This week’s Sober Story comes from Jane, a 49-year-old living in Toronto, Canada.
Mrs D: How long have you been sober for?
Jane: I’ve been sober for 3 years, 5 months – last drink was May 8, 2015.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the end of your drinking days?
Jane: It was getting dire. I could always take days, and in the last years, weeks off from drinking. But when I did drink, it was almost always a binge. I think my intent was to disappear myself, or to reach some plateau where I’d feel great and recapture some of the fun I used to have in my 20s. I felt really trapped – every social situation required drinking, which often led to months-long recriminations for what I had said. I also started getting terrible 5-day hangovers. At my stressful teaching job, I would sometimes get the idea of buying a bottle of wine after work, and that would help me get through the day. It often felt like I had marching orders from my brain, that I had no choice but to go to the liquor store to buy the bottle of wine.
Mrs D: I can so relate to that ‘marching orders from my brain’ feeling you describe.
Jane: What helped was moving to Mexico with my new husband. I didn’t feel social pressure, and I was finally with someone who truly cared about my well-being. I switched wine for soda, slowly getting used to saying ‘no’ to myself. One pivotal moment was when I inadvertently, unknowingly had a marijuana edible. I was at a coffee shop and all of a sudden I felt really ill, just a wave of paralysis, knocking out my intelligence and composure. It felt like I had 8 shots of vodka in a row, and I remember thinking “I hate being wasted.” I started to see the lies of alcohol. And I had the time to see that every conflict + every problem I had could be linked to alcohol. But even with all of that, I didn’t entirely stop. I still thought I could master moderation after I came home, and started having accidents from heavy consumption.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Jane: I was back in Toronto for a year without my husband. I often socialized with drinking buddies of the past. One evening about five years ago, I had about 10 drinks – seems so crazy and disgusting now – and I was with someone who definitely did not have my back. I walked out of the pub, no recollection of this, and fell down, hitting my head. I woke up in the hospital, very hungover, got the MRI, blessedly I was okay – though I do think it tinkered with my cognitive functions and balance. I had always said to myself that if I ever ended up in a hospital, I would stop. It would be my rock bottom. But I didn’t. Over the next year, I would continue to drink out of habit, loneliness, deep-seated pain, and addiction. The following year I thought I had moderation mastered. But I was out with a friend who kept pouring wine in my glass and I kept drinking it. I came home, fell on my balcony, looked really bashed up for a few days. My husband cried and said he was really scared for me. I made it through Christmas, began counting days, drank three more times, all without incident, and knew that I was done with it all after a friend’s big party in May 2015.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days?
Jane: I feel like the true early days were the ones in Mexico when I was contemplating and figuring out a life without alcohol. It felt a bit weird to have a Diet Dr. Pepper when everyone was drinking. But I wasn’t around my old triggers and I felt I didn’t have to put on a show for the people we were socializing with – I allowed myself to feel awkward and self-conscious, knowing I’d feel great the next day. In 2015, I had a lot of sober time under my belt, but I still felt a sense of loss and bewilderment, as well as elation and liberation. Some times, it felt like a long trudge in a desert, I wasn’t sure what the point was, but I had to trust that it got better. Staying with feeling uncomfortable, raw, exposed, self-conscious was the hardest part. But it always passes, and the ability to be comfortable in my skin without intoxicants is so powerful and great.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from friends and family when you started getting sober?
Jane: It’s interesting, getting sober is such a friend/supporter sorter. Most people were proud and supportive. It has transformed my relationship with my father; he is very proud of me. Some people, who I realize now were not my real friends (just drinking buddies) were resentful of my sobriety, and those get togethers don’t happen anymore. My husband didn’t totally get how I couldn’t just have 1 or 2 initially, but now he’s very supportive and proud. I inspired my hard-drinking beloved brother to stop drinking.
Mrs D: Have you ever relapsed?
Jane: Not since May 2015. I drank 3x in 2015, no dire consequences for any, all quite fun, but I felt really done with drinking then. But I feel like I had so many relapses. I would make promises with myself, and I just could not get past about 4 or 5 days of sobriety.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Jane: Physically, because I tapered off for so long, it was relatively painless. Emotionally, a very long time. Everything becomes a lot more clear, and I saw how I accepted a lot of bad behaviour from others, because I felt I deserved it, because I was a pathetic drinker and a very flawed person from some terrible conditioning and abuse growing up. I’ve always been interested in healing myself from the ravages of my childhood and early adulthood, but terrible hangovers, self-recriminations, intense regret made long-lasting healing impossible.
Mrs D: What about socialising sober.. how have you dealt with that?
Jane: It can be difficult to be at a wedding or party sober, but it really is just for the first half-hour. And then the self-consciousness recedes. I have the same amount of fun with old friends, probably more as the end of the night is not marked by helping me home, watching me slur, witness me in black-out state. I do socialize less on average, but I’m quite content to be at home with books and my dog.
Mrs D: Same! Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Jane: I found that I have a pretty even temperament. I always thought of myself as highly emotional, quick to cry, moody. But no, in sobriety, I find I’m pretty balanced and I tend to be pretty optimistic. I also found that I became way more conscientious of how I spent my money, cutting down in lots of small ways, to be able to go on great trips. Perhaps it’s age, but I find myself far less concerned with what people think of me.
Mrs D: How has your life changed?
Jane: In so many ways. I feel like I walk around with a sense of joy and gratitude most of the time. I have a great marriage, I continue to make peace with my past, I write more, I meditate 3 to 4 times a week which is an incredible tool to calm the mind. I get a sense that I am creating my life rather than being tossed around, feeling trapped by my addiction. I feel liberated and relieved that I am not toxifying my body regularly; it feels like I have lost a lot of psychic baggage and I feel lighter. Honestly, I could write for the whole day about how much better my life is!
Mrs D: Any main benefits that you can pinpoint?
Jane: I have transformed all relationships including one that I have with myself, healthy body, peace of mind, joy, sense of great possibilities for my life.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Jane: Hmmm, I could have saved myself a lot of pain if I had given up earlier, but I think I was so dependent on alcohol, that I needed to see clearly that it would strip everything I cared for, including my life, if I kept drinking. My process was a combination of: 2 years away from my usual triggers, getting a dog, having a supportive partner, being absolutely convinced that every problem was attributable to alcohol and fearfully aware that things would progressively worse for me if I kept going, sober sites such as this amazing one and how I found it – through Belle’s blog, audios, daily emails and her help with keeping me accountable, and just being patient that it would all get easier and better, which it definitely did. Also counting days really helped me and continues to! Returning to day 1 is not negotiable for me. I feel like I needed to go through everything that I did to get to this point.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Jane: I would want to reassure anyone who is thinking about it that it the most positive, worthwhile change you can make, and getting sober is difficult but endlessly interesting, unexpected benefits unfold month after month. In the earliest days, making space between yourself and your usual social drinking crowd is essential. Meet friends for lunch, make sobriety your absolute top priority, read a lot of sober blogs, rewire your brain with sober audios, be really patient with the process and kind to yourself, and say ‘no’ to events where you feel it’s too hard to stay sober. Going to bed early is a great tool. Learning to meditate is very helpful. Sobriety gives you the rebellious, life-affirming, kickass life you always wanted.
Mrs D: Fantastic. Anything else you’d like to share?
Jane: Total gratitude and respect for everyone who has helped me on this path: authors, Buddhist teachers, sober bloggers, friends, people on this site. Thank-you to all of you. xo
“Everything becomes a lot more clear, and I saw how I accepted a lot of bad behavior from others, because I felt like I deserved it, because I was a pathetic drinker and a very flawed person from some terrible conditioning and abuse growing up”. ~This resonates with me. For me, as an adult, binge drinking, first sought as a respite, it then perpetuated the cycle of abuse from my self and allowed it from some of the people I am closest to now.
Hi @kate! Thanks for replying – I found that with more days, months of sobriety, one’s own patterns in relationships become so much more clear. I hope you’re doing well today. : )
JM. I read your story this morning and loved it. I loved that I got to see the whole picture. I have so many of the same stories that I could share with you. I guess the most recent (and I don’t even know how long ago this was) my husband had rearranged the furniture in the den due to a painting project. I woke up in the morning, after a liter of wine, and couldn’t get out of bed. I only had to assume what I had done. I had fallen on the pile of furniture. I think I had cracked a rib. The problem was that in about 10 days I had an appointment with my doctor for a full physical. I did everything I could to mend myself before my appointment so she did not question me on what happened. I was afraid if she found it, it would like domestic violence and she would not buy my story that I had fallen in the night. It all worked out with lots of ice packs and aspirin.
It’s so nice to see that this journey is different for all of us and there is no “right” way to do it. Just keep doing it. There are so many stories of people who have put the drink down and never looked back. I always wanted that to be my story, but it’s not. I can remember the first time I got 30 days and them met up with an old friend on a trip for dinner. I did everything right. Said out loud that I wasn’t drinking right now. Never thought I would give up 30 days. But a nice Italian restaurant and an old friend saying “just a little won’t hurt “ and I was sucked right back in. This was probably 2 years ago. Of course the next days I just went back to square one because I had thrown it all away. What I know now is that is not true. If that happened to me today I would know that just because I drank today doesn’t mean that I have to drink tomorrow. Disappointing, yes. But all is not lost.
I’ve definitely learned there are invitations that I need to turn down. People I do not need to hang out with. I need to eat before I get hungry, I need lots of sleep. I’ve learned lots of things to help me succeed. It’s so good to hear that everyone has the same story, but then just with a different twist. This is a great place to be and to stay.
I’m so glad to have you as a friend.
Just read this..and I want to thank you ! ☺So insightful and I had those ‘”Ah..HAAA” moments
while reading your story. Very inspirational you are☺ congrats on 3 plus years
Hiya @Iowadawn! Thanks for your kind comments! Happy week ahead, see ya on the new site! xo
Hi, I am beginning my sober journey at 31. I have tried to control my drinking but it is becoming more regular and I am drinking much more. I am a mum of two and I need to set a good example for my children. I have had too many weekend wasted with hangovers!
I can relate……it is always nice when we can set good examples for our children. I’m tired of wasting time as well. No more!
Me too 🙁 Gosh i hope i can do this!
@kirds you can…….one day at a time. One moment sometimes…..
Hiya! Very smart of you to give sobriety a go at 31! If I can give any advice, keep reading sober blogs, Mrs. D’s and lauramckowen.com and hip sobriety.com and The Sober School, and there are lots more. The brain needs to be retrained, to not think of drinking as a good idea. Annie Grace has great videos on youtube and a challenge on her website. You can do this! Your children and your future self will thank you! : )
thank you for your story.
i’m feeling raw, bored, and lonely at 2 weeks sober. not going out tonight and focusing on reading stories like yours. i am only 25 but the booze and drugs have taken too much from me already.
-Adrian from Toronto.
@adrian so happy to see you doing it now. I too started at 25. Had I stayed quit my life would be completely different now. Keep up the good job!
Hi Adrian! I hope you’re doing well, tried replying last week but didn’t go through. Amazing that at 25 you’re getting sober, my life would’ve been so different if I had. Best to you, Fellow Torontonian. : )
Thanks @Trace! Great comment, happy to help! Hope you’re doing well! xo
Hi Jane….your comment that every negative thing in your life can be linked back to alcohol is something that I have always said about my life and can really relate to. EVERYthing. Feeling lousy, overeating, sleeping poorly, relationships, health issues….and on and on. 5, going on 6, days sober today and feeling good. Truly hoping to make it this time.
Your story was very inspiring, thank you…:)
Hi @PW! Thanks for your comment! Hope it’s going well, I’ll look for your name in the community area. Trust me, gets way easier and much better in a few weeks. : )
Thanks thanks thanks JM – this is really inspiring, and has helped put a bit of steel in my backbone! xoxo
JM…oh my goodness…what a powerful story…..thank you so much for sharing your heart here!!!! oxoxoxox This part here made me tear up in all those right ways…..because you get it and sum it up perfectly here:
“Everything becomes a lot more clear, and I saw how I accepted a lot of bad behaviour from others, because I felt I deserved it, because I was a pathetic drinker and a very flawed person from some terrible conditioning and abuse growing up. I’ve always been interested in healing myself from the ravages of my childhood and early adulthood, but terrible hangovers, self-recriminations, intense regret made long-lasting healing impossible.” Man….
I am so glad you are here…what a treat and privilege it is to have you alongside this journey!!!!
Aw, I so appreciate your kind comments Lovely!! Your posts have helped me a lot in the last year and a half that you’ve been here, thank-you! xo
Just caught your story, JM. Very nice, and thanks for sharing.
Thanks @Tom4500! Always appreciate your support! : )
Thanks for sharing! I too can relate to so much in your story, especially the part about feeling happy the instant I knew wine would be featuring in my evening, when I’d made the decision to get a bottle after work on the way home! It’s funny when someone else says something that hits home when you think you were the only one that felt that way. Bloody brill. Love this place and all of those who share thanks Jane 🙂
Thanks @Poppy88! Glad you’re here! : )
OMG it’s our @JM! wow, I love love the depth of your story. How you started a few years of weaning off and realizations. I resonates with my story in some ways. Thank you for all your support these last two years. You have an amazing life! Best to you always Jane, thank you again. xxo
Hiya @reena! Thank-you so much!! So kind + thoughtful. Best to you, Lovely! xo
Thank you Jane (@JM) for sharing with us the story of your journey.
You were one of the first to welcome me when I joined this community and I was so grateful for that! I have noticed that you are always there to offer encouragement and support to others. You are truly an inspiration to all of us Sober Warriors. xx
Aw thanks @Ravenscraig! I know how hard it is, and how much better it is on the other side. Thanks so much for your kind comments!! xo
Thank you @JM. What an amazing story. These shared experiences are the stuff of heroes. So inspiring for all of us here. Well earned days of sobriety……yes, you rock!!! xox
Hi @Cinderella! Thank-you so much, your comment made me feel great. Sobriety is so worth the effort. You rock. xo
Wow! Proud to know you @JM. A pleasure to read and feel I know you more now. Thank you for telling us your story. xo
Hi @Prudence! Thanks so much! It was good to write it out, I’ll reread it if I ever I feel wobbly. I so appreciate your support. xo
Loved your story and could relate to so much @JM. Congratulations on nearly three and a half years! You’re amazing!!!
Hi @elhall! Thank-you so much! I have so appreciated your supportive comments in the last few years, you’re amazing too! x
I just love your story. “Joy and gratitude” resonate so much with me. I am 6 months sober and feeling so grateful!
You are amazing! Thank you for sharing your journey.
Hi @EllenBanthin! Thanks so much!! Congrats on 6 months! x
Jane @JM I love your story. What an inspiration you have been to our lovely forum. Thank you always for wisdom and your kindness.
Hi @freedom1025! I read this a few times last night, really lifted me up, thank-you so much. : )
JM (Jane) Thanks for sharing your story. I can particularly relate to the feelings of inadequacy and being taken advantage of as a drinker. So glad you broke free from that. You have been there for me from day one of my sobriety and I thank you so so much for your inspiration and support. I am one of your biggest fans. You rock lady xx
@seedynomore! Thanks so much!! Your friend from the other side of the world, xo