“When you think of an alcoholic, you don’t think of a suburban educated working mother. I always thought of an alcoholic as someone who had lost everything and drank out of a brown paper bag. Those that didn’t go to college, or grew up in a family with lots of dysfunction and a chemically dependent parent. That wasn’t my case at all.
I grew up in a small suburban town on the shoreline of Connecticut. My parents got divorced when I was 6 years old and then got back together when I was in high school. My dad was always in my life, though. He coached my soccer teams, went to my dance recitals, and I was definitely a daddy’s girl. My relationship with my mother was always rocky. I always felt like I was not good enough. Whether it was with school, sports, or my social life, she always wanted more, and I felt I could never live up to her standards or be the daughter she wanted me to be.
I graduated thirteenth in my class from high school and went to the University of Delaware, where I only lasted for about a year and a half before I transferred to UCONN. At college, I drank like any other ‘normal’ student. I binge drank pretty hard on the weekends, but I was still getting good grades and working out. It’s crazy how we normalize binge drinking in college years like it’s some passage to adulthood, but it shouldn’t be that way at all.
I graduated from Uconn in 2007 and immediately got a job as a Real Estate Acquisition/Relocation agent in Rhode Island. I commuted for a bit from Connecticut to Rhode Island and then decided to move on my own. First time flying the coop, and I loved the freedom and financial stability to be able to do whatever I wanted.
There were signs my drinking was problematic. Like that time I went to a work conference in Ohio and didn’t set my alarm, so I ended up running down to the hotel lobby in my pajamas. Or the time I hit a pole at the gas station. Or the time I swerved my car into the guard rail. Or that time I got a disorderly conduct. I just chalked it up to being a girl in her 20’s who wasn’t living under the strict rules of my mother. I was very shy and reserved in school, but when I got to college and after alcohol was the liquid courage, I needed to come out of my shell.
In 2010, I got pregnant and didn’t drink at all during my pregnancy. I was way too worried and anxious about what even one sip of alcohol would do to my son. I had my son on August 17, 2010, and my whole life changed forever. I was a single mom, and the stress and overwhelm of doing it all wasn’t easy. But I never used alcohol to cope during the first few years of my son’s life. Things started to spiral out of control when both my grandparents died within 9 months of one another.
I remember showing up to both funerals and having a good buzz so I could get through the pain. I was the only grandchild who read a Bible passage, and I could barely hold it together. My grandparents practically raised me. They lived across the street from my mother. They would get me off the bus, take me blueberry picking, and to fancy restaurants all over Connecticut in the summers when I was off from school. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was left with this massive void in my heart when they passed. I used alcohol to cope because that’s what everyone does, right?
After my grandfather passed away in January 2014, my boyfriend of 3 years broke up with me, and that’s when I drank at night to ease my loneliness and grief. I just felt so abandoned by everyone that alcohol became my best friend. It was there for me when I was sad, when I was anxious, even when I was happy. It didn’t matter what emotion I felt. Alcohol was the answer to my problems.
One year later, I confided in my therapist I thought I was drinking too much. I didn’t even tell her the exact amount, but I knew I needed some kind of help to get through this. I trusted her, and that bit me in the a*s. After I had confided in her, hours later, I received a phone call from her, ‘I have to call Child Protective Services on you.’ I was crying hysterically, pleading with her not to, stating he was my whole world and the only thing I was living for. She said, ‘I have a duty to report you,’ so I packed up a bag. That night, it was snowing like crazy, so my son and I went to a hotel until we could drive to my mother’s house in Connecticut. I just wanted to get out of my house because all I could think of were the police coming to my house, and ripping my son out of my arms.
The next day I ended up going to the hospital to spend the night so the doctors could keep an eye on me. I had told them I wasn’t drinking that much and I had really only been drinking heavily for the past month. So they boiled it down to anxiety, and I ended up getting referred to an intensive outpatient anxiety program in Rhode Island. My sister picked me up from the hospital. I was in such a haze, so I stayed with my mom for a little while and then drove back home to get back to ‘normal’ a few days later.
I took a leave of absence from my job and was able to focus 100% on myself. I didn’t drink for about a month, and then I celebrated the end of the anxiety program with a bottle of wine. I mean, how stupid could I have been? I thought I would be fine now because I learned the tools to help me, not knowing alcohol was the one thing that was fueling my anxiety and making it ten times worse. Why do doctors and psychiatrists not talk about this while you’re in this program? Why do they not talk about the role alcohol plays in our mental health? I had no idea, and this is why I’m so passionate about telling my story because the alcohol wasn’t curing my anxiety. Maybe it did for a fleeting moment, but the next day and waking up at 3 a.m. with my heart and thoughts racing was an absolute nightmare.
I went back to work a few weeks after the intensive outpatient anxiety program was over. Things were fine for a little bit until they weren’t anymore. They always say the progression of alcoholism doesn’t happen overnight, but the more times you slip back into the old lifestyle, the faster the spiral comes, and boy, they are right.
What went from the one or two glasses a night went to a bottle a night, then to a bottle plus beers or vodka. I didn’t care about anything else anymore but drinking and my son. Sounds crazy, right? I’m sure there are a few of you thinking, ‘If you cared about your son, why didn’t you just stop?’ The fact was, alcohol had such a grip on me that I was physically and mentally dependent on it. I gained weight. My face was always so splotchy. The dark circles under my eyes got more and more prominent. I was always the girl who had to wear makeup and be somewhat presentable. I was waking up in the morning so hungover I threw on some clothes, put on some mascara, put wine or vodka in my coffee cup, and headed out the door. Yes, you read that right.
At the end of my drinking journey, I was filling my Yeti cup with wine, vodka, basically any type of alcohol that could get me through. I was driving to work, working, going to the liquor store on my lunch break to either get more wine or nips (mini bottles of alcohol), going back to work, and then driving home at 5 p.m. I always made sure I had enough alcohol to have a steady buzz. I’m forever grateful I didn’t hurt anyone while I was driving under the influence. Something that still haunts me to this day is all the times I drove after drinking.
My work performance started to become affected, and I was ultimately let go from my job. You would think that would be a wake-up call for me, but it wasn’t. I collected unemployment, and drank and drank and drank. It was the middle of summer, so I used this to justify my actions. I was barely even sleeping at this point. I would wake up at 7 a.m., start drinking, fall asleep at 10 p.m., and wake up at 2 a.m. with crippling anxiety and racing thoughts. I would grab the bottle of wine on my nightstand just to fall back to sleep for a few hours.
On November 14, 2016, I ‘woke’ up and knew I couldn’t do this anymore. I literally felt like I was going crazy. I used alcohol to cope with my anxiety, but not even the alcohol was helping that anymore. I texted my mom, ‘I need help.’ My sister came to pick me up in Rhode Island. I packed up a few bags for myself and my son, and we put my cat in her carrier, and off we went to detox. While driving in the pouring rain to detox, I drank red wine from a Solo cup because my sister was afraid I would have a seizure from the withdrawals. That’s the last sip of alcohol I’ve had. I chugged the red wine and walked into the doors of detox, where I had brought my son’s father multiple times for his NA meetings. Funny how that circle in life works? I told myself I would NEVER get to that point, and I did.
My time in detox was a blur, spent mostly sleeping. The first few hours, I wanted to bail and leave. I told myself I wasn’t strong enough to do this. I stayed, thanks to a man who convinced me to and gave me an AA book. I couldn’t focus on the words, but it was the act of compassion that struck me. I actually still have that book today with my detox bracelet in it to remind me of how far I’ve come and where I NEVER want to return to again.
After detox, I got a therapist and attended AA meetings, but realized they just weren’t my thing. As time passed, I started sharing my story more and more on Instagram. I still kept pretty private about my alcoholism on Facebook because I had ex co-workers on there who had no idea I had even been struggling. Writing was so therapeutic for me, and I truly believe it helped me heal. In telling my story, it not only helped me, but it was helping others who were messaging me, thanking me for being so open about my struggle.
About a year and a half into my sobriety journey, I told myself I wanted to give back on a larger scale. I was a guest on a podcast, and we were chatting about motherhood and sobriety, and it gave me the idea to create Sober Mom Tribe. I hadn’t seen a lot of sober mom presence on social media back in the day, so I knew it was needed.
Here we are, over 2 years later, and Sober Mom Tribe has grown to over 36K followers on Instagram, and I turned my passion into my purpose. After a missed job opportunity, I decided to pivot and took it as a sign that I was meant to get out of the corporate world. In November 2018, I became a Certified Professional Recovery/Life Coach, aka The Sober Mom Coach, and have helped hundreds of mothers through one-on-one coaching and Alcohol-Free Challenges get out of the toxic drinking cycle.
I believe there’s an extra layer of stigma for mothers who are getting sober. We’re left with so much shame and mom guilt it can be hard to move forward from our past. I truly believe the life lessons of resilience, perseverance, and going against the grain are more valuable than anything our kids can learn in school. Being sober isn’t a weakness; it’s pure strength. I commend every mother who is sober in a world that glamorizes alcohol. Some days can be hard, but those days pass, and you’re left with the gift of a clear mind, patience, and presence for your children. I share my story so you know you are not alone. You are not your past, and you are worthy of a life without alcohol. I’m rooting for you.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alyson Premo from Clinton, Connecticut. You can follow her journey on her sobriety Instagram pages here and here, or on her website. 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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