This week’s Sober Story comes from Anna, a 46-year-old living in Ottawa Capital Region, Canada.
Mrs D: How long have you been sober for?
Anna: I have been in recovery for 3 years and 7 days.
Mrs D: What was your drinking habit like at first?
Anna: I started out as a casual drinker - the occasional glass of rose with friends. But I quickly moved to red wine and it didn’t matter what kind, or price, I liked them all. When the kids were little I would use the glass of wine as an excuse to relax once they went to bed. This lasted for many years, one to two glasses a night or maybe every other night. But as they grew, stress also grew and I was always looking forward to that glass of wine at the end of my day. When there were problems, any problem, I would pour a glass of wine. It easily became a nightly drink.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Anna: The last 3 years were the worst. I was easily drinking near a bottle or more a night and every night. On many occasions I would black out and wake up in the early hours of the morning full of regrets, knowing that I argued with my husband and mean things were said and I didn’t care because I had my glass of wine and nothing mattered. Each morning I woke up and I would check to see the bottle from the night before. I was always so surprised to see I’d finished it and sometimes started on the next bottle. We travelled to Cuba 4 years ago for our first holiday together and during that time all I cared about was how much I could drink. Instead of water in my water bottle I had them fill it with wine, my husband never knew. Things went from a glass, to two, to a bottle and a half most nights of the week. This turned me into an angry, depressed mean person. During the day people thought I had it all together, I worked, I took care of my kids, I was into everything health related. People from work, the gym, my old high school friends, would message me that I was an inspiration to them. I had lost weight, I worked out all the time, I posted all these healthy meals I was making, and all the while I was drunk every night.
Mrs D: You’re not alone doing that sort of thing.
Anna: The last few months before my breaking point I was drinking a bottle and a bit of wine a night, I had recently became a new grandmother and after my grandson was born at 1am, I returned home around 3am and poured a glass of wine and sat there until 4.30 in the morning drinking because in my head I had to have my bottle of wine before I could relax and go to sleep. I hid a lot of my drinking from all my family. I would bring the bottle to my room and sit there and drink, hiding the bottles in my closet so no one would notice. Then I discovered the boxes of wine. Each box equalled 5.5 bottles of wine, it wouldn’t even last me a whole week.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Anna: The night that things came to a halt, my friend and I drank 3.5 bottles of wine together, she was so drunk that she vomited wine all over my kitchen floor. My husband was so mad. He cleaned the vomit up and never said a word to me. I was being rude and cocky and saying such rude things to him. My kids saw me fall all over the place, slur my words and be a drunk. I woke up to find that my youngest daughter had left, she was so upset with me that she went to stay with her sister for almost 2 weeks. My husband brought my youngest son to stay with family and I just filled my water bottle up with more wine. Until I poured it out and confronted my problem. After a few days I asked all my kids to come home, that I had to tell them something. I told them I had a problem with wine and that I was going to get help. That was my breaking point. My daughters had always told me how proud they were of me, how they wanted to be like their mom. And I showed them my worst side and embarrassed everyone. Up until that point I had kept my drinking quiet from my kids, they never really noticed. The most ironic thing is that my first husband had turned into an alcoholic and after being raised with an alcoholic father I did not want that life for my kids. So we left. And I became almost just like him, unfortunately he never quit.
Mrs D: How was for you it in the early days?
Anna: The early days of sobriety were extremely difficult. The 5 o’clock habit was so hard to get through. I was angry that I let alcohol control me; I didn’t want to think that I could never have a glass of wine again. I actually couldn’t think that far ahead, I really took it one hour at a time. In the beginning, I would run every night. I would try and run 5km and be mad at myself the whole time. I slept a lot I would go to bed very early because I was bored and when I was bored I wanted to drink. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning because I didn’t see any point because all I wanted to do was drink. I didn’t want to take vacation because I would want to drink. I didn’t want to leave work early because that would give me more hours at home wanting a drink. The first little while was completely horrible.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from your friends and family?
Anna: My family was supportive and in denial. My husband had a hard time getting used to me not ordering wine or buying wine. He would ask to go to a pub or sit on a patio and have a drink. He never usually drank so this would make me angry, like he was testing me. But I realise that he was used to my habit as well and didn’t know how to handle the change. I never admitted I had a drinking problem to anyone at first. I always made an excuse that I was trying to be healthier, alcohol is poison etc. As for my friends, well I have had friends say that they miss my drinking, they miss the wine time we had. I have not been invited places because there was going to be drinking and they didn’t think I wanted to go.
Mrs D: Have you ever relapsed?
Anna: Fortunately, I have not had a relapse. I have found other ways to sabotage my health and I find I can easily get addicted to everything. I was addicted to ice cream, chocolate, running, bubbly water, and the list goes on. These are things that I am working on. Every day I work on me.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to calm down for you emotionally and physically?
Anna: I would say that it took me a long time to feel physically and emotionally “ok”. I thought, and my husband thought, that as soon as I stopped drinking that I would be smiling rainbows or something like that. But it wasn’t that way at all. You are sober, but you’re still dealing with all of life’s stresses. I had a lot going on in my life, I had a grandson being born, my stepdad developed dementia, my mom sold the family home, so many things that I would have just dealt with with wine. To feel emotions raw takes some getting used to. I think that now as I am in my 3rd year things are finally feeling okay. I enjoy being around people (usually I am an extreme introvert).
Mrs D: How did you go with socialising sober?
Anna: I do not find it hard to socialise without alcohol. I actually look at people that drink and feel sorry for them. I don’t miss the headaches and the regrets. I usually bring a bottle of my bubbly water and enjoy the night. Not drinking is almost socially unacceptable - no one understands why you would choose not to drink. I finally have the confidence to say, “I have a problem with wine, I liked it a bit too much and I need to stay away from it.” It took almost 3 years for me to openly tell people that I have a problem.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Anna: The way that my life has changed is that I am now a much better role model to my children. I can be depended upon, they can call me in the night and I can go and get them if needed. If my daughter needs me with the grandchildren I am right there. I no longer work everything around my “wine time”. I enjoy my time, I look forward to things, I am adventurous. I started reading books again and enjoying it. It is the little things that I drowned out of my life for so long.
Mrs D: Can you pinpoint any main benefits that have come from not drinking?
Anna: My health, my family, my grandbabies, my confidence are all benefits of not drinking.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go back in time?
Anna: It is hard to say what I would do differently. After making it to the 3 year mark I look back and wish I had gotten through the hard times faster, that I enjoyed life quicker, that I didn’t dwell on the drinking or lack there of so much in the beginning. I feel like I wasted years drinking and then I wasted almost 2 years being upset about not drinking and not living. I think you have to get through those tough times any way that you can and that there is no perfect way to handle things, you just have to. Definitely 1 day at a time.
Mrs D: Do you have any advice for people who are maybe starting out on this journey?
Anna: The only advice I could give is to be stubborn enough to make it through, don’t give up on yourself, everything you want will come but you have to put the work in, nothing is easy in life. I had a good friend tell me to wake up and “be the adult and stop being a child”. Your children should never have to feel that they need to parent you. Every day I would repeat that to myself “today I will adult up”.
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to add?
Anna: I am much happier going through this world wide awake than as a black out drunk.