Self-Service By Alyssa Adkins

I was mad all day about nothing. I woke up to a messy kitchen after going to bed before my kids the night before. My workout got interrupted to pick up one of them. We had to drive 40 minutes to a basketball game...for our 6th grade daughter...at 5:00 on a Saturday night. I was on Day 30 of the 80 Day obsession and all I wanted was pizza...and cheeseburgers...and cheesecake. Poor...pitiful...me.

Did I want to drink over it? NO.
Did it threaten my serenity? YES!
But...
Did I make a gratitude list? NOPE.
Did I reach out to someone? NOPE.
Did I pray about it? NOPE.

I just wanted to marinate in my self pity. But God said, “not today.” I remembered one of my first lessons in recovery:

“Self-pity is just another form of selfishness.”

I knew the only way to get out of my own head was to put someone else in there.

Did I want to? NO.
Did I seek it out? NO.
But again...God...

Three, yes 3! strangers reached out to me in one day via Insta. Did I want to interact?! NOPE. But, by the grace of God, I responded to all three. And you know what happened? My mood changed, my spirits lifted, I was reminded of my blessings, I made a new friend, and I shared a laugh with another.
First, a strong woman reached out to ask for help. She reminded me of myself so many desperate mornings when I’d wake wondering, “how did I fail...again?” She reminded me of myself as I’d pledge that “today would be different.” She reminded me of the few times when I felt helpless enough to actually reach out. My heart broke for her because I remember it all. Loneliness. Hopelessness. I call her strong not because of her extended length of sobriety. No, she’s strong because she’s still actively drinking and knows she can’t stop. She not only recognizes she has a problem, she admits she needs help to overcome it.

Then, on this terrible, no good, very bad day, God used Instagram (He can do anything) to connect me to a sober sister, (formerly known as “a complete stranger,” now known as @sobersis) who is working with women pursuing a sober mindset. She opened my eyes to this growing population who haven’t yet lost anything, but are battling internally with the what ifs of their own drinking habits. Not only did she open my eyes to a new perspective, but she also opened my ears. She asked to talk on the phone! I hate to talk on the phone!! But it was so, so good for my soul to hear a friendly voice, a sister’s words, a different view, a new laugh.

And then later that night, I found myself messaging with yet another stranger (new friend, aka @allforhim17) about the growing publicity movement promoting alcohol as the miracle elixir to all of life’s problems. Whether it’s “Wine o’Clock Somewhere,” (on a cropped spring break tee), “I’m the Reason Mommy Drinks,” (cute for a newborn onesie, right?!) or “There Might be Vodka in This Coffee Mug,” (insert photo of manicured hand holding thermos at kids’ lacrosse tourney), our kids (and at-risk adults), are being told it’s glamorous, therapeutic, even “cute,” to numb feelings in an effort to escape life’s hard times. But that’s another post…

For a few hours of my “miserable” day, I was talking to people about my own past, being reminded of my own mistakes, how bad things were. But more importantly, I had to relive how far I’d come. I was faced once again with the realization that I’d been rescued. What had caused me to get help with my drinking? What made me finally acknowledge I had an issue? And why in the world had I not only pursued, but actually followed through with a plan for recovery?!

Why me?

Why share all of this? Sobriety isn’t always easy, or pretty, or comfortable. Life is still real, and hard, and unfair sometimes. I still feel feelings I don’t like. I still feel sorry for myself over stupid things, I still compare my journey to others (along with my outfits, my party planning, my vacations, my Insta feed, etc). I still question my parenting, my wife-ing, my friend-ing. But now, I don’t have to drink to cope with the negative.

I have a newer, fancier tool kit (the DELUXE model) to help me repair tough situations. I have a smarter crew of experienced people to advise me when I encounter things I don’t like and to help me navigate days that feel impossible. I have a clear mind that sees when my serenity is at risk. I’m more aware of my own character defects and the situations that threaten my inner peace. But most importantly, I have a God who reminds me I was never meant to go through this alone. Not only is He with me all the time, but so are many others with this disease, who were also created to live, and love, and grow, and heal together.

Being stuck in my own head...alone with my thoughts...kept me drinking for many years. While I don’t feel tempted to drink now, I recognize that “going there,” is dangerous for my emotional health. My sobriety is more than just living alcohol free. It’s living my whole life free. How I interact with and treat others, the way I live daily, what I feel and believe about myself - they’re are all impacted by my daily choice not to drink. I want to be, need to be, the healthiest version of who God created me to be- free from shame, guilt and self-doubt. So on the days I’m not feelin’ it, when I don’t want to get out the tool box or request a personal consult, I’m thankful for a God who intervenes with exactly what I need, at the exactly the perfect time, always.

Why Mommy Does Not Need A Drink By Alyson Flower

Imagine this:

“You wake up at 3am to a painful jolt. Your head is pounding, your mouth is dry, and your bladder is going to burst. As you get up to use the bathroom and find some pain reliever, you start thinking about your evening and try to put the pieces together. Quite a bit of your memory is just a black hole. The last thing you remember is having a glass of wine around 8 pm, but how many glasses had you drank before that? Was that number 3 or 4? Did you continue drinking after that? The dread sinks in and you start to think about what you may have said or done the night before. Your behavior is always awful when you blackout. As you lay back in bed, you attempt to get a few more hours of sleep before the day begins. However, you cannot sleep because all you can think about is the shame and embarrassment that awaits you in the morning. As you lie there filled with self-hate and loathing, all you can do is pray that when you wake up, the damage is not too severe.”

Reading through this scenario, I would like to think that this possibly occurred in the early Sunday morning hours, in college, after a night out at the bars. It may have possibly occurred after dinner with friends on a Friday or Saturday night. Most people have encountered this scenario at least once in their life. You are having a great night out, get a little (or a lot) drunk, and regret your behavior in the morning. Now big deal, right? Well this scenario was a common one for me. I’d find myself living though it on a Wednesday morning. There was no big party on Tuesday night or even a fancy dinner with friends. My Tuesday would be filled with watching my children all day, running errands, making dinner for my family, and getting everyone off to bed. I often found myself wondering, what is the hell occurred during the day that would make me want to get so intoxicated? What made me want to get blackout drunk?

In my teenage years, I experienced the effects of alcohol consumption for the first time. Drinking alcohol made me relaxed and light hearted. My mood was at an all time high and nothing bothered me. I read this children’s book to my daughter and these words are on one of the pages:

“But other times, my heart is cool. I bob along gently like a balloon on a string. My heart feels lazy and slow, as quiet as snowfall. This is when my heart is calm.” (Witek 2013)

This is how I feel when I drink alcohol. When I have my first drink of the day, my body physically relaxes, muscles unwind, and I can breath in deep. All my anxiety and stress during the day melts away. I learned to use the effects of alcohol as my main coping strategy early in life. It continued into my college years and further into adulthood. Now that I am sober, I’m able to reflect on this behavior and wonder why I chose that path. It was ultimately my decision and no one forced me to drink alcohol over and over again. Why did I feel that starting this behavior was an acceptable way to deal with my emotions?

Growing up, I lived in a home where there was no alcohol available. My mom did not start pouring wine in a large glass right after work. My dad did not sit on the couch, engrossed in a television show, drinking beer after beer. I may have seen other family members or friend’s parents enjoying a beverage, but I had never seen anyone blackout drunk. When I first drank alcohol in high school, my friends encouraged it, but I had already known in the back of my mind that it would make me relax. How would I already know that, if I had not actually witnessed it?

I had never really heard or thought about the “alcohol-centric culture” that is prevalent in our society. It wasn’t until I read the book, This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness, and Change your Life by Annie Grace (2018) that I really started paying attention. In her book, she talks about our alcohol centered culture and the need to fit in. She writes:

“You observe everyone drinking all the time. In fact, at almost every occasion, from grade school fundraisers to “wine and women” church groups, and even the finish line of marathons. You experience all manner of conversations about alcohol- at work, after work, at home, on the weekends, and in the media. You assume our culture is so intertwined with alcohol that living a life without it would be next to impossible. You conclude that our culture dictates, even mandates drinking, and you will find it too difficult and lonely to live without drinking” (Grace 2018).

This is a very powerful and eye opening paragraph that begins her chapter on our culture and alcohol. It got me thinking about all the positive messages we are bombarded with every day about how alcohol will make you feel better, look sexier, be bolder, etc. I started paying attention, and noticed that there are so many advertisements, pictures, and conversations portraying alcohol in a positive light. Now that I have children, the “mommy wine culture” is everywhere. I cannot scroll through facebook without seeing a picture or quote about mommy needing to drink in order to deal with her children. Drinking alcohol has been glamorized by society and the media. It is no wonder that everyone feels that they need it in order to just survive life. I believe these messages are targeted towards late teens, young adults, and adults. However, they are reaching a much younger audience. When I took my first sip of beer, I was told by my friends that it would make me feel better, more relaxed, and more confident. Those statements came from my peers, not from some young adult or parent. Children in their early teens (and younger) are already receiving the message that you needed alcohol to get through tough situations.

I have never viewed an advertisement that shows the ill effects of alcohol. How it can not only be detrimental to your health, but can negatively impact every aspect of your life. When you are watching television shows or the news, there are many anti-smoking and anti-drug campaigns, but nothing about alcohol use. Until I read Annie Grace’s book, I never realized how bad alcohol is for your body. Alcohol is a carcinogen and even light drinking can increase your risk of developing cancer, including breast cancer in women (Grace 2018). I have never heard of this. EVER. There are also many other health risks, but this one is a big deal for me. I come from a family with a history of breast and uterine cancers, so I am already at risk. I had no idea that by consuming alcohol, I was further increasing that risk. I am in my mid-thirties and have already experienced friends dying of various types of cancers. It is heartbreaking to realize that I put myself in a position where I could potentially leave behind everyone that is important to me. Envisioning a life where my children would never see their mother again, is terrifying and horrific. I spent years poisoning my body and had absolutely no idea that consuming alcohol was that bad for me. We are constantly being bombarded with messages letting us know that we need to drink alcohol and all the reasons why. It is amazing how much pro-alcohol material I view every day and is no surprise that I felt, and sometimes still feel, that I need to consume it in order to get through my daily life.

Now that I am aware of all these messages being sent my direction, I am able to recognize it and ignore it. I don’t see alcohol advertisements ending anytime soon, so it’s best that I see it for what it is and simply, move on. My hope is to be able to talk to my children about this issue as they grow up and keep an open dialogue going. I’d like to help them develop appropriate coping skills early on so they don’t fall into the same trap as I did. At some point, my children will be able to make their own decisions. The best I can do is to educate them in the best way that I can and also say a lot of prayers. Hopefully the idea of using alcohol to deflect or enhance emotions will not be as ingrained in their thoughts as they are in mine.

Today, I am 8 months sober and it has been quite a journey. I keep waiting for the day when drinking my favorite beverage is no longer a thought in my brain. I’m not sure that day will ever come. I still have moments where I think about giving it all up, just so I can feel that warm feeling again. Just so I can breathe in deep. Days where I feel stressed to the maximum limit are my hardest days. However, I think about how far I’ve come. I think about all the wonderful mornings I’ve shared with my children without a hangover. How many dinners I’ve attended where I’ve carried on a fantastic conversations and actually remembered them the next day. I think about the relationships I’m slowly building with friends and family. The better relationship that I am building with my husband. I also think about the relationship I am building with myself. I am getting to know myself all over again. I am developing positive coping skills so I can handle stress in a more positive way. I am figuring out hobbies that I really enjoy doing. Most of all, I am starting to enjoy life. I am starting to slow down and enjoy all the small moments. I wouldn’t have all of this, if I decide to just give in, so I’ll continue to push through and see where this amazing life takes me.

Grace, Annie (2018). This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness, and Change your Life. New York, NY. Penguin Random House.

Witek, Jo (2013). In My Heart. A Book of Feelings. New York, NY. Abrams Books

Mommy Wine Culture is a Scam By Alyson Premo

Today I was going to write a blog post about the “mom guilt” many feel after they get sober. The guilt, shame, regret comes creeping in and it’s hard to handle at times. Well that has been pushed off until next Sunday, because this morning I woke up to an article from Scary Mommy called “Let’s All Relax About Mommy Wine Culture.”

Wait, is this real life? And before anyone jumps down my throat. I am not against drinking. I am against the messages around alcohol, specifically the narrative geared towards mother’s. I am not judging you for drinking or shaming you. You’re being duped by the alcohol industry and marketing executives that are just using you for profit. They don’t care about you. They don’t care that the increase in alcohol related deaths for women has increased by 85% from 2007 to 2017. Mother’s have been their target market for a while now, and we’re buying into it. This is proven by the 25% surge of sales for this segment, which is huge growth.

I know motherhood is hard. Trust me. I get it. I’ve been a single mother since day one. But do you want to know what ended up making motherhood even harder? Alcohol. No, it didn’t feel that way at first. It was my escape to getting out of my own head and “coping” with life. I was overwhelmed, stressed, anxious, depressed, and I thought alcohol was the cure to relieve all of this. What I didn’t know was that alcohol was causing me to become more depressed and more anxious, and ultimately led to a vicious cycle that I couldn’t get out of.

In this society what do we do when someone is having difficulty with life? We provide them with a pill. So I started taking Zoloft (medically prescribed of course). Still drinking while taking it though, so of course it didn’t work like it was supposed to. Minor details though, or so I thought. After having some sobriety time under my belt, I started to read more literature about how alcohol affects the brain. Alcohol is a stimulant and a depressant. It’s a stimulant for about 20-30 minutes, then your BAC starts to fall and that’s when the depressant side comes into play. As stated in The 30 Day Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace, “Alcohol depresses your feelings and nervous system. But our brains react to stimuli, and they are designed to maintain balance or homeostasis. That means if you consume something that’s an anesthetic and a depressant, it’s automatically going to try to counteract those things with stimulants like cortisol and adrenaline. These stimulants leave you feeling anxious and uneasy. So you reach for that next drink to take away that uneasy feeling, and the brain fights back with even more of its own chemical stimulants. And the cycle starts.”

This is what we need. Education on the effects of alcohol. Sure I knew alcohol wasn’t good for me, because if it was I wouldn’t be having hangovers the next day. The missing link is more education on how to cope with life and motherhood in a healthy way. Wine or alcohol is not a healthy way. No matter what TV, meme’s, shirts, articles, friends, parents, or your pastor says. We’re being fed lies and it’s time to start standing up for not only ourselves but for our kids. We tell our kids the dangers of alcohol and to not drink, but here we are drinking in front of them. So why would they believe us?

You may think that children don’t know any better and it’s not affecting them in any way, so who cares. Well you’re wrong. Drinking is a learned behavior. You are teaching them that the only way to get through life or hard situations is to drink. We should be showing them to express our emotions, go to therapy, write, exercise, meditate, anything that shows them that it’s okay to sit with discomfort and let it out in a healthy manner. My eight year old son knows what the word sober means. He knows that I used to be sick a lot because of alcohol. He knows that I’m sorry and I can’t change the past, but I’m trying to be the best mom I can be going forward. Two weeks ago, he told me I was the best mom in the world because I faced my problems and my fears. Do you know how much that means to me? I am showing him how to get through life even when times are tough. Life isn’t always easy, but those are the moments we prove to ourselves how strong and capable we really are. THAT is what we should be passing on to our kids. Not the fact that we have to drink to get through our day because of them.

Oh and to the woman that told some of us commenting that we needed to chill out and have a few glasses of wine. I’m never going to stop advocating and speaking the truth about “mommy wine culture”. My demise led me to my purpose, and I couldn’t be more grateful to be going through motherhood sober and present for my son. Does he get on my nerves? Absolutely. But handling it in an appropriate manner instead of just dismissing it and going for a glass of wine doesn’t solve anything. Alcohol is NEVER a healthy way to cope. Remember that.

If you’re having difficulty coping with life or motherhood please reach out to someone. If you’re interested in learning how to ditch the booze without the mom guilt, visit www.sobermomcoach.com and book a free consultation call with me.

If you're looking for a group of sober mother's or you have a desire to stop drinking, check out @sobermomtribe or Sober Mom Tribe on Facebook.

5 Hard Truths About Early Sobriety By Rachel Bailey

So, I'm not gonna sugarcoat this, and I won't bore you with a long intro. Let's just get straight to the meat, shall we? Here are 5 hard truths I learned in early sobriety.
 
1. You will be emotional- You're no longer numbing out and the feelings will hit in waves, so you better learn to surf. You will feel sad, angry, irritable, lonely, overwhelmed, and afraid. Did I mention sad? You will throw at least one full blown toddler tantrum (I threw several). In those moments of pain, let those feelings come (don't run or suppress them). There's no easy way through it, so rip off that bandaid and just feel it all. The only way to get through pain is to wear that sh*t like a Versace. That's the only way to heal.
 
2. You will be uncomfortable- I was embarrassed about being sober. I worried about what people would think, say, ask (OMG I'm gonna have to answer questions?!) I didn't wanna explain myself. You will feel awkward, anxious, and judged because you are going against the norm. (you REBEL, you!) And, some people will say some really stupid things. Just stay true to you; trust your journey, and embrace the vulnerability. Hell, even fake it til ya make it. Eventually, these feelings of insecurity will lessen in frequency and fade into the background. You'll become comfortable with your sobriety. You will be proud of it and wear it like a badge of honor.
 
3. You will be restless- Once I put down the bottle and the dust settled, I realized I had absolutely NO idea who I was or what I was gonna do with myself. The best advice I can give you is to distract yourself. Read a book. Pray. Meditate. Explore a new hobby. Get your ass to the gym. Volunteer at a food pantry. Clean out your closet. Journal. Weed your flowerbed. Travel. Watch a sunset. Fill your time.
Then something magical will happen...while you're busy distracting yourself you'll 'accidentally' end up creating a life for yourself. Aha! Plot twist!
 
4. You will need people- Ughhh! You mean I have to ask for help?! Yes! Do not isolate. You will need support. Find a sober community. Go to a meeting. (I did both, and also found a rockstar therapist). Hit social media to find a sober network or recovery coach. Connect with genuine people (and lose those toxic, drinking, chaotic ones). One of the scariest things I have ever done was approach a complete stranger at a meeting. "Hi, I'm Rachel. Can I have your number?" Her name was Jen, and she's one of my best friends today. It's also worth mentioning that I have an incredible army of support through Instagram.
 
5. You will not be perfect- I wanted instant gratification. I thought that since I'd put down the bottle, everything would just fall away. I thought I would heal immediately. POOF! Instant zen and rainbows (man I was delusional, ha!). It totally doesn't work like that. You will have hard days; you will struggle. You will stumble. You will not always feel grounded, grateful or happy, so do not put that kind of pressure on yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be patient. Allow yourself the space and time to evolve, no matter the pace. We didn't develop these unhealthy behaviors overnight, and we certainly won't undo them overnight either. Remember, little steps lead to big destinations. (Yes, that's cheesy, but it's totally true).
 
Getting sober was the hardest thing I've ever done. I started with just one breath, one hour, one day. Today I have 838 days. It takes work, and it requires tremendous discipline. So buckle up and dig in with both heels. Recovery is the absolute bravest thing you can do, and it is the greatest form of self love. I promise you will not regret it!

In the Shadows of a Label by Christina Lindvay

Note: I use the terms, Alcoholic and Alcoholism, as they applied to my thinking and fear of the label. I no longer use these terms in the same regard.

The other day I was thinking about the connections between the labels Post-Partum Depression and being an Alcoholic. I am now seven months sober and my twins are two years old. Notwithstanding the twists and turns of life, I am better than I have ever been. But it wasn’t always this way. It is only now through a clear lens that I can see how my own thinking kept me in a personal Catch-22 and how similar these two intersections of my life have been. Even when I started to question how I felt, I never hit rock-bottom in regards to depression and addiction. I lived a life of moderation. I was so certain something was wrong with me but so uncertain I had a problem. I don’t look like what society assumes those to be. For the record, I was never formally diagnosed with either. Yet, I stayed in pain and shame. I stayed in the shadows of these labels.

I know better now but this was not always the case. I want to convey what that limbo felt like for me.

For as long as I can remember I’ve always equated such dismay, sorrow, and shame around post-partum depression and what we mean when we call someone an alcoholic. I knew these conditions take no pity. I rationally knew I was not exempt. I’ve seen friends endure. However, I was not someone who was going to “let” that happen. You could experience them, sure, no judgement. But me? No, not me.

I stayed in the shadows because acknowledging my own struggle felt too risky. And to be quite honest, for the longest time I didn’t even think I was struggling. I kept on with what I was doing because the majority of the time my life felt fine. Even when I had doubts I looked at the positives, I looked to what I was doing right so I wouldn’t be considered wrong. It’s only now through sobriety that I can see how I applied this same thinking to both depression and addiction.

My old thinking trapped me. If I was a label or had a label then it would mean I had failed myself or others. If I was an alcoholic or I had post-partum depression I was scared it would mean I was a harm to myself or others. I didn’t think I could recover. The unknown of living with what I perceived that to mean felt too scary. My ego, arrogance, and perfectionism keep me in fear, and also in ignorance.

As scared as I was to be an alcoholic or have post-partum, I also wanted the clarity the labels would bring, particularly PPD. I wanted something to point the finger at to give me an OK for how I felt. I wanted to know that I would be OK. I also wanted to be morally responsible to my children. So, the part of me that just had to know if I qualified mustered up the courage to ask at my initial post-partum appointment. Dismissed. “Oh, no…what you’re experiencing sounds normal. Just the baby blues. Plus, you have twins. Give yourself a break,” said the doctor. Once the initial relief wore off it left me confused and still sad and empty, because if not that, then what? I tried to shed light on my feelings but I felt left in the dark. Am I just over-reacting? Should I tell her more? I felt cowardly.

At the time, I desperately wanted to hear that I was OK, but even when I heard that message the words didn’t penetrate. The words didn’t ease my pain and guilt that made me feel like I had ruined precious moments; it didn’t quell the anxiety that I would continue to do so. Even though my feelings were “normal,” it didn’t lessen the heaviness of them all. I wanted someone else to acknowledge the stressful situations that my husband and I experienced at the hospital and upon bringing the girls home.

This is what I wish I had heard when I first reached out: “Tell me more.” Tell me more would have given me a door to enter, a hallway to walk through, perhaps it would have given me a key to a new house. At the very least it would have made me a window for another to see that struggle doesn’t always neatly fit into our perception of a label.

I recently remarked to myself how jealous I am of all of my friends who have therapists. I am not ashamed to see one. I have before and it was life impactful. Before motherhood and throughout the girls’ first year, I kept it on my to-do list but the everyday demands of life kept putting it further and further down in priority. When things felt normal it didn’t feel necessary. And because I was told my experiences were normal it gave me an easy exit from working on the hard stuff.

Well, a few months before the girls turned one, I could feel myself bubbling over. I knew I couldn’t wait any longer. Finally, I made the proper calls. I tried to lay it all out this time. Truthfully, I couldn’t keep it in. The tears, the feelings, the questioning, the history, the this and the that. She listened.

After that consultation appointment, I really started to think maybe it was quite possible I just never had PPD. I started to care less about the label and looked at what my specific circumstances were that made me feel the way I did. I started to accept that maybe I really was having difficulty transitioning to motherhood, being away from family, working full time, questioning my identity, and all the while being in the “twin fog.” I had been kidding myself by not admitting it was hard, not just the beginning, but all of it. I was already making moves in my life that would change my circumstances. I was working on my self-compassion, I was starting to exercise again, I was switching jobs. I was doing the things that make your mood and life better.

I realized just a few days ago that I’ve spent my lifetime not validating my feelings. I always felt like I had to experience “real” trauma—death, assault, natural disaster, etc—in order for me to feel a certain way. I now know that this is what was happening here. Because I didn’t fit the description of PPD I didn’t think my struggle was real. Because I didn’t fit the description of alcoholism, I didn’t think my drinking was a real problem. I didn’t think my feelings fit the circumstances of my life. “Someone else has it worse,” I thought. More than that, because I didn’t validate my feelings I didn’t know how to seek help for them. I didn’t know how to acknowledge my pain and put aside my ego to ask for help in a period of time where I felt I should be able to handle it all and still feel great.

I’m recognizing now that I still have some unhealed trauma to work through. I stayed angry that those early, painful situations continued to plague my parenting experiences. For the longest time I also stayed mad at my initial OB doctor for dismissing me when really I was mad at myself for not being fully transparent. Sadly, during my postpartum period and my lifetime of drinking, I underreported how I felt, what I did, or how much I drank because I was afraid of the judgement. This is one of those parallels I find so interesting between these two intersections of my life. I wanted the help but feared it at the same time. Because I didn’t know how to be honest with myself I stayed stuck.

I am working on accepting the part of me that was too afraid to be real when I needed it the most. It’s only now I realize that more than a label I wanted a way to go into the past and make it all better. I wanted to do whatever I could to fix what I felt I or others broke. I still mourn the lost time, the hurt I felt during such a life changing season of new motherhood. I also mourned the years I lost relying on booze even when I wasn’t conscious of the reliance at the time. I am still sitting with those feelings and working on that. Thankfully these last seven months of sobriety of have brought me great solace in both of these areas. I could say that a hundred times over. I made a change that keeps on giving. I know that I am working towards a better me. I have been doing the work to uncover my deeply held beliefs and to be kinder, gentler to myself. I can’t wait for what’s to come.

Maybe I did have PPD or maybe I truly didn’t. It’s no longer important for me to know that because I am working on the real issues. Maybe I did drink too excessively, maybe I didn’t. It’s no longer important to me how much I drank because I’ve uncovered why I was drinking. I tried to put the labels of these conditions so far away from me and it stopped me from getting help. Once I stopped caring about the labels, once I confronted the fear I had about them, once I asked myself the hard questions, once I put in the work, I started to see real change.

We need to be honest with ourselves. Until now I wanted so badly to say it was the doctors’ fault—that they misdiagnosed me. But I wasn’t completely truthful. I take responsibility for that. What I wanted more than the label was the proper acknowledgement that I would be OK. I wanted my time back. The time to feel I was in control. I have that now. Sobriety has given that to me. I now also recognize I was not asking myself the best questions and I wasn’t answering them properly.

Am I an alcoholic?
Do I have Post-Partum depression?

Why is one label something I have and one label signify who I am? Are they not two labels of the same coin: You are experiencing a mental and physical divide and it is affecting your health. What do you need? Maybe that conversation is for another time…To be clear, I am not arguing for or against labels. I know they can serve a purpose. Importantly, I do not wish to take-away from anyone’s chance at getting the help they need. I do not wish to belittle your experiences or imply there are not distinctions between these conditions.

I am saying that we need more. We need a spectrum. We need to acknowledge the connotation a label holds and be better prepared to address the struggle. We need to remember to not dismiss someone’s call for help because it doesn’t fit our own perception (or medical definition) of what struggle looks like. We need to listen to each other’s timid inquiries and listen deeply. We need to encourage safe spaces where we can be courageous and accepting of vulnerability. And, again, we need to be honest with ourselves.

We also need to take the personal responsibility to change our lives.

Perhaps the next time you find yourself asking if you are something or if you have something, drop the labels, and just say:

I am Christina.
I have questions about my health.
I want to feel better.
What can I do?

And, please, please be honest with yourself. It’s the only way you’ll break free.