from Andrea, a 47-year-old living in Tauranga.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Andrea: I now have over 12 years of continued sobriety.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Andrea: Life was one big party from when I was about 15, I could drink with the best of them, however everyone I knew grew up and I was not ready. I started frequenting bars in my mid 20's where other heavy drinkers hung out. I married and had my children, and although I stayed sober during my pregnancies I was very keen to start again when the kids were born. This was the time things really began to spiral out of control, I was an at home mum who had a lot of time to drink and a lot of time to meet other bored housewives. My marriage ended, and rather than stepping up for my kids (then 3 and 5) I stepped down. No one was around anymore to monitor my situation, and can honestly say that I put them in danger on occasion. I received my first DIC and decided to try a local outpatients program to keep my family happy. But I was not ready yet, oh no, much more had to go wrong over the next 2 years until I was ready to get serious, and get real. By then I had enough AA in my head to know I was an alcoholic, but I could not imagine a world without wine!! In the end my kids were living with their dad, I had lost my job, had an accident that left me nearly crippled and another DIC for my efforts. My hair was falling out, I was thin and not eating. I was hallucinating regularly and burning every bridge possible in the quickest amount of time. I was a shell of myself. I had nothing. You get that when breakfast is a wine to get started.
Mrs D: So what was the straw that finally led you to get sober?
Andrea: Everything and nothing, it was a culmination of not having the kids and a lot of people telling me to get it sorted out - even the mums I drank with had enough of my antics. I was mixing painkillers with booze and knew it was death or insanity if I did not sort my life out. I was not ready to throw in the towel on life and I knew I had a life that could be worth living. Booze bought me to my knees.
Mrs D: So great that you quit. How did you find it it in the early days? What was most difficult?
Andrea: I did it hard in the beginning, I was pretty much alone by then. I had even managed to run the cat over. Loneliness and emotions where what I struggled with mentally. Physically I was really bad, I had very little strength and recall sleeping a lot.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Andrea: My family did not really believe I had it in me, I had let them down before, and left their hopes dashed. Friends were mainly good although the same as family. Some friends were actually disappointed once they knew I was serious as I was one less drinking buddy - I stopped getting invited places. Some even turned up with bottles of wine trying to convince me I just needed one or two...
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Andrea: I had a series of relapses before sobriety took hold.
Mrs D: How long until things started calming down for you emotionally & physically?
Andrea: It was a full two years before I felt like I could really cope emotionally and physically again on a daily basis. I was not a 'mess' before then, but after two years I really felt like it had all started falling into place.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Andrea: Initially I was a hermit, I painted and cleaned and read every book I could. I immersed myself in the kids school, the PTA etc so I could avoid social events. Family events could not be avoided, but I took along my own car so I could leave when I wanted. I took my drinks and a ready excuse to go home.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Andrea: I was creative! I could make things with a bit of imagination. I learnt that I was stronger than I thought possible. I have discovered that there is ONLY ONE thing I cannot do - and that is drink. I can do anything else I set my mind to.
Mrs D: I love that! How else did your life change?
Andrea: I became a citizen, not someone just along for the ride. I had opinions sober that were founded in compassion, not anger. Everything changed, I eventually got a new job, got my kids back full time, and learned that being me was ok.
Mrs D: Yay! So many great things.. can you pinpoint any main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Andrea: My kids have their mum back. My sister has her sister, my mum has her daughter and my nieces have their aunty. I can now give back, and understand addiction and all it's tricks so intimatly. This has meant I have held few hands along the way, and I hope have given other people enough hope to stay sober.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Andrea: No, I think I had to do it the way I did it to end up here. I had to feel every itch and bit of heartache to appreciate that I did not want to go back. I knew that I did not have another recovery in me.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Andrea: Get professional help - not 'harm reduction' help but total abstinence help. Residential rehab did not help me - I got kicked out in the first week. But an intensive outpatients program locally was perfect for me. I still had to live in the world while learning to maintain a good healthy sobriety. Rehab in all its forms will teach you how to get sober - AA and support groups will help you stay sober.
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to share?
Andrea: This is not our fault, we are good people who make bad decisions drinking. It can, and does get better.
Thank you for sharing.
Your story gives me hope. Thank you for sharing.
So true your comments. “rehab in all it forms teach you how to GET sober – AA and support groups help you STAY sober” absolutely pearls x
Thank you so much, blessings to you my dear,xx.
Thanks for sharing your story. I truly believe we all have to do it our own way and when the timing is correct for us.
“I have discovered that there is ONLY ONE thing I cannot do – and that is drink. I can do anything else I set my mind to.”
I love this.
Thanks for sharing.
This hit home for me too. Thank you .
Thanks so much for sharing your story! xoxoxo
Thank you for sharing your story of hope. I really like the words “we are good people who make bad decisions drinking”. Congratulations.
Inspirational, thank you for being honest enough and brave enough to share your story.