Sober Story: Michelle

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!

  1. Gilbert 4 years ago

    Funny how it all tastes like chemical vinegar now,what used to be delicious.It’s also the same for smoking ugh!

  2. reena 4 years ago

    Thank you @Michelle for sharing this honest and moving journey. The more we moms let each other in on the dirty secret we are not perfect, the better moms can reach out for connection and help. Feel very proud of yourself for where you are today, as someone who is older and has been there, stopping when you did gives you so much time to fully be present for your kids, I wish I had. Thank you again, and carry on with your new beautiful life, hugs.

  3. SueK 4 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s inspiring and you sound so resolved in your new life.

  4. Michelle 4 years ago

    Yes TheSecondHalf, I found taking things 10 minutes at a time to be hugely helpful. It stopped the ‘gaping chasm’ of time I thought I had to fill. Now I never have enough time!

  5. Michelle 4 years ago

    Sorry ^ that was to Liberty

  6. Michelle 4 years ago

    Thank you. It took me a long time to be able to look at it as the wrong ‘tool’. Especially in today’s obsession with wine being the cure for all ills (in memes anyway!).

  7. gypsylady 4 years ago

    Thank you so much Michelle, what an inspiration!

  8. Mtedenmummy 4 years ago

    Hi. 39 yr old Mum here. I could have written this word for word right down to the suicidal thoughts, the mum dying of cancer, antidepressants, people not getting it and yes…the kindy run. In the week before I quit I forgot where I parked twice. I wasn’t drunk either time but I was tired and exhausted from months of over indulging and the associated broken sleep. And ooooh those liver o’clock nightmares…the guilt I used to have at 3-4am. I’m only early days (nearly 100) but already I realise that this was a long slide that started about 8 yrs ago…and has been a problem much earlier than I realised.
    Thanks for sharing x

    • Michelle 4 years ago

      MtedenMummy I’m so sorry about your mum. I think people are extra forgiving with grieving people drinking a lot as they just don’t know what to do with us. But oh yes those 4am guilty panic wake-ups

  9. Liberty 4 years ago

    Thanks Michelle, it’s so helpful to read others’ stories, and I appreciate you taking the time to share yours.
    I particularly love this: “I just chose the wrong tool to deal with my issues for 10 years and now I know better.”

  10. TheSecondHalf 4 years ago

    It was really helpful and I sliding to read your story. Thanks so much for sharing it. And a huge congratulations on making that leap and all the hard work to live life honestly, as you say. I also really appreciate your reflection to live life ten mins at a time, take deep breaths and go for a walk when the cravings come. It’s early days for me and that sort of practical real do-able advice for the awful moments is like gold dust. Thanks again, best wishes now and for your future.

    • TheSecondHalf 4 years ago

      Inspiring, not sliding, sorry! On a train….

  11. janabel 4 years ago

    Thankyou so much for sharing your very personal story Michelle. I appreciate that it took courage for you to share your past drinking experiences with us. Hugs to you x

  12. Lizzy 4 years ago

    Thanks for sharing Michelle, you’re an inspiration. It was helpful for me to read that it took over a year for you to feel normal about being sober, and also how long it took before you got used to socialising sober. At 7.5 months these are things I’m particularly struggling with. Thanks again for sharing your experiences. X

  13. Seizetheday 4 years ago

    Thanks so much for being brave and sharing your story. It never ceases to amaze me how much power we hand over to booze when things get bad – and often how no one really notices the hell hole we’re in.
    I love that you got help and learned loads of new things.
    Big hugs xo

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