This week’s Sober Story comes from Dana, a 47-year-old living in midwest USA.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Dana: I got sober in August of 2011, but then relapsed for seven horrible days over the Christmas holidays – so my new sobriety date is Jan 1, 2014. Very easy to remember. 🙂
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Dana: I write about this often – I didn’t have some horrific, dramatic “bottom” like getting arrested or something. I think a lot of moms can kind of relate to this – I drank alone, at night, after my kids had gone to bed. It all seemed so… not a problem. I was very, very high-functioning and very, very miserable. And I have lots of moms ask me, “What was your bottom? What made you give it up?” I just tell them, I was simply sick and tired of feeling like I was worthless. And that’s reason enough. No jail time, no DUI’s but still a very valid reason to give it up.
Mrs D: Sounds very similar to me. What finally led to you quitting?
Dana: I will never forget it – I was watching my two boys playing, and they were so happy and oblivious to mom’s misery, and I just kept thinking, “I want to die. I can’t STOP drinking… but I also can’t see life WITHOUT drinking.” I was so trapped and it was terrifying. I surrendered.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Dana: It was tough, but I also feel like my Higher Power kind of had me on autopilot. He got me to meetings. He helped me sleep peacefully. He got me through it one day at a time – sometimes twenty min. at a time. There were a lot of tears. I did give myself permission to be a “lousy mom” – meaning for about three months we watched a lot of movies and ate frozen pizza. 🙂 It was ok – because they deserved a sober mom – and nobody will say three months of movies is gonna really mess up your kid.
Mrs D: I love that approach! What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Dana: I only told a few trusted friends, and my church, and my husband. I had this secret circle of support for a good six months before I was able to tell more people. I was really grateful – they were all so supportive. My husband cleared the booze out of the house which I saw as SUCH a huge sacrifice for him (he didn’t really care- he’s a total weirdo normie!) and I was very very grateful. A lot of prayers and hugs.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Yep – that’s what my second book was all about. I had been sober for over three years and just trucking along… and I got careless. Stopped going to meetings. Stopped taking care of myself. Started to rev up my expectations for my life, my family – started to feel “not enough.” It was a slow slide and I let it happen (denial is such a tricky little thing) and then relapsed over a Christmas holiday for seven nightmarish days.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you after that?
Dana: Coming back from a relapse is TOUGH. You feel foolish and ashamed and so very tired of recovery – you feel this whole “I have to do this ALL over again,” kind of thing and it can be daunting. I really learned through all of this, though, that even though the relapse took me right back to where I was alcoholically (in my drinking) when I got sober again, I was not at ground zero. I could lean on some of those tools and habits I had learned and I was not starting ALL over. It took time to get peaceful about it, but now I say that in many ways the relapse was the best thing for my recovery. That’s not to say I am recommending it! It was TOUGH.
Mrs D: What about socialising sober, how was it getting used to that?
Dana: It is a lot easier now! I am a total introvert, so wine was a great way to get around that. I still remember when I was early sober I got a wedding announcement in the mail and promptly burst into tears. How would I do a wedding SOBER?? This was impossible! Now, I love weddings. And I love parties. But I am very selective – I only go if there is not a feeling of “I have to do this” but a genuine want or desire to go. And I always have a plan. I make sure I have a way to exit and that I am not HALT before I go (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) and I am also just really open about my feelings with those with me – most people know that I am in recovery anyway due to my books so that helps.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Dana: That real belly laughter – the kind that brings tears to your eyes and makes you catch your breath – can still happen. In fact, I think it happens more often now!!!
Mrs D: I agree! How else has your life changed now that you’re sober?
Dana: Holy cow. I don’t even know where to start! My depression and anxiety lifted (I still struggle with it but I have an understanding of it now that is so much more healthy and accpeting and not fear based). I have a career that has blossomed. I have quality friendships with women in recovery that give me such laughter and joy every day – when before I felt so isolated and unable to really “connect” with people. My marriage is so much stronger. My parenting is better! I mean it – the benefits just keep coming.
Mrs D: Can you pinpoint any main benefits that have emerged for you from getting sober?
Dana: A huge one was my ability to finally channel my creativity in a productive way. I finally got the courage to start a writing career, and now, lo and behold, I am the very proud author of a blog and two books. Amazing.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Dana: I honestly felt that there was NO way I could do this. And I am a total whimp. If I can do recovery, so can you. Start small – talk to someone. Get the words out of your head and into the air. Speak your fears – to a trusted friend, or pastor or counselor. Get your mind wrapped around the idea that SO MANY OF US are sober and rocking it and LOVE it. There are a LOT of sober people out there, and I don’t think I have ever heard them say, “Gee I wish I had started drinking again,today. It was just too tough.” All of us sober people can’t be crazy – we are for real and we promise – it’s possible AND it’s wonderful!
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Dana: Anytime I am able to write/talk/share about my recovery, it helps me. So I thank you for this opportunity and I’m so grateful for what you do!