This week’s Sober Story comes from Annie (@grannie), a 60-year-old living in Invercargill.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Annie: I have been in recovery since September 2nd 2014 – my grandsons 5th birthday.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the end of your drinking days?
Annie: The last months/years of my drinking had escalated to where I knew I would have to either stop drinking or I would be dead. I had lost all contact with my two daughters because I had verbally abused them both while drunk. They decided they needed to protect themselves and have nothing more to do with me until I was sober. I had stopped drinking for a year once before but it didn’t take much for me to start again.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Annie: My fourth marriage was an absolute sham and I was in a cycle of going home on a Friday and staying in bed with a cask of wine under the bed and another in the fridge. I saw the programme on TV about Lotta and then heard she was talking at an event in Wellington where I was living at the time. I decided I wanted my daughters back, my ‘husband’ gone and this I could only do if I stopped drinking.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Annie: I struggled with not drinking while everyone else around me was drinking. I never drank again after I decided to stop. I bought a red wine bottle and a red glass and boxes of diet lemon lime and bitters. I would go home from work and fill the red bottle with the diet drink and sit and drink it. I had a lot of anger in me and to a certain extent I still do feel angry. Angry that I had a problem. Angry that I wasn’t a normal drinker and angry that people looked at me like I was a freak for not drinking.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Annie: My family were really pleased I was giving up but they were also suspicious because I had given up before. They all thought I would only give up for a short time or drink on the sly
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Annie: I have not had a relapse this time though I did accidentally taste wine when someone swapped glasses at a party. My reaction was swift and I never swallowed, spat it out and had a real panic attack. It was a lesson to always have my glass in my hand. I have often thought I could have a drink but I know it would never just be one and my life is under control now and I never want to go back to where I was over three years ago.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Annie: I can’t say that things have calmed down completely emotionally and physically. I know physically I am a lot better off having stopped shaking and having headaches. It took me a few months for that to happened. Emotionally it is going to be on going probably for the rest of my life. I still to this day beat myself up about not being able to control my drinking.
Mrs D: Don’t beat yourself up. There are many of us in the same boat. What about going out and socialising.. how do you find doing that without drinking?
Annie: For me it is still a work in progress socialising sober as I still feel people look at me and are judging me. I feel better if I have water or whatever else I drink out of a wine glass. That way I don’t feel so different.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Annie: Yes, I thought I needed alcohol to be funny and be able to perform on stage but I didn’t.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Annie: I could drive to work in the morning without worrying about drink driving. I had a lot more money at the end of the week. I had the clear head I needed to put my life back together.
Mrs D: Any main benefits you can pinpoint that have emerged for you since getting sober?
Annie: I have put my relationships with my daughters together again and in a much more healthier way. This means I am an active grandmother as well.
Mrs D: Oh that’s so great. Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Annie: Yes I would have stopped a lot sooner and chosen my ‘friends’ differently
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Annie: Don’t think past today. You only have to get through today. I use this thought a lot in other areas of my life as well now. I get depressed a lot but tell myself I only have to get through now.
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Annie: I have used alcohol to dull the pain I have felt since I can’t remember when. There has been a movie made which describes my adult life: Four weddings and a Funeral. This has given a lot of people whom I have met a lot of opportunities to take the piss out of me. They don’t know how or why my life has been the way it has but like to judge me anyway. I have refused to go into the foetal position and give up on life. Now instead of drinking I sing at home until I no longer feel worthless.
Mrs D: Sing?
Annie: I have replaced on addiction for another. My new addiction of singing though will not hurt anyone else unless they have sensitive ears.