“Stopping drinking will not solve all your problems. But it will take away guilt and shame and help you remember what real joy feels like (not the chemically induced high of drinking). You will learn real coping mechanisms. And you will actually experience your WHOLE life, the good and the bad. I never want to drink again.”
So much wisdom in these words from Lerato, Tribe Sober member and mother of a two-year-old son. She has lived and she has learned along the way and she has so much to share with others in the same boat.
Like many people who decide to ditch the booze, it takes time, and for Lerato, there were wins and there were failures. It takes many a mountain and a valley in between to stop drinking as life lessons have to be learned.
“I tried five million things to try to stop drinking. I used to try giving it up for Lent but could never make the full 40 days. Then I would try Dry January/Ocsober which would only last a week. I read quit lit but it didn’t seem to sink in.”
She then joined Facebook groups for sober people. She discovered Tribe Sober in 2019 and spent time just lurking on WhatsApp and listening to people’s stories. This shows that it takes a community to help others with mental and emotional therapy! It takes a connection with people similar to us to make a difference in our lives.
Soon, it was full on four years of trial and error for Lerato. And then the penny dropped. The last day she drank was August 4th, 2021.
“The next day I confessed how bad the problem was to my partner (I’d been sneaking alcohol behind his back), and it finally clicked for him that I had a real problem and he became my number one supporter and talked me off the ledge numerous times.”
Recovery and Connection
I love this part about Lerato’s recovery – she had the full support of her beloved partner and many people do not get this as their partners continue to drink. I wrote a blog about this a while ago and had a huge response to it from men and women whose partners still drink although they have ditched the booze!
Lerato is convinced that her drinking problem began as a social lubricant, became a coping mechanism, which then became a toxic issue, and made her life worse. Thankfully, she could take a step back, look at herself, see what was happening, and address it. This takes guts and maturity and shows that she was starting to change and shift.
Lerato started drinking at age 17 and stopped at age 37 which means she drank for 20 years. I can empathize as I started at age 16 and stopped at age 47! Seeing the light and making the changes is an enormous adjustment for a drinker and means that the inner learning is deep and lasting.
“I know why I drank – to self-medicate away the anxiety and depression. To deal with stress, to help myself cope with social situations. I’m highly introverted and the only way I could socialize for hours on end was with alcohol,” admits Lerato honestly.
Lerato is so grateful for her health nowadays. She has also learned about the importance of self-care and downtime. “After quitting drinking, I have definitely been sleeping better. I feel less shame and guilt and I am a more present mother. I also suffer from anxiety, and depression and I found that once I quit drinking those got worse. But that let me know that this entire time I had been using alcohol to self-medicate!”
She has now found better coping mechanisms for the anxiety and depression – now that she doesn’t drink! These include meditation, more rest and generally being kinder to herself. She is a very busy woman, a business analyst in the Cape Town northern suburbs who defines how technological solutions should work. When she relaxes, she chooses watching TV (“anything really: documentaries, trashy reality tv, comedies, action”), reading (“I am trying to do one quit lit and then one non-quit lit book alternatively”), and playing with her son.
It sounds as if Lerato has figured out her road to happiness. She doesn’t even worry about fitness programmes or forcing herself to be healthy. She lives every day in her best way.
“I aspire to be healthy, but only in my heart. I have done absolutely nothing to actually be healthy except for the occasional salad and once-a-month walk or YouTube yoga session.”
I loved this comment as I am the eternal health freak who has to walk a few times a day and who only eats plants! It just shows that we can all choose our health paths and still be happy and strong.
Lerato has a strong conscience too and her values are what drives her. She is kind to others and makes a point of telling people she loves that she loves them. “I’ve known from a young age that my life was complete because I was loved, and I loved.”
Sharing our Stories and Tips
We can share our stories and live and learn from each other. Some wonderful quitting alcohol tips from Lerato go like this:
- Make it your only goal. Don’t try losing weight, don’t try quitting drinking and smoking, don’t try quitting drinking and giving up social media. Just focus on not drinking.
- Stay in the group.
- Reach out to the group if you’re feeling tempted.
- Tell your partner or a good friend or family member when you are feeling weak and maybe they can talk you back to your senses.
Lerato has one regret in her drinking life apart from the fact that she did drive drunk and will always feel guilty about that. Again, I can empathize as I crashed 3 cars while driving drunk in my haphazard drinking career! She was sometimes too drunk to put her tiny son to bed which she still feels terrible about. “I’ll always be sad that I lost that time with him.”
What can you do today to make up time? With yourself and with those you love?
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