This week's Sober Story comes from Jenna, a 32-year-old from Christchurch.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Jenna: Just over three years. My sober date is 13 March 2015.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Jenna: The last years of my drinking were merged with starting a family, although I was struggling with binge drinking well before then. I fell pregnant at 25 and it was the first time I had ever been completly abstinent from alcohol since the age of 13. So it gave me a wee break and I realised I didnt miss it too much. But then after having the baby and feeding I went straight back to my old ways. Although I wasnt drinking as regularly when I did drink I seemed to go waaay to far and couldnt find my off switch. Having my second child gave me another break, although afterwards I still seemed to fall back into old patterns. I remember breast feeding after a big night drinking and feeling so guilty wondering if my son was receiving alcohol through my milk. And the hangovers were horrendeous.
Mrs D: It's so hard parenting with awful hangovers.
Jenna: Trying to manage a baby and a toddler while physically and mentally ill was some hard times alright. I lived in a depressive cycle for some time. But I held a belief that I was a "drinker" and would always be one, so I justified my drinking and even believed I enjoyed it. I didnt know who I was without alcohol.
Mrs D: So what led to you quitting?
Jenna: My husband and I went to a wedding. Long story short, I started drinking in the car on the way to the ceremony and had another drink during the ceremony, then after that drank a bottle of wine in less than 20 minutes while making small talk with people I hardly knew. From there it all went down hill, basically I was just in a drinking frenzy, got to the table for speeches and kept drinking. I made a total dick of myself, didn't eat anything, left the table, stumbled around while people were eating and stole ciggarettes out of someones bag. I lost my bag, which my hubby had actually put away in the car, but he said I asked where it was over 50 times. He said my eyes went black, he was basically babysitting me. It was embarrassing. There are some parts of the night I really can't remember, some I can. I was out of control.
Mrs D: I had a wedding just like that. I ended up crying on the shoulder of some random uncle of the groom I hardly knew.
Jenna: Waking up in the morning I was in utter shock at how drunk I got, and felt so sorry for putting my husband through that. He looked at me with a look in his eye that I knew it wasnt cool. He was ashamed, disappointed. He said something needed to change. I also had a very strong and distinct conviction that if I was to drink like that again there would be very serious consequences and the outcome would be irreversable.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Jenna: In the early early days I was still very physically sick from the binge and had terrible anxiety. I phoned the alcohol helpline and they put me onto your blog Mrs D. They also set me up with free A & D counselling. I think it was only a matter of weeks before I had appointments and it was a good focus. My counsellor was very supportive and relatable (as she was an ex drinker herself). It opened me up to the possibility of staying off it forever. Also Lotta's book also gave me lots of hope. My husband was very supportive, I just laid low and pushed through. It was hard dealing with the irratability I experienced and the guilt I felt around my past drinking.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Jenna: My husband had my back from the start, but I think he might have been sceptical when I declared that I would never drink again. He had heard that NUMEROUS times in the past. But as the weeks went by and I started going to counselling he saw I was serious. He's been my biggest supporter. My mum, dad and family etc couldnt understand at first and didnt think I had alcohol issues. That made for some uncomfortable convos, but they can't deny the postive changes. My brother and sister are proud of me, true friends have been supportive, other 'friends' I havent seen again, but thats okay with me.
Mrs D: It happens.
Jenna: One thing I did notice in the early days was that it felt like I was busy trying to convince people why I had a drinking problem, not why I didn't, which seems the opposite. But I believe because boozing is so 'normal' and imbedded in our society others really didn't see problem with my binges. But they also didnt see the destruction that went on for me behind the scenes.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Jenna: No I haven't, but on two occasions in the last three years i have been close and it was a result of destructive thinking and a case of the "f**k its". But both times I drove away from the bottle store, and both times I am very glad I did.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Jenna: About a year physically as my sleep was disturbed. Also, heading into year 2 I was diagnosed with depression, so I started medication for that and other helpful techniques. The last two years have been reasonabley settled, but the first year I did find it all a bit crazy and confusing. My brain had a lot of retraining to do. I also learnt how to administer self care and that has been integral in my recovery, and helps with depression symptoms.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Jenna: Not has hard as I had imagined in my brain and now it's effortless. I don't even think about it these days. The first few parties were interesting alright, and I did talk about it a lot with people because it was a point of conversation and I was happy to be open about it. But over time I've realised im actually more social now than I ever was. I actually connect with people, whereas before I was always on a one woman bandwagon, just stuck in my own head trying to find the next drink.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Jenna: The old classic "I'm an introvert", but I am and I embrace that now. Also I do actually like connecting with people and listening to their stories. Alcohol had given me such delusional beliefs about myself that were just so destructive. I know now that I am not my mind and thought patterns, I also learned that I was actually lonely in my drinking. At several parties early in sobriety I realised a pattern where my husband would go off and I was left alone, and I didn't have the courage to make conversation. It soon became obvious to me that this was the key time when I would usually start necking bottles or use that time to go get a drink to get through the awkwardness. Now if I'm in that situation I either just start talking to someone or just stand in my own awkwardness and embrace my own presence .. and in doing so I don't feel so lonely.
Mrs D: That's very awesome. How else did your life change?
Jenna: Gosh it changed in so many ways. Improved relationships and marriage, better mother to my sons. I started excercising and participating in races and spring challenges. I found my faith, finally took my depression seriously and got the help I needed for that. I've mades some very special friends and connections through Living Sober that I am truly grateful for.
Mrs D: Yay! Can you pinpoint any main benefits that have emerged for you since you got sober?
Jenna: Pretty much all of the above, plus other health benefits like not having the stomach issues I used to. Also... clarity! As our lovely member @prudence says; "clarity is the new black" and its so true!!!
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Jenna: Not really, it's been an amazing journey so far. Hmmmm but probably not dive into the sugar treats like I have, major sweet tooth right here!!!
Mrs D: Any advice or tips for those who are just starting on this journey?
Jenna: Connect to a community of like minded folk, get come counselling, journal, take as many baths as you need, listen to podcasts and lots and lots of self care and self love. Be honest with yourself.
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to share?
Jenna: Meeting you Lotta and others from the Living Sober crew, connecting with these amazing people has restored my faith in human connection and friendship. I will be forever grateful for this support network and I don't believe I could have done this on my own without this crucial support. Thank you Lotta for paving the way and for your bravery and truth. You have helped change my life for the better and so many more worldwide , thank you!!!! Arohanui xxx