This week's Sober Story comes from Magz Shores, a 49-year-old living in the Washington DC metro area.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Magz: Since April 15, 2008
Mrs D: What was happening for you before that point of turnaround?
Magz: My sober journey started when I walked into a church basement to attend a 12-step meeting, with every intention to never, ever, pick up a drink again! Yet, I spent the first four years trying to figure out exactly how to do that! At that point in my life, I was a daily drinker, and was desperately trying to figure out how to drink responsibly. Unfortunately, once I put alcohol in my body, I never knew what would actually happen — my deep desire, and honest promises to self, that I would not get shitfaced this time, often went out the window. In addition, I had already been to detox several times, I spent ten days in jail after a DUI arrest, and I couldn’t keep a job. Three months prior I spent a week at a mental health hospital after a drunken night and threatening my ex with killing myself if he didn’t let me drink. Then he had taken our daughter and had filed papers with the courts requesting sole custody.
Mrs D: Tell us about your last drinking session....
Magz: My last drunk was not something I planned; there was nothing wrong in my life. It was a sunny Friday afternoon when I started drinking. However, when I woke up, it was Monday morning, and I was laying face down on the kitchen floor, barely able to move. The house was a wreck and I was still wearing the same clothes I did two days ago. When I realized that I just spent the entire weekend in a blackout, I completely freaked out! Somewhere in the middle of all the crazy thoughts running through my head, I had a moment of clarity! I finally came to the complete understanding that I could NOT drink like a normal person, and that I really was an alcoholic.
Mrs D: Golly, that sounds full on. How was it for you after that?
Magz: OMG. I don’t want to scare anyone but it seemed that about everything was difficult! Well, the first week was hard as I detoxed by myself – I definitely do not recommend this to anyone! Then things started to get progressively better. I think sleep returned after about a month or so, and I was finally able to eat normal meals. I think the first three months were the hard ones, I just had to push on thru and believe that things would continue to get better, and they did. I also found a tremendous amount of help at this time at 12-step meetings and by staying close to other people in recovery it made things much more manageable.
Mrs D: How did everyone around you react to you stopping drinking?
Magz: My family did not know that I was getting sober and that’s because they did not know that my drinking was out of control and that I was in all this trouble. They just thought that sometimes I drank too much, but no one ever talked about it. I didn’t spend much time with them either, so they would not see how out of control it was. I only came to visit for birthdays and holidays and sometimes I didn’t even show up for those.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Magz: Yes, I had many relapses, a long four years’ worth. I think that I still did not really want to be sober, I just wanted all my problems to go away but I could not imagine being sober the rest of my life.
During this time, I could only stay sober for just a few months at a time. I was angry, resentful and self-loathing. I was constantly looking for new ways to manage my drinking because I did NOT want to be an alcoholic! It turned out to be an absolute insanity. I was constantly waiting for my life to get better, so I could get sober. It never dawned on me that if I got sober, life would get better.
Mrs D How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Magz: It seemed like a really long time for things to calm down for me. I think at least a year or so before I started feeling comfortable. I often felt naked, alone, and like an outcast without my liquid social buffer! I realized that I had no idea how to live life on life's terms. I had no coping skills, and could not keep my emotions leveled. I cried, l and cried, and I cried for hours. But I was determined. I came to a place where I wanted to stay sober much more than I wanted to drink!
Mrs D: What about going out and socialising, how did you find that after you quit?
Magz: I believed that drinking gave me courage, made me happy, and created a life full of excitement and many friends! I was the ultimate party girl, a social butterfly, always the first to get a party started, for any reason, or no reason at all. So when I quit drinking I was petrified to socialize in any way. I felt like an outcast and I was really afraid to tell anyone that I had quit drinking because I feared that they would question it, or make fun of my decision. So in the beginning I only hang out with people also in recovery, well, actually I still do for the most part. I guess socializing sober was something that I had to learn, so it took a few years too. But I have no problem now, I am very outgoing and enjoy all kinds of social events!
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Magz: I learned that I could still be the outgoing, fun and caring person that I always wanted to be and I always believed that alcohol helped me be that person. But I came to find out that I was already that person to begin with!
Mrs D: How else did your life change?
Magz: Getting sober allowed me to go back to school and complete 4 IT certifications. It also gave me the opportunity to get a great job, where I have had several promotions by now. Sobriety also freed me from my dark and lonely apartment, out into the world where I could meet people, make friends, and fall in love. It allowed me to have a sober wedding, and two more kids and many anniversaries to celebrate. Sobriety gave me the ability to regain custody of my daughter, and gave me the opportunity to co-parent her with her dad.
Mrs D: Wow!! Fantastic stuff. So many benefits, could you pick one main highlight from getting sober?
Magz: I think the main benefit is that I am finally comfortable being myself, and that I actually like myself! Also that the shame and guilt are gone! I am also free of the horrible pain and baggage that I used to carry around with me, all the time. Life can still have ups and downs but I am dealing with everything as it comes and getting through it all. I am also very grateful that I am able to help other people still struggling or in recovery, as well as advocate with the recovery community to bring awareness to the issues and stigma still associate with addiction/alcoholism.
Mrs D: Would you change anything if you could go back in time and do it all again?
Magz: I guess I wish I would have gotten sober earlier. But, in reality I think I had to go thru this journey the way I did. We all have our own journeys and it takes what it takes! I think as long as I keep moving forward and keep the doors open to remain teachable, I am OK.
Mrs D: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for Living Sober members who are grinding through the tough early stages of recovery?
Magz: Every day that you do not take a drink is a miracle, and treat it as one. This is a difficult and scary journey at times, but just keep going, one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time and before you know it, your life will change in ways that you have never imagined.
Mrs D: I love that. Anything else you'd like to share?
Magz: I love this quote from Sarah Hepola the author of 'Blackout', it really helped me to feel ok with my progress, especially when I thought that things were not changing fast enough. “But change is not a bolt of lightning that arrives with a zap. It is a bridge built brick by brick, every day, with sweat and humility and slips. It is hard work, and slow work, but it can be thrilling to watch it take shape.”