Getting sober isn’t easy. I have tried and failed many times. On social media, I often see posts with people worrying that they are back to day one again. I was that person once. I just didn’t really share my failures.
Towards the end of trying to get sober, I stopped telling people that I was even trying. I was sure that I would fail again and that people just saw my efforts now as a joke. A reaction to a bad hangover, or making a fool of myself (again).
So what changed?
I had been trying on and off for around two years to get sober again (I started trying again not long after my relapse). I would go perhaps a month without alcohol and then I would have a bad day or I would feel anxious and off I would go again. I would feel like I needed that drink, I deserved it.
I stopped on the 21st of June 2021. The day before, I had hosted a particularly stressful lunch, where I had promised myself that I wouldn’t drink, but I had. It was uneventful in regards to me doing anything embarrassing and I actually did stop drinking quite early on in the day. But I did drink a lot.
During the night I was woken by my heart beating erratically, I had chest pains, I was sweating and I thought something terrible was about to happen. I had heard of holiday heart syndrome* before so I had an idea what it was, but it was terrifying and very uncomfortable. All I could do was cling to my husband and try and go back to sleep. I actually prayed that if I could go back to sleep and be okay, I would never drink again. And so far I haven’t.
What did I do?
Ordered more reading material – I have always devoured ‘quit lit’ and I have only ever been able to stop drinking when I have something available to read. This time it was Sunshine Warm Sober, by Catherine Grey.
I needed to focus my mind on why I wanted/needed to stop drinking and this was the perfect way to do it. When I had free time, this book was in my hand and I was reading it. I was so scared that I would fail again. I needed all of my tools.
I stocked up on AF beers – I know that this is definitely not for everyone. It can be a trigger so I am not advising anyone to do this. It did however work for me. One of the reasons that I kept failing is that I felt that I was missing out. By having an AF beer available I felt like I was still having a treat. The brand that I drink is not massively well known, so it also looked like I was just having a beer. Which in the early days worked for me. I didn’t want to have to explain myself yet.
I was honest with my husband – In the past, my husband had thought that I didn’t really have an issue. He thought I was perhaps a bit greedy, but I didn’t need to stop completely. I could just learn to moderate like him. This time I sat him down and told him everything, how my brain thinks very differently with regards to alcohol than his does, I spoke about how desperate I felt, how much I needed and wanted to stop. I told him that drinking made me so unhappy and I needed his support to help me to stop. Once he knew how much it was impacting my life, he supported me fully. He also cut down on his drinking to support me.
I googled support groups – I knew that I needed support, most of the AA groups had gone online but the one group that I had felt comfortable with had no listing. I decided that I would try and find other ways online. Facebook groups didn’t work for me as there was no accountability, if you relapsed, you could just disappear or not post. I had done that before when I relapsed, I just deleted everything.
Eventually, I found a group Hola Sober and emailed the founder. I was then passed on to another lady in recovery and we quickly established a bond. It was like a huge weight had been lifted, I could ask honest questions to someone who not only understood but who had been there too. That lady is now one of my closest friends and I appreciate her help in keeping me sober so much. There are also meetings, where I started sharing and talking to others and I now have some wonderful friends and sober connections. This all helps to keep me accountable. I need rules and without these rules, I would relapse again. I know I would. There are some links here:
I started writing – I have always loved writing but, would never have wasted drinking time doing so. I also would not have had the courage, my self-esteem was so low that the prospect of being told that I was rubbish would have crushed me further. In the beginning, I wrote my blog as another accountability tool, another rule. If I had publicly stated that I was now sober the risk of relapse was much less. Now I write because I enjoy it and I want to help. When I am told that something I have written resonates with or helps another, it is such a gift. Worrying about your drinking can be such a lonely experience and knowing that you are not alone in your actions or thoughts, truly helps. If this blog helps even just one person, then I am beyond delighted.
I started to look after myself – I had never felt worthy of time alone. I had always felt that I should be doing things for others all of the time. I also, spend a lot of my time unwell due to my condition, so I always felt guilty about not sharing my ‘well-time’ with others. Little did I know that by doing this, my time with my family wasn’t always quality time. I never had any time to decompress, to be alone with my thoughts, to look after me, this resulted in them not always seeing the best version of me.
So I joined a spa, I now have somewhere to go where I can swim (this is important for my condition, EDS) and relax. A place that is just for me. It helps me physically and mentally. I am not saying everyone should join a gym or a spa, but you do need to find something that is just for you. Something you love that doesn’t revolve around alcohol.
I educated myself about alcohol – I watched documentaries, I read articles, listened to podcasts, read blogs and I learned about the harm that alcohol does to us emotionally and physically. If you ever want to watch something which will really bring home the dangers of alcohol, then I would suggest that you watch ‘My name was Bette’ available here:
It’s pretty brutal, but sometimes, we need to have that short sharp shock. Sugarcoating what alcohol does to us benefits no one but the alcohol companies. The more you know about the dangers of alcohol, the less inclined you feel to drink.
I played the movie forward – I still do this. If I am ever tempted (normally by a glass of fizz) I play the movie forward, I imagine how I will feel and what will happen. Will that one glass be enough? hahahahahaha, nope, no way! I will want ten glasses and the result will not be pretty. I do this every time I get that pang and it has worked so far.
I finally told people – People knew straight away at our local pub that I wasn’t drinking alcohol as they could see me with my Becks Blue in my hand. But I didn’t really say why. I made excuses such as a bad hangover or I had to drive but I didn’t really say that I wasn’t planning on drinking again. Now I am honest, if someone asks I say I don’t drink because I don’t have a stop button and I don’t like it. I often get laughed at or poked fun at. But everyone is aware that I am very serious about it and that I have no intention of drinking again. I stopped going to my local pub for a while, I needed to as I found it stressful. I can now go and they have even ordered AF Gin for me, I am so much stronger in my sobriety, that I now feel strong enough to go and enjoy seeing people again. But I needed to make that decision. I did not want to go when I felt unsteady or uncomfortable.
It’s an ongoing process..
I am sure there are other things that I have also done, but that is all that I can think of for now. I do know, however, that I am not ‘fixed’. Sobriety is an ongoing process that I must work at. I relapsed before when I became complacent when I became bored and disillusioned. I must work at my sobriety every day. This doesn’t mean I have become a sober bore (I hope not!) it means that I have become grateful enough for my new sober life that I am willing to do the work to keep it.
Alcohol is the only drug that is everywhere, the only drug where we are considered the weird ones for not wishing to partake in it anymore. This means that this particular addictive substance is harder to stay away from. But we can and will do it if we do the work.
Have I missed anything, how did you get sober?