‘You don’t need any more.’ Wine always wins.’: Sober mom reminds us ‘addiction is not a moral failing’

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Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of alcohol and substance abuse that may be triggering to some.

“When the streets are clear and the dark spreads itself against asphalt outside my home, my children asleep in their beds, I listen for my husband’s snoring. It is soft and steady at first and if it weren’t for my obsession, it might lull me into sleep. When the snores grow louder, more erratic, I know it’s safe for me to sneak downstairs. His sleep is deep. I always try to talk myself out of it, whispering, ‘You don’t need any more to drink. Just go to sleep. Just go to sleep. Please, just go to sleep.’

Wine always wins. It is a calling, a magnetic pull with a voice stronger than my whispered pleas. I leave the television on for adequate background noise as I tiptoe my way down the long, carpeted staircase, my hands gripping the rails. If I fall, at least I will have a soft landing until I reach the bottom tiled floor. It is 2 a.m. and dark, but the neighbors behind us always leave a light on in their home, a single lit room across the yard. I don’t look long enough to notice anyone awake. I’m afraid of locking eyes, of being noticed, caught. But I imagine they are a sweet old couple already well-rested from their 6 or 7 hours asleep, and they are enjoying their first morning cup of coffee. The man is reading the newspaper and the woman is knitting or reading her favorite book. They occasionally look up, notice me stumbling to my refrigerator, chug from the bottle of wine by the sliver of light that sneaks into the room. They mutter to each other things like, ‘Bless her heart,’ or ‘What a shame.’ And they watch me do this three times a night until the bottle is dry.

husband and wife drinking
Courtesy of Michelle Caron

When the kitchen is emptied of alcohol and my mind won’t stop chanting, ‘drink, drink, drink,’ I walk as softly as any drunk woman can to the bathroom. There’s no need to sneak, but I do, in fear my husband will wake to find me staggering into walls. He will be surprised because we each had only two glasses of wine before he fell asleep. He will start questioning me. But he can’t find out. I can’t let him, because then it will be over and I’m not ready for it to be over—my liquor affair.

I go to the bathroom, take the green mouthwash from the medicine cabinet, unscrew the lid, take a swig, swallow. It reminds me of the Peppermint Schnapps I drank in college. Not so bad. In a recovery meeting several years before, a woman shared she’d relapsed on mouthwash. ‘Ugh,’ I thought to myself, ‘Now that’s intense. Drinking mouthwash to get drunk? I would never do that.’ And here I was, out of wine, too drunk to make it down the stairs even if the alcohol was there. I do the only thing left to do. I drink the only thing left to drink to stop the chanting in my brain. And there are no windows or light coming in. No neighbors watching in pity. Most importantly, my husband never suspects a thing.

The next morning, I wake, hurry downstairs to the kitchen, pounding head, dry mouth, anxious heart, and execute my cover-up. I take the empty bottle of white wine from the refrigerator, fill it a quarter way with water, a quarter way with apple juice, and put it back into the fridge. This is just in case my husband ever feels the inclination to check up on me. I never worry he will drink from it and find out that it’s just watered-down apple juice—red is his go-to. I prefer the crisp tang of a Pinot Grigio or the grapefruit-ey zip of a Sauvignon Blanc. But, of course, I drink whatever brings me relief. It is as if I’m holding my breath all day long. My first gulp of wine is the deep exhale after a long day of crying kids, laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, and making everything look as perfect as possible to hide the fact inside, I am a mess.

husband and wife drinking
Courtesy of Michelle Caron

We otherwise rise and shine like a normal family. I pack my son’s lunch and drive him to school. We park on the street behind the busses, and I walk him to his classroom. I watch all of the other moms kissing their children goodbye and their smiles all look real. I see carefree moms dressed in workout gear, ready to head to the gym. There are working moms dressed in skirts and blouses, makeup and hair perfected, headed to their 9-to-5. But I know I can’t be the only one who is suffocating in sadness and shame. Can I? My sunglasses hide my eyes as I struggle to blink away tears. My son smiles the biggest toothy smile. I look for signs he’s forcing it, that he’s unhappy. His smile looks real, too. He doesn’t seem phased by the previous day. But would I even know if he was? Do I even have the motherly instinct that would tell me if he wasn’t okay? I don’t trust myself anymore. I wave at my boy as he walks into his classroom. He blows me a kiss and mouths the words, ‘You’re the best!’ A stabbing sensation enters my chest. I smile at him, catch his kiss in my hand and press my palm to my face. I wish I was the best, but I know I’m not even halfway there. Not even close.

husband and wife in taxi, drinking
Courtesy of Michelle Caron

When I come home, my husband heads off to work. I can barely look him in the eyes. We hug goodbye, as I act like the night before never happened. I fall to the couch and sob while my daughter finishes her yogurt and strawberries in her highchair. ‘What is wrong with me?’ I ask myself aloud. That and, ‘You’re so stupid,’ have become my daily mantras.

Later in the afternoon, I go to the grocery store. My grocery store sells any alcohol you need, both a blessing and a curse. I pick up a bottle of red for my husband, of which he usually only drinks half on the weekdays, and I pick up my bottles of white. The cashiers always supply me with the cutest, red canvas totes with grapes on the front. There are six compartments for six wine bottles—clearly, I’m not the only one, I think to myself. Just picking up my six-pack of wine like all the other normal people out there. Nothing to see here. My husband always asks why I don’t just reuse one of the totes we already have stashed in our coat closet. I must have collected fifty of them at least. I just forget, is all. And so it goes. Over and over. Day after day.

This mommy needed wine.

mom with two kids
Courtesy of Michelle Caron

When I learned I was pregnant for the first time at 25 years old, I had every intention of staying sober from then on. I’d known I had a problem since I took my first online ‘Are you an alcoholic quiz’ when I was a freshman in college as I drank vodka alone in my dorm room. I checked the boxes on enough of the questions to give the answer I didn’t want to hear but needed.

‘Have you ever been unable to remember part of the previous evening, even though your friends say you didn’t pass out?’ Check.

‘Do you sometimes feel a little guilty about your drinking?’ Like right now? Check.

‘Have any of your blood relatives ever had a problem with alcohol?’ Check.

Clearly, I didn’t need to take a test to tell me what I already knew deep down. At just 18 years old, I already had this knowing my drinking was abnormal at best, and at worst, would be my downfall.

I was convinced motherhood would save me somehow. Turned out I had some colossal misconceptions about motherhood—the most giant of which was being a mother would cure my addiction to alcohol. I thought the minute I held my baby boy in my arms would be the minute I’d swear off booze forever. Instead, I convinced myself I’d keep it all under control—only on the weekends, only beer, only socially, and I’d only drink a few.

pregnant woman with husband and kid
Courtesy of Michelle Caron

In our mommy-needs-wine culture, wine is often touted as the ultimate form of self-care and the relaxation we all need and deserve after exhausting days with the kids. But for me, it ended up like this. I never imagined it would end up like this.

I know I’m not alone. So many other mothers have been there, or are there, or are scared this is where they will end up—wanting desperately to find a way out, but realizing the pull of alcohol is too strong to fight, no matter how hard they try. No matter how much they love their kids. And they love them so very much. They’d do anything for them. Die for them. But they can’t stop drinking for them. This is the nature of addiction. It is not a moral failing. And those of us who suffer are not bad people or bad mothers or hopeless cases. And most importantly, we are not alone. When I was in the depths of my drinking, I felt more alone than ever. This is why I recover out loud today—to let other women, especially mothers, know they are not alone and there is always, always hope.

husband and wife smiling
Courtesy of Michelle Caron

I didn’t believe I could ever get sober. But I did. A little over 5 years ago, on the morning of February 22, 2016, it was as if a door was ajar ever so slightly, just enough for a sliver of light to sneak in. Grace found me there. And I had to walk through it or it might just shut forever. Walking through that door meant I had to tell people who love me. I didn’t have to tell them all the gory details. But I had to say it out loud to those who are closest to me. I have a problem. I’m scared. I need help. I just can’t keep living like this.

woman holding "five years sober" sign- sobriety is not an anchor it's a pair of wings
Courtesy of Michelle Caron

As it’s been said, we’re only as sick as our secrets. I had to bring my secret into the light in order to start healing. I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I took cravings moment by moment, then hour by hour, then day by day. Before I knew it, months went by without the desire to drink. Then years.

What a miracle—from being the woman with the compulsion to sneak downstairs every night, to becoming a woman who is finally free from it all. From being the woman who was so hungover that everything hurt, to becoming a woman who wakes up every morning and at worst feels tired. From being the woman who was full of shame and self-hatred, to becoming a woman who is proud of herself, who actually loves herself. From being the woman who felt entirely unworthy of every blessing in her life—because even in the depths of it all I had so many blessings—to becoming a woman of worth who walks in the gift of God’s grace every single day. What a miracle.

If you are struggling, I promise your miracle is waiting for you, too. Walk through the door. Tell someone who loves you. And if you feel like you don’t have anyone you can tell, tell me. I will help you walk through the door and I will remind you that you are worthy of a beautiful sober life full of all the peace and love you can handle. Not every single day will look and feel like miracles and grace. But to be living life sober, free from the pull of alcohol, is all the miracle and grace you will ever, ever need.”

family by the Christmas tree
Courtesy of Michelle Caron

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Michelle Caron from Littleton, CO. You can follow her on Instagram here. 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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