This week’s Sober Story comes from Robin, a 63-year-old living in the small rural town of Kiowa, Colorado.
Mrs D: How long have you been sober?
Robin: I have been sober for 28 years, 7 months and 3 weeks.
Mrs D: Cograts! What can you tell us about the last phase of your drinking?
Robin: The last two years of my drinking were the worst. I drank for 10 years and it brought me to my knees. I started drinking socially at age 25 and by the time I checked myself into a treatment center (at age 35) I was drinking straight vodka during most of my waking hours. My liver was swollen, I was having pancreatitis attacks, and I had put on 60lbs. I knew I would die if I didn’t stop. I was scared to death. Scared enough to check myself into a treatment center. The first 30 days of my sobriety were spent in a treatment center.
Mrs D: What was it like there?
Robin: The first few days were a little fuzzy. I was on drugs for three days to keep me from experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. I spent my time in 12-step meetings, speaker meetings, one on one counseling, group counseling, daily exercise, and interacting with others in recovery. I also kept a daily journal while I was there. When I left the recovery center, I had the tools to start living a sober life.
Mrs D: That’s so fantastic. What did you do when you got out?
Robin: I immediately started going to AA meetings on a daily basis. I returned to work and went to evening meetings on work days and day meetings on my days off. I went to Book study meetings, 12 Step meetings, women’s meetings, and mixed meetings (men and women). That was my social life outside of work. I was learning to interact with people all over again without a drink.
Mrs D: How did you find it socialising without alcohol?
Robin: It wasn’t easy in the beginning. I was married at the time and began to realize that I couldn’t stay in the marriage. It was my second marriage and I knew I had made an error in judgement when I choose to marry this man. I was drinking heavily when I got married. So I also got a divorce in my first year after getting out of the treatment center. My first marriage had also fallen apart because my husband and I both were heavy drinkers. I never had children so divorce was easier for me than it might of been for some.
Mrs D: How did your family and friends react?
Robin: My family members (other than my husband) lived far enough away for me to hide my drinking problem. None of them knew about it until I told them I was checking into a treatment program. They were surprised but very supportive. Co-workers were also very supportive. I played with fire the first eight months after leaving the treatment center. Snorted cocaine on one occasion, smoked a joint another time, and drank once. A friend of mine (now my husband), smelled alcohol on my breath and got me to admit to it at a meeting. August 3, 1989. I haven’t had a drink or a drug since.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to settle down for you physically and emotionally?
Robin: After leaving the treatment center, I lost all that drinking weight and got down to my normal weight of 125lbs. I still felt out of whack emotionally. I didn’t really start getting it together until the beginning of my sobriety date. I got a sponsor and got more serious about recovery. I went back to college at night. I didn’t have much free time between school, my full-time job and meetings. I liked staying busy. I began to socialize more with people in recovery and friends that I had hung out with before my drinking days. I joined a gym with a friend from work and we’d work out on our lunch breaks. Socializing with others became fun. I was more of a hermit at the end of my drinking.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you discovered in recovery?
Robin: I think what amazed me the most was life was fun again after getting sober. I had always been a social person with a large circle of friends before I started drinking. Life returned to normal except I knew I could never drink or do a drug again. The desire to drink had left me. But I know that it’s one day at a time no matter how confident I feel in sobriety. In my third year of sobriety, I got married to my current husband. Third and last husband (I hope!). We decided to move to Colorado from the beaches in Southern California. We had jobs where we could transfer to any state without losing our vacation time or pay. We worked for USPS and were letter carriers. My husband still has 5 years left before retirement but I was able to retire 2 1/2 years ago. We rented a house for 6 months while we were having a house built in the country. Eventually we had horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, parrots, and other assorted animals. We made new friends at work and found new 12-Step meetings. It was very different from beach living. And the climate difference as well. Four seasons in Colorado compared to coming from a Mediterranean climate. Took a little getting used to. We had to buy a whole new wardrobe of winter clothes.
Mrs D: Have you had your sobriety tested?
Robin: I’ve lost my parents and some other family members due to natural causes related to age. My husband has also lost family members in sobriety. We didn’t have to drink over it. Health issues have come up but everything turned out fine in the end. We didn’t have to drink over that either. A strong support system and remaining close to others in recovery has been instrumental in staying sober. And for me, a renewed connection with God from the beginning of my journey to a sober life.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go back in time?
Robin: I don’t know if I would do anything differently on my sober journey. I wouldn’t advise playing around with drinking or drugging like I did when I was newly sober. I was lucky that it didn’t go any further than it did.
Mrs D: Any advice or tips for those who are just starting out on this journey?
Robin: My advice to those who are newly sober is get involved as much as you can with 12-Step meetings. There you will find others that can identify with your past and present. Get a sponsor as soon as you can. I should have starting looking for one the minute I left the treatment center. Surround yourself with people you meet in recovery. Cut ties with those you used to drink or do drugs with. Call another sober friend or head to a meeting right away if you get the urge to drink or use.
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Robin: Know that there are others that have walked this path before you and that every day that you remain sober is a good day no matter what happens. May God bless you on your road to recovery!