This week's Sober Story comes from Luke, a 40-year-old living in London.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Luke: About 11 years but clean and sober for 9 years.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Luke: I guess there are two parts to this answer. Firstly the final month before I found recovery was one of the lowest points of my life. My world had become a tiny place and I had just about given up hope. I had recently returned from a ‘geographical’; I had run away to a tiny island in the Caribbean to escape. What that exercise taught me was that if you have a broken arm and go on holiday, you get distracted and a nice tan… but your arm is still broken. I just took all my troubles with me because my problem lay in my thinking. A friend of mine then sent me an email with information about the 12 steps. I went to my first meeting and felt like I’d found home. Within a matter of days I had a chance encounter with a stranger who randomly invited me to her church - except I don’t believe it was random. That invite and what followed - combined with working the 12 steps - completely transformed my life. The second part of this answer is that I didn’t get clean and sober for another 18 months after my first meeting.
Mrs D: How so?
Luke: My drinking and drug use decreased by about 95% immediately but a lot of the time was spent white knuckling it. 18 months in I had a relapse and something inside was finally defeated. I would now ACTUALLY DO ANYTHING to stop; I was ready to get well. I’m a filmmaker and have just made this 3 minute drama based on the idea that we have ‘less of a drinking problem and more of a thinking problem’ I’d love you to watch it. ’ONE’.
Mrs D: What an achievement, congrats! Going back to your point of change, what was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Luke: A voice of defeat from deep within me. This is a very personal thing and different for everyone. No one can tell you when or how to feel this, it just comes one day. I believe the best thing I did was to always go to meetings no matter what was going on in my life. Slowly but surely the message seeped through.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Luke: Nothing was as hard as being alone and not knowing about recovery. Once I had people in my life that truly knew how I felt - that being other recovering alcoholics and addicts – things were never as dark again. I had very low moments after relapses but the bounce back towards positivity was in place and I felt like I had sobriety goals to work towards.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Luke: Truly amazing. Pride keeps us in silence. The world says we shouldn’t show ‘weakness’. I thought asking for help was weakness but it’s the opposite. It takes far more strength of character to stand up and ask for help that it does to say ‘I’m fine and doing it my way’.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Luke: In my first 18 months of recovery yes, every few months. I actually look at those times less as ‘relapses’ and more that I just hadn’t truly found sobriety yet.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Luke: Very quickly. I had strong emotional and spiritual support as a result of me throwing myself into recovery and a spiritual environment - that being church. I’m not religious but I believe Jesus is who he said He was and as a result of some powerful spiritual experiences, I feel loved to my core and never alone. Feeling unconditional love is transformative.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Luke: In the beginning it wasn’t easy. I needed to keep myself out of danger which involved changing some of my friends and where I socialised. My sponsor asked me on day one, ‘Am I willing to go to any lengths?’ My answer was ‘yes’, which meant some sacrifices. Those sacrifices seriously paid off. I now have a network of solid friendships and I’m happily married to someone who is 7 years sober.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Luke: That second chances really are possible. I had come to hate myself and thought I could never change. I was wrong.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Luke: I went from being broken, alone, full of self-pity, out of work and in ill-health to… Deeply content in my own skin, running my own business, making films around the world, married, the ability to go anywhere and be happy. By that I mean, I’ve danced in clubs in Ibiza and have been to the booziest dinner parties and not touched a drug or drink. I have no desire to. Sobriety now defines who I am as a character. Plus, it’s way more interesting at dinner parties to say “I’m a recovering crazy drunk and addict” than, “no thanks, I’m driving.”
Mrs D: I love that, so true! Can you pinpoint any main benefits that have emerged for you from getting sober?
Luke: Not just getting my life back but a better life than I ever had in the first place. I gained the confidence to start my own business - a production company - that led to me to make over 400 short films to date for household brand names and public figures. I now have ambitions to work in feature film production.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Luke: No. I’m a firm believer in ‘do not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it’.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Luke: Understand that you deserve a second chance. There IS a solution. Go to meetings. Get a sponsor. Be open and willing to learn. Be open and willing to the ‘possibility’ of God or a high power existing. Set boundaries. Surround yourself with good people that respect those boundaries. Put nothing before your recovery. Anything you do put before it you are at serious risk of losing anyway. Don’t get well for anyone else, it won’t work. Do this for you and you, along with EVERYONE else, will benefit. If you are concerned about missing out, know that there is a full refund on offer at anytime for all the pain and misery you are leaving behind. The pubs and bars will all be there waiting for you should you want them back. Personally, what I have now in sobriety far out weighs
what I had in the madness.
Mrs D: Bloody great advice. Anything else you'd like to share?
Luke: Sobriety and faith in my life are the best things that ever happened to me and if you are just starting out on this journey, I’m excited for you. The best version of yourself is ready to meet you.