This week's Sober Story comes from Ben, a 27-year-old living in Jacksonville, Forida, USA.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Ben: 4 and a half wonderful years!
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Ben: My life seemed somewhat normal on the outside, I still had a full time job and a girlfriend. I paid my bills on time (mostly) and I never got in trouble with the law. My friends and family could not stand me when I was drunk though, and I never went a day the past 4 years without a drink. It’s amazing how I rationalized that because I was still employed and somewhat responsible. I was miserable though, the only way I knew how to cover that up was to drink and drink some more.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Ben: My family held an intervention for me. Seeing them all together for one reason - for me to get help because they simply loved me and were so worried about something terrible happening - that really hit me hard. I am very close with my family and they have always been amazingly supportive. There was no screaming and yelling at the intervention, just pure love and concern and it was so tangible that day.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Ben: I had a real god problem. I never grew up with religion but I really intellectualised the god thing and really loved arguing that believing in a higher power was pointless. It was my ego coming up, looking back I was so vulnerable and I wanted people to know I was well spoken and smart due to my insecurities. Thank god a sponsor pointed that out to me early on.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Ben: They were thrilled, but also had the belief that I just had to go to treatment to get ‘fixed’ and I could just get back on with my life. I thought that as well, but there was one speaker that came in at my inpatient treatment center that made it clear that rehab was only the very beginning. For whatever reason, I truly believed him and knew I had to take this more seriously.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Ben: I’ve only been to treatment once and so far so good. Relapse is my number one fear however, I see so many people I went through treatment with either struggling or unfortunately dead. Good people with loving families and some with kids, it breaks my heart but also makes me work harder to ensure I never feel the need to take a drink again. There were so many things that helped me after leaving treatment.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Ben: The first year was such a roller coaster. I decided to end my relationship which was extremely tough to do but thank god I had the right men in my life guiding me. I’d say around the 10 month mark I had gone through most of the steps, had a great routine going and stayed so busy that I didn't have time to just sit down and think.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Ben: It wasn’t too hard for me, I am a pretty social guy but I really had to take a look at how I come off to people, as I mentioned before I was a pretty unbearable guy to talk to in the beginning. I thought I was better and smarter than most, there's no way I was very fun to be around. Thank god there are great men in the fellowship who could see right through it and knew I was worth saving.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Ben: I’m very sensitive. I spent so many years drinking all the time that I thought I had thick skin but boy was I wrong. Being raw, open and emotional is a scary but incredibly rewarding experience.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Ben: I remember a lot more things! I feel like I am finally on a path with purpose after years of feeling like I was just existing to drink and work. Having deep personal relationships with peers is something I have never had before and really love more than anything else. When I have a problem in life I have a whole village of people around me to support me.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Ben: I can feel love and show love to others. I feel like a huge part of my great family rather than the black sheep alcoholic. I feel I got sober at a pretty young age and am so grateful. I still have so many years ahead of me where I feel like I can do anything I set my mind to.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Ben: Honestly? I wouldn’t. I came up short in some areas big time at first but I ultimately, thank god, learned from those shortcomings. I’ve come to find that there are no mistakes in life, only lessons. I just hope I remain humble and never think I am better than anyone in my life. That’s when my ego shows up and I begin to get in trouble.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Ben: PLEASE, please set aside all you think you know about recovery and god. The only way I am here is because I stopped running the show and allowed others to show me what to do. Give something like the steps a legitimate shot, if it doesn’t work for you then move on. Just give it a solid try at first.
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to share?
Ben: There is a weird thing where people are shocked that I am a young alcoholic. People seem to think that people in their 20’s only get hooked on drugs and alcoholics need to be in their 50’s. I worry this belief can keep people in their 20’s with drinking problems from truly reaching out for help for whatever reason. My drinking got very ugly in my mid 20’s and I don’t think I would of made it too much into my 30’s if I kept on going.