This week’s Sober Story comes from Polly, a 50-year-old living in Invercargill.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Polly: I’ve been sober for over 11 years years.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Polly: It was really frightening. I was drinking all through the day and night and taking tranquilizers as well. I only left the house to buy alcohol. I stayed in bed all day drinking and wasn’t eating anything. My son had been taken off me and I wanted to kill myself but I was too afraid.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Polly: My son. He was 6 at the time and I loved him and knew I was the best person to raise him. His father wasn’t around and I knew I wouldn’t get custody back if I didn’t stop drinking.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Polly: I found the early days awful. I had to medically detox but the hardest thing was the complete mess I had made of my life in the final few years of my drinking. I had lost my son, lost the trust and respect of my family, and lost my home. So I had to slowly start to rebuild all of this and really, it took years.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Polly: It took a long time for them to trust me again as I had let them down so often.
Mrs D: Experts say relapse is often a part of recovery, was it a feature of yours?
Polly: I tried off and on fom the age of 24 to get sober. I was in and out of AA and rehabs for many years. It wasn’t until I was 41 that I managed continuous sobriety.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Polly: It took many months to recover physically as I had done a lot of damage with alcohol and prescription drug addiction alongside this. I feel emotional recovery will be a lifelong thing.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Polly: I found it really hard and still do. I’m an introvert so I dont like being in groups unless it’s very structured. I give myself a break now and say no to invitations I think would stress me. At times I’ve had to attend family functions but I allow myself to leave early and nobody seems to mind.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Polly: I learned that the angry and often violent person I had become was not me at all. I guess I already knew that but I had become involved in violent relationships and was mixing with people I wouldn’t usually mix with. I had become a person I didn’t recognize or like.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Polly: My life changed in so many ways. I regained custody of my son, gained back the love and respect of my family, got a job and as of 3 months ago become fully self supporting for the first time in my life.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Polly: I don’t have anxiety attacks anymore. I don’t feel full of self hatred anymore. I accept myself more for who I am.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Polly: No. I really think I had to go as low as I did to accept that I can never drink again. It was losing everything that woke me up.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Polly: Get support if you need it. Don’t expect early recovery to feel good. Sometimes it feels awful but it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. Whatever happens JUST DONT DRINK. Keep your blood sugar levels up with frequent snacks and juice.
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Polly: Getting sober is the scariest, bravest and most rewarding thing I have ever done and I feel so blessed and happy to wake up each morning and know I’m not hungover and feeling depressed. I love being sober and honestly never thought I would be able to say that. I was angry for such a long time at not being able to drink again but now I’m so grateful. I thought I needed alcohol to survive socially in this world, but now I’m more true to myself and choose to work alone and not socialise much and I’m really happy living this way.