This week’s guest blog is from Samantha Webb, who is passionate about educating people with to our drinking culture and the impact of heavy drinking on physical and mental health, relationships and general wellbeing. She’s now involved with Untoxicated – an alcohol free social tribe. Find out more about them here.
On the 1st of February this year I stopped drinking. This wasn’t a decision I came to overnight.
For 27 years I have been a heavy drinker – from the age of 15 I have turned to alcohol to celebrate, to commiserate, to connect with friends, to bond with work colleagues – hell, in the latter years I drank to mark lunch, the end of the week, the end of a gym class or having made it through Monday. Any excuse – happy or sad, drinking controlled every aspect of my life.
Every day I would wake up and the first thing to spring into my mind would be ‘Right I’m not drinking today’. It would then occupy my thinking most of the day as I battled with myself to not drink – invariably giving in by 6 pm to that bottle of wine. Because I deserved it. I’d had a long day at work. I needed to treat myself. Release the stress. It was exhausting, living with it in my head all the time. I felt completely unable to stop and get it under control and hid so much of my drinking – doing the majority of it on the couch, on my own, because of the feeling of shame. I was short with my kids, willing them into bed so I could drink, and finding it harder and harder to get to that happy place with alcohol. I was engaging in riskier behaviours and starting to struggle at work with memory and focus and mood swings.
In late December and early January, I went on holiday to Thailand and I drank my way through relaxing by the pool and partying in Phuket’s finest establishments and midway through was sick of feeling obliged to drink every day. Sick of feeling slightly dusty every morning and sick of being ruled by the call to drinking – is it beer o’clock yet?
I stumbled across ‘one year no beer’ on Facebook one day and thought I would give the 90 day challenge a go – in the spirit (no pun intended!) of setting myself up to succeed, I thought 90 days felt like a stretch but an achievable goal. I agreed in my head that I would start on the 1st of February having done Febfast in previous years and that I would let some people know about it on social media, to keep me accountable. It felt good to make the decision – this was going to be hard, but I hoped at the end of it all I would see some real health benefits and perhaps I would crack the addiction that drove me to drink every single day. Perhaps I would be able to have some alcohol-free days and maybe I would feel strong enough to socialise without the need to down a couple of glasses of wine before arriving?
My partner at the time hardly drank, so it seemed like a really good time to take this on. I would have the support of my family, friends and partner – and my wonderful workplace, Beyond Blue – where mental health is talked about openly and we all know how alcohol and drug use can affect good mental health.
So, 1 February rolled around and I started my 90 days, enthusiastic but a little afraid of failing. I joined Daybreak for online support and was given a book to read called, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray. Within the pages I found a woman not unlike myself who grew up and worked in the UK and who partied hard into her middle age, only to find that the drink had taken over. It was such a wake-up call – as I read about Catherine’s inability to moderate, I realised that this was the very thing that I struggled with – and it started to make sense to me. Alcohol is a drug and I am addicted and no matter how hard I have tried I have always failed to be able to moderate the amount I drink. It dawned on me that, for me, I need to eliminate alcohol for life. This was not going to be a 90-day break – this actually needed to be a forever decision.
At first I was angry and scared. But little by little as I practised sober living, I realised that the benefits far outweighed the negatives. My relationships improved, my thinking became sharper and more focussed. My behaviour became less reactive and dramatic – my kids told me I was a nicer, less angry person! My physical and mental health improved – fewer mood swings, much better gym sessions and recovery, and even though I still found the cravings difficult I knew if I prepared I could handle any social situation and I actually started to enjoy going out without alcohol!
Then, five months in, I went through a major life crisis. My partner left me overnight – without warning. I had just sold my house and we were planning to move in together, combining our households with five children between us. We were, I thought, deliriously happy. In the eight years of dating since leaving my husband I had never once felt so content, happy and sure of the relationship I was in. I was completely in love and excited about our plans for the future. Then overnight I was single, about to be homeless and completely heartbroken, and worse, without any clear understanding or control of why the decision had been made.
Every cell in my body at that moment wanted to drink – to take away the pain. To numb myself. BUT I put the following mantra on repeat in my head, ‘he has taken too much, he will not take my sobriety’. I knew deep down that to drink would only make everything worse in the long run. Instead I took time off work and spent the first few days in shock. I felt every bit of the pain. I cried a lot. I’m not going to lie, there were some very dark moments. Moments where I felt the pain was too much to bear and that I would be better off not waking up in the morning. I managed to get myself to my GP to get a referral to a psychologist because I knew I needed help to talk through all of the feelings and emotions. And I took advantage of my EAP service until those sessions could be arranged. I talked with friends and did a lot of reading, trying to understand some of the feelings I was experiencing.
Shock moved to grief then to anger and finally acceptance and recovery. All in all, it only took 12 weeks to move through and start to feel better and now I can honestly say I really did dodge possibly the worst decision of my life! I am content and happy with my new home and my single life.
The experience of doing this without alcohol has literally been life changing. I have NEVER moved through a life crisis without numbing the pain. I have NEVER properly dealt with these tough painful human emotions. I have NEVER processed properly, shock, grief and anger. To do so has been a wonderful experience – and I think part of the reason why I have gone through the experience. They say everything does happen for a reason – and a big one for me was to learn how to do this thing called ‘life’ without turning to drinking and escaping the hard stuff. I also learned a lot about myself and what I don’t want in a relationship – how I truly don’t NEED a partner. That’s not to say I don’t want one – but I don’t NEED one. That’s a very big difference.
I now remember every interaction. I am living in the moment every day and choosing to live a full and mindful life. No longer is my behaviour dramatic and reckless – no longer do I make bad choices that I regret in the morning. My life is on my terms and I really like that. If I have a bad night out, it’s because I chose to be in a place I didn’t enjoy – not because I drank too much and ended up putting myself into a risky situation.
This really has been the best and the worst time but ultimately I am stronger, more content and standing on really firm ground – that’s a good place to be and I encourage others to seek that firm ground – whatever that looks like for you.
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Thank you for your story. I am right where you started. I need to take things under control and not blame everyone for my actions and move into a positive direction. I was married for 26 years and my husband abruptly left me an our 2 kids. Lied about his 2 year affairs and made me look like it was all me. I struggled through this, no job no home and left to fend for myself. I am still having a hard time with this and its been almost 6 years this month. I have met someone new that wants it all and I am afraid to do this again. I am not sure what to do but I need to get my life together before I start again. I am staring my sober journey this Monday 11/11 which I think is a perfect day. The universe should like it too!! Thank you for your inspiration and I am going to buy Being Sober this week. Very Grateful for you!!
Well done! It does feel good doesn’t it? I had always been a drinker,however, it spiralled out of control in Feb this year following a horrible fatality I attended for work that was too close to home and left me with what I now know is PTSD. My wife of 8 years told me to get over it and didn’t need these issues! So being her home as I too had sold mine, I was booted out. I then faced some choices 1. Give up the alcohol, regain my fitness and mental wellbeing 2. Continue as I was and possibly last another 5 years 3. End it all now (life that is). My adult sons pleaded with me to get help so I chose option 1 and after a few months can say that I have never felt happier. I am getting treatment for the PTSD attend the gym each day, train in Krav Maga contact combat and feel gr8. To think that several months before I was parked at the top of a cliff ready to end it!. There is always hope, there is always a way to break this trap we are in if WE TRULY WANT TO. I have a long way to go as my journey has just begun, however, I know that replacing the habit of hiding in the bottle with the habit of living life and solid physical and mental activity will get this duck through it. I wish you all the best, keep up the good work it is worth it
Wow. How proud of you you must be. The first few lines drew me in as it could have been written by me! Started drinking way too early – not ever learning how to deal with life without alcohol and my entire life planning the next bottle. Its exhausting. Thank you for sharing your journey so far …
Well done! And thanks for sharing. Such a welcome relief to read that there is a whole life to be had, and loved, on the other side of alcohol.
WOW…just came upon your testimony,as i now am sober for 3 mo…it feels longer…i too feel more in control …still dealing on some level past regrets…i’ll look for you as i continue on this life long journey of sobriety…i thank God for this transformation and am so grateful every day…CONGRATULATIONS.
Hi Samantha thank you for your story – it will be very helpful. Drinking to celebrate lunch – unfortunately true.
Well done Samantha. It’s a story I needed to read. Thank you.
wow, I could have written that myself. It is my story also. I’m still not completely separated from my partner, but I am going through it sober. I’ll look into untoxicated now. Thanks for sharing
Thank you so much for sharing Samantha. Your words are comforting and a strong reminder to me that it’s never better with a drink, it is time to start allowing the feelings and life in.
Thank you for sharing, I finally made the decision only the past few days, to take control of my life and find ways to keep sober. I attended an AA meeting last night and I am trying to read everything possible I can get my hands on, to further aid in my what I hope to be success story. I will attend meetings (even though I am not altogether comfortable to doing that, being somewhat of an introvert) But all this to say again thank you for sharing every story makes me feel that much more optimistic that I too can be successful
I have been AF for one and half years after drinking for 30 years. Best decision ever. This year has been one of my toughest… my beloved Dad died, mum’s health is poor, other close family members diagnosed with late stage cancer and the first of my school friends to pass, taken way too early. But I didn’t add alcohol to that pile and I am so glad for it. I feel strong. Sad, but strong. And I know the sadness will lessen Thank you for sharing your story. I feel we are part of a tribe! Connected..
I love that expression ‘part of a tribe’ I am just starting and want to join!
Well done Samantha, you’re inspiring!!! It’s hard to really feel your feelings – probably for the first time in your adult life – without alcohol. Kudos, warrior!!! xx
Its like I’m ready my thoughts out loud. For years and months I would say today is the day I’m not going to drink and get my life on track. Finally my 36th Birthday came around and I made it happen. Am only early days but feeling better then I’ve felt in years. Thank you for the inspiration today :).
Samantha, your story is amazing and just by sharing this you will help so many people. I am incredibly proud to call you a friend now. Bravo!
What a courageous and inspiring story! Congrats, Samatha, and thanks for posting this.
Great article Sam. You have come such a long way and I am totally in awe of the inner strength you have found to finally face your addiction. Stay strong.
This is so very inspirational. I’m sober 3 1/2 years and wonder if I’ll stay sober in the event a crisis happens. Thank you for your story. I’m encouraged.
What a journey ! Inspirational. I can relate to quite a lot of your story and certainly all the themes that arose in it.
Well done – Annie Grace The Naked Mind – is another incredible resource – I’m currently doing her 100 day program and it’s been amazing
This is great. 2&1/2 yrs ago I had a similar unexpected overnight end to 16 years with what I thought was my life partner. I felt like there was no warning (well, there wasn’t).. I have always drunk heavily but this time I seriously hit it harder than ever and ran away from facing the grief. I had no shame in drinking alone, sitting outside smoking and hoping a neighbour might stop to chat. Nearly 2 & 1/2 years like this including a year long rebound and seeking out fun flings (I won’t lie, they mostly were!) with enabling and co dependent types, and I hit a wall. I finally behaved in a way I felt was not acceptable (and believe me I went wild up til then). Now I am having a break and reassessing my relationship with alcohol, I am facing things head on. But I know I will get through this time and not revert to previous form, and the work will finally get done. Inspiring to read that you did this a lot faster than if you were leaning on alcohol. I’m taking that fact with me!
I love this. Thank you for sharing. I’m in a place where I am trying to overcome life issues, circumstances, and pressures without numbing and it has been damn hard. Thanks for being transparent and open about the successes, and difficulties! You paint a true picture.
Omg.i’m 54 and wake every morning in a panic attack.who did i txt? Who did i upset? I have no memory.i have no family or friends left, but i cant stop….i know im wrong but i cant imagine life without numbing it.please dont troll me.im just saying…
Hi Deb, Sorry to hear about your struggles.
We have an online program, that is free for Australians, called Daybreak. Daybreak helps you change your relationship with alcohol through a supportive community, habit-change experiments, and one-on-one chat with health coaches. You can download it to your phone as an app or use it online. Click here for more and good luck! https://www.hellosundaymorning.org/daybreak/
I’m so proud of you, Samantha. Go you!
Thanks for sharing your story! It’s good to hear you made the right decision and I enjoyed reading it.
Thank you for your inspiring story and very best wishes for your future. I too always used alcohol to numb pain and anxiety and get me through things. That worked until late middle age when it began to spiral out of control. IN 2013, my Mum was in hospital in the UK and father-in-law fading fast in the USA. Battling alcohol dependency was an extra struggle, so in the midst of it all, I quit drinking and faced their deaths sober. In 2015, when my husband was diagnosed with Leukaemia, I was available and sober to drive him to hospital in the night when he needed help. Next week, I will have been alcohol-free for 6 years. I still can’t quite believe it!
This is so inspiring and just what I needed to read today. I had a shocker yesterday and have woken up today knowing I have to stop this now. Thank you for sharing and the inspiration. I’ll start my life of sobriety today.
These comments of support and heartfelt understanding are really amazing. Thank you to all for taking the time to read digest and respond. I truly feel like I’m connected to a wonderful tribe of humans. We all struggle at times. We all face adversity. It’s what helps us to grow and to learn and above all else to connect and be there for each other. I’m stoked I’ve found my tribe and encourage everyone battling addiction to find what works for you. Keep trying until it sticks. ❤️
Inspiring!!! Thank you so much Samantha for sharing your story!!
I am the child of an alcoholic father. He never became sober and he never really tried because he didn’t think he had a problem. He was a farmer who had it all handed to him by virtue of birth but then proceeded to squander everything. He was totally self-absorbed and spent every waking moment focussed on drinking. He was a miserable sack of shit who had the power to take the joy out of life for everyone in his orbit. He died in his early 40’s and this was nothing other than a relief to myself and my 5 siblings. Having said all that, we were very lucky in that we had a mother who was a strong woman and our complete role model. We all learned to become very resilient and independent individuals. Most importantly my mother helped us all to eventually understand that his drinking was not our fault. It takes a long time to really accept that because alcoholics love to foster guilt. Ultimately, we all grew up to be responsible, accomplished individuals and each of us went on to establish very secure families in our adult lives, seeking partners who are the opposite of my father. As siblings, we have quite separate lives and live in various States and other countries but we share a very strong connection and come together for fabulous family reunions every two years. We enjoy each other’s company but we don’t open the lid on our childhood. Not because of shame or guilt but because the past is truly buried for us and we no longer carry the burden of an alcoholic father. He has been erased. My father chose alcohol above all else and lost everything in the process. It could have been a very different story if he had become sober. If you are an alcoholic parent please either get sober or at least have the decency to stop damaging your children.
I gave up drinking 10th February this year, and it was the best decision I ever made. I didn’t have an off switch, so moderating wasn’t an option I could stick too. So I gave up completely. And my advice to you all that give up is this…don’t sit at home and miss out on socialising just because you can’t have a drink. It will make you miserable because you would have given up alcohol, and company. The first few times of going out sober is challenging, but you will survive. It becomes liberating the night you catch yourself having a laugh, dance and fun and you are sober! Its the best feeling ever. I get “intoxicated” on the moods of people around me, and when my friends are drinking and having a great time, it only enhances my night. And i get to drive home, wake up fresh, money still in my bank account, and can begin a new day with no guilt. Since I have given up drinking Ive had my best year yet. Ive gone to 3 concerts, 2 camping trips, 2 city weekends (Sydney and Brisbane), lots of dinner parties, a few dates (challenging at first I must admit!), a comedian (Akmal), many nights out dancing to bands, and my next trip is a cruise. I’m 45, single, and Ive finally found myself, and life has never been better.
Dear Samantha, Just read this story of your journey. Wonderful to have known you through all this time and this special year of taking control of your life. Always happy to have sober and connected fun. Jack x
What an inspiring story Sam. So thankful that you have taken the time to share your phenomenal breakthrough. I will share this with souls seeking a “way out” from addiction. Stay on path. You’re amazing ! xo
Thank you so much for you post Samantha. I am in a very different situation where I am very aware of the toxicity of my relationship and the extreme temptations to drink are there every time we have a horrific night. One gem you said really stood out to me and will be my mantra to get me through these until I can leave – “He has taken enough, he won’t take my sobriety”. THANK YOU
How to quit drinking is exactly the question I scoured the internet for myself, and wow did I wish there was an easy answer to find. Remember that everything can happen, either one way or the other, but it is us who control how we react to it. Things do not come to us from outside, our lives are what we create. Therefore, we need to remain attentive and not sweep things under the rug. Pay close attention to your actions, to your daily habits, to the routines, notice even small changes, take note of what and why things happen, be proactive, choose wisely the people you surround yourself with, mind the language you use, take good care of your mental and physical well-being. These things might sound very general but when you look closely they matter each step of the journey. If you want more information, check this book – net-bossorg/how-to-help-an-alcoholic-you-love
Thank you for sharing your story, it’s helped me re-examine myself and realise what my goal is.