Today’s Sober Story comes from Lee, a 40-year-old living in Cardiff, South Wales.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Lee: I don’t class myself as ever being in recovery, but I stopped drinking over five years ago. In that time I had one relapse that lasted two months, and have been sober for over three years since that episode.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Lee: Once I had decided to quit there was no real drama. I read “The Easyway to Control Alcohol” by Allen Carr, and stopped as soon as I finished the book. I had previously quit smoking through Allen Carr’s method, so I knew I would quit drinking once I understood his logic.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Lee: I was arguing with my wife on a constant basis. Most of the arguments happened when we were drunk. As a last resort I decided to try and stop drinking, to save my marriage. It didn’t work. We were divorced after 15-years together.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Lee: I didn’t find it difficult at all. Once I learned that alcohol offered me zero benefits there was nothing to miss. Once you understand this, there can be no cravings because there is nothing to crave. My difficulties came after I had stopped, because I felt like I had no support, and felt alienated from friends and family. But in terms of actual cravings, and withdrawal pangs – there was none.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Lee: Everyone thought I was nuts. They couldn’t understand why I was quitting because they didn’t feel like I had a problem. To accept I had a problem would mean accepting that they also had a problem. Friends openly admitted they felt uncomfortable drinking in front of me. Some family members got angry with me. I eventually drifted apart from everyone who didn’t share my values.
Mrs D: Experts say relapse is often a part of recovery, was it a feature of yours?
Lee: It was an extremely important part of my journey. I gave up drinking to save my marriage. When that ended I had no reason not to abstain any longer. So I tried drinking again. But I had a problem. Because I knew it offered no value I didn’t know why I was drinking. Once I quit for the second time I was in a much stronger position. I know that I will NEVER drink again, and the relapse was a big reason why I feel so strongly about it.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Lee: Like I previously alluded to, once I learned that alcohol offered zero benefits, there were no emotional or physical withdrawal symptoms, and I had been drinking for 20+ years.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socializing sober?
Lee: My entire social life changed when I stopped drinking. There is a great quote that says: “I am not anti-social, I am anti-idiot.” I can go to the pub with my friends from 6-9pm and have a great time, but beyond that threshold I have to leave, because everybody loses it. To be honest I don’t go out to these places anymore, nor do I socialize with people who drink a lot of alcohol. When you stop drinking, you are naturally drawn to different social circles, and ones that bring greater value to your life.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Lee: I learned that I was a very selfish young man. I had so much potential but didn’t realize it. I had not been thinking. Alcohol had shut me down. I couldn’t see the world. When I stopped drinking I learned that I could achieve anything that I wanted to.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Lee: Everything changed. When I quit alcohol I felt so powerful, and I was so driven. I quit a gambling addiction, I turned £30,000 of debt into £20,000 of investments, I quit sugar, I became vegan, I quit my job, I created a new one that took me all over the world, I got divorced, I fell in love again, I remarried, I learned how to be a better father, husband and all round communicator, and became an effective altruist. I now spend my days helping other people quit drinking, and giving as much money as I can to people and animals that suffer greatly. I am a completely different person than the one that used to drink.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Lee: You cannot think when you are drinking. You get stuck in the rut of life. You follow the path of least resistance. When you are sober, everything is possible. Once you find meaning and purpose there is no stopping you.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Lee: I would not have judged my first wife so harshly for continuing to drink. I treated her very poorly when I stopped drinking.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Lee: Never give up. Sobriety is not a one-time deal. You don’t quit, and then give up when you have a bottle of wine one night. It’s like riding a bike. You don’t just jump on it and off you go. It takes time before the stabilizers come off. Also, don’t try and do this cold turkey. There are so many people who live in misery because they can’t drink. What’s the point of that? Learn to understand that alcohol offers you no benefits. When you achieve this there are no cravings and therefore no misery.
You can find Lee’s blog here.