Today's Sober Story comes from Sandra, a 69-year-old living in Waikato.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Sandra: Just over 9 years.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Sandra: I had a very moderate wine intake (1-2 glasses twice a week) for about ten years. In the two years before giving up, this had escalated to a bottle of wine nearly every night, and sometimes more than a bottle. In the six months before I stopped drinking, I tried most weeks to quit, but after two or three days I would be drinking again, telling myself it was OK, lots of people do it, it is not a big problem. Each time this happened, I loathed myself more and felt so powerless to change anything.
Mrs D: Sounds just like me. What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Sandra: I was in the kitchen, putting water in my empty wine bottle (so my husband wouldn't know I had again polished the whole thing off in one evening), and I looked at my reflection in the window - wine bottle in hand, tired, sad and defeated. I knew I had to change, and I knew I had to be successful this time. I felt if I couldn't do it this time, there was no point to anything. It was a very low moment, but the turning point.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Sandra: Oh, it was hard. Not physically, but emotionally. I felt so raw, irritable, weepy and so very flat. The hardest thing was the early evening, without wine in hand. I would find myself grinding my teeth, and kept reminding myself of how awful I felt when I had relapsed. I kept seeing myself in the kitchen window, and remembering how I felt that day. It was the middle of winter, so I had a lot of early nights, drank a lot of tea, read a lot of books. Books helped a lot. Sleep was pretty fragmented for months, but really no worse than when I was drinking!
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Sandra: In the early months, I only told my husband (and he really had no idea of the extent of my drinking, I was good at hiding it, and because I was working and only ever drank at "acceptable" times). He was tremendously supportive, once he realised there actually was a problem! That first Christmas (six months sober) I told the rest of my family. Some said "good for you", most said "Really? Do you think you need to go that far? How about just one or two drinks?" I think some of them felt a bit uncomfortable with their own drinking!
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Sandra: No, I was in a relapse pattern for the six months before I finally stopped though. There were many times in the first eighteen months when thoughts and feelings that I would like or needed a drink surfaced. Truly, the Living Sober site really helped me get past those times. I never appreciated (before joining this community), the role online support could and would play in my life.
Mrs D: Isn't it so great! How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Sandra: Not hard for me, because nearly all my drinking was done at home, and often alone. In fact, I hardly ever drank when I went out, just couldn't wait to get home! We don't socialise much actually!
Mrs D: How long did take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally and physically?
Sandra: Well physically, not that long, about eight weeks. I started to sleep better and feel less exhausted. Emotionally, wow, that was around the eighteen month - two year mark.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Sandra: Yes, that the mind is a incredibly powerful thing, and that you CAN turn your thinking around to help yourself. I learned that I have the power over booze, not the other way around.
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Sandra: I think it had become quieter, calmer, more grounded.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Sandra: Better sleep, clear engaging fully with family & friends. Knowing I can change the way I feel by challenging my thinking, that's really amazing!
Mrs D: Yes! Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Sandra: Just know that you can turn this around bit by bit,hour by hour, day by day. For me, it was the small, repetitive steps that got me through. Stay connected with others.