Today’s Sober Story comes from Lou, a 54-year-old, living in the county of Suffolk in the UK.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Lou: Coming up 10 years on 21st September.
Mrs D: Whoop! What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Lou: It had become a battle to control my drinking and all the fun had been lost from the process. Drinking had become a grim determined reality to get enough down my neck to reach the place of numbness that I craved.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Lou: There were 2 drinking occasions about 6 months apart that were part of my rock bottom in late 2012 and mid 2013. The last one involved getting hideously pissed in front of my two young children at a barbecue. This was my invisible line and something I had vowed I would never do as I have memories of being really anxious and frightened as a child when my mother was sh*tfaced drunk on holiday. It took me another 4 months to finally stop but I knew I had crossed my own personal line that day.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Lou: I’d been trying to moderate since 2008 so was physically used to stopping for anything up to 3 months so it was only when I passed the 3 month mark and was making new sober days that it became psychologically difficult. Managing the cravings and triggers to drinking were the hardest part – that Friday night feeling, week-ends, not being able to numb difficult emotions.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Lou: My husband stopped 6 days before me as we both recognised we had a problem so he was hugely supportive 🙂 Even to this day family and friends struggle to understand and it is the still the conversational ‘elephant in the room’. It is made more difficult to discuss I think because my husbands parents are retired publicans who still own a pub.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Lou: I have accidentally drank one sip of alcohol but don’t consider that a relapse but was an interesting experience nonetheless. My addict brain leapt into action and the inner voice immediately piped up ‘no-one would know if you finished the rest of the glass …… ‘
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Lou: It took about 6 months for me to really hit my sober stride I think. I’d been drinking for 25 years so it was going to take a fair amount of time to rebalance my brain!
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Lou: Less difficult than I imagined it being to be honest. It is always those first awkward 5-10 minutes as others are pouring themselves alcohol that I find tricky. I usually go off and play with the kids or go to the loo to allow that time to pass.
Mrs D: I agree! Then once everyone has their drinks I calm down again. Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Lou: That I was my harshest critic. Drinking allowed me to stay stuck in that place and stopping meant liberation from my own self-shaming behaviour that allowed my shame to heal.
Mrs D: Fantastic. How else did your life change?
Lou: In every way. I started blogging. I created an ebook that I self-published on Kindle, I was published in a national newspaper, I set up my own online course and ran workshops in London to help people quit. All these things I didn’t think I was capable of all came from that single decision to put down the drink. Plus I studied a post grad in counselling at the University of Cambridge, all our money saved from not drinking paid for a months family holiday in Australia and most importantly I became capable of becoming a better wife and parent.
Mrs D: Far out you’ve exploded creatively, that’s awesome! Can you pinpoint any main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Lou: Less self-hatred.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Lou: I’d have started sooner if I’d known how much better life would be.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Lou: Don’t give up trying to give up as every attempt teaches you something new. It is the single most important decision I have made in my life alongside getting married and having children.