Today’s Sober Story comes from June, a 67-year-old living in Central Otago.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
June: 15.5 years. My sober date is 11 November 2007.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
June: My 28 year relationship fell apart at the end of November 2006. I began drinking quite heavily throughout that following year, to the point I needed to drink everyday. I was living on my own and was progressively drinking more to fill the loneliness void.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
June: I was breathalysed on the evening of Friday 11 November 2007. I must have been right on the limit as I was told at the check point to go home and take this as the most important lesson of my life. I did! I came out to my employer the next morning, who was supportive in my efforts and desire to get alcohol out of my life. I had phoned the alcohol help line that night, then went to AA the next day and subsequently did 90 meetings in 90 days. In the usual obsessive manner of addiction, I threw myself into my recovery, did service and completely changed my friendship network. As well as attending AA daily, I started an addictions post grad qualification while continuing to work in a high powered position for a prominent public figure. It was very hard work, but at the same time, I had an incredible sense of achievement, as my time in sobriety lengthened. I knew that getting alcohol out of my life was the most important achievement in my life.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
June: While enthusiastically maintaining my sobriety and after the first year in recovery, I began dating a man who enjoyed a drink. I met him through social dancing. While respecting my desire not to drink, he did not however change his lifestyle. That eventually proved problematic, to the point after four years together, I decided to end the relationship, as half empty bottles of wine in the fridge were too unsettling for me in quite early recovery. The other factor that was challenging, was being around my family who are all daily drinkers. One of my sisters came once to an AA meeting, but, she, and all my other family members are uncomfortable with my choice not to drink. To the point none will come to stay overnight. I find this interesting, as I have never said that they can’t drink in my presence, I just don’t have alcohol in my house.
Mrs D: What tool or tools did you use to help you?
June: As I said above, I attended 90 meetings in 90 days. I was living in a city so there were a number of meetings running every day. I took various service positions, attended regional assemblies and annual conferences. I have reconnected with faith communities and have followed various online forums, including this one here at Living Sober.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
June: Most of my closest friends and my employer at the time were and still are supportive. Those who are not, have floated away over the years.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
June: No I have maintained continuous sobriety.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
June: Probably a year.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
June: It took a while, maybe the first four to five years. The easiest strategy was I changed my social networks. I don’t go to hotels, we hardly ever dine out in the evenings, preferring breakfast or lunch.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
June: That I had the staying power to maintain my sobriety through a whole series of challenges that crossed my path in the first five years of my sobriety. These including a traumatic physical assault in mid 2009, and a subsequent emotional collapse. Being stood down from my quite prominent job for three months as a consequence, as I was unable to cope emotionally following the violent assault. I recovered through counselling, which I had to pay for myself and by sheer grit and determination.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
June: My life has changed exponentially since becoming sober at the end of 2007.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
June: I met another non drinker online at the end of 2010, we married in January this year. He chooses not drink, he can drink, but has worked his life in risk and emergency management. As a consequence, he has seen the devastation that excessive drinking can cause. Living with another non drinker just makes life way less stressful.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
June: No. It worked. I would therefore recommend AA attendence for early recovery. Studying addiction was also really helpful in assisting me to understand the physiological medical, emotional, famial, social mores and peer group triggers that shape addictive behaviour.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
June: Abstinance worked for me in early recovery, so did attending AA regularly plus studying addiction and the range treatment options available.
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
June: The sobriety counter on a number of blog and websites is really useful. Reading AA literature, working on your emotional sobriety, journalling plus reminding yourself it’s one day at a time.