‘I had to fight for my life. For me, to drink was to die. That was not an option, my kids needed me.’: Mom shares life-changing journey to sobriety

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The Wake-Up Call

“It was the Fourth of July, 2018. My kids and I spent most of the holiday at home grilling and playing out on the back porch. I had started my drinking early, but that wasn’t uncommon for me. We had plans to go watch the fireworks at the park up the street. After years of battling with the idea of whether or not I had a drinking problem, I found myself waking up the next morning with no recollection of the evening before.

It was Monday, and I had an interview for a new job in just a few short hours. I was still drunk. Did I go to my interview drunk? Yes. Did I get a job offer? No. Something had to change. I had to change. I couldn’t control my drinking. That was the first day I knew, without a doubt, I was an alcoholic.

sober mom holding baby beside Christmas tree
Courtesy of Missy Hileman

The Start Of Addiction

I started drinking at the young age of 14. I fell in love with the calming effects that it made me feel instantly. My first drink was a shot of hot McCormick Vodka that my friend and I stole from her mother’s cabinet. The warm, tingly liquid that traveled through my body was a sensation that I yearned for. I suddenly felt free from worry, stress, and self-doubt. Alcohol was the solution I had been looking for. I finally found it!

I grew up in an alcoholic home. Both of my parents are alcoholics. My home life was chaotic to say the least. Not only was my mother an alcoholic and an addict, but she also suffered from bipolar disorder. Every day was unpredictable in my home. I never knew what kind of mood my mom was going to be in. Would she be on a high and want to conquer the world with her kids, or would she be on a low and sleep for days where my sister and I would take care of ourselves?

When alcohol entered my life, I didn’t have to hide my drinking. Once my parents found out I had experimented with alcohol, they encouraged my drinking by hosting parties for my friends and I, providing the alcohol for everyone. I was able to drink the way I wanted to drink, which always resulted in a blackout. Life went on, and drinking was fun and exhilarating. Until it wasn’t anymore.

First Attempts At Sobriety

I became a mother in 2008 with my first daughter. I was 22 years old, living in Waco, TX, and enrolled at Texas State Technical College. I remember thinking to myself when I found out I was pregnant that this was my opportunity for a fresh start and a new life. My partying days were over, and it was now time to buckle down and be the mother that my mom wasn’t for me. I went through my pregnancy sober, I was excelling in school, I had a great job, and all-around life was perfect. I swore that my drinking days were over.

One week after giving birth to my daughter, I blacked out.

pregnant sober mom standing on beach
Courtesy of Missy Hileman

I started to contemplate my drinking behaviors again when my studies started suffering, I called into work more times than I could count, and, most importantly, when I realized that drinking was taking precedence over my child. I would make excuses as to why I drank the way I did. ‘I’m a single mom, I’m stressed out and need to relax,’ ‘I’m young and that’s what people my age do,’ ‘It’s a hot summer day,’ ‘It’s Christmas.’ I had an excuse for each time I drank excessively.

Life went on like this longer than I would like to admit. I had another daughter at 29. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I was sober through this pregnancy. I did have that glass of wine or two ‘they’ say women can have here and there. For me, more times here than there. My pregnancy was extremely rough. I used the excuse of being older as the reason for the difficult pregnancy. I never took responsibility for my own actions. I ended up having her prematurely. She spent the first two weeks of her life in the NICU. My first blackout postpartum was three days after her birth.

sober mom in striped shirt holding baby
Courtesy of Missy Hileman

My alcoholism was progressively getting worse. All the ‘yets’ of alcoholism were starting to take place in my life – lost jobs, totaled cars, relationships destroyed, and so on and so forth. Like I had mentioned before, I knew I was an alcoholic since 2018 when I woke up and was unsure how my kids got to bed or if they ate dinner, but in 2019, I finally concluded that I needed professional help. I could no longer do this alone.

Seeking Rehabilitation

After many attempts of trying to slow down, quit altogether, therapy, and other medicinal solutions, I learned that I needed to remove myself completely. I admitted myself into rehab at a wonderful facility in West Palm Beach, Florida called AION. There, I spent four months rehabilitating. I had a long road of reconstruction, but things  were magically coming back together. My days were filled with group therapy, one-on-one therapy, classes, lots of self-reflection, AA meetings, step work, and being surrounded by people who were battling the same disease I was.

It was not easy being away from my kids, but the mother I was to them before leaving was no mother at all. I remember having a phone conversation with a friend on a call time I had in rehab and her stating that I sounded like a different person. Life had come back into my voice. This made me sad. It made me remember all the times I had talked to her drunk, thinking I was fooling her that I was sober.

My sister and oldest daughter flew out from Texas to surprise me while I was in rehab. I will never forget my daughter’s demeanor around me. She was happy, felt safe, and at peace. I had my daughter back and she had her mother back. That was not always the story of our relationship. There were many times she would tell me how unsafe she felt in my presence. Was that enough for me to quit drinking in the past? No. Our relationship was turning into the same relationship I had with my mom. Tumultuous.

sober mom standing with sister and daughter
Courtesy of Missy Hileman

The disease of alcoholism is cunning, baffling, and powerful. All the hard work I had put into getting sober was thrown out the door shortly after coming back home from Florida. I had relapsed. My disease came back with a vengeance. When I thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did. My bottom kept getting deeper and deeper. Why did I go back out? What was missing?

At that point, my oldest had moved in with my sister. She wanted no part of my lifestyle. My youngest daughter was starting to stay more and more with her father. In my mind, that meant more time for me, more time for drinking the way I wanted to drink. At this point, I was kidless, jobless, and losing my home. I had tried everything. I was a hopeless case.

I woke up one day and looked around my empty, quiet house and felt this utter sense of loneliness. I never felt lonelier in my life. It was such a dark, depressing feeling. There wasn’t enough alcohol in the world to make me feel better. Trust me, I tried. I just wanted my kids back home. They weren’t coming back home though. The fixes that ran through my brain were quick fixes and I thank God that I didn’t execute them.

Journey To Sobriety

I asked you what was missing from the last time I got sober. In that moment, I had an awakening. I realized what was missing. It was something greater than myself that was going to help me get sober and keep me sober. I had to smash the idea that I would never be able to drink like a normal person. I had to put my trust and my will into a Higher Power. I had to sit all the way down and take direction. I had to fight for my life. For me, to drink was to die. That was not an option; my kids needed me.

The first year of getting sober was spent putting my sobriety first because I was taught that anything I put before my sobriety would mean I lose. This time around took a little longer to start getting back all the things I had destroyed. The toughest thing I had to work on was gaining the trust of others, especially my children. Trust did not happen overnight or even a few weeks, but many, many moons of proving myself.

I started by getting honest, working a program, getting a sponsor who worked the same steps I have now worked, connecting with sober women, and building a relationship with my understanding of a Higher Power. I learned that alcohol had kept me protected from dealing with my personal problems all these years. With no tools on how to handle resentments, guilt, and shame, I smoldered in them.

When I was drinking, I played the victim well. Sobriety has helped me step out of being the victim and into ownership of my behavior. I numbed myself so I didn’t have to see the part that I played in my own agony. For example, I blamed my upbringing for not knowing how to be a good mother.

sober mom posing with young daughter with tongue out
Courtesy of Missy Hileman

Sober Living

Today, I am a better mother, girlfriend, daughter, friend, and member of society. After becoming a mom, I remember being so impatient, easily frustrated, and resentful towards everyone who I thought played a part in me being a single mom. I am now a more patient, happy, free, and capable person. I have finally accepted my path in life. I might always be a single mom. I may never bring in an envious income or be a successful entrepreneur. Maybe I won’t ever have the biggest house or drive the fanciest car. BUT through sobriety, I can be a devoted, empathetic, caring mother, a humble, supportive partner, a trusting friend, and an attentive, thoughtful sister and daughter.

I have been able to finally discover the woman I was always meant to be. Today I am sober, and that is my success story. I now live in gratitude, including gratitude for my drinking days because I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them. Today, I am enjoying life. I have found things out about myself that I never knew I was capable of. Who knew I had a talent for painting? Today, I call myself an artist and people buy my paintings and hang them in their home. Still blows my mind.

sober mom holding a colorful painting of a bird
Courtesy of Missy Hileman

I have become quite the traveler and adventurer. Backpacking in the hills of Texas and the mountains of Colorado and Oregon. Being able to take my kids to Disney World and the beaches of Florida. Taking my oldest daughter to the mountains of New Mexico on Thanksgiving Day, and spending Christmas seeing the lights of New York City. I never thought I could have this kind of life. I am living proof that recovery is possible.

sober mom and daughter hugging outside in front of snowy trees
Courtesy of Missy Hileman

I want to thank my children for their patience and unconditional love. I want to thank my friends and family who never gave up on me. I want to thank all the sober women who were by my side through my struggles, trials, and tribulations over the last two and half years. You ladies saved my life. Most importantly I want to thank my Higher Power for his grace. I shouldn’t be alive today, but I here I am. Happy, joyous, free, and thriving.”

sober mom walking along sidewalk with daughter beside greenery
Courtesy of Missy Hileman

This article was written exclusively for Love What Matters by Missy Hileman from Round Rock, Texas. You can follow her journey on Instagram, and check out her art on her websiteSubmit your own story here.

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