This week's Sober Story comes from Graham (@hammer123), a 59-year-old from Manitoba Canada.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Graham: Four years on April 23, 2022.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Graham: I had struggled with my drinking from the outset. In the last 15 years it began to pick up speed and I had become a daily drinker. On the really bad nights I would be passed out on my office floor or on the couch, or even worse, still awake when my wife got home from her evening shift. I could always rationalize having one more quick one before she got home, since I always felt in control until I woke up in the morning.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Graham: I woke up one Monday morning to a tiny little note on my usual spot in the kitchen. The note was from my wife and it simply stated: “Okay. I think we have tried this limiting the drinking. It’s not working. You need to come up with a plan. It’s now your choice, me or the booze.” That was the push I needed, I had wanted to quit for years but things had to escalate to this point to move me in the right direction.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Graham: The early days were tough, all the firsts. Getting through the witching our, that first weekend, that first social gathering, the first time at a bar or winery. First sober vacation, I almost caved then but I had about 9 months of sobriety and I just couldn’t let myself down or give others the satisfaction of seeing me fail. Telling people that you have quit drinking is tough and you end up telling the story many times.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Graham: My wife was very supportive and she enjoyed the positive changes in me so much that she decided to quit drinking also and has been alcohol free for 3 years & 6 months. Most of my other family and friends were surprised that I quit. I think that is due to this being such a drinking society. Most people are very supportive and are split into two main camps where they either defend their own drinking habits or they admit that they have been thinking of cutting back or quitting. Quite naturally some drinking friendships just slip away.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Graham: I have never had a relapse but I did have trouble getting started. I knew I had to make a change but I clung to the idea that I could moderate, that is until I read the note!
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Graham: Physically it was not long inside of 3 months. I could feel the anxiety in my body on the way home from work knowing I would need to deal with not drinking. I ate a lot of ice cream and chocolate early on and I allowed myself to do it. Emotionally I was a wreck, very short tempered at times, switching from euphoria to utter despair. It was like breaking up with a super hot toxic girl. In the evening I missed her so much but in the morning I was so happy I had give her the swerve.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Graham: At first it was very difficult. I thought everyone would see me as less, as a failure. There is so much negative energy around having a drinking problem. In reality most people are very supportive and they see that you are doing something that is positive for you and your family. As many members have said it is important to arrange your own way home. I have left my wife at a party when she was having fun and it was too much for me. On my golfing weekend with my high school buddies I generally turn in early when things start to get out of hand. When you're sober it is easy to identify when things are going to take a nasty turn. Now four years in, I have very little problem socializing. I bring my own alcohol free drinks, or I can find an alcohol free beer at most places or just stick to ice tea or water.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Graham: Like many people I found I am more of an introvert. Drinking was my way of being a little more social. Unfortunately I couldn’t stop after two so it made socializing even more difficult. I spent a lot of time trying to find just the right amount of alcohol to make it all work to my benefit with zero success. So now I need less people and less interaction and now I have to make sure I don’t live in isolation. I am lucky that I have a very social spouse and she helps me to stay connected with friends and family.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Graham: The most important change is that I am no longer a slave to poison. I spent a lot of energy thinking about drinking. Making sure there was enough drink in the house, figuring out how long I had to stay somewhere before I could come home and drink to my hearts content. Agonizing over whether to drink tonight, feeling shame about waking up with a hangover only to start all over that evening. I am much happier and healthier.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Graham: After 3 months I kicked the ice cream and chocolate and began walking and then running our lake trail. I dropped about 20lbs and it was noticeable and when you look good then you feel good about yourself. I think people would agree that I am a better husband and father. I am a better friend and employee. My head is clearer, I think better, I have used a lot of my drinking time to learn yoga and to meditate and both these things have made me a kinder and gentler person.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Graham: I would love to say get on the sober path earlier, but I think I had to go through what I went through and lose what I lost to get to the point where I could quit. I would have thought more about why I was quitting and how I would explain my reasons to others. I had to explain this a lot through my first year alcohol free and I always found it difficult because I hadn’t thought it through clearly enough. It’s a hard discussion at the best of times and I could have been better prepared.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Graham: @rosemaree has said this, or a version of this, many times and I find it very helpful. “You have to make up your mind that you are not drinking anymore, no matter what.” Once you have done that it is a matter of coming up with a plan and then working that plan. I like to say that nothing is good enough or bad enough that drinking won’t make worse. My friend had a tee shirt once that said "instant asshole, just add alcohol". That holds true for a lot of people.
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to share?
Graham: What we are doing is hard but it can be done. I don’t think I could have done it on my own for this long without the help of others. There are lots of books, podcasts, support groups - keep trying until you find what works. My main support has been this community. I found a day friend @jocord here in my first month and that made a huge difference. Someone on the same path at the same time sharing the same experiences. I don’t know what other word to use other than friends - I have met so many friends here, people that I have never met in person but friends just the same. I am grateful to all who have shared and supported me on this journey. Sobriety is a gift. It will show you who you are and who you can become. You’re stronger because of the struggle. Don’t look at it as something that’s supposed to break you, it’s supposed to make you.
Thank you for your heartfelt words. I have quit and started over and over again. I made it for 2 weeks a while ago. Time to rethink it all over again and do it this time. It is just so hard. I need to come back here more often.
Thanks for sharing!
Hi hammer123 it’s so good you have shared your story. You have been here with wise advise the 3 years I have been on this site. It’s amazing how this site has helped us all. Thank you
Thanks for sharing your story. We all appreciate you very much x
Thanks for that , all stuff I need to hear I’m going back to AA for the first time in two years tomorrow .I’m praying hopefully for my this to have been my last relapse
Great story @Hammer123! You are such an important part of this community…your thoughts from the big comfy chair always seem to be particularly timely for me. Congrats on your 4 years of sobriety!
I really appreciate your comment. Thanks!
Thank you for sharing your story, you are an inspiration! Congratulations on 4 plus years of sobriety.
Hi Graham. I enjoyed reading your story and I relate to so much of what you shared. You have often replied to my posts and your insights have played a huge part in helping me journey through to where I find myself now (Day 427) – so this is a good time to say thank you. For me, I had to make the decision not to drink at all, ever again, and this has meant that I don’t waste any energy questioning – it’s a fact. Sadly I nearly lost my partner because of alcohol. I actually had a mental breakdown during which my drinking was out of control. My partner believed all my problems were due to my drinking (they weren’t) and he packed a bag and left me. My children went to stay with their dad the day he left. I was broken and alone. I would not be here now without this community. The support of strangers on this journey together is very special. Your experience and kindness brings so much to our group. You inspire me!
By the way, I’m a Montrealer living in England! X
Wow @finallyfreetobeme, you are too kind. I am so happy that you have turned your life around. I read this somewhere this past year ‘ we have given up one thing in order to gain everything. Thank you so much for your kind response, so obviously Canadian. LOL
It’s so nice to know you a bit better, Graham (Hammer123) — your words of wisdom and observations have been so very helpful to me along the way. I’m glad you’re sober and glad you’re here.
Great to read your story. You are certainly one of the wise voices that has guided me for the past 6 months.
Hello there lovely friend. Thanks for being here, thanks for sharing. I always get so much from your insights and a lot of what you shared I can resonate with. Even though most of us have never met, I feel that our shared experiences on this site have formed an impressive bond. All my best!
Great shared story. Thanks for sharing (Ontario Canada)
Thank you for sharing your story and tips 😊
Dang, hammer123, I could of sworn I posted…. loved your story, loved your photo, love knowing you are here.
Thanks SugarBelly, I am so happy that we have traveled this path together.
Graham! Nice to see you, you look so happy in your pic! Lots of great stuff here – drinking was definitely like a bad boyfriend for me. I was also motivated to stop drinking b/c of my husband – I realized how much was at stake if I kept drinking. And we are definitely stronger for having stopped!! Happy for you and proud of my fellow kickass Canadian!
Thanks JM, having you here theses past four years has really been a great inspiration to me. Thanks for all the love and support for both me and Dee!
I absolutely love this! Your journey is very inspiring, thank you.
Another Canadian, thanks for your comment. As you know I am from Manitoba, do you mind sharing your province?
Hey, yes I saw that 😊 I’m actually just over in Sask, another reason your story is so relatable.
Hey Hammer ! Love your post ! I truely enjoyed reading it , it will help so many . Thank you for being here my friend .
I am so glad you are back and I hope doing well. You are such a valuable member of this community and I do miss you when you are gone.
Thank you Graham for sharing your story. So relatable. We are so fortunate to have you as part of our community.
Thanks for sharing. I love that: “[Sobriety] will show you who you are and what you can become.” It is so true! What a journey back to myself this is becoming.
I agree, all the lovely friends I’ve met on this site and you’re one of them. Great to read your story Graham.
Thanks Liberty, you have been one of the many stalwarts that I have been able to count on for good advice and support since I found this community.
Nice. Always great to put a face to the a.k.a. Thank you so much for sharing your story.
Thanks for the comment, it was a bit of a difficult decision whether to include the picture or stay anonymous but in the end this is me and this is my story and I thought I may as well be as honest as I could be.
Hey there @hammer123 – how lovely to put a face to a name to the person who often leaves insightful snippets of loveliness 😃. So great!
Enjoyed reading your sober story and found we had so many similarities. Thanks for sharing..
It is funny that even though we live in different parts of this large crazy world we still have similar experiences. I hope you have an outstanding day!