This week’s Sober Story comes from Michelle (a.k.a @mac007), a 55-year-old living in North Otago.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Michelle: Nearly 3.5 years.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Michelle: I loved drinking but started to learn drinking didn’t love me! A few years before I gave up I was aware that I needed to cut down. I had this little voice in my head saying ‘you are heading in the wrong direction, stop before it gets worse’. I really didn’t want to listen to that nagging. I moved south, left my old life behind to start a new life with my new partner. However, my drinking hitched a ride too. Spirits, wine and beer …I’d drink anything, I loved it. I loved the way it relaxed me. I would get up with no hangover but felt guilty as hell, still nothing would stop me and I’d back into it again the next day! It wouldn’t be difficult to drink 2 bottles of wine and a couple of beers a night! Around the last year or so I cut back to just drinking 6 beers or so after work. I had to do something as my relationship was on the edge. I tried moderation. I hated it. Because I hated that ‘control’ I rebelled and started to drink more! I suppose I’m an all or nothing person! The voice came back, but it wasn’t just in my head this time, it was also the concern and fed-up voice of my partner. So I said I’d stop, but it didn’t take me long before I was drinking on the sly. What the hell was I thinking, that no one would realise? Who was I kidding?
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Michelle: I had a sneaky drink and was confronted by my partner – I had to choose the bottle or her. After an argument, I got in the car to drive away and got as far as the drive and a huge voice said ‘STOP’. I still have no idea where that came from but I slammed on the brakes and went back inside. I was scared, I didn’t know how I was going to do it right this time. I needed help but didn’t want to go to AA. Then I remembered reading about Mrs D, and in my pissed state that night, I emailed her saying I thought I was going mad! The next day as I walked along the beach with my dog, I checked my emails and there in my inbox was Mrs D, saying “get your ass over to the Living Sober site”. At that moment my dog came out of the bushes with her first ever rabbit! She was so proud of her catch as she marched up the beach with it. She had been trying and trying for about a year and finally her perseverance paid off. I looked at the email and looked at my dog and thought anything is possible, if you want something you just need to try harder! I got my arse over onto that site!
Mrs D: Ha ha, I remember your email! How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Michelle: I started with a hiss and a roar. This was a breeze….the first day ok. The next ok and then the reality that I couldn’t drink ever again just hit me! Fuck!! I jumped on the site as much as I could and thank goodness for the wonderful support of fellow LS members I managed to get over my fuckedness each time! I also found burbling on writing posts helped. Helping others helped me! Most nights I would say to my partner “I would love a drink” , but I’d get on to the site instead. Breaking this long time affair with booze was a really bad habit and it was difficult to stop doing what I was so used to. My body was screaming out for a drink. Replacing the 5 o’clock drink with a soda was the most difficult to master. As each day passed eventually there were weeks in-between before I would say “I love a drink.” The habit was being broken, bit by bit.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Michelle: I could see their lips saying it’s great but their eyes had doubt. I know they didn’t believed me that I was serious this time. Why should they? They had heard words similar to this before and it didn’t happen. As time went by many told me how proud they were and still tell me today.
Mrs D: Have you ever relapsed?
Michelle: Not since I joined LS 1241 days ago! Over my many years of drinking I gave up for short periods and started again. Nothing serious, until I gave up about 18 years ago for a period for 2 years or so. Over this time I ‘came out’, left my marriage and entered into a new relationship in a different world but this included a drinking partner. Thinking then I would be ok to moderate because I was living the life I should be. But booze doesn’t work like that. And I ended up drinking more! More shit to follow and then more work needed to be done before I wanted to stop.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Michelle: Now this is a hard question. I wanted to write this story six months ago but I felt I couldn’t. My health has been shit for about 4 years and got worse after I gave up. I didn’t want to put a damp squid on the story of the healthier me but I think it is important to share. I thought giving up the booze was going to make me this fit and healthy 50 something woman. I was looking after myself finally! Supportive partner, started a new business, eating well and NO DRINKING! BUT truth is, I felt like shit. I felt like someone had run over me with a bulldozer, every day. After many visits to a specialist and trials of different medicines treating arthritis, which nearly killed me, I still didn’t know what was going on. Eventually after a couple of years the specialist diagnosed Fibromyalgia (something I would have in common with Lady Gaga, so I found out later!) There is no cure for fibromyalgia and it is very hard to diagnose. The medications they prescribed may or may not work as there is no medication for Fibromyalgia. It affects everyone differently and some days are much worse than others. No written rules there. At night I’d be woken by pain and to move was a huge effort, then in the morning it was a lucky dip to see where I was sore that day.
Mrs D: That sounds incredibly hard to live with.
Michelle: The way Fibromyalgia works is this: imagine the day after you have run a marathon and things ache all over but in this case I haven’t ran that marathon! It turns up the control of pain levels on the nerve signals. So after I stopped drinking I had pain, was constantly very tired probably from lack of sleep, and had brain fog and it was getting worse! No wonder resentment set in. “Why don’t I just drink again at least that would numb the pain?” I thought that many many times. Then depression and anxiety jumped on the wagon too. I knew I couldn’t start drinking again because the drink makes you depressed and where the heck would this all lead to if I already felt depressed!! So telling my 3 year sober story a few months ago was not right timing for me. I wasn’t even in a good head space to go on to LS and share anything. I was managing to keep my business going by cutting down the hours I was opening and doing what I could when I could. My partner was being as patient as someone could be but I could feel it’s affect on her as well. I felt ripped off. I had stopped drinking and got this?
Mrs D: How did this affect your thinking?
Michelle: The ‘Poor me’, started to creep in. I didn’t want to accept this diagnosis. Part of me wanted to blame the booze or lack of it. The questions that went through my head, was it withdrawl? Is this the payment of years of drinking? Would I have given up if I knew I would feel like this instead? I wonder if I had a drink it would all feel better? I know the main reasons why I didn’t roll over on my back , give up and neck a few drinks is because of the many beautiful strong friends I have meet here on LS and what great accomplishments they have achieved since I’ve known them. Apart from nailing it and giving up the booze some have run marathons, built castles, moved house, ditched bagged luggage , found new partners and some have married them, new careers, new babies, new hips, started new businesses, written books, overseas trips and the list goes on. All huge positive events, all achieved without booze and some have achieved more than one of these listed! That is powerful and very inspiring. I’m now trying another treatment and this is helping me amazingly so. Mood and anxiety especially. It’s early days and time will tell but I’m enjoying my life more now. I am enthusiastic again and making plans to go places and socialise again.
Mrs D: I’m so happy to read this. If you can think back to the earier days of quitting.. how did it impact on your social life?
Michelle: Where I live and my work probably kept me sheltered away from boozy situations in the beginning. Also I never was a pub drinker anyway. When it came to gatherings with friends many chose not to drink that night for my sake, but I always said to them they didn’t need to as I felt ok with them having a drink or two. I suppose most of my friends, by then, hardly drank anyway! I love going to concerts and not having to pee every 5 minutes. I also couldn’t get over the number of people that had paid for a ticket and spent their time going from their seat to the bar and back and then to the loo and back to the bar again! Watching that made me feel sad for them and grateful I was no longer that person.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Michelle: That I was stronger than I ever thought I could be and that I didn’t need the drink to have confidence. I also have got to know myself much better and I’m still learning about me too, I suppose I have a bit of catching up to do!
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Michelle: I was finally in control of myself. No more booze filled haze control. I run my own business for the last 4 years and have the confidence in my abilities to do so. I had wasted a lot of money, time and energy to booze and now I use all of that to have more positivity in my life.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Michelle: I’m still with my partner and it has made our relationship stronger. My children, partner and family and friends that know me have a new found respect for me that I know has come from me getting sober. I dealt with this recent health issue with strength I wouldn’t have had if I was still drinking. Also I have meet many lovely LS members that have become wonderful life time friends. Without them my getting sober would have been much different.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Michelle: If I knew how booze was going to rule my life and destroy things I wouldn’t have started drinking at the age of 15. I thought it was the normal and harmless thing to do was to grab a drink to feel more confident , to relax after a hard day, when feeling sad , during a happy event or any time no matter what the excuse. I wish I knew HOW to handle feelings much more differently back then.
Mrs D: Any advice or tips for those who are just starting on this journey?
Michelle: If you have made your mind up, and you really want to stop, just do it. STOP. It will be hard, bloody heck if it was easy it wouldn’t be a problem would it? Be strong, dig deep when needed. Keep reading and posting on LS because you aren’t alone. There will be times that you question everything and want to drink but stop and listen to what you are thinking and ask yourself why you maybe feeling the way you do and what might be a trigger for you? The booze monster is cunning and watch it as it will kick you when you are down so beware of that! You can bet it’s hold and get sober. Give yourself this chance, you deserve it.