This week's Sober Story comes from Virginia, a 59-year-old living in Northland.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Virginia: Last alcohol to pass my lips was 3 years and 2 months ago.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up.
Virginia: I have to say I had a good life. Good job. No financial concerns. Nice house. Lovely man. Good friends, most of which weren't big drinkers. Quite a blessed life really. I don’t really understand why I fell into drinking more and more every night. I had started hiding it so my partner wouldn’t notice how much. I had started developing tactics to get away with it.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Virginia: Not so much a final straw, I had been trying every day for a couple of years by thinking, "I'm not drinking today" but I just couldn't get the right motivation or discipline. It was my grandchildren that changed it, when they started coming along I really wanted them to see that alcohol doesn't have to be a part of everyone's life. Their Mum is an alcoholic with big evident issues associated with drinking and I so wanted them to see that life is good without drinking.
Mrs D: That's a great motivation.
Virginia: But there were other things that were accumulating. My partner was noticing how much I was drinking and although he wasn't saying much he wasn't happy with my alcohol intake. I had started to contemplate his reaction, would we split up if I continued this path?
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Virginia: To be honest once I got the first day over without drinking I just felt stronger and stronger. The only thing I noticed in the early days was my desire for sugar. I didn't go out much socialising.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Virginia: Mostly they didn't say much. I had one dear, dear friend who would keep offering me alcohol. I had never shared my story with her so she didn't know why I had stopped. She thought I was just being healthy. I found that a little hard sometimes.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Virginia: Yes! I went 2 years sober and then decided to partake with lots of friends at a Xmas gathering. I thought I'd be alright but the next morning and every day after that for 1 year I was back drinking and saying to myself "I'm stopping again today".
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Virginia: I dont know why but I was lucky and seemed to fall straight into a relaxed and emotionally stable place within myself.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Virginia: Once I stopped I realised that lots of people I know, mainly women, don't actually drink very much, if at all. I hadn't noticed before! So I didn't feel alot of pressure to join in. I still have social times where I wish I could drink. At a party where I dont know people well I sometimes feel left out. Alcohol gave me confidence to be social and make conversation. I still love the smell of some drinks and just want to taste it. Sometimes I still get asked if I want one. I'd love one but doubt very much it would stop there. It was so hard to get sober and then relapsing and battling to stop again was something I will never forget. It was soul destroying to realise how little self control/discipline I had. I was ashamed of myself.
Mrs D: But look at you now! How did your life change after you quit?
Virginia: I feel proud of myself and that is such a soul strengthening thing.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Virginia: My relationship, my health, I'm happier within myself.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Virginia: Drink lots of water. Keep busy at happy hour. Love yourself. Treat yourself. Just get day one over sober and then do day two, and so on, and so on.
Mrs D: Anything else you'd like to share?
Virginia: I think we all have addictions, some are just harder to beat, some are more socially acceptable, some are more destructive. Alcoholism is soul destroying and giving up is a huge achievement to be proud of!