This week's Sober Story comes from Carla, a 58-year-old from the Wellington region.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Carla: I had my 5 year anniversary back in June 2019, 5 years after seeing Mrs D on the telly!
Mrs D: Awesome! What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Carla: I had drunk wine for a long time and it was one of those gradual things over a number of years, half a bottle, the whole bottle, a bottle and a half and so on it goes! I had been thinking of trying to give up for a while as I had tried to cut down and have alcohol free days but I just made up for it on alcohol days and then it would be back to everyday again. I guess I was possibly considered high functioning ‘alcoholic’ – I still have problems with that word. I had a couple of days off sick but that was unusual. My skin was bloody awful (crap) during this period as well – I basically knew if I did not stop soon I would end up killing myself with an alcohol related disease.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Carla: I mentioned above about how the wine got more and more. I opened a 3rd bottle one night and nearly freaked myself out and also the timing was perfect for the interview with Mrs D - must have been serendipity.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Carla: The hardest part is the socialising. I think I told a lot of people that I was trying to loose weight for a while, and then I started coming clean and saying. "no I am just trying to cut down" (didn’t say give up or stop initially). But to be honest my mindset had shifted and it was relatively easy which shocked me at the time. I kept kinda waiting for a relapse but the Living Sober site helped hugely and I knew if I could struggle through witching hour I would make it! Dandelion tea was also my great saving grace and it still is.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Carla: My husband at the time (we have since very amicable split and he is a good friend) was surprised but very supportive. After a few months the truth started to come out about what an awful drunk I was. I was not very nice to him and he would never lecture me as he knew it would not work. My boys were 16 when I gave up and it was great being able to drop them off and pick them up with no alcohol. I would never have been able to do that and set an example to them. I have to admit we haven't really talked about my drinking, if they want to they know I am here. I think they are quietly proud and they do not drink much. I have one friend I see very rarely now as they are very much wine connoisseurs and I think they don’t think I fit into that lifestyle, but if that’s the price to pay for getting my life and health back – so be it.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Carla: No I consider myself very lucky! I do occasionally think about it still, but that passes. I will allow myself special desserts with alcohol, but they are few and far between.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Carla: I recall it was quite quickly, but it does seem like a long time ago as not drinking is really the norm for me now. I do recall losing weight and my skin clearing up – I had really bad eczema or psoriasis. I had been going through menopause and the symptoms were helped a lot by giving up drinking. And the sleep was fantastic!
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Carla: This was the hardest and I don’t stay out past 10 or 11 now. I am in my late 50’s now and used to love staying out as I could drink more wine, but I also drank even more at home. I am a member of a social group that meets once a week at pubs etc and goes for a walk and has a beer afterwards. I get very stroppy with bars now that do not have 0% alcohol beer - lol! They all know I don’t drink and its no big deal. I do still occasionally come across people that will start the, "go on, just have one – one wont hurt." I take great satisfaction in repeatedly saying, "no thanks!"
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Carla: That I have done this! I have surprised a few friends as well. I am stronger than I thought I was and that is a great feeling.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Carla: My mental and physical health have improved so much it is hard to comprehend. Much more confidence in myself – even exercise regularly, walking, yoga. Still avoid housework though !
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Carla: As above, mental and physical health and being able to be there for my sons. Oh, and money saved. According to my calculator it's now more than 26k!
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Carla: Only give up a lot sooner!!
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Carla: Don’t give up, persevere. The fact that you are reading this means that you want to do something – you are on your way. Believe me if I can do it you can too. You will be so proud of yourself and realise you can do anything. Do it for yourself.