“I was standing in my kitchen pouring another Jack Daniels and coke. It was evening and earlier that day I had leisurely drank my way around the zoo with my children celebrating my niece’s birthday, because doesn’t everyone get so buzzed they can’t drive home from the zoo? My mom drove my kids and I home that afternoon and I switched to Jack to get through the rest of my daily mom duties, knowing if I stopped I would pass out. Suddenly a clear thought broke through my fuzzy mind, as I poured ANOTHER drink, already spinning and sick, I thought, ‘I want to stop but I can’t’ This was a turning point for me. I wish I could say that was the first time I woke up after a night of heavy drinking wondering who put the baby to sleep, but it would be the last. My girls were three and one at the time.
The next day I googled something like ‘moms who drink too much.’ I found a website called Crying Out Now and proceeded to read story after story about women, moms, just like me. Moms who worried about their drinking but hadn’t had a rock bottom experience like a DUI or jail… YET. This was just the permission I needed to get off this crazy train before a ‘yet’ became a reality. This website pointed me towards other sober blogs and podcasts where I would learn more about alcoholism. Things I had never known but I will make sure I teach my children. I learned alcoholism is a progressive disease, that women’s bodies can’t handle alcohol the same as men, and the symptoms and stages of alcoholism. As I listened to a podcast one evening I remember identifying with each stage of alcoholism up until the end stage (physical addiction and disease). This was so very scary that I gave myself an ultimatum, stay within the guidelines of seven drinks a week for women or I must quit for good. I tried, I REALLY tried and I failed miserably. After one I wanted another and after two all my plans went buh-bye!
Rewind about two decades and I had my first drink in my hand at the age of twelve, right away I loved being somewhere else, escaping from the messy childhood and all my really big, sensitive feelings. After I drank through all the alcohol in my mom’s cupboard I moved onto stealing my grandma’s pills and then to pot, LSD, ecstasy, mushrooms, meth, and settled back into alcohol when I was 21 and could legally buy it. I was arrested as a teenager for being drunk in public and there were many times I thought I was going to die from drugs or alcohol. When I met my husband at 22, I was already taking 30 day hiatuses from alcohol to prove to myself I didn’t have a problem. I remember borrowing Caroline Knapp’s, ‘Drinking a Love Story’ from the library and hiding it from my husband after we were married. I would never have admitted in my early twenties that I felt I had a problem but as my thirties were approaching it seemed I was questioning my drinking constantly. I would often tell my husband I wanted to cut back and we would for a while, I would switch from white wine to red so I didn’t drink it so fast. I was no longer ‘allowed’ to have martinis when we went out, and many other rules were put in place to try to tame my drinking. A few years into our marriage, I wished and prayed to get pregnant believing that would be the answer to my problem.
It took us two years to get pregnant and when we finally did it was such a relief. I quit drinking, for 14 weeks and then would drink an occasional glass of wine. However, as soon as the baby arrived I found myself obsessing again about alcohol and how much was too much while breastfeeding. Again, I just couldn’t wait to be pregnant again, I knew that would force me to manage this growing addiction.
Like my first, with this pregnancy I abstained from ever drinking more than one drink here and there. This further proved to me I couldn’t really have a problem. After the arrival of my second child is when my drinking really got out of control. We moved when our baby was three weeks old and then our first child contracted pertussis when our second was just three months old, alcohol was my way to cope with the fear of my infant catching it. We then sold our home and bought a new one simultaneously before our second child was one, again alcohol was there to help with the stress. I was diagnosed with postpartum anxiety and depression and started on an antidepressant when my second baby was 6 months. The medicine combined with my drinking was causing loss of memory and the combination just intensified my intoxication. Soon after we moved into our new home and our second baby turned one, I found myself in my kitchen with that Jack Daniels in my hand and I knew something needed to change.
I truly feel it was a moment of clarity from God that allowed me to take a step I never had and begin to tell people about this problem I kept to myself for so long. At first I joined an online support group that was very helpful. I then started an in person 12 step program with other women and realized that other people felt the same way I did. I thought my internal landscape was so different and off compared to other people and it wasn’t until I stepped out and voiced I needed help that I began to see I was not alone.
When I first stopped drinking, unfortunately, things did not get better quickly. A few months in, I even called a psychiatrist because I felt mentally I was not doing well which was confusing to me since I was already on an antidepressant. I was told my antidepressant wouldn’t do anything for my alcohol withdrawals since my antidepressant effects serotonin and alcohol alters dopamine. I would have to wait out the symptoms. I had thoughts like maybe I was a better mom with alcohol than I was without. As I worked my steps and learned about why I was drinking in the first place through therapy, my life began to change. My thinking patterns began to change over time. I developed coping mechanisms besides alcohol. I entered therapy with a belief about myself, rooted in childhood wounds, that I was permanently damaged beyond repair. I really thought that no matter what I did, I wouldn’t be able to change. I can say twenty-six months later I can change and I am changing. About 6 months into my sobriety we found out we were pregnant with our third baby. We ended up having our first boy about a year ago and I am so happy I have been able to enjoy his infancy with the freedom from alcohol I have now.
I don’t even know where I would fit alcohol into my life now. I am able to homeschool our oldest daughter who is in Kindergarten. I couldn’t imagine having the patience to homeschool with a hangover. We talk about adopting our fourth or doing foster care, which honestly, I wouldn’t have even passed the home investigation before I stopped drinking. I had such an anger problem and I didn’t believe I would ever change. It was only a matter of time before I got a DUI or worse and I am just so incredibly thankful I was able to stop when I did.
When I was stuck in my alcohol abuse I really thought feelings might kill me. I have learned in recovery that feelings are temporary and I can feel them and let them go. I have learned I can enjoy social functions without alcohol, and actually remember them! I get to figure out what things in life are actually going to fill me up so I can be the best mom and wife to my family. Today I get to be present for every moment with my children, I get to be honest with myself and others with no shame, I get to get up every day without a hangover. Today I know alcohol wasn’t responsible for that stupid thing I said, that was all me and I get to remember what it was so I can own up to my issues and do better next time. My decision to put down alcohol for good has opened my life up to so much more than I thought imaginable. Before, so much of my headspace was taken up by A DRINK. Only by abstaining have I been able to take back my brain. I can be intentional about friendships, and I have made and fostered some incredible ones in the last couple of years. I have had to make some really difficult decisions since I quit drinking that have cost a lot but I have the peace of knowing they were made with a sober mind. I was able to work through the aftermath sober and sort through my feelings instead of stuffing them with alcohol. I don’t doubt life is going to continue to dish out hard things but I have the confidence I can handle it now instead of turning to alcohol to numb them. I have to feel the hard but I also get to feel the good! Today I am so much healthier and am beside myself that this is my life and I get to parent my kids with all the gifts sobriety brings.”
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