Sober Story: Joanne

Today’s Sober Story comes from Joanne, a 45-year-old living in  Staffordshire, England.

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Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?

Joanne; I wouldn’t describe it as being in recovery as this phrase suggests I may go back…..no way! I’d say I quit booze ‘for good’ on 16th November 2013 so have just completed three years of sobriety.

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

Joanne: In a word… miserable! Looking back I was drinking too much for probably 10 years before I quit. I’d started drinking socially in my teens as did all my friends, I had many a great night out on the booze and although I had a few regrets I never got into trouble with it, so I saw it as normal social behaviour. Where I feel I crossed the line is when in my early 30s I would buy wine to drink at home with a meal. By the time I reached my late 30s I was regularly drinking in the house. Around that time I became single so the wine in the house continued … only now I was drinking alone. It bothered my mind quite a few times that wine was probably becoming a far too regular habit but I convinced myself I was in control of it by abstaining from it for short periods. Also isn’t that what most most women of my age did? Social media by then was gathering pace of us posting pictures of having a great time with alcohol in our hands. The longest I did without booze was 3 months which convinced me (almost) that I couldn’t possibly be addicted as I’d walked away from it just like that for what seemed at the time like a long period. Its quite hilarious now that when I look back I rewarded myself each week by buying a ‘pricey’ bottle of wine to store until the abstinence was done. The reality was I hadn’t walked away from it as I knew that whatever time of abstinence I’d set for myself I would “be going back to normal” at the end of it. I would count the sober days off proving my point that I was in control of it but soon after I took my first glass I’d be back in the same frequent drinking routine which meant most nights I would soothe the stress of the day with wine. In most conversations about having wine at home I described having a glass but in reality I was finishing the bottle and when that got to most nights I really knew that booze was controlling me. I’m embarrassed to say that I sometimes lied about the amount I was drinking and kept justifying my consumption based on the thought that surely most women drink at home and I was no different. The reality was I had become dependent on it to calm me and the more I worried about things (and worried about how much I was drinking) the more I drank. The last weeks before I quit I’d got to the point where I’d open the wine at home as soon as I got in from work before I’d even taken my coat off!

Mrs D: Yep, been there done that. What was the final straw that led you to get sober?

Joanne: I’d thought about quitting booze after my 40th Birthday, this seemed a good mental milestone “life begins at….” and all that…. but it came and went and I was still boozing. In May 2013 and now aged 42 I went on my first cruise, of course I’d booked ‘All Inclusive’. Holidays for me were always somewhere hot where I could have a poolside beer in the sun and this holiday was no different. I’d always conditioned myself not to drink before midday on holiday as only alcoholics drank at breakfast and after 12 was for ‘normal’ folk like me? Anyway I had a great time, however having got off the cruise after a week of indulgence I felt really dizzy, nauseous and couldn’t walk far without a feeling that I was going to fall over. I totally blamed ‘cruise legs’ and was convinced that I would soon feel ok again once I’d been back on dry land. I didn’t and the dizziness continued for weeks and weeks but I found that when I drank, the dizziness subsided so any excuse to carry on drinking I took it.
Having visited the doctor on a few occasions hoping for a simple ‘pill cure’, I had to start listening to what I didn’t want to hear and that was that I had got severe anxiety which was causing the dizziness and hey …..what’s one of the biggest contributors to anxiety?? Booze of course. My ‘All Inclusive’ cruise had been the straw that broke the camels back – it was a week long binge.

Mrs D: What did the doctor say?

Joanne: Upset and at my lowest a doctor suggested I go on anti-depression tablets and I recall him saying “don’t worry you can drink on these ones” which I didn’t comment on as I was not yet ready to admit how much I was drinking. The next few months were miserable, I promised myself I’d “Go Sober for October” and by 4th October I was drinking wine again feeling like a failure, feeling sick, and fed up with the dizziness. Things had to change. I started googling alcohol help and at that time if I could have been lifted up into the sky and out of my life and placed into detox without having to tell anyone I would have done it as I felt helpless and desparate. I discovered a book by Jason Vale called “Kick the drink….. Easily” and I read the reviews with scepticism. How could a book get me to Kick the Drink <full stop> let alone easily!!! which is what the reviews claimed. I thought they must have been paid to write these because there was no way any book was going to get me to quit this wine habit, or so I thought. With the same uncanny pink and yellow cover I also discovered “Your Six Week Plan” by Sarah Turner & Lucy Rocca. I purchased both books and felt ‘tooled up’ but was still doubtful any books were going to get me to quit drinking.
I began reading the Jason Vale book while I was on a week long break from work. Without any plan as to what was going to happen and when, I finished reading the book on the morning of Saturday 16th November 2013 and found myself announcing later that day to a group of friends (while drinking a bottle of beer of course) that I was done with alcohol and this beer would be the last time they ever would see me drinking. It just came out of my mouth and I thought “oh my word what have I said?” I got home (where my wine was reliably waiting as planned each evening) and stared at the bottle with what I can only describe as detachment. Jason Vale had made me see that alcohol had brainwashed me (and others) into believing I needed it when actually it was the primary cause of my misery.
I drank the whole bottle of wine as I always did, climbed into bed in the usual fuzzy haze and thought “is quitting booze even possible for me?”. The following day I reflected on what I had ‘publicly declared’ as if I had just thrown myself under a bus and thought IF I made it through the coming week sober it would be a miracle. Life without booze was going to be miserable but I guess now I’d said it I’d got to at least try.

Mrs D: Wow what a story. I loved that Jason Vale book too.. it was hugely powerful for me in turning my thinking around. How was it for you once you actually stopped? What was most difficult?

Joanne: In one way it was like switching off a huge switch or pulling a plug as my mind was made up. I knew I could not go on drinking as I was pretty clear I didn’t want the control it had over me. That said I still had to take each day as it came, so I followed The “Six Week Plan” book by Lucy Rocca and recorded the days as the days passed. I remember thinking “I’ve just got to get my head down and keep going”. I discovered sober blogs (Mrs D you are my inspiration!) where this opened up a parallel world I didn’t know existed. There were women out there who were of a similar age to me who had quit the booze and claimed to actually be enjoying it!! I couldn’t see me ever enjoying sobriety but I kept on reading. I lost count of the times I said in my head… #thereisnofuckingwayiamactuallygoingtodrink!!! This play on Mrs D’s phrase reminded me that I wasn’t the only one that booze called out to and as Mrs D was ahead of me in sobriety I just kept going following this inspiring and trusted lead. I set myself a target of 3 months (of course because I’d done this a few times), then 6 months, then a year, and then the unimaginable 1000 days. The first 6 months were a real tough test and of course the anxiety came at me like a rail train with no booze to calm it! However by the time I started to reach my first sober anniversary I thought of the misery booze had given me and often thought “why on earth would I want to go back to that stuff!” Boozing isn’t just the drinking hours lost in a haze, it’s the stopping at the shop to buy it, feeling like a wino when you are paying for it when others are buying bread and milk!, throwing the empties in the already busy recycling bin and dreading the noise, spending untold hours feeling ropey after saying and doing things that you regret, and then repeating it all again…. So I reminded myself of all of this every time I felt a pang of loss for the lovely wine I was so missing and said to myself “watch the whole movie not just the love scene!”. This kept me notching up the sober days.

Mrs D: I love that ‘watch the whole movie not just the love scene!’ What a great line! How did your friends and family react to you getting sober?

Joanne: My circle of friends were really cool about it, they just accepted it because they saw just how determined I was, even though in the early days I would say I’d quit in a determined voice to keep convincing myself that this was for good. They let me talk about it, listened and praised me as I notched up the days. My parents were really proud of me too and still are which kept me going, after all I need to be fully present for them as they get older and could not do that while under the influence. There have been however some interesting comments from others such as “why don’t you just have a drink on holiday”….”why don’t you just give up for a month to prove you can do it”…..”Why don’t you just have a baileys in your coffee” WTF!! ….. “you can’t have been that bad if you still went to work”…….. “it’s a shame you can’t have a drink” (no it frickin ain’t!!!) …….and the list goes on. Saying “I don’t drink” to some however I don’t think they know what to say? I have had <awkward> silence a few times which either means 1) they are worried I’ve got a drink problem 2) I’ve hit a nerve and they are worried they themselves have a drink problem 3) booze is no where near a problem / obsession it is to them as it was to me so there is no big deal. With silence I guess I will never know!

Mrs D: Have you ever relapsed?

Joanne: Never, and never will. As time passes the positives I have gained far outweigh the negatives that booze brings. It sounds corny but it’s like life has restarted for me and my mind is awakened as I’m much more present in it for both me and those around me. It’s hard to believe that life without booze can be enjoyed when you are trapped in it but believe me the blogs are right that life after booze it just blessed.

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

Joanne: I was sleeping like a log after about a week or two and started to lose weight soon after so shifted 30 excess pounds (13kg) I didn’t need within the first 6 months. Emotions were up and down for probably the first 18 months but I still improve every day. I have to remind myself that all this emotional shite was always there it’s just that I didn’t deal with it when boozing I just muted it. So I see it that every thought I have to process makes me stronger for the next time.

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

Joanne: I felt like one of those window mannequins for probably 12 months!! The reality is that it’s all in your head as no-one notices if you are boozing or not, as the soda water and lime slice in your glass looks like your mates G&T. You will get past this and now I sometimes take the chance to ask for a cup of tea at the bar, in most places to my surprise they don’t bat an eyelid and just do it for you. I recall my very first New Year’s Eve out sober and a 30 something woman slurring her words while sloshing her wine asked me if I was an alcoholic because I wasn’t drinking …. I can’t blame her really I’d have thought the same only months before. Its crazy how alcohol is the only drug that you get a hard time when you quit using it! Maybe it’s that age old myth “once an alcoholic always an alcoholic”.

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

Joanne: Yes, I realised I can be strong when I put my mind to it, I realised that I am not weak and hopeless. I am much calmer, much kinder to those around me and becoming the person I always was underneath the angst and misery of booze. Now I have achieved this I feel I can do anything I want. If I could help just one person believe that they can and will remove the booze that’s making them sad then I’d be very happy.

Mrs D: Wow, fantastic. I love your words! How else did your life change?

Joanne: I’m still in the same job and same house so to the outside world little has changed but what’s different is me inside. Being in control and fully present in my own life and knowing I can be present at all times for other people is liberating. In those early days I thought that anyone who said they enjoyed sobriety were different to me because I never would. That rigid mindset has changed. Believe what you read, life after booze is better than you can ever imagine.

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

Joanne: I went from just being a boozy bird to taking up walking, yoga, cooking, taking long haul tour holidays (rather than booze in the sun by the pool bar holidays!). I plan ahead and achieve more, there is rarely now a weekend where I have nothing planned and if there is it’s because that’s is exactly what I have planned! Most importantly I am more patient with myself and others and appreciate just how valuable time is. Talking of value I must be at least £6k better off for not drinking already, all being spent on holidays and weekend breaks! Fivers are like confetti when you are boozing.

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

Joanne: I would have quit much sooner!

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

Joanne: No matter how much misery booze has caused you or others you CAN quit…… and wait for it….. actually enjoy life better without booze. Forget all of that painful abstinence then drinking then abstinence then drinking. Once you decide to quit for good rather than “cut down” the inner battle of control that destroys you is over. Read everything you can that strikes a chord with you and pass by the stuff that doesn’t …. and then hear the words of reason. You may not be ready to admit your drinking problem to the world or even to your nearest and dearest but honestly admit it to yourself, write it down and hide it if you need to as this will always be a reminder of your reality. I don’t accept I have used will power as that at some point always falters, instead I have worked on changing my mindset which we all have the power to change, we just don’t always know it.

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

Joanne: Giving up booze is the kindest and most rewarding thing I have ever done for myself. If you are reading this and are still drinking you are here for a reason……. so what are you waiting for?

Joanne

42 Comments
  1. Anonymous 2 years ago

    Thanks for posting this Joanne – I was amazed to read about the dizziness you experienced being caused by severe anxiety being caused by alcohol, as I’ve recently started to experience dizziness and that sense of the ground rising up towards me too. I’ve been to my doctor about it, and in talking to her it became really clear to me that the symptoms and alcohol and anxiety are all linked. She suggested I go on anti-depressants again but I’m not keen, I think there are better ways i.e. cutting out alcohol! Simple is best 🙂

    It was validating and motivating to read about your experiences, thank you! xx

    • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

      Thankyou for reading! Yes once the booze was eliminated the dizziness for me went. My doctor immediately diagnosed anxiety however I was never asked how much I was boozing!? …. I made that link myself and so glad I did. Once the booze went lots of things got better as well as the anxiety. Giving up booze completely was and still is a “no brainer” for me, best wishes in your journey! 🙂

  2. Fabulous50 2 years ago

    Agreed! A lot of us out there and happiness is pure when I’m not drinking,

  3. Fabulous50 2 years ago

    Thanks so much! Still feeling great and strong. Reading Jason vales book at the. Moment and going to read the other book you liked with the 6 week plan!

    • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

      Good on you Fabulous50 and hope they help you the same. Wishing you the very best in your journey. Also remember to do a “Sober Story” for Mrs D when you hit your three years!! 🙂

  4. Fabulous50 2 years ago

    Lovelifenov13. Your post is so inspiring and just what I need. 2 years ago I had that mind set you were talking about. It kept me strong for a year and a half. Then I thought I could handle drinking moderately and now 6 months later I m giving sobriety another shot. This time around I know that one thing I need to keep me feeling supported is a community. I am going to use this blog and read read read as much as I can! I know one thing that worked was I would tell myself that I could drink if I want and it was a choice to not drink. I could not drink today and really went the one day at a time. If anybody out there feels they too need a community, please reach out to me. If anybody out there wants to be available to me then please let me know. I don’t think I want to try aa at this time but want a supportive community!

    • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

      Thankyou for reading Fabulous50! and hope my words help. Yes there were times early days for me that I thought “I could just have the odd glass” however I just know that I would not moderate, that’s why I ended up ultimately drinking the amount I did. I’ve done a LOT of reading about sobriety in the last three years and have never come across anyone who quit drinking then ended up moderating/enjoying the odd glass, they all regret starting drinking again! good on you for being here, much love to you in your journey 🙂

  5. Lovelifenov13 2 years ago

    Thankyou SueK, I’d just been to the bar in a very noisy music venue and didn’t think they would say yes to a mug of tea!! They did and even delivered it to my table! …..one happy girl 🙂

  6. Lovelifenov13 2 years ago

    You can do this time2quit! Take each day as it comes and when the booze voice in your head calls tell it to go calling somewhere else! …Best wishes with your journey 🙂

    • time2quit 2 years ago

      Thanks. This has to be ‘forever’ this time. Feeling confident x

  7. Lovelifenov2013 2 years ago

    Thankyou SueK, I’d just been to the bar in a very noisy music venue and didn’t think they would say yes to a mug of tea!! They did and even delivered it to my table! …..one happy girl 🙂

  8. SueK 2 years ago

    I absolutely love your photo! Such delight in your face, it’s inspiring.

  9. time2quit 2 years ago

    Thank you so much for this story Joanne. This is the 3rd time I have sat and read your words. Today is my ‘quit for good’ day… After skirting round sober periods for a couple of years. Your words are so inspiring… that ‘for good’ is actually possible. I’m pretty sure you’ve helped more than one person with this story. Best Wishes to you.

    • bellaholly 2 years ago

      Really helpful thank you x

  10. HB 2 years ago

    Yes- your story touched me deeply as well. I have not made the commitment to be forever alcohol free- but I see now from your vantage point that there is freedom once one accepts the sober path rather than trying and failing at moderating. Thank you for this insight.
    HB

    • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

      I’ve probably made my journey sound a breeze having written it three years after booze! It was really really hard at times and I could have caved in at any time!! It was the freedom I felt from that battle of control that kept me going. I needed to be in charge of the booze and not the booze in charge of me. That’s a great feeling that I still praise myself for every day! Much love to you in your journey 🙂

  11. peacelily 2 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your story, Joanne! I relate to so much of it, and I agree 100% with “Once you decide to quit for good rather than “cut down” the inner battle of control that destroys you is over. ” That’s exactly how it feels to me. I never could cut down. I never could moderate. I was terrified to quit, but I have a strong faith in God and basically He told me “You’re an alcoholic” (no joke, woke up out of a dead sleep one night to hear that) and it took a few months after that to make up my mind to quit and once I did, the worry and fear about it just disappeared. I’m only 60 days sober and have had a few moments of thinking “I want a drink” but they have been fleeting – I’ve not been seriously tempted yet. I feel so much better, in every way. And I love your comments about mindfulness – it’s a great thing to have in your toolbox!

    • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

      Well done peacelily for your leap into sobriety!! Yes I think accepting that I was unable to moderate was a real shift in mindset for me, it left me with only two options, drinker or non drinker and I knew that the drinker in me was miserable!! I believe that us drinkers somewhere in our heads may always get a shoutout saying “I want to drink” but we are the one in charge of our “sober days counter” and that is far too precious to reset to a (ohmygodthethoughtofit!!) day one!! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  12. reena 2 years ago

    What a great inspiration and you look glowing and happy, having ups and downs on my way to total sobriety but your story struck a nerve. Thank you so very much for sharing it and your enthusiasm.

    • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

      Thanks for reading reena, wishing you the best in your journey …

  13. Anonymous 2 years ago

    Just clocked up fifty days AF and my first Xmas. I loved your story and I also believe I will make it this time.

    • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

      Well done you! Now you have a sober Xmas under your belt you can face anything! Keep it up, you CAN do this 🙂

  14. janabel 2 years ago

    Thank you Joanne for sharing your story. You are so right when you said that no one really notices when you are not drinking. This is my first Christmas with family since quitting (13 months ago) and no one cared that i was drinking my sober drinks. They were too busy getting pissed and concerned with their own booze anyway. Life sure is so much better without alcohol. Love your happy, smiley photo. xx

    • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

      Well done janabel for your sobriety, and thanks for reading & commenting 🙂

  15. Trisha 2 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your story. Your comments on advice and tips for those starting out are perfect. I will read them many times in the coming weeks.
    This is my first hangover free Christmas morning in over 30 years. This site and the inspiring,honest comments about life being better without the booze truly helps.

    • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

      Well done Trisha for your sober Xmas, keep going it really is worth it. It might feel like you are “missing out” at first but believe me the positives of sobriety soon start adding up!! thanks for reading 🙂

  16. Annielou 3 years ago

    Your story is so similar to my story. Can’t believe there are so many of us out there. Thank you so much for sharing it as I thoroughly enjoyed it. 693 days here and life is soooo much better than I ever thought possible when you take away booze.

    • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

      693 days, wow that’s fabulous Annielou, keep up the good work,! … yes life is much better isn’t it after booze,…. I thought I would never say it!

  17. RazzleDazzle 3 years ago

    What a wonderful story, and you look fabulous!

    • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

      Thank you for reading and commenting RazzleDazzle!

  18. Elyn 3 years ago

    Awesome post! Lots of good stuff here – honest sharing, practical advice and encouraging words – I plan on rereading several times. And wow, your picture says it all, JOY!

    • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

      Glad you like it Elyn! Hope it helps!

  19. Janet 3 years ago

    Love this share thank you Joanne. I too, like you just wish I had done it sooner 🙂

    • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

      Well done to you Janet & thanks for reading!

  20. sophia2 3 years ago

    love your story inspirational thank you xx

    • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

      Glad you like it Sophia2! hope it helps!

  21. Lizzy 3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your story Joanne. I do love what you said about watching the whole movie and not just the love scene 🙂 xx

    • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

      Yes that thought kept and still keeps me going, especially when you see someone on a nice day sipping a lovely wine or beer it seems idyllic!? but I now know that’s not the full picture!

  22. morgan 3 years ago

    Love your story thank you so much. I don’t think you would look quite as glowing and beautiful had you continued on your drinking life path!
    It is interesting how alcohol effects different people. I know many at LS would be very interested to hear more about how you dealt with the anxiety, or did it diminish quickly? I was still at the stage where so called moderate drinking ( though way over WHO guidelines!) kept my anxiety away, and now I have to live through it ( even at 850 something days and plenty of healthy practices and herbs). Others are way better without alcohol, right @tryingagain2505 – you will appreciate this story.
    Thank you so much again. Xx

    • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

      Thanks for reading Morgan, I think that for me having a “diagnosis” of anxiety came as a surprise but looking back now it was obvious it had been around a while I just didn’t know what it was!? I have accepted that it comes and goes and it’s part of what I am made of, however I now see clearly that alcohol only ever temporarily muted it. Now when I feeling anxiety coming on I tell myself that “this soon shall pass” … and it does every time!! If needed I take 10 minutes of “brain rest” by trying to switch off, mindfulness is good for this! Oh and a good chat with a positive friend is better remedy than any doctor (or booze) can give you!! Much love to you Morgan and well done on 850+ days!!

    • Tryingagain2505 3 years ago

      Thanks for shout out @morgan yes this story is amazing, and as a fellow UK-er, totally understand the reference of the culture of “it’s just what we do”

      I also stopped drinking because of anxiety but after a year AF I started again (but am now back on day 105 again) so am interested in it taking about 18 months to “calm down” – I am determined this time this is forever too, although still find it hard sometimes.

      Thank you so much for sharing x

      • LovelifeNov13 2 years ago

        Thanks for reading Tryingagain2505 and well done for what you have achieved! I think for me anxiety is still here but by the time I reached 18 months I’d given it perspective, I’m not broken I’m just “having a moment”!! and of course it always passes. Yes women in the U.K. are downing far too much wine and sadly see it as normal (like I did!!), I’m glad I got out of the quicksand when I did! Much love to a fellow UK-er

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