This week’s Sober Story comes from Jo (@konnie), a 59-year-old living in Arizona, USA.
Mrs D: You’ve got a big birthday coming up..
Jo: Yes, I will be turning 60 in July…wow! I sure do not feel my age. Sixty is now considered middle age. I can embrace this! I’m excited to make this the best decade of my life.
Mrs D: Yes! And how long have you been sober for?
Jo: It will be 4 years this August.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Jo: I was feeling tired, sad, lost. How did I let alcohol take over my life? Whatever I thought drinking was adding to my life was long gone. I was drinking every day. I was mentally and physically exhausted. So much of my life was consumed with drinking, trying not to drink, trying to moderate my drinking. On and on it went, years went by, nothing changed, except I felt more and more despair. I was miserable. I felt like a failure. I wanted more, I wanted a different life. I knew I deserved more. So, after drinking away the night on August 2, 2014, I decided to try one more time.
Mrs D: Was there any final straw that led you to get sober?
Jo: Waking up once again feeling fuzzy and tired before my feet even hit the floor. I remember saying to myself: “Do you really want to live like this? Honestly? This is it?” It was the morning of August 3, 2014. Day 1.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Jo: It was hard and everything was difficult. I needed to come up with a new plan to get sober and stay sober as my previous attempts didn’t work. I had to learn a new way of coping with life. I had bought a journal a while back, I opened it up and started writing. Journaling became and still is a big part of my sobriety. I came up with a mantra that got me through those early days: “I had my fun with booze, my not so fun with booze, now it is time to let it go.” I changed from a night owl to an early bird as evenings were when I drank. I changed my evening routine. I knew I had to stay away from all my triggers. No watching TV in the evenings, no long soaks in the bathtub, no eating out for awhile, no socializing that involved alcohol. I went to bed very early. I remember thinking, well, this is going to be boring. To be truthful, it kind of was. But, I was told boredom never killed anyone. They were right, I am still here! Haha.
Mrs D: How did your family & friends react to you quitting?
Jo: My family knew I was struggling with my drinking and wanted to stop. They have always been supportive. Most of my friends were surprised. They didn’t realize that I was drinking every night. They could take it or leave it when it came to drinking. They were very helpful in joining me for lunch instead of going out for dinner, meeting for coffee, going places where I was less likely to be around drinkers. A few friends I don’t see much anymore as they are still in the drinking lifestyle. They seem uncomfortable with me not drinking, and I no longer want to spend my time being around their boozy behavior. Not everyone has to accept my sober life. It’s okay. My sobriety is about me and for me.
Mrs D: Have you ever relapsed?
Jo: Thankfully, no. I attribute this to changing my thoughts about drinking. I no longer see living my life sober as missing out on something. I look at what my sober life has given me. Once that mind shift happened, my life changed.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Jo: After the first year. My first year was all about seeing how long I could go without drinking. No end date set, just not going to drink until I decided to. No pressure. I was in control. I truly believe this was the key thing for me. I didn’t say to myself that I was never going to drink again, I was only going to take it day by day, week by week, month by month and that was it. At the same time, I was journaling, working on my thoughts, rediscovering who I was, finding me again. Then a life-changing moment happened, I felt so good that I decided to keep going. I liked who I was becoming. Sobriety was giving me back my life. Here it is almost 4 years later and I can firmly say, “I don’t drink.” My new mantra is: “Change your thoughts, change your life.”
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Jo: It was hard. Here I was, someone who needed a drink or two to feel comfortable in social situations. A drinker on or off for almost 40 years! How would I ever be able to socialize while keeping my sobriety? I didn’t want to stay home forever and become a hermit. How do I walk into a social situation where the alcohol is present knowing I can’t have any without feeling like I want to jump out of my skin? Those first few times, I wasn’t at all sure of how I would do. Would I cave in? Old habits die hard. That first social party I went to, my thoughts were racing, my heart was beating fast, I was trying to remember to breathe, telling myself I got this, I want this. I was anxious, feeling scared as I didn’t want to fail yet again. I remember telling everyone that I was going hiking early the next morning (that was true) and needed to be well rested. I wasn’t ready to share my true intentions. At this point, it was 90 days into my sobriety. No one seemed to care and the focus became where I was going hiking, with who and how early I was going. Outside of eating too much (food is tasting better and better now that my taste buds are sober too), I was able to go and stay sober. As I got into my car to go home, I did a little fist pump. I did it! Dare I admit it? I had fun, I enjoyed myself. I could remember the whole evening, all the conversations. My head was clear, I had no worries about driving home. I felt a sense of accomplishment. No worries about what I said or how I acted. Such a change! Over time the socializing got easier and easier. There is always food available and that is where I go first. Having a plate of food in my hands helps a lot.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Jo: Yes. I learned that I am a highly sensitive introvert. I now know I started drinking to mask this. Somewhere along the line, I took on the belief that being this way meant there was something wrong with me. But when I drank, I could become more extroverted, just like everyone else. I have learned that HSP’s are very sensitive to social cues, we adapt to other peoples moods to avoid conflict. At a party, I would be told to have another drink, I would drink past my limit just to fit in, make others happy. I always felt in the minority, watching others having a blast while I wished I was at home in my jammies. I was betraying myself over and over again by trying to become someone else. Now, I know that there was never anything wrong with me, that being a highly sensitive introvert is okay. It is who I am. It took me getting sober and working on myself to embrace this. This has helped tremendously in my sobriety and how I now live my life.
Mrs D: I’m so happy you are more settled in your natural skin now. How else did your life change?
Jo: Oh gosh. My life changed in so many ways. I am no longer self-doubting myself. When I was drinking, the next day I couldn’t quite remember everything, so I would doubt myself, doubt my reactions, it was a terrible way to live. Now I trust myself and my reactions. I can breathe and let it all flow over me. Not everything requires me to give a response or a reaction. I have become a better listener without taking on everyone else’s thoughts and feelings.This is huge for me. I am up for and going on more adventures, stepping outside of my comfort zone where I was stuck for too many years. I am embracing the whatever, open to what life brings my way. Life isn’t always pretty, it gets messy at times, but now I trust myself to deal with these times in a healthy way. My creative side has re-emerged, the joy is back, especially in the little things in life. My life feels calmer, my thoughts lighter, my gratitude is front and center now. All this by making one decision. By acknowledging that alcohol is not my friend and walking away from it, my life changed for the better.
Mrs D: Any main benefits you can pinpoint that have emerged for you from getting sober?
Jo: Living comfortably in my own skin again. Looking in the mirror and seeing not only the wrinkles, the scars, the gray hair, but seeing the courage, the wisdom, the gratitude. Every day striving to be a better version of me…just for me.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Jo: Nope. It is what it is. I am no longer looking back. I am keeping my focus and thoughts on today. My behavior today will shape my tomorrows. This is where my joy lies…inside of me on this day in this moment.
Mrs D: Any advice or tips for those who are just starting on this journey?
Jo: It gets easier. Keep sharing and posting. No matter where each of us is on our sober journey, we all have valuable input to share. Those with years of sobriety can offer insights on what to expect along with reassurances that it does get easier. Those just starting out can offer the much-needed reminders not to forget the struggles of those early days. Together we are stronger, braver, united in our sobriety. As the John Lennon song goes: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Jo: Look at sobriety as the best gift you ever gave yourself. A gift that you get to reopen each and every day. Look at your sobriety, not as something you gave up, but as something you gained. Change your thoughts and change your life. If living life sober is your goal…start today. This moment, this day can be a life-changing moment in your life.