This week’s Sober Story comes from Rob, a 69-year-old living in Auckland.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Rob: Eight and a half years
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Rob: They were tough years. I had lost a close friend to suicide and I started drinking heavily. Over a period of about six years I did major damage to my liver. I knew I wasn’t well, but persisted with alcohol. It was tough on my family. They knew I was using drink as a crutch but didn’t know how much I was drinking. I had the early symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Rob: I was driving home from a long lunch with friend where I had consumed a lot of wine. I suspected I was driving over the limit. I pulled over to the side of the road and made a promise to myself to quit drinking. However two months later my health collapsed and I was admitted to hospital and told I probably wasn’t going to live. I survived long enough to get a liver transplant in January 2016. I was extremely ill in hospital and effectively in a coma, so I had no access to alcohol. The liver transplant was very successful and afterwards I was completely sober for a long time.
Mrs D: What helped you to stay sober during that time?
Rob: Most support came from family and friends – they were extremely relieved I had stopped drinking. I knew I had only just survived and I owed it to them to stay sober. I tried AA and CADS (the Community Alcohol and Drug service), they were moderately helpful.
Mrs D: How did things go?
Rob: In 2017 I sank into very deep depression and mental illness, which was almost as bad for my family as my drinking years. I experienced major risk situations of self harm, my physical health was average, and the exhaustion from my depression limited my life severely. After 3 or so years I relapsed for a few months, then got sober again.
Mrs D: So pleased for you. How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Rob: Quite hard. but these days lots of my friends don’t drink alcohol so it hasn’t been too tough.
Mrs D: was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Rob: I have an addictive personality. Whatever I do I tackle with gusto, whether it’s journalism or drinking. No alcoholism in my family so no issues there.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Rob: I regained the ability be present for the people in my life, I had been absent through drinking for many years.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that have emerged for you from getting sober?
Rob: Better health, I didn’t die of cirrhosis. I was able to rebuild relationships with the people I love.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Rob: I would have sought help after my friend’s suicide instead of internalising the pain.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Rob: Talk to your loved ones or trusted friends. Own up to what you are going through. Booze is everywhere, learn how to manage situations where you know alcohol will be served. You will tend to drink when either very happy or very sad.
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Rob: Alcoholics are sneaky. They will hide their drink everywhere. Confront an alcoholic gently but firmly. Don’t lay judgement on them, offer to walk beside them. Know about the right services who can help. AA and 12-step programmes are not for everyone, but they are a solid foundation for many of life’s issues. Learn to forgive yourself.