This week’s Sober Story comes from Joseph (@jewala), a 34-year-old living in Nigeria /Abuja (Federal Capital Territory).
Mrs D: How long have you been sober for?
Joseph. My recovery date is 8th May 2014. 3 years, 5 months and 13 days in recovery at the time of writing.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the end of your drinking days?
Joseph: My last days drinking & using were hell. My wife had left with my one year old daughter. I had lost my job and moved in with my sisters after selling my all belongings. I was at the lowest point of my life. I had burnt all bridges with family and the neighbourhoods were I stayed were now a disaster. I was moving with my wrecking ball (stealing and being very aggressive). Drinking and drugging wasn’t fun anymore yet I couldn’t stop. I felt worse always after using and the highs lasted shorter, I kept increasing the amounts of alcohol and drugs; I had to knock myself out to sleep at night. My sister wanted me to leave, asked me to leave her house and security guards were made to watch my every move. Everyone I knew lost any form of trust in me. I felt terrible inside. I hurt so much and got drunk and high more. I was literally going insane and had no friends.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that got you to quit?
Joseph: Breaking into my cousins shop – I was caught in the act. I was very ashamed, this was during the Christmas holidays and the whole family around at that time came out and saw me while I was being apprehended. At that moment I knew I needed help. I was desperate to stop, the shame was unbearable, the emptiness, feeling of despair was overwhelming. I had no other choice I just wanted to stop.
Mrs D: How was it for you when you first quit?
Joseph: The nights were the most difficult – I couldn’t sleep. I had acute withdrawal syndrome and lost my appetite. I went to every activity in my religious institution, and cried almost every day – I was very emotional. I was very afraid and prayed to my higher power desperately, daily, for help to stay sober. The most difficult thing was believing I could stay sober “forever” (the power of ‘one day at a time’ was yet to be activated lol). I had doubts and feared greatly in my new found sobriety – “what if I relapsed again?”.
Mrs D: What was the reaction from your family to you quitting?
Joseph: Hmmmmmm, at first I think I saw hope in the eyes of my parents and siblings mixed with fear but they were generally happy and encouraging seeing the effort I was putting in, trying to turn my life around. I had actually approached my sister whom I was staying with and told her point blank “trust me again, give me the money you give the security guards and other workers, give me the money for groceries and diesel supply for the generating set”. She was shocked by my request and curious trying to see where this new attitude would lead to.
Mrs D: What about other people around you, how did they react?
Joseph: I got different reactions from different quarters, my drinking buddies said I had stopped before, they guessed it was just a phase and implied I had taken a break. So generally in the beginning I got mixed feelings, feelings of surprise, hope, doubt and fear, but with time it became admiration, surprise and even disbelieve from all quarters.
Mrs D: Did you ever relapse?
Joseph: Yes I have relapsed twice. Initially when we started having issues of infidelity and domestic abuse in my marriage, my mother-in-law being a nurse referred me to a rehabilitation centre where I was treated and aided with the help of some medication to stop drinking/drugging and to flush my system. I don’t really know what I was prescribed at that time but I was also counselled. But the concept of addiction was not brought up then at that centre. I was only warned about the dangers to my life if I continued the use of alcohol and drugs. I went back drinking and drugging after a couple of weeks. And the second time I relapsed was after my treatment in rehab, a treatment facility I had found out earlier when my family committed two of my siblings to receive treatment, it was here I learned the concept of addiction and different forms of treatment. I practiced the 12 steps and I spent a hundred days in rehab. But I relapsed again just two weeks after leaving rehab.
Mrs D: When recovery did stick how long did it take for things to calm down emotionally and physically?
Joseph: I will say that this is still an ongoing and gradual process. I remembered how I acted earlier in recovery, emotionally I was a wreck and I laugh at myself. I started exercising when I added weight, I keep starting and stopping the exercise. I have a sweet tooth, stop taking sugar and junk food and it’s the same with the exercise I start and stop – it’s not consistent. It’s a roller coaster for me and I’m yet to get it figured out, but emotionally I try to improve on yesterday’s mistakes. I am open to correction, my friend helps me a lot and tells me when I f…k up and I adjust. Still improving. Trying to become better on a daily basis.
Mrs D: Sounds like you’re doing a great job. How about socialising, how do you find that now you are sober?
Joseph: Socialising has been slow but I try not to isolate myself. I have made one or two new friends, amended some old friendships, my family life is awesome, it’s even ok with the in-laws although I am not back with my wife, but I am building confidence all round. I am still bit jittery around crowds but generally getting better .
Mrs D: Is there anything surprising you found out about yourself after you quit?
Joseph: I found out that I was motivated by fear and I found out I love learning new things whether educationally, new languages etc.
Mrs D: Can you summarise how your life has changed?
Joseph: My outlook to life changed and keeps changing. I lost interest in a lot of things I use to like, found purpose and want to do good in this life to be remembered by. I have hope. I have this belief that I am better off sober no matter what life throws at me. I have a new sense of gratitude.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently if you could do it again?
Joseph: I watched a TV sitcom “Mom” staring Anna Faris and she said something in the sitcom in an AA meeting that struck me. I can’t remember her exact words but I will paraphrase; “I used to think I became sober after I lost everything, but now I know I became sober at the right time”. I have played my life over and over again in my mind, different scenarios, different actions, and I have come to this conclusion for now. That right now I am on the right path and that’s all that matters – right now.
Mrs D: I love that. Do you have any advice or tips for those who are just starting out?
Joseph: To everyone anyone starting this journey – reach out, reach out. You are not alone.. there are tons of people and material to help out (e.g. AA, NA and online recovery communities). The online recovery community was my lifeline, no AA or NA here in my region in Nigeria. Join a community, a tribe that fosters your cause. To everyone: nothing last forever, it does get better.