This week’s Sober Story comes from Kary May. She is 53-years-old and lives part of the year in Colorado, USA and the other part in the Yucatan of Mexico.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Kary May: I was a heavy nightly drinker for all of my adult life, I tried to control it on my own for twenty-five years and quit on my own many times. I finally decided to let the world in on my problem through my blog, God Walked Into This Bar. I also started exploring online recovery websites and joined Moderation Management. I attempted moderation with the support of the Moderation Management online community for a year. I felt that I needed to answer the question of whether I could moderate once and for all before I could embrace permanent abstinence. At the end of the year, I had my answer. I sucked at moderation, but through several failed attempts at the abstinence periods that MM recommends, I had actually not drank for over 60% of the year. This was phenomenal. I hadn’t gone more than a few days without drinking in decades. Even more phenomenal was that all those abs days had given me a glimpse of what a life without alcohol looked like. It looked a lot better than the life I had been living. I decided to give up drinking completely and have been sober for six years.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Kary May: I was always a heavy daily drinker, 5-6 mixed drinks per day, but I was also very functional. Then in my early forties I started displaying symptoms of physical dependence, even though I didn’t know that’s what they were at the time. I was shaky in the mornings, I would wake up in the middle of the night with palpitations and the hangovers started lasting days. I started to drink to alleviate all these symptoms and soon I was drinking around the clock. The palpitations and cravings would wake me up at 2:00 a.m. and I’d fight them until I finally gave in and went downstairs to the bottle of the wine in the refrigerator. I’d drink a bottle or more until I passed out for a couple of hours and then the cycle would start all over again.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Kary May: I’d always been someone that others could depend on, no matter how much I drank or how hungover I was. I became someone nobody could depend on and I couldn’t depend on myself. Once I drank, I didn’t stop and then I’d end up sick and in withdrawal and I would have to wean myself off over several days. I was scaring myself and my husband to death. He recently told me that he’s pretty sure I would be dead by now if I hadn’t quit drinking.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Kary May: I consider my year in Moderation Management as that first year of back and forth that most people who quit drinking experience. I had difficulty accepting that I couldn’t learn to drink moderately, even though I’d never drank moderately. I just kept thinking if I tried harder I could do it. I finally realized that moderation would never be easy for me, that it would be a lifetime of planning and counting and thinking about booze. Even if I was successful, booze would still be in control of my life. I decided I didn’t want that. Once I got to the point where I no longer “wanted’ to moderate, it made all the difference and I eased into sobriety with no regrets.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Kary May: Again, because they had become accustomed to my quitting drinking for long periods during my attempt at moderation, by the time I quit completely it was a non-event. They’ve all been very supportive and tell me often how proud they are of me. As yet, none of them has joined me in sobriety, though. I feel very fortunate that my husband has never once said that he misses the drinking me. It was my biggest fear that my marriage would be over if I quit because our married life was very much centered around drinking. It’s been very difficult at times because he still drinks, but over the years his drinking has decreased also and both our married and personal lives have expanded. At the end of my drinking, my physical dependence was paralyzing both of us and making our world very small.
Mrs D: Experts say relapse is often a part of recovery, was it a feature of yours?
Kary May: I did relapse once about two months after I made my final decision to quit drinking completely. The relapse was based more on my desire to try to control someone else than my desire to drink. I tried to punish someone else for their drinking by drinking. Yeah, I know, it didn’t make much sense and it didn’t work. I had no intention of drinking long term again, I knew before I took the first drink that I would go back to not drinking as soon as my little experiment was done.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Kary May: Once I made the final decision to not drink at all, things immediately calmed down. All the upheaval and physical discomfort happened in the year I tried to moderate.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Kary May: I never avoided bars or parties, that’s where all my friends were. I never found that difficult. But the longer I am sober, the less and less I am interested in those places. I do find that since I no longer go to the bars and parties as much, it’s harder to make new friends.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Kary May: I learned that I’d been satisfied to stay unhappy about large portions of my life, as long as I could drink. As long as I had that escape, I didn’t need to stand up for the things I wanted and I wasn’t compelled to push myself to do better or make my life better.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Kary May: It is so much easier. I don’t think anyone who drinks can realize how much harder their life is when they are drinking. Even when they are not drinking, they are hungover or they are tired or they are worried about their drinking, or who they made mad when they were drinking, or what everyone else thinks about their drinking and if they’re being the best mother, wife, employee, friend, person as they can while still drinking…All that disappears when you quit and life feels so much lighter about your shoulders.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Kary May: I’m no longer hiding anything. My adult sons are now my friends and feel safe sharing their problems and worries with me, including one who has suffered with addiction. My boys have witnessed my struggles, they know they can be open with me and I won’t judge them. How can I? I lost twenty pounds and kept most of that off, my blood pressure is normal and skin looks fantastic, I’m told.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Kary May: If I’d known about all the support available online, I would have reached out for help years earlier. I wish it had been available when I was a young mother, there are such wonderful young mothers helping each other in the blogging world right now.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Kary May: Don’t give up, very few people succeed the first, or second or tenth time they go for sobriety. Find a community of people who have gone through, or are going through the same struggles as you, whether that be through blogging, online recovery websites or traditional means of support such as AA or rehab. If you are a parent of young children, quit telling yourself that you can be a good parent and still drink. I told myself that and all of it was a big selfish lie I told myself. My drinking did effect my children. I can see that clearly in the adults they have become. They are amazing young men who are very aware of their relationships with alcohol, but I also see that they are afraid of spontaneity, they need to feel in control of situations and I know this is a legacy of my drinking. I hope they overcome this, a life without spontaneity and trust misses out on so much joy.
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Kary May: Mrs. D and I began blogging and became sober at almost the same time, our sober anniversaries are one week apart. My recovery would not have been filled with near as much love, laughter and friendship without her.