This week’s Sober Story comes from George, a 68-year-old living in South Canterbury.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
George: I have been in recovery for 17 years, since 18 March 2001.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
George: I was in a high stress job, a school principal. I had been diagnosed with depression and was quite heavily medicated. I had been a heavy alcohol user for many years and continued to drink, almost daily.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
George: I felt hopeless and paranoid and determined to leave my old life behind. In other words I ran away. By sheer chance I saw an advert for alcohol recovery in a newspaper, and thought that it was worth a go.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
George: The hardest part was contacting my family, telling them where I was and what I was doing, and asking for their understanding.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
George: My family and friends were mostly very supportive, as they had no doubt seen the destructive side of me. Some friends were a bit nervous around me as they possibly expected me to judge them to some extent.
Mrs D: Experts say relapse is often a part of recovery, was it a feature of yours?
George: So far there has been no relapse. This is probably due to the way I feel about myself, and the avoidance of possible risky activities.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
George: That is an ongoing process! It is still happening, and I love it!
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
George: It took some getting used to, as alcohol seemed to be everywhere. I decided to be honest and tell people who offered drinks that I was an alcoholic who had enough for one lifetime.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
George: Yes, I could exist quite happily without drinking.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
George: I saved money, I never ever had another hangover, or wondered who I might have offended. I felt more in control of myself, and learned to appreciate small details around me.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
George: I expect to live a better healthier life.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
George: I like to think that I may have stopped drinking sooner. That said, the time seemed to have been perfect to achieve the desired results.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
George: There are many cliches about advice. I think that the realisation that you can take control of your own life and not to be at the whims of chemical substances is good motivation. Don’t try to do it all at once. I have only just managed to stop smoking as well! Take your time, as it is YOURS!
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
George: I found that the support of the Deanery (rehab) and its clients in Christchurch was so good. Understanding people are the greatest!