This week’s Sober Story comes from Michelle, a 41-year-old living in Christchurch.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Michelle: Just over 3 and a half years.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Michelle: I was a binge drinker from about the age of 15. The last few months before I stopped my drinking was getting more frequent and nearly always involved total intoxication and a hangover the next day. It could be any day of the week depending on my mood each day and I definitely could not go to an event without my drink.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Michelle: I was at a friends birthday party with many friends and acquaintances from the neighbourhood. I got totally drunk, lost inhibitions and behaved inappropriately – again – but this time it went to a newer low.
Mrs D: How was it for you when you first gave up? What was most difficult?
Michelle: I didn’t find it hard not to drink in the early days because I would just remind myself of the night in question and cringe. I was extremely ashamed of myself and knew that if I went near alcohol again there were no limits to my behaviour.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Michelle: Family were obviously very supportive and grateful that I had stopped because they didn’t like seeing me intoxicated or having to deal with me the day after when I was always so low and depressed. The friends who loved the party girl I avoided for many months/years so I could stay strong. I wasn’t sure they would like the new me so I didn’t give them a chance initially to be close to me. Some of those friendships have rekindled and they accept me for for who I am and respect my decision.
Mrs D: Experts say relapse is often a part of recovery, was it a feature of yours?
Michelle: No. I am proud to say not a drop of alcohol has touched my lips since September 3rd, 2011.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start calming down for you emotionally & physically?
Michelle: Well it did take time, more like years, because for months after that night I was so ashamed and this kept me feeling low. The time has given me a chance to gain confidence in myself and believe that I will not go down that path again.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Michelle: I didn’t find it that hard because I felt so low that if I had a drink I knew I would be doomed and feel even worse, so I stayed away from it.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Michelle: The fact that I could get past days/weeks/months and years without a drink is what is surprising, especially because it was a big part of my life.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Michelle: I gained back my self worth, I have been able to offer guidance to others. I have maintained my marriage and friendships that could have otherwise been damaged. I am now a great role model for my children.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
*Stopping the cycle of alcoholism passed down from my family so I can be proud of myself as a person and especially as a mother.
*Not waking up feeling so unwell or having my children worry about me being sick and them not realising it was all self inflicted.
*Keeping myself safe from being vulnerable to male attention.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Michelle: I wish I wasn’t in this situation in the first place but given I was I wouldnt change anything since the day I stopped drinking…just the many days/nights prior – I would love to change that.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Michelle: Have a strong mind, focus on the future and the rewards of living alcohol free, avoid situations/events when you feel weak, lap up support from those people who stand by you, stay away from the people who would like to see you fail this, ring the alcohol helpline if you need extra support, fill the alcohol gap with a hobby or interest that will inspire you and take your mind away from booze…start good habits and keep doing these things until they are habits entrenched.
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Michelle: Alcohol was a demon for me that I have successfully conquered. I didn’t realise until I was in my 30s that this behaviour was a result of what I had seen and experienced growing up. I did use alcohol to escape life and the pressures of life and at the time I didn’t realise it was doing me way more harm than good. Having young children made me also think about the example I was setting for them. Did I want the cycle of alcohol abuse to continue to my children and maybe to their children if they followed suit?? Alcohol can be very destructive if it is not respected. Many people who end up relying on alcohol use it as a crutch to avoid dealing with issues or problems. Now I have to face challenges in life without alcohol. I am now confident to know that I can deal with these things without needing a drink to prop me up and overall having an alcohol free life makes me stronger and stronger. I know I can cope.