This week’s Sober Story comes from Nika, a 44-year-old living in Taranaki.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Nika: I’ll be sober 4 years on the 8th May 2018.
Mrs D: Congratulations! What can you tell us about your drinking history?
Nika: I began drinking as a 15 year old, I always drank to excess and found it difficult to ever be just a social drinker. I would get fall-over drunk and have blackouts from when I first began drinking. I had breaks in my adulthood while being pregnant and breastfeeding… but once the children were older I began drinking again and often. I left my husband 5 and a half years ago. This was tough, and now there was no one to answer to either. My drinking got out of control and I was also on a high dose of anti depressants. Sometimes I would drink out of a coffee cup to hide it from my children. I would drink most nights during the week and sometimes would drink 2 bottles of wine in a single sitting. This drinking was all done alone. I was still able to hold down a job (working from home caring for preschool children) and would never drink until I had finished work but looking back I was probably often still drunk in the mornings.
Mrs D: Did anyone around you notice what was going on?
Nika: My family, friends and boyfriend were all telling me I needed to do something about my drinking. I listened to some degree and tried to cut back, and was drinking less often, but when I did drink I still drank to excess. I couldn’t leave unfinished alcohol in the house.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Nika: There were a few things: a night when I got drunk and did something really dumb (about 5 days before I had my last drink), my brother and sister showing me a video of me drunk (about 5 months before my last drink) and my boyfriend giving me a really hard time about my drinking. Basically I had come to see that drinking was interfering in my personal relationships and had become a problem in my everyday life. My last drink was a glass of wine on my 40th birthday.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Nika: It was hard! Most difficult was socialising. And evenings at home with just my children home. Most difficult was for the first time in a long time I had to deal with my thoughts and emotions instead of drowning them or clouding them with alcohol.
Mrs D: Yeah, I can relate. What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Nika: To start with people were pleased I had stopped drinking but when I told people I didn’t drink anymore they kind of laughed and joked about how we all drink a bit too much. But then when I’d say “no, I’m a recovering alcoholic” they kind of took a step back and were shocked.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Nika: A LONG TIME. And sometimes I still get shakes and salivating mouth and sweaty when I think about drinking. That is a physical response – my body wants the drug but my mind doesn’t. When I am having a tough time in my life I still think about alcohol as something that would make me feel good, but only so I don’t have to think.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Nika: To begin with I just didn’t really socialise. If I did I made sure I was the one driving so I knew I couldn’t drink even if I felt like it. I banned alcohol from my house for about 9 months. If anyone came to stay they weren’t allowed to bring alcohol.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Nika: I don’t need alcohol to be fun and to have fun!
Mrs D: Amen! How else did your life change?
Nika: I lost weight. I gained the strength to make some tough decisions. I built stronger, more genuine relationships with people including my own children.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Nika: Weight loss! And motivation to exercise and focus on my weight loss journey. Better relationships with my children – they are so proud of me for giving up drinking. Clarity for my life – being able to think to the future and plan for the future.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Nika: I don’t think so. Part of what I’m proud of is that I made a decision and stuck to it.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Nika: If you need support get it. If you need to go to meetings go. If you need to read a book read a book. If you need therapy get therapy. Basically if you make a choice to quit drinking then do whatever works to support you through it, because it’s hard!
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Nika: A few months into my journey of sobriety I read a book “A million little pieces“, it is what help my journey a lot. It’s a novel based on fact and it helped me put a concept around the feelings I felt when I wanted to drink. It’s a hard core story but it really helped me. I have never been to an AA meeting and didn’t seek out counselling or any other professional support for giving up. It’s possible to do it alone but it’s hard! If people have the option of support then take it!