Off the Wagon

I recently got a message from the mate who started me on my sober journey last year; by honestly & selflessly sharing her story with me (at a time when she had no idea that I needed help). She got me on to Annie Grace and the rest is history.

She wanted to let me know she’d “been struggling for last 6 months with being sober with a few nights having drinks but I had one of those nights on Saturday night which proved to me that I need to be alcohol free. Is a bit hard to admit that I’ve had the struggles. I think its important to be honest because it is hard being the sober one sometimes.” I thanked her for sharing and took a deep dive with her. It came as a massive surprise to me, like finding out a weird secret about your Mum. As she was the one who set me on the right path I guess I thought she was invincible. Guess what? Turns out non of us are invincible.

She has very bravely agreed to share her experience with us and I am incredibly grateful for that. I found her answers insightful and though provoking.

1. Tell me a bit about your sober journey.

I first tried giving up drinking for about 3 months around about 3 years ago. Before then I had a troubled relationship with alcohol. I really liked drinking, but fairly often I’d have way too much and act like a dick. I’d then feel terribly anxious, guilty and hating myself but for some reason blamed myself rather than thinking that alcohol might just not be very good for me. The first time I stopped I felt very self conscious about it and ultimately slipped back into drinking for 6 months. I then had a dream in which I behaved terribly and woke up with a resolve to not drink again. I was completely sober for 18 months. I was still going out occasionally but found that I felt really self conscious. And going to gigs was still hard sober. So I drank one night to see what would happen. The self consciousness stopped. I then didn’t drink again for about 3 months, then 3 weeks, then weekly. I started thinking about booze more. And then had a big night where I was definitely behaving badly.

2. How did it feel when you were in that period back drinking alcohol?

The first time I drank – nothing really changed. I still largely identified with being sober. As I drank more often I started struggling with the story I told myself, about me. I wasn’t sober anymore. I started thinking about wine more (the worst alcohol for me). I didn’t really care about my sober journey. Until I had the big night.

3. What made you decide it was time to stop again? Get back on the wagon?

As I mentioned, having a big night out, where I got trashed. I danced on the stage and just got wasted. I don’t really want to act like that. The next day, I felt like absolute shit. Terrible hangover and big drinking regrets. Then the next day was absolutely terrible. I was so terribly anxious and full of regret. I asked my husband to come home from work, I felt so anxious I couldn’t be by myself.

I re-joined the sober group I belong to on Facebook and they were really supportive. It was time to face (again) that drinking doesn’t work for me.

 4. How did you stop again? We’re there any specific tools you found helpful?

I belong to one stop drinking group that makes all the difference for me. I’ve known them now for about 2 years. A lot of them know me and are really supportive.

5. Do you feel different in your sobriety now you have had that ‘slip up’?

I feel less like sobriety is a permanent thing. Like I’m not going to make big statements about never drinking again, because I had this experience. But I know I need to make the choice everyday. Going back to being sober in some ways was much easier. I’ve done all the hard self examination the first time round, and learnt how to be the sober one at social events for example. It’s just not a big deal in some ways. I guess I need to still focus on making sobriety part of my identify again.

It’s hard to explain, but I just feel normal again not drinking. Occasionally I’ll have a hard day and think it would be good to get wasted, but it’s not very often.

6. Are there lessons you have learned from this experience? Things you know you have to change in your life to now maintain this?

I’m not sure I learnt lessons except that drinking is definitely really bad for my mental health. The anxiety now is absolutely terrible after drinking. I feel like I probably have friends that still want to get on it that are maybe not such a good influence (even though they’re actually really supportive, I just feel like I’m missing out sometimes), and I enjoyed partied with them a lot in the past. I’m still working out if I can hang out at gigs, or whether I need to just not. It kind of sucks because I really love music.

I was supposed to go to a gig in September but covid cancelled that. I’m going to try it and see how it goes. What I do know, is that I need to make sure I don’t get into a certain “fuck it” mood, which pretty much guarantees I’ll go down a bad path. That’s what happened the last time I drank. I got so excited about the evening and drinking, and I just had way too much. There’s no safe amount I can drink, there’s always that risk I’ll do it again.

7. What would your advice be to someone who has slipped up and gone back to drinking?

It’ll be easier than you think to be sober again. You might feel differently about it. Like for me, being sober is not such a big deal this time round. More just normal.

“Don’t beat yourself up. Just start being sober again.”

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