This week's sober story comes from Ida, a 58-year-old living on the North Shore in Auckland.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Ida: Just over 27 years
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Ida: It was hell, I was raising 6 kids in a miserable marriage, I drank an average of a cask and a half each day, and hated my life, not my kids but the choices I made. I couldn't for the life of me work out how to stop drinking, I hated it, but how to stop............?
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Ida: My doctor said that he would make sure my husband got the children. I said "over my dead body" and he said "yes it would be". I also got busted drinking at work and was ready to end it that night because of the shame, so me and some Halcion were leaving that night when I received a call from a man (a sponsor) who would come to save my life.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Ida: It was hell. The physical side for the first week was torture. Vomiting, itching, hallucinations, no sleep. When I did sleep I was surrounded by booze, and when I was awake, I was so used to hiding, or constantly looking for booze, I had a lot of time on my hands.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Mrs D: Experts say relapse can often be a part of recovery, was it a feature of yours?
Ida: In the 27 years I have been sober I have never touched a drink. I think with me it was that I had come so close to losing everything that was so important I would I hope never take the chance again.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Ida: In the beginning it is euphoric. YOU can change the world, YOU want to help everyone, and share everything. After 6 weeks, you actually believe that maybe just maybe you were never really a drunk but just had alcohol issues - but I had a great sponsor who forewarned me of this. After that the hard work begins, because you have to pull your life apart and see what you needed booze to hide from. For me that took years - a failed marriage, my mortgagee sale, my mum dying - all in 12 months prior to stopping was somethingI had never dealt with. So it took me a good 2 years before I felt normal sober.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Ida: Very! I had a friend take me to a pub in the middle of the day, because I was terrified to go out. I had thoughts in my head that someone would ambush me and poor wine down my throat lol, but after a few years I could have booze in the house, as I do now, for others 🙂
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Ida: Yes, that I actually don't need booze to be an opinionated strong woman, and I was very capable of being just me, and I actually really love the person I am.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Ida: Wow - I remember what I had done and said, I took back my maiden name and worked hard to become me, not someone's daughter, sister, wife, mother, but me. My life changed because it was MY life and I was responsible if it was good, bad or mediocre.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Ida: Looking my children in the eye and saying I love you and getting it back. Being loved by my second husband for who I am - I've now been 19 years with the man I love. Holding my two little grandsons, when they say I love you Gamma, that's it right there!
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?
Ida: Ask for help - everywhere - and never keep it a secret, you have done nothing wrong, and support is essential. Not so much meetings for me, I found they were great for 6 months but a GREAT sponsor ... and never beat yourself up. GUILT is our hardest burden, you need to forgive yourself and promise to not do it again, then leave it behind
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to share?
Ida: Yes I went to my sons wedding a couple of years back, I used to love to dance, but sober dancing is still something I struggle with. But this time I got up and started dancing and had such a great time my daughter asked me if I had been drinking (she was joking). Have FUN with your life, you only get one go at it. So you were a drunk, big deal, we have a disease we can stop in its tracks if we just dont pick up that glass, how lucky are we eh?