Sober Story: Jo

This week’s Sober Story comes from Jo, a 43-year-old living in Auckland.


Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery? 

Jo: 8 and a half years (3111 days).

Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?

Jo: I had been a big drinker for years and after having my two daughters I still was but I was ‘managing’ it. However after I went on a radio junket to Fiji, which I thought would be three days of total relaxation, I found myself gravitating to a group of people who were all big drinkers and I drunk myself stupid all day and night. After returning home I continued to socialize with these people and my drinking escalated to out of control proportions.

Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?

Jo: I had separated from my husband and was trying to get sober but wasn’t truly committed. I wasn’t ready to live life without it yet but I knew it was creating havoc. I attended a wine awards evening (great thinking eh?!) and that night drank myself into oblivion. I was in (what had become a normal state of functioning) an almost blackout state, when I suddenly realized I was back home and had brought with me a man who I knew to be married with children. I was mortified and disgusted in myself and threw him out and locked the door (he must have thought me completely crazy) and sobbed hysterically. The next day was my sister’s 40th and I was supposed to go to a concert with her that night. I had to tell her I couldn’t make it. I couldn’t go into work either (I owned a restaurant) not because I was too hung-over – I had worked through many, many hangovers over the last 10 years – but because I was truly ashamed of myself and had come to realize that I had hit rock bottom with my drinking. This was it. I was officially recognizing myself as an alcoholic.

Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?

Jo: It was hard. So very hard. I truly believed I would never ever have fun or enjoy life again. I attended AA because I promised a friend (my husband now) that I would. I remember pulling up outside the church where it was being held. I had chosen the most affluent suburb to attend so did not have to associate with ‘losers’! Of course the first session I attend they have lost the key to the hall so I am forced to stand outside with these alcoholics whilst they drag on cigarettes like it’s all they have left going for them. I kept telling myself, you are not like these people, you don’t belong here. Finally we gained access and for some reason there was only a small group, which later I realized was unusual, so we sat in a circle. Before I knew it I found myself announcing “Hi, I’m Jo and I’m an alcoholic” and I stared crying my eyes out! That was when I knew this was it. I only went back a dozen times or so, mostly it was just the benefit of hearing others stories that kept me going, they were worse than mine and I guess that gave me hope. Eventually I stopped going because I felt I could do it on my own and I knew I wasn’t committed to the full 12 steps approach, the slightly religious tone did not personally work for me. The weeks and months following were challenging, especially given I was in the restaurant trade so I was always around alcohol. But I had become determined. Determined that I was going to become someone my daughters could look up to, be a mother who would be available at any time of the day or night without the worry of whether I had been drinking. I knew a better me hid within and that I didn’t even know who I was anymore. It was time to stop hiding behind the bravado of alcohol.

Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?

Jo: I think probably surprise and disbelief that I would be able to do this. I don’t think my family fully understood the extent of what I had become. We all drank socially and I guess it had become normal. I know my older sister was probably relieved but I imagined she didn’t think I would stick to it…I didn’t have a great track record. Other family members congratulated me but I think felt challenged because it made them think about their own drinking and they didn’t necessarily want to confront that. Retrospectively I can’t believe that none of them had ever confronted me. I had even crashed my car in peak 6pm traffic one night, driving after a 4-hour boozy lunch and still no one thought to ask the question “Do you think you drink too much?” It was just such a normal part of our life. As for friends, I didn’t have many true friends left. All my ‘friends’ were from within the industry and were really just acquaintances and those friends outside were mainly my ex-husbands friends or people who gravitated towards my party girl persona. Again I think all it did was make people look at their own drinking and they didn’t want to be around me as I was no longer the gauge. Before they could always be comforted that I was the worst in the room!

Mrs D: Have you ever relapsed?

Jo: Not since that AA meeting 3111 days ago.

Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?

Jo: I think probably 2 years.

Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?

Jo: It was awful! Initially I had to drink lemon, lime and bitters from a flute so I still felt like I had a bubbly in my hand and so I didn’t look out of place. I felt so self conscious and I struggled to make conversation and to just be. I really didn’t know who I was as I had been drinking since I was 16 so I had to get to know myself and it was hard to do that amongst others. Now I LOVE that I can engage in a conversation and actually follow it and intelligently contribute!

Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?

Jo: Yes. That I am actually quite a kind and nice person who can engage with other people and actually listen instead of being the centre of attention! That my staunch, angry, forthright persona was not actually me but a person sculpted and molded by my drinking.

Mrs D: How did your life change?

Jo: I remember my first AA meeting they said it will change your life beyond your wildest dreams and they were so right!!!! I thought they were mad but here I am now helping my husband run a charity, I’m a hands on mum who is there 100% for my girls any time of the day or night. I am engaged, I am in touch with them and with what is happening in their lives, I can volunteer to help out as a parent on trips or rowing regattas and I married a man who can love me sober! And I had another baby…I don’t think the old selfish drinking Jo would have been prepared to go sober again to mother a wee one. I am open minded to all aspects of life now and read and seek out wisdom of others for self empowerment.

Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?

Jo: I like myself. To like myself is immense. I am still hard on myself but because I can look in the mirror now and actually meet my own gaze I can hold my head up high and know that I am a good role model for my family.

Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?

Jo: Nothing other than owning up to it a lot earlier!!! The process was what it was supposed to be for me, it had it’s ups and downs but I think no matter how you go about it there is no perfect way.

Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?

Jo: BELIEVE! Believe that it will be a MUCH better life. BELIEVE that you will have fun again as a sober person. BELIEVE that you will love yourself so much more and so will the people who genuinely care about you. Those who drop off were never real anyway. It is a hard journey but the best you will ever take and you will be filled with gratitude by the end. Take it one day at a time, as they say. When you make it to bed sober congratulate yourself and look forward to doing it all again the next day. Before you know it one year will pass, then 2 and soon you will not be congratulating yourself each night because it will become normal to go to bed sober!

Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?

Jo: Don’t think of it as giving up alcohol, think of it as gaining back your life. I have never loved life and all the people in my life like I do now. xxx


  1. Anonymous 3 years ago

    Having been working on more than 30 DAYS for a few months, just created a huge drama this past weekend and grappling today to get by. Your words and the words on different sobriety blogs are so meaningful. Jo, your uplifting message has filled me with renewed hope. Thank you so much.

  2. May15 3 years ago

    Hi Jo… thanks for your story.. I really relate to you… I was the party girl… and deciding to finally ‘do it’ after many attempts…. was partly for my daughters… all under 13… they had started to ask me to stop… but in my friends circle.. I was still considered normal… but I knew it wasnt working for me… it was the at home that was out of control… I dont want to be a bad influence for my kids .. I dont want them to follow in my footsteps… its only day 19 for me… but they are so proud of me… and me of myself… I havent put myself in social situations ye, but happy to just be home and present with my kids… actually cooking meals, talking and listening to them, not getting annoyed with them for wanting me to do stuff after school, being able to take them places, pick them up from play dates.. thanks again for your story.. and giving me hope for the future…

  3. Deede 3 years ago

    Yes Thank you for sharing that. It was just what I need to help me get started on the right track.
    Im now fighting for my life back 🙂 Thanks

  4. Hazel 3 years ago

    Thank you for sharing!!

  5. loraj 3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your story. I totally agree with your closing thoughts. Giving up alcohol gives you so much more than what you are giving up.

  6. Janet 3 years ago

    Lovely to hear this heartening story ! Its amazing that we are all feeling such similar things and learning to feel and get to know our real selves again. I too started drinking at 16 and so really always had a “persona” I find I am a lot more content to be quiet now!!! The friends that say they miss the drinking me are really saying they miss me being their veil as I used to use others to veil my drinking. Ah freedom!

  7. Gerry 3 years ago

    I don’t generally read these posts, but have read this one and can so relate to so many aspects of it. When I went to AA and they said ‘You can have a life beyond your wildest dream’s ‘. I thought they were all crazy, but actually they were so right. My sober life is so much calmer, no crazy behaviour, and I am a much happier person and so my children.

  8. Jo 3 years ago

    Oh thank you for your beautiful words, I have been having a tough week and seeing all these comments has filled me with love. All the best on your journey, kia kaha x

  9. Lars 3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, Jo! I love that we can get our lives back by not drinking, and that our ugly side falls off. I certainly relate to that.

  10. Oceania 3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your story , I have been a long time fan of your husband and ofcourse he would have a strong wahine behind him makes sense, I can relate to your story a lot , right now I’m in such early stages and working it all out especially socialising and friend issues I always hid behind my boozy personna even finding my relationship with my husband is altered because I’ve changed , anyway I look forward to being 8 years sober like you , true sober warrior xx arohanui

  11. Odette 3 years ago

    How wonderful to read your story Jo, when we already know a little about you from TV appearances that recognise the great work you and Mike do together. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  12. Jo 3 years ago

    I’m pleased it helps 🙂 sharing is so powerful.

  13. Jo 3 years ago

    Thank you for reading it 🙂

  14. Temperance 3 years ago

    Thank you so much for this post. Just perfect.

  15. Mar1e 3 years ago

    Thank you Jo for your awesome and inspirational story 🙂

    • Jo 3 years ago

      Thank you 🙂

  16. Wvlheel 3 years ago

    That is such a positive and uplifting interview. It was exactly what I needed to read right now. Congratulations on every one of your 3111 days. Thank you for being honest about how long it took you to get “normal”.

  17. justjane 3 years ago

    Thanks a lot Jo for your story. I can relate so well to parts of it! I am reaching that point (2 years coming up) where I no longer even think that I would like/want/need a wine – it is not a part of my life now.

  18. StephanieD 3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your story. I relate to the fact that no one else thought you had a problem. In my case I’m still told “You can try a little”. I have no problem saying “oh no I can’t. You have seen me try that before!”.
    Day 107..gaining my life together and also learning who I am.

    • Jo 3 years ago

      Ha1 Stephanie….people will always say that and still say that to me! Yay you and Day 107 …awesome!!

      • MsM 3 years ago

        I BELIEVE. Thank you for the important reminder and for your honesty. It’s stories like these that inspire me to stay sober.

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