This week’s Sober Story comes from Jim, a 58-year-old living in the Timaru district.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Jim: I have been in recovery since June the 22nd, 2004.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Jim: I started drinking at 18. The drinking got heavy from 21-years-old onward, and really bad around the 28-year-old mark. Then I started home brewing beer so I had a cheap supply of alcohol. I thought I hit the jackpot. I started putting on weight as a result of the extra booze – I got from 75 kg to 90kg. I still managed to keep my painting business but it was very touch and go at times. The last 2 years before I stopped drinking I lost all pleasure from it. I drank out of frustration and fear of the future. My problem was I thought too much about life instead of really getting on with it. I drank to forget about my business and people that got on my nerves. I did feel isolated by my heavy drinking. People got sick of the verbal abuse and my anti-social ways … especially if I was in a bad mood. I think my drinking was alcoholic and definitely a true hazard to myself and other folk around me, like my family. My drinking was a negative experience, nothing positive to say about it .
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Jim: I decided to give up drinking when my wife hid my alcohol. I could see myself slipping away from my family’s love and felt a horrible lonely spirit over me. I started having the odd embarrassing panic attack around my hangovers. These made me lose self confidence and jolted me to want to stop drinking.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Jim: Once I stopped drinking I experienced cold turkey effects like shaking and poor slept for 2 or 3 weeks. After that the withdrawal became easier to handle. My first year of being sober was hard work, I did lots of exercise to get my mind off it.
Mrs D: Experts say relapse is often a part of recovery, was it a feature of yours?
Jim: I have not had any relapses – had to pray a lot.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Jim: My family and friends were very shocked and in disbelief that I didn’t drink. It took a while for them to get accustomed to the new me. They were mostly pleased for me, they knew I had a problem and that it was a good move for me to stay dry. Respect started to show after 6 months or so when they saw I meant it.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Jim: Socialising is just a lot different without booze, sometimes it felt strange. After a time people just knew I didn’t drink alcohol. It took a couple of years to feel ok in a social setting. Now days I just listen a lot to others at social occasions and work on staying relaxed. People now know they can talk to me about good stuff.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Jim: The strong gains kicked in after 18 months. Self respect took 2 or 3 years to fully grow. It took long while to practice live and let live. It’s taken 5 years to get real calm and together. My health has improved out of sight since I stopped drinking. I rely on my higher power to help me, his name is Jesus. I don’t go to AA, but follow the Big Book and readings from the 24 Hours a Day book. I also read the bible all the way through with my daughter. Dealing with the foolish old immature thinking that goes with drinking comes up now and then. I have take time out and pray that I stop ‘stinking thinking’ right now.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Jim: I learned that I was a lot stronger than I thought after I got sober – and stubborn too. I don’t want to give in going after what is good and decent. Getting hammered and being foolish is not me anymore. To get sober you must really want it, because it is right for you. Learn to be positive about your goodness you will have good in you. Use that strength to build a positive self image and do seek support . Above all draw close to your higher power. Don’t worry what others think – your self respect, higher power, and sobriety do rock.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Jim: I wouldn’t change a thing , just stay positive and be useful to others .
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Jim: Stay sober always and encourage others to do the same when they are ready for it. Thinking of others and avoiding self pity and the ‘poor me’s’ is really powerful.
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Jim: Getting sober can be done – 14 and a half years sober is a worthwhile thing. I Hope this story may be of use and encouragement to others. Kind regards, Jim.