This week’s Sober Story comes from Kerry, a 38-year-old living in Auckland.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Kerry: I have been in recovery since 6 August 2011.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Kerry: I had been drinking steadily since I left school, my drinking increased when I became a nurse. I found I drank more when I had experienced difficult emotional situations with patients at work. I was working shift work mainly and I wouldn’t drink when I was on nights and I secretly used that as an excuse that I was having alcohol free days, I worked about 6 nights a month. As soon as I woke up from my last night shift I would have drink and every other night I would drink about 1 bottle of wine a night sometimes up to two. When I changed jobs to a Monday to Friday job I realised I was having difficulty having alcohol free nights, in actual fact I battled with myself to have them (I lost every time). I would wake up thinking, “you stupid bitch, you’ve done in again, I’m not going to drink tonight”. And then at 5pm, “fuck it, who cares!” And the cycle would go on…
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Kerry: My brother had a talk with me about how worried he was about my drinking. He said he worried about me every day. He was at that time writing a will, he said that if anything happened to him and his wife he would like me to be the guardian of their children, but in my current state he was not going to action that. I was utterly devastated, I had no idea that I was hurting my family. I never picked up another drink after that day. I think I knew I had a problem but had no motivation to give up. This gave me my motivation.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Kerry: It was hard! I would wake up wondering how I would get through another day. My first thing I would do when I got home was pour a drink. I had to occupy myself immediately as I walked in the door. Some days I had to pre-plan something. I started exercising and painting – these were life-saving. First celebrations were hard, first wedding, first birthday party, first funeral, first Christmas. I had to really plan on those occasions and have an exit if I needed it.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Kerry: My family were so relieved but in the beginning a bit hesitant to get too excited in case I fell off the wagon. My friends were supportive, but a lot of them had no idea I had a problem – they didn’t see me drinking at home alone every night. They thought my drinking was fine, I always held it together, I didn’t make a fool of myself, I was fun, I didn’t drink in the morning etc. Some said things like “well don’t go on and get all high and mighty about it, don’t push your ideas onto me”. Or they would get very defensive about their own drinking. I always owned my problem as mine and told people so.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Kerry: No, but I have come pretty close! I ordered a tonic water out for dinner once, about a year after I gave up. I took one sip and immediately knew there was gin in it. It took all my might to not drink it secretly. My little drinking demons were telling me to “be quiet, don’t say anything, no-one will ever know”. It took me a few minutes to send it back. That was my biggest challenge so far.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Kerry: About a year. I became less aggressive. I started to feel proud of myself, love myself, feel happy. I started losing weight after about four months and lost 15kg over the course of the following year. I slept better and my skin and eyes started looking much healthier.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Kerry: This was really challenging!! I didn’t go out at all socially in the first year, not to a bar anyway. I am such a sociable person, but sober I felt crippled! I wouldn’t last very long and went home early as I found it too hard. Then after a year I found it a bit easier – I would attend functions and be quite relaxed. But I had to practice being sober and sociable. I had to force myself into uncomfortable social situations and practice it sober. Now I find it so easy, I feel very comfortable with myself and who I am. I even MC’d a friends wedding 18 months ago, I NEVER would have been able to do that if I was drinking, but I found it so easy!
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Kerry: I always thought I was confident, but I had no real idea how much further from the truth that really was. I only thought I was confident because I was drinking. I was so surprised to start feeling positive, confident and HAPPY. I can say that I feel invincible in any situation now.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Kerry: I changed jobs and two months into the job I applied for a promotion into a leadership role – and I got it! I started being creative again. I had energy. I believed in myself and was proud of myself, I started to really love the person I was 100%. My relationship with my brother improved beyond what I could have imagined. We were always close but now he doesn’t look at me with disappointment, we have a true honest relationship with each other, it’s amazing. Opportunities opened up, and clarity about life and myself was amazing! Someone I have been supporting recently through sobriety from drugs and alcohol said to me the other day, “if anyone told me how good life is now, sober and straight back when I was high and drunk, I never would have believed them, this is 100 times better than I thought it was going to be”! I agree totally, no-one can prepare you for how great life is when you live it sober.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Kerry: I have saved so much money. I look and feel so much healthier. I am positive and happy. I realised I could drive anywhere anytime, I wasn’t planning how to get places all the time anymore! I feel like I can do anything! My relationships with family and friends are so much better.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Kerry: I would have reached out to someone who was in recovery to help mentor me. I was stubborn and did it all on my own when I could have benefited from some support. I have had the opportunity to be this person for other people and they have benefited immeasurably.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Kerry: The contemplation of giving up I found the hardest, once you actually make the leap the whole world opens up to you in more ways than you can possibly imagine. Take one day at a time, sometimes one hour or one minute at a time. Cravings will always pass. Read books, go to AA or do some therapy, you have to educate yourself and find the reason why you wanted to escape in the first place. Once you have found this you can find peace and happiness!
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Kerry: The thought is scarier than actually doing it. If you think you may have a problem then you probably do. No one will pressure you into giving up, but seek out Information and know that there are people waiting to support you through it!!