This week’s Sober Story comes from Arthur, a 55-year old living in Central Otago.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Arthur: I have lost count of the days without a drink, but five years, ten months, one week and two days (not that I am counting).
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Arthur: I was drinking every day, mostly red wine. It was starting to hurt the body. I had stomach troubles and a sore head. I meant to stop on the first of January 2009, but it took until the 28th of October 2009 to make the call and actually stop drinking.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Arthur: There were many straws. I was watching people become addicted to alcohol – having to drink every day – and realised that I was heading to the same place. I didn’t want to go there. There was an excellent series of ads on the radio about drinking too much and they helped set of an alarm bell. I had watched a farmer have to sell some of his farm. He has a drinking problem. As mentioned above I was starting to have health problems. So I decided to have one year sober.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Arthur: While it was a challenge to get sober, I had given up smoking in 1998 and that was a massive challenge, but the best thing I had ever done. Giving up alcohol was easier than giving up smokes. But I had to take it one day at a time, then one week, then one fortnight, then one month, then one quarter year, then one half year, then the big one full year. Yippee. I guess having a drink is a habit, so I had a glass of blackcurrant juice with dinner and if I was struggling with wanting alcohol, I made my blackcurrant a double and that sorted me out. I like Barkers Unsweetened Blackcurrant, but it took some time to work into the unsweetened version. I used to mix it 50/50 with a pear sweetened blackcurrant also from Barkers.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Arthur: Lots of surprised looks. Lots of support. A large mix of reactions, and I enjoyed watching them all. Some tried to get me to start drinking again – unsuccessfully. Some thought they should join me.
Mrs D: Experts say relapse is often a part of recovery, was it a feature of yours?
Arthur: No. I was early into realising there was a problem and managed to stop drinking before I had got in too deep. Also, I had to have a month off alcohol for some pills I was taking. This was a year before I stopped drinking, so I had experienced how well I felt sober and how disappointed I was when I started drinking again. I ended up drinking too much straight away. So that may have been my relapse a year before giving up permanently.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Arthur: I had to take it one day at a time, then one week, then one fortnight, then one month, then one year. I guess it was only two months at worst. I was 50-years-old exactly two months after my first sober day and wasn’t even interested in a drink for that day. I am sure I had to keep my guard up or I could have easily just had one! Many people couldn’t understand that I didn’t want a drink on my 50th. When I got to the end of 2009 I decide to do a full calendar year sober and have all of 2010 sober. Then when I realised how good I was feeling I decided to have ten years off. Now I expect to always be sober and I am ecstatic about that.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Arthur: Not too difficult as I had a glass of blackcurrant juice in my hand and people left me alone. Apart from that, I just said “No thanks”. Funny how you can drink alcohol all night long, but I can’t drink anything else all night long. I only need one or two drinks for a whole evening.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Arthur: I am amazed how much clearer my head is, how I can read and remember what I have read, think problems through and analyse them, remember names and info (this came from reading “The Secret” and training my brain).
Mrs D: How did your life change?
Arthur: All the health problems went away, the pain in my joints disappeared, my sore head is gone. I have read and read about healthy diet and lifestyle and I have changed my diet and lifestyle, have lost weight, trimmed up and jogged 15 km’s. Never did that before.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Arthur: Healthy, wealthy, wise and happy.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Arthur: Start being sober a lot earlier.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Arthur: I wrote down in a diary all the reasons I wanted to stop drinking and would read them if I was struggling with wanting a drink. I also wrote down all the excellent life changes from stopping drinking and referring to these helped to stay sober. Read them every day while you need to. I used the power of music to help, maybe it helped with meditating in a fashion. I used music and exercise to stimulate the senses. Others may find that something else works for them. Also I changed my diet, eating better. I didn’t go on a diet, just changed it.
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Arthur: I was only going to have a year off drinking, but found so many benefits that I have stayed off. I expect to be sober for ten years, but suspect I will always be sober. While reading about diet I have seen that alcohol is “TOXIC” to the human body. CARCINOGENIC, THAT MEANS IT CAUSES CANCER. Why would I want to start to put toxins into my body now? Not happening.
Last but not least:
A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. Make the first step.If I can do this, you can, everyone can, you have the power inside you to make this happen. It is there, just dig deep to find it and believe it. Believe in yourself.