‘I’m a bad mom.’ I got married when my daughter was 2 and I don’t remember it. There’s so much shame.’: Recovering alcoholic describes journey, ‘I want to set an example for my daughter’

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Disclaimer: This story mentions abuse and may be triggering to some.

“When I was asked to write this story, I broke down in tears because I have been dreaming of sharing it for a long time in hopes of helping someone else through my experience. I’m going to take you through my journey of addiction and tell you how it has impacted my life both good and bad. Yes, as crazy as it sounds… it’s not all bad. I honestly don’t remember the very first time I drank – I know I was younger than 14, but 14 sticks out to me because that’s when the problem began to truly develop. I remember drinking with siblings and friends just to ‘have fun’ and quickly realized it altered my judgement. I know I was seeking approval and wanting to find my worth somehow with drinking. You see, prior to drinking I was sexually abused as a child and found a desire to desperately want to be loved and valued. I looked for it in all the wrong places. Throughout my journey of alcohol abuse I would always push the limits. I would drink the point of blacking out and making poor choices.

Courtesy of Ashley Brown

In tenth grade, I was kicked out of a private school for alcohol abuse and a history of bad decisions. When I went back to public school, the alcohol continued, and then began the experimenting with drugs. My senior year, I almost didn’t graduate because I was skipping school and had let the addiction take over. I went to an inpatient rehab for 30 days… we had already tried a couple outpatients and it didn’t work. The thing about rehab is if you’re not ready to quit it doesn’t help, at least it was the case for me. It actually opened my eyes to other things out there which I could try when I got home. During all of this, I struggled with self-worth, shame, depression and anxiety. What started out as trying to fit in – turned into trying to numb and forget the things I had done. Not to mention, it caused major struggles at home with my parents who were both in recovery themselves. My mom and stepdad had a lot of fear and anxiety for me because they had been down that path. Right out of high school, I was struggling with not only an alcohol addiction but drug addiction as well. This carried on for years – I was going to clubs and parties regularly.

When I was 20 years old, I got into a car accident drinking and driving. I totaled my car and had to spend the night in jail. I remember my dad picking me up the next morning and we sat down to talk about what had happened. He cried as he told me the police officer said I was lucky to be alive and someone was watching out for me because I shouldn’t have walked away without an injury. This was one of my first signs telling me I needed to make a change. The thing with addiction is, if you don’t fully commit it won’t stick. I had a period of sobriety after I don’t remember the first time; I drank but I think I got close to a year and then my 21st birthday came. I went to see my older sister for my birthday to celebrate because after all, you have to celebrate your 21st right? Well, it happened again… I drank so much I blacked out and don’t remember much of my birthday. The cycle continued after. I began drinking and occasionally the drugs would happen. I thought I was controlling my addiction because I wasn’t ‘as bad’ as I used to be. That’s another thing about addiction. We can justify or minimize the problem quite easily. As I got older, I got better at hiding my problem and wouldn’t go out as much.

Courtesy of Ashley Brown

When I was 26, I got pregnant with my daughter and didn’t drink while I was pregnant. Once she was born, I would drink occasionally at first and then it went down the slippery slope over time. The things sticking out in my mind are the blacking out, making a fool of myself in front of people and doing it again. Why didn’t I learn my lesson? Why did I keep repeating the cycle? What was it going to take? The shame, embarrassment and guilt of drinking was piling on. I got married when my daughter was 2 years old and I hate to even admit this, but I don’t remember most of it. Like I said before, I got really good at hiding my problem. Well, at least I thought I did. I would delete pictures so there was no evidence. I would un-tag myself if someone posted an unflattering picture of me. I wouldn’t go out as much so then it turned to drinking at home. I’ve been working from home for almost 3 years. For 2 of those years, I would drink wine regularly. It wasn’t uncommon to finish a bottle alone, sometimes two. I would drink liquor quite regularly too. What I remember most is the feeling of not wanting to get up the next day, not just because of the hangover but also the guilt and shame. I felt like a bad wife and a bad mother.

Courtesy of Ashley Brown

So, what led to my recovery, I kept having those feelings and I knew I wanted to stop but I didn’t know how. I went to a business event called ‘Why University’ which helps people determine their ‘why’ to grow their business but what I walked away with was the realization I didn’t want alcohol to control me anymore. I didn’t want to keep feeling the guilt and shame. I didn’t want to do anything anymore which was going to keep me from getting closer to my goals. So, when I got home, I told my husband I wanted to quit drinking and he agreed to quit with me. We helped each other stay accountable. I also told my friends and family which agreed to help hold me accountable too.

Courtesy of Ashley Brown

My friends would have mocktails or sparkling cider with me. I literally let everyone know so I didn’t put myself in situations which would compromise my decision. It felt so good to know I had so many people rooting for me and there to help me! I was even able to attend my best friend’s bachelorette party and remain sober which was a huge win for me! I also got to be a part of my little sister’s 21st birthday and again remained sober! The reason I shared, is because they know I’m in recovery and they would never pressure me to drink or even allow me to if the thought crossed my mind but to be honest, I prepared myself for those 2 events so I could be the one looking after them and making sure they were okay! I worked really hard on mindset and self-reflection.

About 6 months into my sobriety, my husband and I decided we were going to get a divorce. One of the hardest things anyone will ever go through – I knew I needed to have extra support during all this. I got into counseling (which I have done on and off for years) and I hired a business coach who also is in sobriety!! I dove headfirst into church and got involved in community groups, divorce care and even celebrate recovery!! I literally immersed myself in self help! I read books, listened to podcasts, watched YouTube, journaled and prayed!! I have shared my journey on social media as well to not only hold me accountable but also to help inspire others who may be struggling! It wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies though – I had meltdowns going through the depression and loneliness of a divorce and almost relapsed at one point – I remember sitting on my kitchen floor sobbing debating whether to drive to the store & get some alcohol but something in me knew I couldn’t go back. I prayed and I posted on social media a vulnerable post about how I was feeling and to be quite honest the people who reached out to me and comforted me in the moment saved my sobriety.

Courtesy of Ashley Brown

I just celebrated a year of sobriety and let me tell you I’ve never been so proud of myself! Every single day I choose to stay sober my confidence builds and myself worth builds! It has been a rough year to say the least, but I know alcohol wouldn’t have made it any better! Do I have tough days, heck yes! I’m human! When those days happen, I remind myself of the example of I want to be for my daughter and alcohol will not get me any closer to my goals! I hope if you’re reading this and you’re struggling; you have the strength & courage to ask for help! Not everyone’s journey will look the same, you may not get it right the first time but it’s never too late to start again!

Courtesy of Ashley Brown

Going through this last year of sobriety, I have had to learn how to have fun without drinking, how to handle my emotions and deal with my problems without drinking, how to do life without drinking… It has been challenging but so rewarding! One of my goals is to open a dry bar! I want a place where people can come together and have fun without drinking! A place where people can socialize, grab food and mocktails without feeling like they might relapse! It is something I am super passionate about – I want to create a safe place for people to come, have a great time and make memories without alcohol! Now I’ve seen how much fun life can be without alcohol, I want to share it with others!”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashley Brown. You can follow her on Instagram. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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