This week's Sober Story comes from Stacy, a 48-year-old living in San Antonio, Texas.
Mrs D: How long have you been sober?
Stacy: I've been in recovery for 3 years.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about how things were at the end of your drinking days?
Stacy: Before I gave up drinking I was a complete mess. Mostly on the inside. I hid it well to the outside world. I never missed a day of work. I was a very sad person and nobody knew it. Looking back now I realise I had never really dealt with the abuse I experienced as a child and then the death of my parents when I was a teenager. Drinking numbed all the bad stuff. Of course as a teenager it was FREEDOM. It was fun. I was fun. I was the life of the party and I never missed a party. I was witty, charming and very social. I WAS BRAVE! People liked me and I needed that. I needed to belong. Fast forward to 2012. My drinks were changing. The beer and wine weren't enough anymore. That "buzz" wasn't working like it did before so I added some liquor. At first mixed drinks, then shots. Then the whole bottle of vodka. I was out of control. The alcohol related head on collision I experienced that year was a huge reality check. When they say your life passes before your eyes before you die...well, it's true. A punch to the face with an airbag is enough to make anyone sober. Seeing the other driver in a mangled mess of metal is definitely enough to make anyone sober. Anyone but me. I stayed sober for a few months. Then I drank. And drank. Hurting people along the way. Trying to drink away the guilt and shame of the accident- of my childhood -of my being a complete mess and people were starting to notice.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Stacy: Final straw? I wanted to die. I was ruining everything around me. I was making bad decisions. I was hurting the ones I loved most. My relationship was hanging by a thread. One of my closest friends died. My relationships were teetering on me getting my life together. The last night I had a drink wasn't much different than all the nights before. Drink at home after work. Go to the bar until closing and then go back home to drink until I passed out. The next day was an agonising, hungover 24 hours of completely hating myself. It was either sobriety or death. I chose to live.
Mrs D: Fantastic. How was it for you in the early days? What was the most difficult?
Stacy: The early days were rough. How will I NEVER drink again? How will I deal with life sober? I can never go to weddings, bar-b-ques, floating the river, watching sports or ANYTHING outside of my house and work! It was especially hard when my friends would question why I wasn't coming around. I was turning down invitations to Happy Hour, drinks after work. I lied a lot. I made excuses like, "I'm on meds and can't drink right now." Or, "I'm drying out for a while." That worked for a while.
Mrs D: What reactions did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Stacy: At first my friends and family were confused. My family didn't question me much but my friends were divided. There were some who saw my downfall so I had their support. Others felt the loss of their "good time" friend and struggled with my sobriety more than I did. Then I had a friend who had 8 years of recovery under her belt and she became a VERY big part of my early recovery. She helped me realize that there is no ONE way to recover. That this is my journey. To find my own path and walk it all while having her to lean on. 3 years later and I'm still leaning on her. Much less these days but she's still a huge part of my life. The old me and the new me.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Stacy: I have relapsed many times. Not this time.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally and physically?
Stacy: in the beginning, physically, I needed that drink to hold. I needed the bubbly sensation I felt in my throat when I drank. I needed my jitters to calm down. I slowly substituted the desire to hold a cocktail with non alcoholic drinks (mocktails, thanks Mrs. D.) and I started finding healthy ways to be calm. I joined online groups. I read recovery books. I prayed. ALOT. My body started recovering too. I felt physically well. Finally. Emotionally though I was struggling. Things were real. Pain, regret, guilt, abandonment and truth. I'm still working on letting things go but it gets better everyday.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Stacy: I learned that I am able. I am witty and charming. I am strong. But mostly I am BRAVE without alcohol. My JOY IS FULL!
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Stacy: My whole life has changed. I am healthy. I have my real friends that stuck around and I got married (after 10+ years together). How she managed to hang in there with me is still a mystery. She is from God. She is my biggest fan, my truth when it hurts and my soft place to fall. Most of all I AM PRESENT!
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Stacy: I now have boundaries. I have pride, strength and courage. I have clarity. I see the beauty in everything! 3 years ago I drank to numb pain, guilt, shame and fear. Here's what I see so clearly now - I also numbed happiness, love, peace and my Spirit. I chose life. I chose God. He always had me wrapped up in his love but now I give him proper thanks with prayer, fellowship, faith over fear and humility over pride.He will never abandon me. I am Blessed.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Stacy: I'm not clear about what I would do differently. Maybe choose to reach out for help sooner. Lucky for me my rock bottom didn't kill me physically. I lived to be a better friend, wife, sister, aunt and hopefully to inspire others. I needed THIS me when I was needing help.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Stacy: My advice to anyone starting their journey is to get support. Reach out. Find someone to connect with. And mostly don't be so hard on yourself. Don't look to what your future may look like without alcohol. Be present in the here and now and when things start to look more beautiful than ever and love (for yourself and others) feels unexplainable you'll find that you have found your freedom!