Today’s Sober Story comes from Chris, a 53-year old builder living in Auckland.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Chris: I’ve been seven years sober with the help of AA.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Chris: I self medicated every night, not huge amounts, but it was a habit I was finding hard to stop and becoming self conscious of it .
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Chris: I had a heart attack, a big one. While I looked fit, I smoked and drank at levels above that what was good for me, and really you can argue that smokes and booze are both toxic at any level. I felt I had to regain control of my life . While alcohol on it’s own didn’t put me in hospital, it certainly contributed to my condition. The longer I’ve been alcohol free the easier it has been for me to see what a crutch alcohol was for me, how I used it to stop feeling or caring, used it for self confidence, to ignore others, and that I had become more selfish because of it .
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Chris: Early on I didn’t notice not drinking so much – I was so occupied with the nicotine cravings and coping with that. After 2 or 3 months I began to have to deal with my emotional side and how I felt about things, as the months passed and the fog lifted my thinking improved. Not that easy to explain, but as you detox you realise how corrupt your thought process has become, and it takes some years to stabilize and reboot, least that’s what I feel.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Chris: My family and friends were positive, they could see it was improving my health and my outlook. I used the programme I follow to help me overcome problems I encounter in daily life and in personal relationships, I believe that helps me to be the best version of myself I can be.
Mrs D: Experts say relapse is often a part of recovery, was it a feature of yours?
Chris: No, my recovery is important to me and will always be my number one priority. There is no magic pill. No one else can keep me sober, I worked too hard at recovery early on to give up the days I had accumulated. There is no situation in my life that could be made better with alcohol. Good instruction, some support early on will help keep you sober, but sobriety ultimately has to done for one self by you – isolation and wet thinking won’t help. People who have been successful getting sober make great supporters – use them, that’s worked for me. I just try and stay sober for the day I’m in, each new day. It is amazing how they have started to add up, some 2200 so far!
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Chris: 18 months to 2 years, I feel my life keeps getting better the further away I am from my last drink.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Chris: Not that hard. When others at a function start exhibiting the signs of mild intoxication, I go home. But if anyone new to sobriety is feeling anxiety I suggest they delay or stop going to venues where alcohol is present until they have learnt some of the tools to help them cope with those situations. Most people who drink don’t give a rats arse that you have a water or no glass in your hand. Mostly it’s just you who feels self conscious. So learn to get over it.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Chris: Where to start? The mosy suprising thing I learned about my self since I stopped drinking is how immature I was.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Chris: I’m living and no longer dying. As simple and profound as that.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Chris: I cope with problems as they arise, I have so many less of them. I can be honest and live with myself so much more easily. I make more money and get to keep more of it.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Chris: The only think I’d like to have done differently is to have given up drinking twenty five years earlier!
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Chris: Join a 12 step programme and seek the guidance from others whom you admire who have a decent amount of sobriety. Now I’ve stopped drinking I can see how many people in society have problems that stem from alcohol use. We all need to help to change current attitudes about alcohol use or abuse – and not just in young people.
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Chris: Yes. There is no easy softer way. Getting sober is hard work. The rewards are amazing and you’ll be present to enjoy them. Make a start and do it one day at a time, as soon as you can.
This tattoo is mine, I had it done last year and to me it represents my recovery.