Rachel Black has been sober for almost two years and has already written several books on the subject. ‘Sober is the new black’ is her frank and honest look at getting sober. By day she is a health professional, mother and wife. Her latest book ‘The secret to being fashionably sober and fabulous’ is available on pre-order. You can also follow Rachel’s adventures in sobriety on her blog here.
1.Describe your rock bottom
Rather than be a specific incident, my rock bottom was more like a sandy depression on the sea bed. Repeatedly, I found myself too hungover from the previous night, to enjoy a special occasion the following day. Repeatedly, I opened a bottle of wine intending only to have a glass and a top up, and each time drank the whole bottle then looked for more. Repeatedly, I would go on a night out telling myself this time I would not become drunk, loud, arrogant, overly emotional or physically unwell, yet each time I did exactly that.
Eventually I wore myself down and then out. I recognised I had failed at all sorts of ways to moderate my intake and the day of my last hangover I thought to myself ‘if this doesn’t make me stop drinking, I don’t know what will’.
2.What were you first 30 days of recovery like?
They were a whole array of different emotions, lots of them. Years of suppressed feelings were now able to bubble up and spew forth and I felt incredibly labile, laughing one minute and full of despair the next. I had over-whelming anxiety; I felt the stakes were high and I had to stop drinking completely. At the same, on one hand failure was not an option but on the other, I had never succeeded before and didn’t know if I could do it this time. What was different now? This worried me, scared me, and made me feel under pressure. For this reason I did not tell anyone I was stopping drinking for good as I could not face un-telling them further down the line that I failed.
3. What are the best things that have happened to you since you got sober?
I can drive everywhere without resentment at not being ‘allowed’ to drink.
I enjoy a variety of treats: beads and charms for my bracelet, pretty stationery for my desk, buying nice food to eat (rather than the salad default to save calories for more wine.
I have begun to eat dessert. I enjoy it as I always knew I would but would never consider eating dessert when drinking for several reasons: mostly the calorie count and because when others were ordering coffee and dessert, I would order an extra glass of wine instead.
4. If you could go back in time to when you were drinking, what would you tell yourself?
That drinking is not cool, and drinking more is not more cool. It’s a bit like driving too fast, at first it seems clever, impressive and slightly dangerous but eventually you realise that it is instead rather daft. Anyone can drive too quickly, it is easy to press your foot down harder and it is difficult not to believe that you are invincible.
I would also tell myself that I don’t need alcohol to make me funny, witty or like-able. In fact I feel very lucky that I kept all my friends while I was drinking as I’m sure I must have offended them at some point with my no-holds-barred say exactly what I think mentality.
5. What have been the most useful things you have learnt about yourself since getting sober?
I’ve learnt that I am not the party animal I thought I was. Nor am I as sociable as I thought myself to be. I’ve learnt that I didn’t really want to go out with so many different groups of friends, so often. All I wanted to do was manufacture a reason to drink to excess, and all the better if I had like minded company to do it with me.
I’ve learnt that my stable home life is not boring, as I thought it was. Nor is staying in each night to enjoy it and the simple things we take for granted, a warm home, a pleasant lounge, nice food, and time to relax when nothing has to be done and no effort has to be made.
I’ve learnt I am what many would call a bit boring, but that I like being that way. I enjoy the simpler tasks and quieter pursuits now that I can concentrate to do them and spend the time required now I am not rushing through each day to get to the booze part.
6. Tell me about something wonderful that happened to you recently that never would have happened if you had been drinking?
My book ‘Sober is the new Black’ was one of ten shortlisted in a prize writer competition this year. I have always enjoyed writing and had many potential books inside me, all of which I would write ‘one day’, never today because today I was too busy drinking wine. If I hadn’t stopped drinking I would never have made time to write. As it happened, finding time was not too difficult as I suddenly had each and every evening from 6pm free and could do something constructive, something that required a degree of concentration now I was not numbing and fuzzing my brain progressively as each evening wore on. Freed from the continual blanketing depressive effects of alcohol, my inner creativity bubbled up, pouring over and out. I could not stop myself from writing. I felt compelled to write down these unbelievable events I was experiencing, all of which were beyond anything I thought would be possible. I had the concentration and ability to see the project to the end, rather than losing interest two-thirds of the way through, when the novelty wore off. I persevered through the spell checking, proof reading, editing and proof reading again, until the project, my book, was complete and I felt proud of my accomplishment and delighted that I had a tangible product at the end of it.
7. What are your favourite recovery slogans?
‘Sobriety delivers all that alcohol promised’. Seems topsy turvy yet encapsulates all of my misunderstanding about the relationship between problems, solutions and drinking wine.
8. And lastly, why does ‘recovery rock?’
Recovery rocks for me because it has continued to surprise me. At first I thought it to be unattainable. Then when I decided I had to stop drinking I thought I would have to put up with a life full of deprivation and boredom if I was to stay sober. How wrong was I? Instead, that which I thought was helping was holding me back and by ditching it, I am no longer encumbered. I have let the brakes off in life and now anything is possible.
Recovery is more of a journey than a destination and the scenery is ever changing and catching me by surprise. My feelings towards alcohol and sobriety continue to evolve and mature in a virtuous cycle that I could never have imagined whilst drinking.