This week’s Sober Story comes from Diane (@soberstylist), a 60-year-old living in Palmerston North.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Diane: Just over 3 years. 9th of August 2014 is my sober date.
Mrs D: What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Diane: I was drinking all day, from morning through to night. I needed a drink in the morning to stop the shakes and get my head around going to work, then in the evenings I would drink more. Probably about 2 bottles of wine a day minimum. More in the weekend. The last months was total frustration – lots of lying and deceit – knowing I was stuck in a rut but I could see no way out of at all. I didn’t know how to go about it, what to do. I’d tried rehab and I’d relapsed. I stopped going to AA meetings. I was lying all the time and feeling ill … destroying my life and my body but I didn’t know how to escape from it. It had it’s claws in very, very deeply and my marriage was really shocking anyway so it just made that worse.
Mrs D: So what happened that you finally quit?
Diane: I actually self-harmed and stabbed myself. I didn’t want to kill myself, I was just screaming for help. Because I’d had help in the past and it didn’t work I thought there was no hope and I was going to die from drinking real soon. The self harm didn’t even hurt and I wasn’t drunk when I did it – I’d only had two glasses. I was just so numb and desperate. The horrible thing about it was it actually worked, it gave me that much of a fright about how low and desperate I’d become that I vowed I’d never go back. That was it. I ended up in hospital then I went to a Salvation Army thing for 2 weeks afterwards. I was already going to a counsellor at that stage and she was starting to try and help me work through it but I self harmed before she had a chance to work out what we were going to do about it.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Diane: The early days were actually good because I gave myself such a fright by stabbing myself that I was just majorly into not ever having a drink again. It got harder as time went on…
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Diane: Relief. Absolutely sheer relief, they were just so happy because they were so aware – more aware than I realised – at how bad my drinking was and how much it was affecting me. My friends and family were also very aware that I wasn’t in good environment relationship wise and that wasn’t helping.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Diane: Not since the last time I quit. And this is it, definitely.
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Diane: Probably initially I would say 6 months after I quit, going to counselling and actually working out why things got as bad as they did and working through that. I separated from my husband after that things took a bit turn for the better. I think I was a bit on Cloud Nine for a while - doing things my way with my own life, making my own decisions, realising I was good at that. I started getting myself back a little. After two years I sorted out my work situation and got out of owning my own business which was stressful and wasn’t going well and started working for somebody else – it all just improved slowly.
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Diane: I still struggle with that. In a family environment it’s really good but being out I still feel a bit lost. Not angry that I can’t drink at all.. I’m not worried about that .. I just struggle to last the distance. I’ll go out then go home early because I’ve had enough. I can’t sit there enjoying watching other people get drunk , that’s not me. One of the reasons I’ve avoided socialising so much is that’s what made me relapse on previous occasions – not changing habits. I was very much a dry drunk the first time I stopped drinking. I was angry that I couldn’t drink. But this time I’m relieved. Those situations are too dangerous, and they’re not fun and I don’t enjoy them. I’ve been too busy on my house to socialise much. I’ve found other things that are more important than socialising.
Mrs D: Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Diane: That I am totally capable of looking after myself, paying my bills, keeping on top of life in general and actually organising my own finances and living well and making good decisions.
Mrs D: That’s so great! How else has your life changed?
Diane: Amazingly. People and clients are blown away by just how well I look and how happy and positive I am. They’re just so impressed and are in awe of what I’ve been able to do. I think I didn’t realise that I was a strong person, I always thought I was quite weak, but I’ve proved otherwise. I still think I’m a bit weak but other people would laugh and say “you’re so not, you’re one of the strongest people I know”.
Mrs D: What are the main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Diane: Finding myself I suppose. Not having that guilt and stress and anxiety of thinking “what have I done? Who have I upset?” The total fear of illnesses that would be the side effects of drinking.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Diane: I’d do it sooner. I would have liked to see the signs and not self harmed, and been a bit more aware of my own brain. It still now blows me away that I actually did that. But then again it got me to where I am now so maybe it’s a gift. I couldn’t imagine counselling would have got me to the stage I’m at so quickly.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Diane: Grab onto anything that helps towards sobriety. Living Sober (this site), AA, friends, counselling – anything that is a positive reinforcement on sobriety. Also look very carefully at what you were doing in the past and try and change. Like don’t do what I did when I first quit and try to carry on with nightclubbing or pubbing and thinking you can do it without alcohol because if you’re an alcoholic you can’t.
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?
Diane: Just that life is awesome without alcohol. It is incredibly good but it still takes work. No matter how far into recovery you are it is not something you can pretend didn’t happen. You’ve always got to remember you’re an addict. I’m an addict and will always be an addict. Never let your guard down with it.