This week's Sober Story comes from Daniel, a 54-year-old living in London, UK.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Daniel: I stopped drinking on 11 January 2012. Myself - I like not to think of it as recovery as that still kind of reminds me that relapse is possible. I just move forward and the past life of me poisoning myself gets further and further away .
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Daniel: The last two years of drinking I knew I did not want to drink any more. I was totally fed up with the dullness of it and the rinse and repeat chaos/ hangovers it delivers. I remember searching the net as I was drinking wine looking for recovery stories or articles on stopping drinking etc. On my daughters 16th we had a marquee in the garden and I was sitting there alone drinking beer before guests arrived. I always remember looking at my beer and thinking to myself "God I am so bored of this crap" but I continued drinking because I was so scared of not fitting in if I did not carry on. But yes, from that moment on I knew I wanted out, but I had not found the key to the locks to free me - yet.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Daniel: I drank a bottle of white wine and 3 beers one night and was woken by wife at 3am as our daughter was in pain in her tummy. She has long history of bowel surgery and sometimes adhesions flare up and can cause blockage. Believe it or not I was grumpy at having been woken up, and seemed to care more about myself than my daughter and worried Mrs. I could not drive to the hospital as I'd only finished drinking 4 hours earlier. My wife was truly upset and worried as she drove there, me with my foggy head and daughter in pain. We had an argument at the hospital and she told me how selfish (Mrs has never drank) and mean I was to be like this when my daughter needed us both ... she was 100% right. My wife had to stay with our daughter and I could not drive back to get the bits they needed as I was over the limit. So I walked 3 miles back from hospital 5am on a cold morning to home, on this walk I thought about my daughter and Mrs and the shit I have put them through over the years - this was the key to my shackles, I knew from then I would never ever drink again. I know I was only 10 minutes into not drinking but I truly felt suddenly liberated.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Daniel: The early days for me were initially ok , the euphoria of breaking free after years of doing it was amazing . This then was replaced with long internal battles and white knuckling , not surprising really after 30 years of boozing . I knew I was not going to drink so I told myself lying on a bed staring at a wall for hours would be better than drinking. The urges pass - they always do - I just kind of surfed the urges until they passed. Like most people early on social events were strange ... let me say they were not tough but odd and strange. Eventually as time went on I started to love the coolness of being in the zone and sober at any social event as all around me people were red faced and imbibing .
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Daniel: A mixed bag really. Close family were very supportive in a kind of "heard it all before" way. Friends not so much. Lots of people told me I did not drink much etc! ( like they knew what I drank alone at home late into the night). "You can have a few here and there be no harm" and all that kind of stuff. It's crazy that you can give up all other drugs and be told it's "fantastic well done" but decide to give up the WORST drug (in my honest opinion) and you are met with quizzical looks and questions . This alone shows how entrenched this drug is in our society. Sad.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse.
Daniel: No. Never have never will.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Daniel: First month was difficult as regards to sleeping, cravings, itchy skin etc, but this does all pass and you will notice yourself get slowly better, sleep better, and get calmer and calmer. My skin improved vastly and I now sleep so, so good. After 30 years of intermittent, broken sleep this feels like a divine gift :). For me I would say after 6 months I was very good.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Daniel: The biggest fear about this was the build up to any event, fear of doing it sober and how I will cope etc. Let me tell you this is all bullshit. Once I actually got to any event or social function this fear would fade away very quickly and I would feel really good. It's amazing to feel in control and in the zone at a social event - liberating and empowering that you do not have to drink like everyone else. Smug I know, so I do apologise for this!
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Daniel: Yes I just am so different since I stopped poisoning myself. I seem to have so much more time for people, I listen more, I am not so absurdly self-centred, and I take way more care of myself. When I look back at how snappy and irritable I was it makes me sad that I was like this for years around loved ones 🙁
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Daniel: My life has changed. The main thing I have given myself is more time. Alcohol steals time. I love this time even if I have nothing to do! I run now, and run a lot - I have just completed my first marathon. This would have been unthinkable 5 years ago. Every aspect of my life has changed for the better, going to leave it at that .
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Daniel: The simplicity of life without the drug. No ghastly hangovers for days, no weekends wasted.I can drive when I want at any time now. I have more money. I look better, feel better and do anything at anytime without worrying about getting a drink or having a drink. My family love me sober ❤️.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Daniel: In the early days and weeks I might have searched out some type of group support rather than grind through on my own with a couple of books and forums, blogs etc to help me ... but I got through it. It's only thoughts you are fighting .
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Daniel: I got through this by separating the thoughts. If you are new to this look up AVRT bullets and read them. To me this laid bare the simplicity of stopping and what it basically was. I read a book by Jason Vale "Kick the drink Easily" which also helped me separate my thoughts and many blogs including one by Mrs D :)). Running has been massive in helping me - the most beneficial thing by far. I find getting out there alone just rains in any cravings and chases stupid thoughts out of my body. It gives me a natural high and it's now the drug I chase. Lastly after the physical cravings have left you it is only thoughts that you have to deal with. Thoughts, nothing else! Take control, separate the thoughts, and crush the silly monster.
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to add?
Daniel: I don't want to come across as a bitter and twisted ex-drinker trying to preach a self righteous message, but it is only since getting into the sober lifestyle 100% and standing back and looking at everything objectively that things have become so clear. I was conditioned and brainwashed from an early age that as a working class boy I should get hammered/wasted/comatosed as a way of enjoying myself. I remember sipping my first drink aged 14 - Colt 45 from a tin - it was repulsive. I had to persevere with it because all my friends were doing it and I did not want to be left out. After weeks of trying to like this stuff I started getting used to it, and finally I realised I liked it. Little did I know it was the drug effect I actually liked, I convinced myself it was the taste. I stand by this ... that nearly everyone detests alcohol the first ever time they taste it and they have to work hard to convince themselves they like it. I cannot imagine buying foul tasting food and trying to like it over and over.
Alcohol stole so much of my time, years and years in fact , stunted me academically and honestly I believe it stunted my thought process and the way I thought. Sad I know. I cannot understand why as a society we tolerate and laugh at peoples antics of getting hammered or wasted like it's all normal. If you still drink, look at it for what it is - a cold glass of poison that damages every cell in your body.
Sober is so cool. Years ago rock stars drank and drugged to be rebellious, now it's the other way.
Being 100% sober is the new rebellious.