This week's Sober Story comes from Stu, a 72-year-old living on the Thames Coast.
Mrs D: How long have you been sober?
Stu: I celebrated fourteen years of recovery on the 27th of July last year.
Mrs D: Can you describe your drinking for us?
Stu: I'd always been a heavy drinker but it just got more and more towards the end.
Mrs D: What happened that finally forced you to quit?
Stu: The last straw was the Friday before I attended my first A.A. meeting. My wife and I had been out with friends and my mate and I had given it a real nudge. I copped a fair bit of earache the next morning and finally thought that my wife was right and that I did have a problem - especially when she said that I could carry on like that if I wanted to but I would be doing it on my own.
Mrs D: She gave you an ultimatum? How did it go for you when you first stopped?
Stu: Right at the beginning I made the decision to treat it as a new adventure and I believe that helped me. For quite a while I felt like a bit of a fraud though, I would go to meetings and listen to people sharing and think "nah that wasn't me" and then a few days later think "Damn right it was". What humbled me though was listening to other people's stories.
Mrs D: I love that 'treating it as a new adventure' attitude. I think I had a similar approach. How did your friends and family react to the news that you'd quit?
Stu: All that I got form my family was support and encouragement (thank you from the bottom of my heart). Some of my friends found/find it a little difficult to understand.
Mrs D: Have you ever relapsed?
Stu: No I have not experienced a relapse. That does not mean that I have not been tempted, sometimes daily.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to settle down for you?
Stu: I believe that I was very lucky in that as soon as I had acknowledged that I had a problem and had started doing AA meetings life pretty much got to what I now know as normal.
Mrs D: What about going out and socialising.. any troubles for you there?
Stu: Again I haven't really had any problems socialising and not drinking. We still go to a pub occasionally. Ironically most of the people that we socialise with these days either don't drink or drink very little.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself since you stopped drinking?
Stu: I think the most surprising thing that I've learnt is that the longer that I am sober the longer I realise I had a problem and that can take a bit of handling some days.
Mrs D: What do you mean by that?
Stu: I lost my first marriage for a variety of reasons and it wasn't until I had been sober for a while that I started to see that a fair chunk of the responsibility for it came down to my drinking. It had never been made an issue at the time but in hindsight it must have had an influence. I have always been fiercely competitive and rightly or wrongly see what I put my first wife, my son and daughter through as failure. The belief that I have let my children down takes a bit of handling some days.
Mrs D: It's so great you're modelling sober living now though. What has changed about your life since you quit?
Stu: My health has improved and it's nice to be able to have a laugh and some fun without having to be half cut. Probably the biggest change was learning what a great life there is without booze.
Mrs D: Can you pinpoint any main benefits?
Stu: More disposable income and a more stable life.
Mrs D: Do you have any advice for Living Sober members who are just starting out on this journey?
Stu: Don't be frightened or feel self conscious/ embarrassed to contact the organisation of your choice and go to your first meeting. I have never made any secret of the fact that I don't believe I could have achieved my sobriety without the help of AA. That is only my opinion and it may not suit everyone.