Today’s Sober Story comes from Lou, a 48-year-old, living in the county of Suffolk in the UK.
Mrs D: How long have you been in recovery?
Lou: 4 years on 21st September 2017
Mrs D: Whoop! What can you tell us about the last months/years of your drinking before you gave up?
Lou: It had become a battle to control my drinking and all the fun had been lost from the process. Drinking had become a grim determined reality to get enough down my neck to reach the place of numbness that I craved.
Mrs D: What was the final straw that led you to get sober?
Lou: There were 2 drinking occasions about 6 months apart that were part of my rock bottom in late 2012 and mid 2013. The last one involved getting hideously pissed in front of my two young children at a barbecue. This was my invisible line and something I had vowed I would never do as I have memories of being really anxious and frightened as a child when my mother was sh*tfaced drunk on holiday. It took me another 4 months to finally stop but I knew I had crossed my own personal line that day.
Mrs D: How was it for you in the early days? What was most difficult?
Lou: I’d been trying to moderate since 2008 so was physically used to stopping for anything up to 3 months so it was only when I passed the 3 month mark and was making new sober days that it became psychologically difficult. Managing the cravings and triggers to drinking were the hardest part – that Friday night feeling, week-ends, not being able to numb difficult emotions.
Mrs D: What reaction did you get from family & friends when you started getting sober?
Lou: My husband stopped 6 days before me as we both recognised we had a problem so he was hugely supportive Even to this day family and friends struggle to understand and it is the still the conversational ‘elephant in the room’. It is made more difficult to discuss I think because my husbands parents are retired publicans who still own a pub.
Mrs D: Have you ever experienced a relapse?
Lou: I have accidentally drank one sip of alcohol but don’t consider that a relapse but was an interesting experience nonetheless. My addict brain leapt into action and the inner voice immediately piped up ‘no-one would know if you finished the rest of the glass …… ‘
Mrs D: How long did it take for things to start to calm down for you emotionally & physically?
Lou: It took about 6 months for me to really hit my sober stride I think. I’d been drinking for 25 years so it was going to take a fair amount of time to rebalance my brain!
Mrs D: How hard was it getting used to socialising sober?
Lou: Less difficult than I imagined it being to be honest. It is always those first awkward 5-10 minutes as others are pouring themselves alcohol that I find tricky. I usually go off and play with the kids or go to the loo to allow that time to pass.
Mrs D: I agree! Then once everyone has their drinks I calm down again. Was there anything surprising that you learned about yourself when you stopped drinking?
Lou: That I was my harshest critic. Drinking allowed me to stay stuck in that place and stopping meant liberation from my own self-shaming behaviour that allowed my shame to heal.
Mrs D: Fantastic. How else did your life change?
Lou: In every way. I started blogging which is how I know the lovely Lotta – she was the first person to comment on my blog which I will never forget! I created an ebook that I self-published on Kindle, I was published in a national newspaper, I set up my own online course and ran workshops in London to help people quit. All these things I didn’t think I was capable of all came from that single decision to put down the drink. Plus I studied a post grad in counselling at the University of Cambridge, all our money saved from not drinking paid for a months family holiday in Australia and most importantly I became capable of becoming a better wife and parent.
Mrs D: Far out you’ve exploded creatively, that’s awesome! Can you pinpoint any main benefits that emerged for you from getting sober?
Lou: Less self-hatred.
Mrs D: Would you do anything differently given the chance to go through the process again?
Lou: I’d have started sooner if I’d known how much better life would be.
Mrs D: What advice or tips would you have for those who are just starting on this journey?
Lou: Don’t give up trying to give up as every attempt teaches you something new. It is the single most important decision I have made in my life alongside getting married and having children.
Mrs D: Anything else you’d like to share?