Today’s Sober Story comes from Lee, a 46-year-old living in Auckland.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Lee: Sobriety date 22 May, 2012
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Lee: The last few years (10 actually) I drank to die. I don’t have children and my relationship with my family is anything but normal. I lived alone with my cat. One thing that did keep me somewhat sane was my gardening job that helped me feel good about myself. I drank to blackout daily, I couldn’t stop drinking and had reason to, until I met up with a long time friend and commenced a relationship. I drank 4-5 drinks in front of him and would pass out. We’d go out to functions, dinner etc and again I would just drop. He couldn’t understand what was going on with a lot of my ‘black out’ behaviour. What he didn’t know is that I was topping myself up with half a bottle of spirits before I left the house.
Mrs D: Did he ever realise what you were doing?
Lee: After splitting and reuniting several times, he realised the extent of my drinking. The excuses, hiding of bottles/drinking, hospital visits to detox and the lies I told work due to my absence forced him to intervene. He met with work colleagues and it was agreed I’d take 5 months off to attend rehab. The pain I put everyone through got the better of me. I tried to stop but couldn’t live without King alcohol – any reason, any state of mind, physically sick or well, I needed alcohol to function. I attended AA after my 4th hospital visit. I received many 30 day tags (91 days was my record) but I would always end up drinking.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Lee: Eventually I was beaten. The day I walked in to 4.5 month residential treatment changed my life. I was going to die but was scared of dying, but I didn’t want to live. I was very sick mentally and physically, and the help and unconditional love of my friend encouraged me to get the help I needed. I will not survive another relapse.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Lee: The first 5 weeks in treatment I experienced every emotion you could think of and had no idea what they were or how to deal with the uncomfortableness. I suffered many panic attacks, cried a lot, distanced myself from my peers, and felt incredibly uncomfortable. As the mind cleared, I could start to listen and understand. I did what I was asked and I prayed. The experience ripped me apart and put me back together again, for the better. The hardest was going back to work. People, places and things are my triggers and found work very stressful. Within 3 months of being back I wanted to kill myself.
Mrs D: What about your friends and family, how did they react when you started getting sober?
Lee: My friends at the time were in recovery and therefore very supportive. My parents helped by regular visits and have been supportive since.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Lee: I’ve experienced a number of relapses. I’d see my doctor regularly who’d prescribe me diazepam to help with shakes and to function.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Lee: About 3 months into treatment.
Mrs D: What about socialising sober… do you find that difficult?
Lee: I don’t want to drink and I can’t drink. I have no problem watching others having drinks. My problem is the next day, the emotional hangovers. Every time they got worse so I now don’t socialise with drinkers.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Lee: What surprised me the most was that I could normal things like food shopping and driving without a drink.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Lee: Before, if I wasn’t drinking I was thinking about drinking. I don’t do either now so a lot has changed. I am present. I’m a daughter; a sister; an aunt; a friend; and of late a Director. Who would of thought? I was just a drunk.
Mrs D: That’s so fantastic! Can you pinpoint any main benefits that have emerged for you from getting sober?
Lee: Being present and a member of society. I benefit from using a 12 step program that helps me live day-to-day and stay sober.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Lee: I suggest a 12 step program and/or other services. Stay in the day. Reach out, don’t do any thinking alone; ring and talk to someone. Don’t ever think you’re alone. It does get better and it does get easier, just don’t pick up that first drink.