This week's Sober Story comes from Julie, a 48-year-old living in Auckland.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Julie: 3 ½ years.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Julie: In the last few months before giving up I had a lot of conversations with myself at 3am. It seemed that was always the time I would wake up and wish that I had not had so much to drink the night before. Dry mouth, feeling a bit nauseous and needing to go to the loo. But I could never seem to remember that feeling by 4.30pm when it was wine o’clock. I had known for a while that I wanted to stop and kept trying to limit alcohol to certain nights of the week, but it never really worked. I would say to myself on Sunday, “Ok Julie, you are not going to have any wine until Thursday evening.” And then something would happen at work on a Monday or Tuesday and I would say to myself, “You deserve a wine.” I could always find a reason that I deserved a wine.
Mrs D: Oh, same. What finally led you to quit?
Julie: I did not really have ‘a final straw moment’, many regretful moments built up over a long period of time but nothing earth shattering. I got very tired with being disappointed in myself. Probably the real turning point for me happened when I read a sober story (like this one) posted by a friend of mine. Reading her account of her struggles to stop drinking and her success moved me to contact her and ask for her help. I thought if she could do it why couldn’t I. She became my own personal AA. We would walk for an hour every week and talk, and I would complain, and she would be calm and tell me to keep going. Forever grateful for Kerry Tari.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days?
Julie: It was hard, probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. I really had to just approach each day, each new social event, each celebration, each challenge one at a time. As each of these days or events passed, I realised I had conquered another day and knew I couldn’t go back, or I would have to start all over again.
Mrs D: What was most difficult?
Julie: I think one of the hardest things was having to explain to people why I had made this choice. I don’t think anybody truly realised how big a deal this was for me and I don’t think I could ever quite find the words to express that to people adequately enough. It felt to me that people were quite confronted by it, like somehow because I had made this choice, I was judging them.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Julie: There was quite a bit of surprise from most family and friends. Most people would say, "Why are you doing that, you never seemed like you had a problem?" They saw me as a well a good and well organised mother and wife, who was efficient at work and home, who liked to exercise regularly and enjoyed a glass of wine. And I was all of those things and there is nothing wrong with that. But the problem was I could never just have one glass of wine. What would be the point in that? I was very good at looking in control until I wasn’t.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Julie: No relapse. Phew!
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Julie: I feel like it took 6 months for me to feel a bit more in control but even up to a year or year and a
half later I would still have the temptation to drink.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Julie: It’s funny how people will say, "lets get together for a drink. Oh yeah that’s right, you don’t drink." And I always think to myself, "But I do drink, if I didn’t, I would die of dehydration." Socialising was hard because I really loved drinking with friends and fully believed that social occasions were more fun when you were a bit drunk (or a lot drunk sometimes). In the beginning its all about convincing yourself that you can have fun without alcohol and then at some point it changes to you trying to convince others that you are having fun without alcohol.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Julie: I learned that I have an extremely addictive personality and that when I do things I tend to go all or nothing. This has been important for me giving up drinking but is something I need to monitor in myself across other areas of life.
Mrs D: Oh SAME. How did your life change?
Julie: I feel so much better for making this change in my life. I am fitter, stronger healthier and much more clear and in control.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Julie: No hangovers, sober laughter, being present as a mum (no more wine o’clock), amazing sleeps, weight loss, clarity and so many more…
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Julie: To be honest, I do sort of wish I could go back in time and tell my 16-year-old self to not pick up that first drink then maybe it would not have been so hard when I had to give up. But to be honest, I have an amazing life and amazing people in it, so I feel lucky to be here where I am regardless of how I got here. As for the actual process of giving up drinking I don’t think I would change anything.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Julie: Just take one day at a time. Every day is a victory and everyday is a little further away from day 1.
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to share?
Julie: Being honest with yourself about your relationship with alcohol is confronting. Being honest about how much you actually drink and determining whether it is a problem is also confronting. Talk to people, read about it, find a friend and listen to the voice inside your head at 3am that says, "you need to stop this".