This week's Sober Story comes from Simon, a 60-year-old living in Auckland.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Simon: 10 + years
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Simon: Pretty low to be honest. Those moments of standing in the garage of my beautiful ocean view house at 5 am looking at the sea with a plastic beaker of warm wine in my hand and thinking “if I drink this now I’m sunk” and then drinking it anyway that just about sums it up. My dependence had become wet stuff in a glass, my hiding paces for booze of which there were many were known to my family - for whom the term long suffering had long since suffered its last gasp. I was getting by on other people’s goodwill and kidding myself that I was “high functioning” bollocks, I was “rarely functioning”. 30 years in the advertising industry wasn’’t my problem, 30 years of liquid living was.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Simon: Surprisingly it wasn’t the wine box that came bouncing down the stairs as a prelude to my then wife scooping up two children to leave . It came later when I was sitting on the wood of my deck staring at the arena of my multi coloured bottle collection that was staring me down. I simply knew that finally after 30 years of hard liquor that was now peaking at chardonnay for breakfast and vodka mixers for lunch – a daily average of at least six big bottles of something – I was either going to drink myself to death – or not. I chose not.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Simon: I had no fucking idea who I was, where I was or what I was. I didn’t know myself. I was frightened I suppose but also I have that stubborn streak that just kept saying – fuck this, I’m in the seat now and things are changing
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Simon: Family had all fucked off, hurt, suspicious they just wanted to get away from the drain of being around an arsehole. Friends – had three fantastic ones, they poured me into rehab and told me to shut up and get sorted, and never judged. Family not so, I learned then that family doesn’t work for me – I’m not interested, never have been and never will be. Sober I choose my circle of friend wisely and they’re not in it.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Simon: I was in rehab and started running every day for 3ks, just to pass the time, since then I’ve completed 50 + 21k half marathons, five 42k full marathons, two 50 k ultra-marathons and I’m an NZ Masters Athlete and run competitively across middle 10k and long distances – with age group and field podium places. So I'm physical well. Emotionally – I hope to calm down at some point within the next 30 years or so. That said, marrying my lovely wife has helped.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Simon: Once I realised that the world doesn’t actually give a fuck whether I drink or not – pretty easy. I also have a very wise counsellor who tells me I can do anything I want – just one thing don’t drink- simple, never forgotten it – never will. I was also blown away by how many people don’t drink anyway- I didn’t know that option existed
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Simon: They say that in sobriety there’s a spiritual awakening – there is. For me it was me. I found myself and I really like who I am. I’m continually surprised and grateful that other people like me too - the real Simon emerged
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Simon: I stopped being a knob head, I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, I’m an athlete, I’ve won professional business awards, I’ve got the job of my dreams. I’ve married the best lady in the world, I go to bed sober and wake up sober, I can remember everything and in the past decade I haven’t knowingly pissed anybody off oh and I can fit food in my fridge and the recycling bin doesn’t clink.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Simon: Love – plain and simple – for everything
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Simon: No – I think the journey out is part of the journey back. It is what it is.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Simon: Do it for you and only for you – stay selfish , stay humble, shut up and most importantly reach out to the recovery peer world – that’s key. Whether its AA or this group, peer support will get you through. And trust me we’ve seen it all and you can just launch yourself into a conversation with no explanation required and we’re with you.
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to share?
Simon: When you drink dependently you can guarantee that every day without fail there will be a bad outcome – and it’s a burden to carry about. When you live your life sober, no matter what else you can always guarantee you’ll largely have a good day. With that in mind – have a good day and don’t pick up that drink.