This week’s Sober Story comes from Michelle, a 40-year-old living in Auckland.
Mrs D: How long have you been sober for?
Michelle: 4 years
Mrs D: What was it like for you before you gave up?
Michelle: I never had a drinking problem & never understood people who did. Until I was 26 I thought people who drank at home were sad alcoholics. But then my mum got cancer & passed away. She was in her early 50’s. I couldn’t come to terms with it. So I drank, & kept drinking for the next 10 years. I’d stop drinking temporarily with my pregnancies but as soon as baby was sleeping through I’d be dying for a drink. I loved wine. I used it as my escape from boredom as a stay-at-home mum without realising that was the reason I was bored. If I wasn’t drinking I’d be able to do things that required brain power, but wine dumbed me down. Anything was an excuse for a drink – from hours on end of Dora, not enough sleep, bad day, good day, it really didn’t matter.
Mrs D: I hear you. Boy do I hear you. After I had babies was when my drinking really bedded in. What happened for you that you finally quit?
Michelle: A few things really. We’d been on a family tropical holiday and I used the holiday as an excuse to drink heavily (luckily my partner was there to help look after our 3 year old & 1 year old!). I realised that each morning I’d not remember what I had eaten the night before. I had never experienced memory blackouts before. When we came back I started drinking more during the day. To my shame & my deepest regret, I drove to kindergarten to pick up my older child with my toddler in the car over the limit several times. I had recurring 4am nightmares of being arrested for drink driving and the repercussions that would have in my life. I had never driven drunk in the past. I was out of control. I hated it. So I quit.
Mrs D: Good on you! How did did you find it at first, not drinking? What did you find most difficult?
Michelle: Getting past the idea that I could have a good time without wine. And coming to terms with the fact I could never drink again.
Mrs D: What about your friends and family? What reaction did you get from them?
Michelle: Everyone told me I was overreacting. Nobody thought I had a problem. I hadn’t told anyone how badly I was drinking so they didn’t understand why I was taking such a drastic step. I got a lot of “go on, one won’t hurt”, or “just this once” comments.
Mrs D: Have you ever relapsed?
Michelle: No I’m way too stubborn! If I was having a hard time with it I’d just think about how I’d feel afterwards. Or I’d go to a forum (the UK-based Brighteyes) and read back on my posts, or read the posts of people at day 3 or 4. I’ve never considered myself an alcoholic. I just chose the wrong tool to deal with my issues for 10 years and now I know better.
Mrs D: Nice way of looking at it. How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Michelle: Probably more than a year for sober to feel normal and natural.
Mrs D: What about socialising and going out. Did you find it hard to get used to being out and not drinking?
Michelle: So hard for me! I’m a terrible introvert. And I’ve always hated drunks. Honestly it took me over 3 years to get used to it.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself after you quit booze?
Michelle: I went through some huge self-realisations when I stopped drinking. I was having suicidal thoughts during the last few months of drinking & I thought stopping would help. It didn’t. I went to the doctor & got some antidepressants and a referral to a psychologist. It was really helpful. I wouldn’t have been able to open myself up to that if I’d kept drinking.
Mrs D: Oh that’s great. How else did your life change?
Michelle: I got into gardening. And cross-stitch. I learned how to knit and crochet. I exercised more. I took a night course. I didn’t have to prepare so much the night before for the kids – lunch boxes and clothes for the day were much quicker to organise in the morning if I wasn’t hungover. My sleep normalised. I dropped weight. I spent my wine money on massages and new clothes.
Mrs D: Wow cool! Can you pinpoint the main benefits that have emerged for you since you got sober?
Michelle: A much closer relationship with my partner and kids, and really just living my life more honestly.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Michelle: No, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Mrs D: Any advice or tips for Living Sober members who are just starting on this journey?
Michelle: Take life 10 minutes at a time. Take a few deep breaths and go for a walk if the cravings get bad. Have at least one trustworthy friend you can be brutally honest with.
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Michelle: Last year we went on a holiday to Italy & France. These were my favourite wine areas. Before we left I had a bit of anxiety around how I’d handle the long flights without drinking, and whether I’d feel I was missing out by not drinking. When my partner ordered glasses of red wine I would’ve killed for in my drinking years, I would have a micro-sip. To my great relief and disgust They all tasted like vinegar to me. It was nice to go back to my Diet Coke!