‘I expected to be tucking kids in, singing lullabies. Instead, I was dancing on speakers in an underground nightclub.’: Mom of 3 shares sobriety journey

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“I could hear the baby crying. I didn’t get up. I stayed in bed with my sheets pulled up to my chin, hiding. He needed me, but I couldn’t go. I was too hungover. I don’t remember getting home. The last thing I recall was seeing both my hands outstretched in front of me, clutching two huge jugs of Sangria. The red liquid was lapping over the sides as I declared triumphantly, ‘It’s two for one!’ to my wasted, smiling friends.

My life had always been one big party. A social drinker extraordinaire. A binger who never drank alone and never went home early. I wouldn’t have described my drinking as a problem. I thought I was just like everyone else—overdo it on Saturday then feel like killing myself on Sunday. That’s normal right? Wasted hungover days were as ingrained as my habit. My drinking felt ordinary, typical. You wouldn’t have picked me out as an alcoholic, you’d have thought I was great company.

Woman at bar holding up two pints of beer
Courtesy of Victoria Vanstone

My addiction was clever, absorbed into everyone else’s, diluted by the crowd. I had my first child at 34. And no one told me the transition from party girl to motherhood would be so hard. I’d gone from being out, being independent, to being at home all day with this baby, this crying bundle of love. The only way I knew how to deal with my newfound responsibility was to drink.

Mother’s group nights out catapulted me into a whole new style of heavy binge drinking. The mundanity of being a new mom and the long gaps between my piss-ups accentuated my indulgence whenever I went out, and by the time a night out was upon me I was gagging to get annihilated. I was expected to be tucking in, singing lullabies, and instead, I was going out and dancing on speakers in a dodgy underground nightclub.

Weeks would pass of being good mommy. I had the right snacks, the softest cotton wraps, and a sporty three-wheeled pram. I’d fought my way out of germ-infested play pits and had wipes on hand for any unpredictable leaks, drips, or explosions. On the outside, I was doing well in my new role. But, inside I was hurting, mourning the loss of the fun party girl I knew, the one who linked arms with strangers and did bad 80’s robot dancing.

Woman in ball pit
Courtesy of Victoria Vanstone

I wanted to go out and be me again. Drunk me, the only me I knew. Mom’s nights out became my escape. Then… I hear the crying again. There’s no point in feeding him, my milk is toxic, spoiled. The sun shines through the bedroom window, cutting the room in half. As I closed the curtains, a sudden flashback leaped at me from my blackout, an image of stumbling around in the bathroom with my bra shoved down around my waist, demanding my husband hand the baby over. I was covered in vomit.

‘Get in the bath,’ he’d said. I sat in the empty bath as my husband put the baby to bed with a bottle. He then plugged the hose in and sprayed me down, fully clothed, like a zookeeper washing a muddy elephant. I saw lumps of sick lodged in the plug hole… The embarrassing memory stung my heart, guilt crept into my bones. Panic kicked in and filled my body with negativity. I began the slow, painful demise into my hangover.

Pregnant woman with IV rack standing by hospital bed
Courtesy of Victoria Vanstone

My mind took over and led me down a dark, frightening path. I envisaged dreadful ways I might die; irrational thoughts filled my soul. It wasn’t meant to be this way. I meant to do better, be better. I thought I’d be able to carry on being me, a rockstar mom who partied till dawn, got the kids mohawks, and wore ripped jeans. This motherhood thingy was ruining my fun, interrupting my hangovers. Giving me consequences.

I sighed as I heard the front door open and close. I guessed it was my family going out, doing fun stuff without me. Joining them wasn’t an option. I was too broken. Instead, I chose to lie there in my pit of self-hatred and discontentment, hoping to fall asleep. Sleep didn’t come. Only questions did… Why do I keep doing this? Why do I keep doing something I hate? What’s wrong with me?

My anxiety had got progressively worse every time I went out on a bender. Being the drunkest person at every pub, club, or wake for the previous 26 years was catching up with me. I was losing my sparkle, suffering from terrible panic attacks and low self-worth. I felt depressed, lost, and had no idea how to stop. I tried slowing down. I failed at moderation. I drank water between gins and ate carbs before big nights. Dry July’s dribbled down the drain along with my own sour-tasting bile. None of it worked.

Woman wearing sunhat sitting on couch outside
Courtesy of Victoria Vanstone

Then the baby. The perfect little bundle of human who was crying beyond my bedroom door had got me questioning my drinking. Questioning my whole life. I had a baby to look after now. It was overwhelming. Me in charge of a life, it seemed ridiculous. I had to do better. Lying there that afternoon, smelling like a brewery with a bucket of sick next to me, I knew the time had come. I stood up, put on my bathrobe, and plodded into the lounge. My son was eating spaghetti in his highchair.

I leaned down and gave him a kiss on his forehead and whispered I was sorry. I plonked myself down on the couch next to my husband and said, ‘I want to stop drinking. I think I need help…’ Ten words. This was all it took. At last, I’d taken responsibility for my drinking and admitted, perhaps, I had a problem. My husband took my hand and promised to support me. He said he hated seeing me so unwell and he told me he loved me.

Woman holding wine glass and baby bottle looking at wine glass
Courtesy of Victoria Vanstone

The next morning, I searched the internet for help. I reached out. I found a local counseling service and dialed the number. ‘Hello, I’m Vicky. I’m a mom who hates binge drinking but can’t seem to stop. Can you help me?’ I thought she was going to laugh and say, ‘Sorry love, we only deal with real alcoholics here.’ But she didn’t, she said, ‘Yes, we can help with that.’ I booked an appointment. This is the exact moment when my sober story began.

Reaching out saved me, therapy cracked me open and helped me understand my reasons why. I discovered even though my drinking habit wasn’t extreme, it was still worthy of professional support. I was worthy of help. One Saturday, a few months after my therapy finished, I asked my husband, ‘What shall we do tomorrow?’ It sounds like a simple statement, but it was the first time in my adult life I’d considered doing something on a Sunday.

Two women sitting at the counter at a bar holding teacups
Courtesy of Victoria Vanstone

It was the moment I became an available parent instead of a drunken one. It’s official, I’m now a better mom. A mom of three who’s determined to never waste a Sunday again. It’s been 2 years since I stopped drinking and I’m happier in every single way. I don’t suffer from anxiety anymore and I feel healthy. I’m not leaning on booze to get me through. Quitting made me realize how much I’d been missing out on. Now I look forward to weekends and I celebrate by having fizzy water instead of necking shots. It’s better this way, for everyone!

​​I’m over being the party girl, I’m better off just being me. Authentic, imperfect, perfect me. I know there are many women stuck in this Pinot Gris purgatory, somewhere between the pub and an AA meeting, and I hope my story will help women understand any problem, no matter how big or small, is worthy of attention. Reaching out and getting help from a therapist, psychologist, or even a close friend, is the only way to get better.”​

Two women at a bar holding teacups
Courtesy of Victoria Vanstone

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Victoria Vanstone of Australia. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, podcast, and her blog. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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