This week's Sober Story comes from Olivia, a 50-year-old living in the North of England.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Olivia: 3 years and 3 months.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Olivia: I knew for some time that I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol - I used to drink every night, red wine was my downfall and I could take or leave anything else. I started to feel shameful when I told my husband it was his turn to settle our youngest into bed, funny - it always seemed to be his turn and if I did it I would always select the shortest bedtime story!
Mrs D: Oh same, the shorter the better...
Olivia: I would plan my social life and going out around who would drink and who would drive and it was never me that would do the drive home - I would do the drive there. I would also feel resentful when my kids needed dropping off somewhere or picking up. I always was the mum who volunteered to do the dropping off. However, I generally drank at home. I worked from home and as soon as the clock hit 5.30pm I would open a bottle or pick up from where I left off with the already open one before my husband got home, of course it was chic and cosmopolitan to drink whilst preparing an a la carte meal, of veggie chilli. When my husband got home I was already likely buzzed and then he was an excuse to open another bottle. The cycle continued for a long time. I woke every single night at around 3am and could not ever get back to sleep and would then toss and turn and feel incredibly guilty - I felt like crap when I got up, tired, groggy, I felt like I had a constant niggling hangover. I could NOT get thru a day without craving red wine.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Olivia: I know I didn’t have a ‘bottom’, I performed well, I looked ’normal’ to most people - but I knew I was not. I was an anxious, miserable, self-hating mess and it needed to change. My mum was diagnosed with dementia - Alzheimers with Vascular - and I was convinced that she had drank herself into that. She used to drink a lot when she was a similar age to me (and I think she still does). I had no intention of risking that and so decided to lessen my risk, in my mind, and start to address the issues I had with alcohol. I know there is little scientific research around this but I am thinking it could not do any harm.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was the most difficult?
Olivia: It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t super difficult as I knew my habit was just that, a habit. I knew if I could get thru the first month then I could do it for longer. So I counted, sniffed husband’s wine, had a sip - literally a sip now and then. He isn’t a heavy drinker so that was rare. The longer I went the easier it got. I had broken the habit and pretty soon decided that I had come so far as glass of wine was not worth over-riding the hard work I had done and the awesome sleep and clarity of mind I was having.
Mrs D: Amazing! What reaction did you get from friends and family?
Olivia: They didn’t think I had an issue. They knew I was prone to being ‘awkward’. I gave up meat 7 years ago and they still think I am weird for doing that. My husband used to say I was more relaxed when I had had a drink, which wasn’t helpful but he is now very supportive and he can see the insidious nature of alcohol acceptance in our society and often ‘calls it out’. My brother and his wife and my sister-in-law are all heavy drinkers, I don’t spend too much time with them now.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Olivia: I gave up once for a while before my 3 year run and then stupidly thought I could moderate - I went back to it hard and realised I couldn’t.
Mrs D: How lond did it take for things to calm down for you emotionally and physically?
Olivia: Physically not long, it certainly helps to keep weight off, emotionally I think I have some issues that alcohol certainly didn’t help. I came to terms with difficult memories and feelings and my son, who suffers from depression, got a much better emotional version of me than he used to get when I drank. I am still working through some emotional stuff.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Olivia: I still find that a challenge - I cannot stand to be around drunken people. My husband plays in a band and I used to go to every gig - I could drink, right? But now I cannot stand to watch a room full of people descend into horrendous and embarrassing behaviour so I avoid most gigs. I do look for alcohol free options, but I resent paying as much for a Seedlip as I would as a G & T. I have always been honest about quitting drinking with people who ask so when out and about I say ‘I don’t drink’ they don’t usually ask any further.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Olivia: That I could have empathy and patience. My husband had a very bad cycling accident last year, he got hit by a car and I nursed him for quite a long time and held everything else together. I would have been a mess if I had have still been drinking. I have no doubt about that at all.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Olivia: I quit my job and went self employed with my husband - that would never have happened if I had not have had clarity. Funny, I was always a nervous wreck when I drank - I worried at the slightest thing. But now I very much have a ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ attitude to life. I could support my young son’s acting career, taking him all over the place, picking up from theatres and shows late at night - sober. I discovered an arty side, I taught myself to crochet and found a love of creativity - could you imagine trying to crochet a blanket buzzed? I would not have been able to get a hook thru a hole 🙂
Mrs D: Can you pinpoint any main benefits that have emerged from you quitting drinking?
Olivia: Just everything - life is not easier, or no more difficult - it is still challenging but I take time to look around and let my eyes draw in more of the beauty that surrounds me. I enjoy just being in a moment and have certainly become more spontaneous. I love my ability now to see alcohol for what it really is.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Olivia: No - I don’t think so.
Mrs D: Any advice or tips for those who are just starting on this journey?
Olivia: You will find your own way. I listened to a lot of podcasts in secret and on car journeys alone and love the Bubble Hour
. I used social media to find like-minded people but had to come out of a few groups as a few of them are full of very delicate people and I sometimes shot my mouth off - they weren’t the best places for me. I of course read Mrs D’s book
and Sober Mummy
. I looked for alcohol free alternatives and enjoy them. However I am totally aware that at anytime I could be tempted back to the dark side. I get a smell of, a feeling for or eat a meal that I know would be lovely with a glass of red and I have to check myself - look out for the ‘Wine Witch’ whispering that all will be okay. Be honest with yourself - it won’t.
Hi – I am ‘Olivia’, not my real name, my real name is Paula – there, I have said it! I was 4 years on Monday 4th May and posted a very honest post on my Facebook timeline – I feel no shame. This is the first time I have seen this piece on Mrs D’s page and remember writing it. I hold by the same apart from one thing, when she asks if I would do it different if I did it again, I said ‘no’, actually that isn’t true, I would do it sooner. Thanks for your lovely comments and best of luck on your sober journeys x
Hi Paula/Olivia, thanks for sharing that update. I’m new to the site and was scrolling through sober stories last night looking for someone near my age and read your story, and I loved it. Nobody thinks I have a problem and really can’t understand my desire to quit entirely, why not just a few here and there? My husband is supportive and doesn’t push or mock, but I know he thinks it’s extreme – as I do tend to be all or nothing with most things! For heaven’s sake, I started a separate email account to be a member of LS as I wasn’t sure what was involved. I close out of the browser always and don’t save as a favorite. I just don’t want my kids to read or others to know if I choose to post something real and raw. Even that is super hard…I’ve pushed to post a little more but not the gutting thoughts. Ugh. I tell myself it’s a step in the right direction. Why do I care? Not really sure. Thanks for sharing Paula/Olivia!!
Can relate so much to this situation and the wine aspect. Particularly the comment about being “chic and cosmopolitan while cooking” that is EXACTLY how I would feel when in the kitchen, glass in hand!
Always great to read these true life sober stories. No such thing as moderation. We’ve all lived that reality. Thank you for sharing and for your inspiration?
@olivia, such a great story, congrats on 3 years, 3 months sober. Always good to hear from people that have continued the course and how they change the facts/story of their lives with such clear thinking. congrats on your self employment journey and the what is the worse that could happen attitude.
Its awesome that you can quit and be there for your kids while theyre growing up. I left it rather late. Im 60 and my kids are young adults. I never realised that I wasn’t present while drinking. I’ve been alcohol free for 7 months now and I regret the loss of relationship with my daughter. I read the boo almost an alcoholic and totally related to it. Not out of control but had issues like irritability, nervousness, insomnia where I couldnt get back to sleep once I woke up at 2 or 3 in the morning and chronic tiredness. I just couldn’t manage as a wife and mother and put it down to the stress of the 21st century. I was constantly depressed or anxious and that daily 3 wines took the edge off it at the time. I feel so much guilt and remorse now as I can see how things really were. Now I am coping with copious grief and when I cry I fear I will never be able to stop. It masked a lot of trauma and it was easier to be angry than sad and hurt. Now I have to accept the sadness and know that drinking will only make it much worse. My doctor told me it can take up to 2 years to settle down emotionally. I wouldnt trade those 7 months for a sip of wine let alone a glass and I have no doubt where it would take me…..nowhere good. We are deceived into thinking its hip to enjoy a few glasses of wine at the end of the day. It’s crap. I see alcohol hurting so many people and those around them. I might be older than many of you but all I want is to manage life sober to the day I part from my mortal coil. Your children will thank you. I left it too late.
I just quit 4 days ago and will be 50 3 years from now – like you. Thats actually my goal! 3 days, 3 months, 3 years. Be 3 years sober at 50. Thanks for this. xo Proud of you and inspired by you!
Snap… I am 47. This is Day 49 for me today
This was amazing to read. Thanks so much for sharing!!! oxoxxoxoxo
Thanks for sharing Olivia. I’m back at the start of my journey (yes, I’ve started many times before!!) I hate how I feel during the night & the next morning & before I know it 5pm arrives and I’m opening the bottle again. It’s like Groundhog Day. I know I can stop as I’ve done it before (longest 6 months). Then I got into a social situation and thought I feel strong so I’m sure I can moderate…and I did (to begin with) and a year down the line & I’m back here again. I want to be more present for my kids too so today I start again, taking inspiration from courageous stories like yours to help me take my next step, taking one day at a time. I have two big social events coming up this week (which I’ve accepted) so it will be a challenge. I’m going to take a deep breath & dive in with courage. I’m going to visualise how I’m good I’m going to feel the morning after!!
You are so right there is no moderation.
Thnaks for sharing your story! I relate to so much of this (and also resent the price of Seedlip!!!).