This week's Sober Story comes from Céline, a 52-year-old Londoner now living in Sydney, Australia.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Céline: 3 years 5 months and 2 days as I write this
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Céline: On reflection I can see that I was a binge drinker and the nights of drinking are mostly blanks. The hangover days were full of angst, sorrow, shame, loneliness, loss and fear.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Céline: My youngest daughter started school and it was the kindy parents get together. I was afraid of getting drunk and making a bad impression so I took a friend with me. I got drunk and made a bad impression. I came home and stood over my mothers bed hurling abuse at her for having been a bad mother to me. I continued drinking through the night and the next day until I called my friend for help.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Céline: My friend took me to an AA meeting that morning. Being a binge drinker I am used to not drinking for a few days. I bunkered down and didn’t socialise in any way.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Céline: So supportive that I wondered if they’d all known I had a problem. Maybe a year prior to getting sober someone had posted a whole lot of AA literature to me. I was furious and phoned AA (whilst drunk) to complain that someone had given them my details and that I was therefore not anonymous. My mother has seen me go though various rehabs before and has always been supportive - she did tell me that she would move back to the UK if I didn’t get it right this time. My friend that took me to AA quit for the month of March in support of me and does that every year now.
Mrs D: What a lovely friend. Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Céline: Not this time. I still have ‘drunk dreams’ when I dream that I am drinking again and the relief when I wake is monumental.
Mrs D: I can relate! Drinking dreams are intense. How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Céline: At least a year until I truly believed I was going to make it and that I could handle it.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Céline: Very tough and I still don’t do much of it. I socialise in the daytime and if it is an evening event I leave early before people are drunk.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Céline: My real fear is that I wouldn’t be ME anymore – I saw myself as vibrant, witty and charming ( I wasn’t) but sober I am that person naturally.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Céline: Well financially I am much better – when I stopped drinking I stopped using drugs and 6 months later I stopped smoking too. My Borderline Personality Disorder has shifted enormously and I am so much more in control of my emotions (I was diagnosed whilst still drinking and I am sure it exacerbated it). I still get shitty and low but I have to face everything raw which means they get dealt with instead of burying them in a drunken haze. I have a ridiculous amount of gratitude for life and feel like I am seeing so much for the first time. I feel awake.
Mrs D: That's so awesome. Can you pinpoint any main benefits that have emerged for you since you quit?
Céline: The connection with my youngest daughter. I am present for her. I can take an active part in her school and social life. We do things at the weekend. I remember what I have said and done.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Céline: I wish I hadn’t let it get to the point it did and that I had stopped sooner. I don’t think my youngest has any recollections but she has mentioned a fear of me drinking again to a friend.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Céline: I do think that AA and NA are well worth attending. I only went really for the first year as it was so hard being a single working parent trying to get to meetings at night. Surround yourself with sober people. Do things in the day to keep busy and stay home at night. Change your routines especially anything that you associate with booze.
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to share?
Céline: It’s so worth it – for yourself and those around you. The clarity and the peace within are a whole new level! Sober sex is new and interesting, as are first dates. I’ve certainly never done that before !