This week’s Sober Story comes from Jo, a 55-year-old Career Coach and Elearning Designer living in the Waikato.
Jo’s Sober Story is written out below, and she’s also sharing it with us via an awesome animated video clip. Check it out …
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Jo: I’ve been in recovery (this time) for 17 yrs.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Jo: I’d been drinking on and off for about twenty years by the time I finally stopped. As a young adult it got pretty dark, and lonely, and I certainly had my share of trouble. I’m sure I was depressed, although never diagnosed. I had some good years where I travelled and achieved career milestones, and then met my husband and had kids…. But each time I relapsed, things went bad, very fast. At the time I finally stopped, life was pretty dark and bleak…I was smashed most nights… so much that I’d not remember things. At the time I had two very small children too. I’d plan my day so I wouldn’t need to leave the house from about 3.30pm. Time for my first drink.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Jo: I felt terrible, guilty, ashamed, isolated, lonely and sick a lot of the time, on autopilot, totally fixated on next drink. My husband called me from work one day – and said “this has to stop”. It was weird, because I remember being a bit shocked, and embarrassed. I knew he was right, but I couldn’t do it myself. I knew I was really worried about the impact I was having on my kids, and that felt awful. But I still couldn’t stop on my own. Plus I’d also had an opportunity for a fresh career start (study and part-time) but I was worried sick I wouldn’t be able to perform – and I’d screw it up. So actually, it was a huge relief to me that my husband said those words. No more lies and hiding.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Jo: It was really tough. The toughest time was from about 3-6pm… when I’d normally have started drinking.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Jo: I didn’t tell anyone – for years – was far too ashamed. And that was really tough. It actually took me years to confide in even a few close friends. But my husband was supportive and that helped a lot. But that was really hard too.
Mrs D: Experts say relapse is often a part of recovery, was it a feature of yours?
Jo: I relapsed several times over the years. I think because I never dealt with it. I just avoided it, distracted myself and thought I could handle it with willpower alone. That did not work! I think the main difference was that this last time I truly faced it. I eventually got professional support – a wonderful psychologist, and I found something I loved to do, a way of contributing.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Jo: It probably took me a couple of years to calm down. It’s hard to remember – it’s a blur. I remember in the early days using the HALT approach to help me. I was really conscious of being Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. The hungry one especially – made myself big sandwiches in the afternoon. It helped a lot! Then I read a couple of books – one in particular resonated strongly “Drinking: A Love Story“, and that helped me to understand it wasn’t just me. I really just took one step at a time, doing normal things, and trying to appreciate what I had. Doing the simple things, and feeling relieved to finish each day without drinking and being actually present for my kids.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Jo: I didn’t socialise much for a long time, way too uncomfortable. This slowly got easier. And now I hardly ever think about it!
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Jo: I learned a lot about myself. That I am a pretty strong character, with loads to give, and a good person too!
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Jo: My life has changed a lot. It wouldn’t have been like this had I continued. I’d probably be dead. Not that that’s a comparison. My life is good! It’s not perfect of course – I have crappy days like anyone else, and stuff goes wrong – regularly. But I do have great relationships, and I’m healthy. I feel really lucky.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Jo: I’m actually engaged in my life. I’m here and present. No more shame and guilt. And I get to do fun and rewarding things that I wouldn’t be doing otherwise.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Jo: What would I do differently if I had to do it again? I’d get more support, faster, and not tough it out. I’d also do the basics, like eating well, going outside, and exercising – and I’d definitely do mindfulness. And, I’d learn about myself – much earlier. I think that knowing who you are, and appreciating your unique talents and style, is absolutely crucial for personal growth.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Jo: My advice? Be honest with yourself. You’re braver than you know. Know it’s not just you. There are millions of fabulous people, just like you, who struggle with this. Know that this is a road to hell and there’s a much better life at the tips of your fingers. All you have to do is open your eyes and see it, make choices, get good support, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
And if you haven’t already… find something you love to do, or a way to contribute, and be kind to yourself and make time for that thing. And lastly, find something good about yourself every day.
Best luck, from Jo