This week's Sober Story comes from Cheryl (@Elsa1202), a 56-year-old living in Taupo.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Cheryl: 3 years and 6 months
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Cheryl: While the extent and nature of the last few years of my drinking became a deep dark secret from friends and those I loved, it morphed into an overwhelming source of torment and despair for me. Keeping the secret and maintaining the continual lie became exhausting and almost destroyed me- mentally, socially, physically and spiritually. My day “finished” at 5 pm at which time the booze bitch took over.…I was hiding bottles in cupboards, wrapping empties in newspaper before putting them in the bin, opening my own bottle and drinking it in secret and then offering to open a bottle for my husband and I to share once he’d arrived home. It was standard for me to drink two bottles of wine myself on an average night. I never made a call or answered the phone after 7 pm at night because I couldn’t coherently string a sentence together! Completing simple tasks each morning (like making a coffee) had become tricky and I knew that my processing of information and responding to situations was becoming slower and slower and much more muddled. My brain and its ability to function was dying.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Cheryl: My obsession with drinking was absolute- in the end I would let nothing stand in the way of making sure I was able to drink- daily and to excess. I would opt out of going to events or occasions if I knew there wasn’t going to be booze there. I began drinking to the level of blacking out every night. It got to the stage where I was unable to join in conversations because I was constantly repeating myself or unable to keep track. Forgetting conversations or events of the previous night or days before was the norm. I basically shut myself down to avoid the embarrassment of (repeating) myself. I began to get comments about my drinking from young family members which wasn’t a good look. I guess the final straw was realising that I was slowly killing myself. I had spent a lot of time researching and reading about alcoholism and knew that I was an addict and there was only one place I was headed. I recall an absolute moment of clarity 3 years six months ago- a sort of “light-bulb moment” (after just finishing reading yet another book- Jason Vale's 'Kick the drink Easily!). Then and there I knew I had no option but to ditch the booze bitch completely and forever.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Cheryl: Initially, the most difficult thing was getting through and beyond 5 pm every day. Not drinking left a huge hole. Also- I really missed the regular drinking sessions and parties and the social contact with people I thought were my friends - life as sober me was really lonely in the beginning. Being a boozy party girl defined me and I was terrified I was going to be a boring old fart. (I’ve since learned that it’s really none of my business what anyone else thinks of me!) We had recently moved to live in a new town not long before I kicked the booze and I have to say moving towns and giving up booze was a great way of finding out who my real friends were. I can count on one hand the people who are still in contact with me since I moved towns 5 ½ years ago and that still makes me kind of sad. Now I think the most difficult thing is realising that some of the friendships I thought important were actually based on the lie that is booze – our favourite legal drug.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Cheryl: My husband is wonderful and was super supportive. Only when I’d given up booze did he tell me about the effect my drinking was having on our marriage. Apparently I was very defensive and would say extremely cruel things to him when I was drunk; it was getting to the point where he was questioning our marriage and I was completely oblivious! He talks about how hard it was to say anything about how much I was drinking; that it was hard to watch me and whenever he tried to say anything I would become this defensive demon-bitch who just didn’t want to know. I have three gorgeous sons whom I wrote to at 100 days alcohol-free to confess and apologise for the mother I hadn’t been. They are all really proud of my achievement and that’s hugely important to me. Many friends were quietly surprised that I thought I had a problem and some are still bemused that I don’t drink anymore, but most absolutely get it.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Cheryl: I relapsed on and off over the course of at least six years as I tried to moderate, limit and control my boozing. Nothing worked until I went from saying “I’m not drinking” to “I don’t drink”. I’d really just rather have “none than one”.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Cheryl: I found the physical effects of kicking the booze less challenging than the mental/emotional ones. I think the first positive change I noticed was my brain clarity and function after about 6 weeks. My sleep improved after about 2 months and I began to lose weight towards the end of the first year. The emotional stuff still rears its head but I can deal with it now- I recognise what’s happening and it’s so much easier to handle with a brain that’s free and clear.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Cheryl: Socialising sober was pretty tricky- especially at the beginning. I found it helpful to think of social occasions as a workout for my sober muscles and I’d almost treat them as a challenge. I found it really helped to have a plan of what to drink and to have an exit plan so that I could leave when the drinkers started getting boring and slurry and wobbly and stumbly.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Cheryl: I like my own company much more than I knew and I can dance just fine without a skinful of booze! Also- I’m actually a very strong person! I can say “no” to people now- and it doesn’t matter what they think.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Cheryl: My life changed in so many ways it is hard to put into words! It is incredible not being weighed down by guilt, lies and deceit anymore. My relationship with booze was definitely an abusive one and the freedom I felt and still feel now I’ve kicked it is incredibly precious. There is a certain feeling of empowerment and strength that comes with beating this thing and it has given me a self-confidence I never had. My addiction to booze has been replaced by the need for a daily exercise fix and I have never been so fit and active in my life! I now back myself to try things I would never have had the energy or confidence to try before. I have loved volunteering and getting involved in community projects- I can be there at any time!
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Cheryl: Freedom, peace and real connections with people in my life who really matter. I am able to be there for people when they need me (if I choose to…) Also- I can read a book or watch a movie and remember it- imagine!
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Cheryl: I would probably make more of an effort to make face to face connections with other people on the same journey. Mrs D and the Living Sober community had a huge part to play in my early sobriety and I still enjoy checking in to see what other members are up to but I do think I would have found it easier if I had found people to meet with earlier on. ( I did go to a few AA meetings and met some awesome people but I found that it wasn’t really for me). Also- I would have made an effort to write down my thoughts etc regularly from the early days. The months of torment and despair seem so long ago now and I often think it would be good to be able to remind myself of how bad things really were.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Cheryl: The hardest thing is being brutally honest with yourself and actually admitting that you are an addict. Once you acknowledge this you must know that you can never touch booze again. Moving from the “I won’t drink today” mindset to the “I don’t drink” mindset can change your life. Read, read and re-read all of the “Quit-Lit” you can lay your hands on. Find someone to share your secret with. We are not alone in this struggle and there are so many people out there who have experienced the same pain and have a great deal of knowledge, inspiration and support to share. You can’t do this by yourself, but you must do it for yourself! (and those you love). Finally- don’t be ashamed- you are addicted to something that is addictive! Booze is not only accepted in our lives- it’s expected and that makes it one of the hardest things of all to beat!
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to share?
Cheryl: I really want to thank you Lotta and the Living Sober community. In those early days I clung on to this sobriety by a very thin thread and this tribe of non-judgemental, empathetic, supportive people were always there for me. I do know that I would still be a booze hag without a life ahead of me if I hadn’t fessed up and taken the step of joining this Living Sober group.
So much of this story resonates with me. The challenge of not opening a bottle of wine, to I’ll only have half, to well I didn’t drink the whole bottle when in fact, there was only a sip left!!! Holidays at the beach and nights home alone were particularly lethal, kids really never knew or now never remember.
I was so tormented, I didn’t tell family, connected with a close friend who gave support. For my then-husband, it was all about him and his embarrassment given his work should anyone know.
The councilors on the drug and alcohol helpline were amazing, they got me through my wine o’clock vulnerability.
Today I too say ‘I do not drink’ and have done so for close to 11 years. Often people don’t believe me, I go out and drive home when I’m ready. Yes at times I feel a bore, yes I have been excluded (most hurtful my sisters 50th birthday) and yes, every day I am relieved and strong in saying no thanks ‘I do not drink’.
Hey @katherine3568. Thanks for reading my story and wow-11 years free of the booze for you- that’s fantastic. Being excluded isn’t great- happens for me too and if I’m honest I do still worry that I’m boring but really – who cares? People who know the real (sober) me seem to stick around and stay in touch so that’s ok. I wouldn’t swap this life free and clear of the booze bitch for anything!
What an inspiring story. Thank you for your honesty. I really relate to the feelings of guilt around secrecy you mentioned. Hiding bottles was what I used to do – and on top of the unwanted addiction that part made it feel so much worse. This story reaffirms the beauty of being sober and gives us all hope and encouragement. Kia kaha 🙂
Thank you for sharing your story, Cheryl. I am identifying with so much of your story. I especially like going from “I’m not drinking” to “I don’t drink”. That confirms in my mind exactly what I want to be – a non drinker. I am 31 days AF and feel great, I feel relief that I did not expect! No more obsessing over how I am not going to open a bottle of wine tonight, no more debilitating hangovers, no more lying to family and friends. I also have 3 adult children that I want to tell them about my journey. I like that you wrote to them at 100 days, that is what I think I will do too. I am thinking of getting them on zoom to come clean. I am in good company with them, 2 are in AA recovery and the other 1 is in Al-Anon recovery (as I am also, a double winner!) I don’t know why I am not ready to tell them yet. Maybe the 100 days sounded good to me! In sobriety, in life, we are not alone. Thanks again for your story.
Hey @runnerj. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my story and congrats to you on reaching 1 month! Yes- the feeling of freedom and relief from no more lies is priceless isn’t it? I’m sure your family will be rapt to hear of your 100 days when you tell them. You sound very solid in your sobriety. I’m happy for you. Take care
Kia ora @bobbyb. Thanks for reading and for your lovely comments. Yes- the feeling of calm that comes with no more deceit is certainly something isn’t it? Take care
Thank you for sharing your story Cheryl. It reads almost like my story did with the black outs and the nasty words being shouted at my partner in my drunken states. I’m only at the start of my journey (day 15) but already feeling so much better mentally and emotionally that the highs of not drinking are motivating me more to stay sober than the thought of an ice cold beer. I hope that one day I too will be able to say that “I don’t drink”.
Hi @painting-grace. Congrats on passing the 2 week mark and thanks for your comments. Stick with us here- you’ll find a lot of support and understanding from this tribe! Best wishes
I wanted to mail you to say that I absolutely agree with everything you wrote, crikey it was bizarre reading it. It was like reading an autobiography… LOL
I really enjoyed it and WELL DONE you… 🙂 Absolutely Fantastic!
I am on day 128 and have no urges at all, I think for the first time in my life I can honestly say “I don’t drink….” It is so refreshing and such an eye-opening experience.
Good on you… Elsa, really brilliant and it is inspiring that you went through virtually what I was like and you’ve completely turned things around.
Thank you Elsa for sharing…
Hi @hoagy. Well- it seems that so many of us have similar stories! Congrats on Day 128-that’s fantastic. Thanks so much for your comments- I’m glad my story struck a chord. Take care! 😊
Thank you for sharing your story!
I took my first dose of Antabuse yesterday after years of putting it off. First sober weekend approaching for me and I’m shit scared.
I love reading your story and I can resonate on many levels. Thank you 🙏
Hey @Mollie. Thanks for reading and congrats on taking that first step- it’s the biggest one I reckon. Hang on tight here and keep checking in this weekend. Fridays are tricky- you’ll feel great waking up to a sober Saturday. Best wishes!
Thank you for sharing your story. You could have been talking about me – I’ll be 56 in October and have not drunk alcohol for 2 years on 24th August. You really do feel as though you’re the only person living through the hell of alcohol addiction but since I’ve found Living Sober and read so much, I know there are 1000s and probably 10s of thousands people addicted to alcohol. Thanks again xxx
Thanks so.much @ladyhawke for reading my story. Congrats on your two years coming up! That’s an incredible milestone. Good on you!
Thank you for sharing your story. I have just written down I am not drinking and replaced with I do not drink on my daily count calendar. Perfect words for me right now! Day 112 foe me and I am so excited for you and your achievements well done!
Hey @2020B.Thanks for your comment! The “I don’t drink” thing certainly did it for me! Stick with it- you’ll be fine 😊
You just gave me a huge dose of strength and hope. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks so much @sunshinydays. You’ve made me really happy to know it might help. Take care
Awesome soul , lovely story❤️
Thanks @winner for taking the time to read my story 😊
Very moving story. Thank you for sharing and congratulations on being sober.
Thanks for reading it @healthyhabits. Take care
Thank you Cheryl, its really brave of you to share your story. The simple phrase – I don’t drink – is really powerful. I’m going to hang onto that!
Thanks @Nancy. Freeing myself from the guilt of by deception by owning up and sharing was the best I’ve done I think!
Thanks for sharing your story. It resonates so much for me. I am now 691 days sober and life is great. Warts and all. The good and the bad. Being able to feel all the emotions and own them is what life is truely about.
Thanks @smelltheroses. There are quite a few similar thread through each of our stories it seems! Living life Raw and real is definitely one of them!
Super star! Such a great post. I can relate to so many things, especially changing your mindset. I n my previous attempts, I white knuckled it and relied solely on will power. Of course that led to relapse. When I finally focused on the benefits of not drinking and all the gifts of sobriety, I realized I wasn’t missing out on a thing! Go YOU!!
Thanks @freedom125. It’s by no means easy but you’re right- once that mindset change clicks in it starts to make sense I think.
Thank you Cheryl. Your story is much like my own. I have quit so many times. I’m at day one again. Thank God I’m here! I could be deep into my second bottle. You are so kind to share. xx
Sorry @lovelygram– I meant you! Thanks for your comment and good on you for sticking here. You’ll get there- those early days are tricky for sure
Thanks @freedom125. It’s by no means easy but you’re right- once that mindset change clicks in it starts to make sense I think.
Thanks for sharing. I’m on day 2 (again), and really need to hear stories like this !
Hey @helga. It’s tricky isn’t it? Good on you for joining us here- smart move! Keep checking in. There’s definitely light at the end of the tunnel- it’s just really hard to see at the beginning! Take care
Thanks for sharing your inspiring story! Lots I can relate to – friendships do really change. It was obvious to me after I stopped that I was hanging with people who also liked to drink, nothing real there. For other friendships that I valued more, it feels like alcohol was the glue. But the most important relationships do get a lot better, which is so great, including the one with yourself. Thanks again, glad you are here. x
Hi @JM. I think the changing friendships is the hardest thing for me. It takes time to replace connections with authentic ones!
I’m so happy for you and you are such an inspiration. Thank you for sharing especially with such raw honesty. I’m sure your family loves and appreciates you so much.
Ummm…I had to read that several times, it created chaos in my mind. Very very confronting, in a good way. You have described my drinking life perfectly.
This is the reason this site has been so instrumental in my success at sobriety today. The ability to see myself in others stories makes the journey less lonely.
Hey @neensyb. I think the value of hearing how similar other people’s stories are to your own just helps somehow. It’s all confronting but acknowledging the truth and dealing with it is so important isn’t it? Take care
Hello! I am almost through with Mrs. D is going without. I am hanging on every word. I stopped drinking 11 days ago, after many tries over the years. Drank my final bottle of wine 11 days ago and still feel good and not tempted. Reading your book I hope will prepare me for the journey ahead, thank you for sharing with honesty and grit. Cheryl, your story is very similar to mine, I am also 56 and have 3 amazing adult children who deserve a sober mom. I didn’t start drinking heavily until after divorcing my now ex husband who was and still is a drunk. I swore I would never become like him, and here I am admitting I am an addict. Happily remarried to a wonderful man who deserves his new wife to be sober and accepting of myself. The guilt and shame and hangovers and missing work due to being hungover and making excuses and lying to others and to myself finally made me hit the reset button and get my life on track.
Wow @janed. Congratulations on your nearly 2 weeks AF! You’ve made a smart move joining us here. Keep checking in. There are some great books out there that can help you if you’re a reader. Look forward to seeing you online again!
Thanks for sharing your story Cheryl, so many things you have said I can relate to. It’s always helpful to know other people understand what your going through and appreciate just how hard that can be at times.
Hi @davidFS. yes- it might not always feel like it but none of us are alone in this. Places like this community are a great source of support and contact aren’t they?
Gosh! I can relate to so much in your story (especially with the exercise, what joy that brings!). I love when you say “There is a certain feeling of empowerment and strength that comes with beating this thing”… I often, still, get that feeling of power/joy bubbling up through me when I think of how I changed my thinking about alcohol and took control of myself again. Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂
Thanks @HappyNess. it’s nice to be able to share with others who “get it”
Thanks for sharing. Two things really stuck with me. I wish I had journaled early in my sobriety. I do sometimes forget how bad my drinking was and I also would like to have some local recovery friends. This site has been a life saver but having deep meaningful conversations in person would be very supportive. Thanks again for being so truthful with your story.
Hey @hammer123. Yes- I think the act of writing and then being able to read it all later is something I definitely should have done. I’m still seeking connections with others who get it …
Wow, I feel like this described my relationship with alcohol and the unknowingly mean-spirited words that would come out to my sweet husband when I would secretly drink and deny I was drunk. Uh, all slurry, repeating self, loud and asleep on couch by 8pm. Who would want to be married to that kind of person. So thankful he is patient and a good man. Our marriage is better than ever now!
My husband is also a good and patient man and certainly doesn’t deserve what I have put him through. I hope that he will support me through this and we can do some rebuilding in our marriage. Glad to hear that yours is better than ever. Great stuff!
Hi @JR. Yes- it’s scary to think of how destructive this addiction is and how it’s not just yourself you’re hurting!
Thanks for the story. I am only 13 days sober. So all of this is very new to me. I also have attended about 10 AA meetings. I don’t feel a real connection with the people in the meetings other than the addiction. Thanks again.
Hey @papa. Congratulations on your 2 weeks of life alcohol free. You’ve made a smart move joining us here. Keep checking in!
I can personally relate to your booze days, I did many things just like you. The bottles clanging in to the weekly rubbish collection telling all the neighbours how many bottles I’d drunk that week finally got to me. They didn’t always stay wrapped in paper. lol Thank you for fronting up with your story, it means a lot to me.
Thanks @debbie. Best wishes to you on your sober journey!
Thank you for sharing, struck a cord with me. x
Thanks @runner. I think there are common threads in all of our stories…. and our lives AF!
Great story! Thanks for sharing. I love your phrase “Booze Hag”! OMG!
Ha @DYbyDX! Boozehag pretty well sums out how and I felt and looked!
“Its none of my business what anyone else thinks of me”
Words to live by.
Tricky but true @fleur!
Fab story, thanks Cheryl. Yes I wish I’d recorded more from my early days too – it’s so easy to forget.
Hi @Liberty. Thanks and yes – the dark days are so distant now it’s hard to recall just how bad things were! I definitely know where I’d rather be tho!