This week’s Sober Story comes from Dale, a 50-year-old from Mairangi Bay on Auckland’s North Shore.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Dale: I’ve not picked up since April 25, 2009
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Dale: I knew I had a problem after my 40th. I was concerned about how quickly I got drunk compared to others. It was always a race for me to get merry before others.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Dale: The final straw was getting jealous again of my wife’s flirting and losing it. But this time I lashed out. I’d had enough. I hit her which I deeply regret but then she called the cops and I hit him too so I was arrested and transported to Auckland by police boat.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Dale: The first six months were pure hell for me. I hated everyone and I thought if I couldn’t drink then no-one should. Part of my bail conditions were that I attend AA and go to anger management classes … these two things changed my life and I’m still grateful to the legal system. I worked out my beliefs were wrong and I was very insecure.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Dale: Family were really supportive but friends were sceptical. The ones I considered true friends gave me a very hard time. They preferred the drunk fucked up Dale, not the one trying to sort his life out.
Mrs D: Have you ever experience a relapse?
Dale: Relapse is not part of my dictionary – there’s no way I’m going to jail and I knew I couldn’t have 1 beer cause I’m an addictive person. And I wanted what my new friends at AA had – they all seemed so annoyingly happy lol.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Dale: This is a tough one. I thought after two years at first but things changed during the third year I’d given up. In my words – I’d taken the alcohol out now I needed to lose the asshole. I had to buy in and get a sponsor and start fixing me. I was clean but not happy yet.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Dale: Socialising sober was a big challenge to me. I’d convinced myself I couldn’t have fun without alcohol. It got easier though the more I put myself in the situation. I learnt about people I’d known for ten years but knew nothing about cause they didn’t drink. I was embarrassed but also proud that I was becoming a good guy.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Dale: Lots. Every day was a learning experience now – like a sugar craving. The fact I could taste food now. How low my water intake was and time … lots of spare time.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Dale: Life changes were huge. I had begun to analyze myself and followed the 12 steps of AA. I enjoy being sober and I love a challenge so things were exciting but tough too.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Dale: I’m a better person now. I’m not cured but at least I’m able to control emotions now and understand my feelings. I know myself far better now.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Dale: Hindsight is a wonderful thing but how can you answer this question honestly? So I guess I’m happy I’ve got the chance to change my life now. Lots of people go on like I did and change nothing. My rock bottom was mine but I’ve seen others hit lower and still drink which I can’t understand.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Dale: My advice is get to meetings, listen to the similarities, and buy a big book and read it. And get a sponsor – AA works but you have to want it and I did.
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Dale: Each person is designed differently. I admire the person who can have two drinks and stop – unfortunately I can’t so I can’t have any. But I love my new life and look forward to my new challenges and goals … cause I actually achieve them now and set really good ones, like Harley Davidson bikes and race cars. I love life without the drink.