‘I was a binge drinker with no off-switch.’: Mom shares road to recovery after years of ‘problems with alcohol’

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A Good Childhood

“My childhood was above average. I’d give it four stars because perfection isn’t reality. Although I had much older half-siblings from my dad’s previous marriage, I was always the only child in the house. I was given more than I could ask for, and I suffered no traumas.

I recall alcohol playing a small part in my childhood. But I didn’t notice it much back then. Every summer, my dad took me on fishing trips to northern Minnesota. He would have drinks while fishing and we’d go to bars with his friends. My dad had a problem with alcohol that was similar to mine. My mom says we drank the same way.

Young girl dressed up in a bat-woman costume for Halloween
Courtesy of Blair Sharp

I was born and raised in a town of roughly 16,000 people. It’s small enough to know what’s happening with everyone, and it’s easy to get caught drinking. My two girlfriends and I were inseparable. We were very different but fit together perfectly. I drank for the first time at age 16 or 17. When we started hanging out with a group of guys who liked to get drunk, it was only natural that, eventually, we’d want to get drunk too. Especially me.

It started casually, but from what I remember, it was something I wanted more of from the start. I quickly realized I liked being buzzed. I also learned the more I drank, the more I got to keep the good feeling going. The one problem was… high schoolers don’t know how to drink. We must trust that our friends know what they’re doing. And you should never trust that teenagers know what they’re doing.

College Life

I excelled in college. I thrived in a way that makes me wish I could do it over again. I was there to have fun, and I succeeded. Looking back, I felt like the life of the party. I also suffered a lot of negative consequences due to my drinking.

At 18, I moved into a college apartment building with other 18 to 21-year-olds. As you can imagine, it was all about having a good time. I found my people quickly. I won’t bore you with the details, but we did typical ‘college’ things and nothing too terrible happened. Many of the friends I made then are still my close friends today.

girl in college drinking alcohol out of a large mason jar
Courtesy of Blair Sharp

In my early 20s, my friends were graduating from college and getting real jobs. It took me six years to finish school. Not because I was really enjoying it, but because I had to drop so many classes and I was regularly partying. I was more interested in socializing and getting wasted. I wasn’t one of those people who could go out all night and ace a test in the morning.

I lacked motivation for anything but the party scene. I didn’t care about school. By the end, I just wanted to get it over with. I made poor decisions and hung around people I would never have if I didn’t drink. I don’t regret a lot from back then. I met many people and had lots of experiences (good and bad) that allowed me to learn about the world. My real-life experience speaks for itself in how I present myself today. 

girl in college drinking while standing with a cop
Courtesy of Blair Sharp

In my 20s, I could function after being out late several nights a week. Many times we’d stay up until the sun came out. I had a job, but never one I’d consider a career. If I needed to, I’d call in sick while nursing a hangover. Back then, a hangover didn’t stop me from partying the following night. My friends and I could wake up and have Bloody Mary’s or mimosas for breakfast. Sometimes we’d start day-drinking, and sometimes we’d head home to sleep it off.

All it took was one person in the group to suggest drinking, and I was in. I thought this was what young people did. I thought I fit in with the other 20-somethings I was hanging with. I was having fun. Booze was always involved. It’s just what we did. And I had a lot of fun too.

woman struggling with addiction drinking a fruity cocktail
Courtesy of Blair Sharp

Getting A DWI

I met my husband when I was 25. We locked eyes at a bar, and the rest was history. He doesn’t drink. Not because he has a problem with alcohol, he just has never drank as an adult. And for some reason, he liked being around me. At the start of our relationship, I’d change plans at the last minute to go out drinking with friends. I was selfish, and he could tell. 

woman who binge drinks with her boyfriend on the couch
Courtesy of Blair Sharp

I was arrested for a DWI less than a year after meeting my husband. A friend and I left a bar late at night after consuming more than enough double-tall Captain-diets. This was an ordinary Tuesday night back then. My friend chose to drive and quickly realized he wasn’t OK. I opted to drive and was successful for about five minutes. When I saw the flashing lights, I knew I was caught. 

I refused the field sobriety test and told the officers to handcuff me instead. My blood-alcohol content was 0.28. After calling my dad from the police station, I spent the night in a cold holding cell. The rule was I had to blow below the legal limit of 0.08 for them to move me to jail. It took me until 2 p.m. the next afternoon to do so. Keep in mind, that was an average night for me back then.

binge drinking woman sitting at the bar smiling
Courtesy of Blair Sharp

I had always been a binge drinker with no off-switch. Aside from the DWI, jail, and other dangerous situations I regularly put myself in, I spent various nights in the ER for falling. I often had bruises and cuts I didn’t remember getting. Many of my mornings were spent getting a replay from my friends about what happened the night before.

I don’t recall anyone suggesting to me that my drinking was a problem. I knew I drank more than others, but I thought it was OK. I surrounded myself with those who drank how I did. I didn’t do it on purpose, but it helped me make my drinking seem normal. For some reason, my husband stuck around. And I’m glad he did. We got married in 2015 and are still together today.

woman with red solo cup sitting next to her boyfriend
Courtesy of Blair Sharp

A Role Change I Wasn’t Ready For

Three months after our wedding, we were expecting our first child. My husband and I had been together for so long that having a child shortly after getting married was the plan all along. I quit drinking as soon as I found out I was pregnant. I had no problem stopping and didn’t think about it much. I was excited for the next chapter of our lives and to have a little family of our own. 

woman pregnant with son taking a mirror selfie
Courtesy of Blair Sharp

After becoming a mother, I didn’t think about drinking immediately. I was so busy figuring out how to parent I didn’t have time. The first time I drank was a month or two after I had my son. I had a beer and a Bloody Mary at the bar with a friend. After the drinks, I went home. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, maybe this is something I can do.’ I was wrong. The feeling of wanting more was still in the back of my mind. 

new parents hold their baby son in the hospital
Courtesy of Blair Sharp

Becoming a mother was a role switch I wasn’t prepared for. I’m not a nurturing person by nature, so it was hard for me to start caring about someone else for once. It’s not that I didn’t care about my son, but it was hard to split my attention between him and myself. I gave him all my attention and wasn’t sure how to care for myself.

I started having drinks at the end of the day because I felt like I deserved it. I was a mom now, and moms are told to drink as a way to cope with the stress of parenting. 

mom holds her son while sitting next to husband on bench at pumpkin patch
Courtesy of Blair Sharp

My drinking became different as a parent. Although I had a lower tolerance, I still drank the same amount as before. I started drinking at home and sometimes alone. I knew I had to be responsible, but my drinking quickly got out of control.

I was drinking a lot more in a smaller period of time. Sometimes it was unconscious. I’d drink just because. I got into the cycle of drinking on weekends. On Fridays, after work, I’d buy enough booze to last me several days but end up drinking it all that night. I rarely drank two nights in a row. I was too hungover for that to happen. 

new mom holding her baby boy in his nursery
Courtesy of Blair Sharp

My husband started to make rules about my drinking. He told me if I went out with friends, to stay with one of them, or he wouldn’t be around me if I drank. You’d think if your spouse were unwilling to be around you, it would raise a red flag. But I didn’t care. I was OK if I could still drink and have fun.

Throughout my drinking, many things happened when I should have assessed my relationship with alcohol but didn’t. I knew how I drank and nothing would stop me unless I stopped entirely. And that wasn’t going to happen. 

The Last Call

My husband was away at a basketball game with friends, and I was home alone with our 18-month-old son. The last night I drank was no different than any that came before. I bought two bottles of wine and a six-pack of beer. I know I drank the bottles, and I’m sure that I drank the beer too. I watched documentaries on Netflix and made several phone calls – none of which I recall. I had become clever about my alcohol choices. If I could drink it faster, I could get a buzz sooner.

While my precious son was asleep in the next room, I tripped over the baby gate and dropped my wine glass on the floor. It shattered. The following morning I woke up bruised, and my husband told me I could no longer drink at home with the baby. I think that was the thing that made me realize something needed to change.

mom takes a selfie outside with her son
Courtesy of Blair Sharp

I wasn’t set on quitting drinking just yet. The following Monday at work, I read a blog that changed my life. It was about a mom who didn’t drink. I listened to the author tell her story on a podcast and reached out to her for advice.

I told her what happened a few nights before. I told her how I drank and how important alcohol was to me. I told her I was scared and that I didn’t believe I could quit forever. She responded quickly and told me she’d been there. She gave me advice, resources, and support. I dove in. 

son sits in heart shape while parents stand behind him
Courtesy of Blair Sharp

I never saw my drinking as the main issue. I thought I didn’t have a problem because there were times when I had one or two drinks. My life was manageable. For the most part, I was doing OK. I had a good job and a family, and on the outside, I seemed happy.

As my drinking escalated, I was starting to get horrible physical hangovers. Many times they lasted for several days. An emotional hangover followed. When the weekend came, I’d drink again. But I didn’t fit the part of a person with a drinking problem. What I realize now is that if alcohol is a problem in your life, then you have a problem with alcohol. And I did.

Mom takes selfie with her son and husband, all are smiling
Courtesy of Blair Sharp

My Alcohol Free Life

After I decided to quit drinking, I totally immersed myself in everything about sobriety. Starting by calling myself ‘alcohol-free.’ I’ve changed so much since I quit. My marriage improved, I’m the best mom for my son, and I no longer have to worry about what I said or did while drunk.

Hangover-free life is the best life. I am more confident and motivated and do things I’d never consider while still drinking. I’m selfish about my comfort and well-being. My friendships have changed. I make real connections with fewer people. I’ve figured out who I am without alcohol. I feel like I’ve found the secret to my life.

mom and dad sit on either side of their son who sits between them
Courtesy of Blair Sharp

Today I support others who want to quit drinking. I create content on Instagram and write about my experiences. I’ve been a guest on over 22 podcasts. I want to share my story to help others feel less alone. I want people to know they don’t need to have a rock bottom moment to decide to quit drinking. I hope my story reaches someone who needs it.”

recovered alcoholic sitting at table with coffee
Courtesy of Blair Sharp

This article was submitted to Love What Matters by Blair Sharp of Rochester, Minnesota. You can follow her on Instagram and subscribe to her weekly newsletter here. Join the Love What Matters family and subscribe to our newsletter.

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