‘I prayed for a DUI when I drove to the liquor store. I wanted to quit so badly, but I physically couldn’t.’: Mom fights for sobriety after pancreatitis diagnosis

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“I knew better than to ever pick up a drink, my father was an alcoholic my whole life and missed out on my entire childhood. As most people know, addiction is often passed down through generations and will continue until someone decides to break that cycle. To break the generational curse of addiction. As a mother myself, I knew I needed to be the one to break the cycle, the one to stop it from getting passed down to my own children. But before I broke the cycle, I dove straight into my own battle with alcoholism, and it happened so quickly I almost didn’t notice.

I was raised by a single mother: my dad chose drugs and alcohol over being a father, and I resented him my entire childhood for it. I knew better than to ever start drinking because I knew alcoholism was in my blood, and for a very long time, I never really drank. Throughout my entire childhood, I was an all-around athlete, so I never really experimented with drugs or alcohol. As a child, I’d seen my dad high on drugs so the idea of doing drugs terrified me, and alcohol barely interested me. I would drink occasionally here and there, but that was about it.

Until the day my brother died. That was the first time alcohol made me feel numb, and after I felt numb, I realized I never wanted to not feel numb again. Alcohol made me not care, and I really liked not caring. Over the next 7 years, I would dive deep into my drinking. Being the perfect social media mom by day and a complete black-out drunk by night. It was a vicious cycle, and I repeated it daily without hesitation.

Woman hugs her brother from behind
Courtesy of Nicole Marso

You see, even in my darkest times of drinking, I still seemed like I had my crap together. My kids were always on time for school, I always attended church every Sunday, and I never missed an extracurricular activity. No one outside of my home knew I had a drinking problem, not even some of my closest friends. I lived life like this for years, only to quit drinking for my pregnancy with my son and the time I took to breastfeed him.

As soon as I was free to start drinking again, I picked up exactly where I left off, barely skipping a beat. My relationship with my children’s father was barely hanging on as we both struggled with our drinking, I could only keep a job for about six months before I’d grow tired of it and move on to a new job. By age 28, I started to really realize I was going nowhere fast, and I knew I wanted to quit drinking. But at this point, I was in so deep that quitting was a lot harder than I thought it would be.

mom struggling with drinking problem
Courtesy of Nicole Marso

I started to dread the nighttime, which was when I would normally drink. The taste of alcohol would make me sick, and I would struggle every day with awful panic attacks. But I was in too deep, so I would continue to drink anyway. I could go about one day without drinking before I would start to experience detox symptoms, and I’d be back to the bottle again. I would call treatment centers, but I couldn’t afford treatment, and I had no one to leave my kids with. You see, even in the depth of my addiction, I was still a great mom. I loved being a mom. Even as a full-blown alcoholic, I still managed to always put my kids first.

mom with kids being a single mom and getting sober
Courtesy of Nicole Marso

After calling numerous treatment facilities with no luck, I gave up and continued to drink. It got to the point where I wanted to quit so badly but physically couldn’t. I would pray for a DUI when I would drive to the liquor store. I figured if I got into legal trouble, I could quit then. I never got a DUI, so I continued to drink. I was constantly in and out of the hospital for anxiety and panic attacks. For months, the local EMTs and hospital staff pretty much knew me on a first-name basis, even in the middle of COVID. Until one day when I was hospitalized. That was the day that actually changed my life.

This time I was hospitalized was different. It wasn’t anxiety, it wasn’t a panic attack, but I knew something was wrong. I’ll forever remember when a doctor walked into my room and didn’t give me a diagnosis right away. Instead, he walked up to me and said, ‘Nicole, are you a daily drinker?’ and like any good alcoholic does, I lied. I told him I only had wine with dinner, and without skipping a beat, he called me out immediately because 29-year-olds don’t get pancreatitis. I’m sure a look of surprise came across my face because I had never really had anyone call me out on my drinking before.

But before I could say anything else, I swear this doctor saw something of desperation in my eyes. Without judgment, he looked at me and said, ‘Nicole, do you want help getting sober?’ and before my mind could even process those words my mouth blurted out ‘YES!’ I was admitted into the hospital to treat my pancreatitis while simultaneously detoxing from alcohol. I spent a week in the hospital. Some days were really awful, some days I don’t remember much. But I do remember every day I woke up in that hospital with another day of sobriety under my belt.

The truth was that the easy part was getting sober in the hospital: the real test was going to be remaining sober after I left the four walls of the hospital that kept me safe. The first week out of the hospital was a whirlwind, but I was so determined to stay sober, I was willing to take anything life threw at me. In that first week of sobriety out of the hospital, my 10-year relationship with my children’s father ended, I became a full-time single mom and was trying to tackle sobriety on top of that. But I had made a promise to my 8-year-old daughter that I would remain sober, that I would never let alcohol come into our lives. I was absolutely going to keep that promise.

Some days were a struggle, and some days still are. I’m coming up on my one-year sobriety anniversary, and I am proud to say I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in almost 365 days. From someone who was a daily drinker that is a pretty big deal to me.

mom is sober and is healthy
Courtesy of Nicole Marso

One year ago, I hit rock bottom, but I knew rock bottom was going to be one of the biggest blessings that happened to me but like all blessings, they take work. When I first got sober, I didn’t have a roof over my head, a car, or any money to my name, but I was willing to work so hard for my sobriety, I refused to let anything get me down.

In the past year, I have bought a car all on my own, rented an apartment that my children and I get all to ourselves, and I’ve held a job for almost a year for the first time in pretty much ever. I’ve created real authentic friendships that don’t involve drinking, surrounded myself with people who support my sobriety, and become an even better mother than I could have ever imagined. I am forever grateful for my rock bottom and the lessons I learned from my time spent in addiction, but I will forever remind myself of those struggles because I don’t ever want to end up there ever again.

My favorite quote is by J.K. Rowling, ‘Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my entire life.’ I remind myself of that quote daily and will most likely get it tattooed on my body one day.

I have attached a letter I wrote to my addiction as a celebration of my one-year sobriety anniversary but also as a reminder to people in active addiction that there is always hope, no matter what you’ve been through or where you come from. Sobriety is possible for anyone who truly wants it.

My name is Nicole Marso, my sobriety date is August 26th, 2020, and this is a letter to my addiction.

mom is clean and sober
Courtesy of Nicole Marso

Letter to my addiction

I’m sure you were always under there somewhere, but I never really thought I’d have a problem with you.

My father was an addict and alcoholic my whole life, so I knew better than to let you in.

But I will forever remember the day you showed up. The day my brother died. You showed up and relieved my grief like an Advil relieves a headache.

I remember that night so well. It was the first time I’d consumed alcohol in a long time. My daughter was a newborn, and I was breastfeeding at the time, so alcohol was not really in my life then.

But my brother just died, and one freaking drink couldn’t hurt. And it didn’t hurt, in fact, it made me feel a little less.

And that was the first time I really loved alcohol.

From then I let you in my life completely and drinking every night became my norm. I couldn’t wait for that first drink at night to not care again.

I’d drink if I had a great day, I’d drink if I had an awful day, I’d drink if I was going to the park, I’d drink if I was cooking dinner. But I was still showing up in life, so I didn’t think I had a problem.

Until the hospitalizations started. I knew it was from my drinking, but I didn’t want to admit it I truly thought I could stop at any time.

And at this point drinking wasn’t fun anymore it was just something I did. I didn’t look forward to the end of the day when I could start drinking, in fact, I dreaded it. I didn’t want to drink anymore, but my body got angry if I didn’t give it alcohol. So, I’d drink.

And I continued to drink and got more miserable as time went on and then my miracle day happened, and I’ll never forget it.

It ended up in the hospital yet again, but this time it was different: it was pancreatitis.

I called my mom and said, ‘I need you to take the kids, I’m getting sober.’

I still remember waking up every day in the hospital saying, ‘Holy sh*t, I’m like sober sober.’

I’ve never looked back. Once I had experienced sobriety, I knew letting alcohol back in would never be a good idea.

sober mom in blue Kansas University hoodie
Courtesy of Nicole Marso

There are still times when it creeps back up, and sometimes, I think, ‘Well, one drink might not hurt,’ but then I remember where one drink got me.

When I want a drink, I look at my kids.

When I want a drink, I remember the panic attacks.

When I want a drink, I remember how awful pancreatitis is. Because it sucks more than childbirth.

And when I want a drink, I remind myself where one drink got me, and I know I don’t ever want to be there again.

So, to my addiction, I know you will always be there, and I’m grateful for the constant reminder. You taught me a lot about myself I didn’t really want to know, but without you, I’d never know how resilient I am.“

sober mom with her two kids
Courtesy of Nicole Marso

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nicole Marso of Denver, Colorado. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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