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.
“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
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!
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.
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 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.
In Louisiana, we don't just embrace crazy drunken behavior...we parade it down the street. I mean they don't call it the dirty south for nothing! Whether it's SEC football, Mardi Gras, mud riding or deer season (because mixing alcohol with firearms and ATV's is totally safe...wtf?!), or Tuesday we find a way to incorporate celebrating with copious amounts of alcohol. It's engrained in our culture; it's our unofficial state motto for God's sake. Then, of course we all repent on Sunday (but that's an issue for another day).
So, with carnival season officially kicking off...I wanted to share how I beat the Cajun crazy.
Is it hard to get sober here? Are you kidding me? Is it hard to breathe without air? In early sobriety, it felt incredibly isolating & lonely. I had to distance myself from any event, any activity, & any person that celebrated alcohol, and it pissed me off. Sure there are a few gentle options: the family friendly zone on parade routes, family tailgates, etc...but I knew these wouldn't work for me. I didn't watch a single football game. I didn't catch the first bead (or show my boobs to anyone so that was definitely a win for the dignity column). I passed on all invitations to bonfires, festivals, tailgates, and boat days (Sundays on the Red River, after church of course, are the redneck version of a Midsummer Night's Dream). It felt like a horrible punishment, but I did as I was told and changed EVERYTHING and EVERYONE.
Instead, I prayed. I read, and I journaled. I worked out hangover free (what a glorious concept), went to therapy, & a lot of meetings. I drank a shit ton of coffee and bubble water. I cried. I traveled. I connected to people and to myself. For the first time in my life I discovered what made my heartbeat. I worked on Rachel, and I committed to it.
And then something magical happened...while I was busy distracting myself, I accidentally created a life for myself! (aha! plot twist). I began to see the old ways, the crazy & chaotic 'fun ways' for what they really were...emptiness. Not only had I engaged in these old behaviors and dialogues, I had romanticized them. I don't want to escape anymore. I want to vibrate on a higher frequency. I want to live and feel everything! I want to live in Technicolor, and you can't do that if you're off your face on vodka.
“The good news is, now that you’re sober you’ll start to have feelings. The bad news is, you’ll start to have feelings.”
I will never forget these words that my first sponsor spoke to me the day I met her. I was 72 hours sober and sitting quietly and fearfully in the back of the room. While we don’t all choose AA to recover, we do all get to choose how we deal with our feelings sans alcohol. No one ever told me this would be the hardest part.
How was I supposed to deal with sadness? Anxiety? Overwhelm? Those dreaded panic attacks? Oh and don’t even get me started on the ex husband. What was I going to do after a hard days work? Kids that don’t listen? Then a good day deserves a celebratory drink also, amiright?! The Titos bottle is what made everything better, helped me sleep at night and kept me going. The panic slowed when I was drinking. The ex husband...what ex husband?! A hard days work and out of control kids slowly faded into the background with that first delightful sip. Pretty soon nothing else mattered. And repeat. Day after day; year after year until I just couldn’t go on. After 15 plus years of drinking, death was inevitable and while I didn’t want to die I didn’t want to go on like this anymore either.
Alcoholic addicts don’t choose to drink because we are living our best lives. We drink so that we don’t have to deal with the hard stuff called life and we do our damndest to avoid all reality. As we learn however, covering up real life feelings with drugs and alcohol just leads to bigger life problems.
Honestly, addiction isn’t even about alcohol and drugs at all. It is the absence of self, a hole in your soul. Recovery starts with healing the parts of yourself that you’ve been at war with for so long. It is about loving yourself enough to do the hard work day after day for the rest of your life. Your recovery MUST come first so that everything else in life that you love doesn’t come last.
First things first...find a tribe! Whether it’s a recovery program such as AA, a local group, a sponsor, a Facebook group such as this...whatever it is, FIND IT and rely on those people to help you. When I say no one will judge you, I promise that is the truth. We all have a story that we aren’t proud of, no ones is worse than the others. You belong here and deserve the happiness that recovery brings! The first days are so damn hard and you can’t do it alone - lean on your people, let them love you even when you don’t love yourself!
Start a new routine. Meditate each morning and every night. Start with just a few minutes a day and work up to full meditations. Finding yourself and your own breath is so very important. Get in your head and your heart and learn to heal from the inside out!
Find good, therapeutic grade essential oils. Addiction starts because of feelings or lack thereof. We need to feel good and using essential oils as part of our daily routine and meditation practice will help our overall mental, emotional and physical healing. We are addicts in recovery trying to remove all the chemicals from our bodies. An all around chemical free life is the best life to live.
Talk to a therapist. While you might not need a therapist forever, one in the initial stages of recovery can really help you learn about yourself. Learn why you are putting up those walls. Why you feel you aren’t worthy of love and affection. Honestly, when I first got sober over four years ago, I thought I knew why I needed to drink and what was causing it...boy was I wrong. I learned so much about myself and found emotions and feelings I had been blocking out for years. Once I was able to let those go, I was able to feel more freely. Truth be told, I still see my therapist once a month because who doesn’t love just blurting it all out to someone who isn’t going to judge you and is just there to listen?
Finally, have grace on yourself. We aren’t perfect humans, there is no such thing; perfect doesn’t exist. Strive daily for progress, not perfection and if you fall, get that booty back up and start again girlfriend.
Recovery IS worth it. You ARE worth it. A sober life IS the best life. Go live yours my FRIEND!
This past Christmas, my daughter Lil got a hoverboard.
She immediately cracked it out of the box, and started whipping around on it all over the house, hair fluttering behind her. She looked graceful, like a beautiful robot-ballerina.
Although I’ve never been as graceful as a ballerina or even a robot, I still thought maybe I should give it a shot. Because man! that hoverboard looked like fun.
I climbed onto it and started hoverboarding. I navigated the living room shakily, moving forward at a pace of .0000025 miles per hour. Frankly, I was surprised at how well I was actually doing. After what was probably five entire minutes, I decided that it would be wise not to press my luck.
So I stepped off.
When I did, I forgot to pay attention to keeping my foot level and the hoverboard spun around beneath me. It rolled over Lil’s bare foot, and sent me crashing to the floor in a spectacular fashion. Right on my back. And because Lil was kindly holding my hand as I got my hoverboard bearings, I pulled her down on top of me.
This whole past holiday season has felt like that. It looks like it’s going to be fun, then it lands on its back with a thud.
Here’s a sampling of my inner monologue:
The fun: “My son’s choir sings so beautifully!”
The thud: “This is the last holiday choir concert of his I’ll see!” [he’s a senior]
The fun: “Oh look! The Christmas music box my mother-in-law gave me when I got married 20 years ago.”
The thud: “She’ll never be here to give me another gift.” [she passed away three years ago]
The fun: “Remember that funny story my grandpa used to tell about when my uncle met Santa?”
The thud: “We’ll never hear him tell it again.” [he passed away a year and a half ago]
The thuds are what I used to drink to forget. Not crazily. Not desperately. Definitely as a salve, though.
After a couple beers, I could laugh again without having to intentionally choose happiness.
But I stopped drinking forever, 15 months ago. And unlike last year, when I was a new non-drinker and the holidays felt like one giant conspiracy to get me to drink again, this year was easier. I didn’t find myself resisting the urge to drink to just get through it.
But I still found myself still wishing for an easy out.
This is definitely a time when I would have poured a stiff one, I kept thinking to myself, as I addressed more cards and ordered more presents and hung one more ornament adorned with a tiny handprint on the tree.
Instead of drinking, I tried other things.
I read books and I watched TV and I did my nails and I curled my hair.
I binged on cut-out stars, meringues and chocolates, and a package of chalky, soft peppermint sticks. Santa doesn’t come here anymore, I figured. Someone has to build up flesh that shakes like a bowl full of jelly.
I watched my teens gleefully open their presents on Christmas morning, two fools unaware that the clock is ticking for all of us. We’re all going to get old and die! I wanted to shout. MERRY CHRISTMAS. I hope you like that sweater.
It wasn’t all bad. But nothing ever really drowned out the thud completely.
And now that all the decorations are put away, all the family recipes have been made, and all the old stories told, I’m breathing a sigh of relief. Things feel fresher and not so heavy with memories.
In January, it’s easier to recognize that empty place inside as just a part of me now. It doesn’t need filled with booze or fiction or nail polish or anything else, in the same way that the hole in a bagel doesn’t need filled. The hole is, in fact, what makes it uniquely a bagel in the first place, and not just a weird chewy bun.
So here’s to 2019. The year of keeping that hole delightfully and painfully empty. And perhaps the year of maybe stepping back on that hoverboard.
Laura Rees is a writer, a mother, a meditation teacher, a happiness advocate. She's living her best dry life in Central Ohio. Connect with her at her site, mantrasandmocktails.com, or on instagram, @mantrasandmocktails.
Recently I shared coffee with a new friend and fellow sober mama. It was so uplifting and refreshing since face-to-face connections can be hard to come by if you don’t attend AA in the area.
During our flow of conversation, I had the opportunity to share my story of how I got to this place, this life at now 692 days sober.
I realized as I started that it had been a really long time since I shared my story- out loud. After my wakeup call, the only people that knew were those involved. Then once the shame of it all quit choking me a few weeks later, I told a couple of super close friends. Then I shut my mouth about it.
A few months later, I started my own blog as a way to share my personal flow through the early days of sobriety. It was an incredible outlet, but it took me a solid ten months until I shared “The Day.”
So what is my story, you may ask? Well, in a brief-ish version, back in January of 2017 I was in single-mom-mode with our trio entering the work weekend with some sort of sickness brewing in me. My solution? Drink my way through it.
By Monday, I felt like death. Called out of work, took my kids to daycare, came home, continued to drink, napped, popped a Xanax because the anxiety of it all was suffocating me, and then picked our kids up. The next thing I know, I’m awaking to the face of our daycare provider and her daugher in our van in our garage. I had blacked out and passed out the second I put the van in park. By the grace of God, I didn’t shut the garage door, as the van was still running with all three kids buckled in the back.
It took until the next day, after yet another morning of steady drinking, for me to have my final wakeup call. Here I was stuck at home with all three kids because I couldn’t drive, partially due to a dead van battery (again, God’s work), and because I was on an uncontrollable bender.
My hangovers and withdrawals were really bad at this point in my drinking, so that was ultimately what I was trying to avoid with the all-day boozing. I knew I would not be able to care for my kids if I tried to quit drinking cold turkey, and my husband was not due back from his mission for another few days. Plus, being a military family, I had no family to call to help me out of this terrible hole I had dug for myself.
Then this feeling overcame me- I had the clearest drunk thought of my life! I was ready to sober up FOR GOOD! In the past when I had try to quit- once for 100 days and once for 8 months, I was never filled to the brim with this feeling. This feeling was different. This feeling felt like the first step towards true freedom!
With the fresh feeling riding high, I decided to walk across the street and ask my sweet neighbor for help. Together we called the police to set in motion a plan to get me to detox. Once again, I thank God because my wish came true. Somehow everything fell into place. My husband was able to catch a redeye home. My neighbor took care of the kids while the police and I made arrangements. Our daycare provider stepped up and took the kids for the night, and off I went!
After a quick stop at the hospital to get pumped full of fluids and receive a withdrawal medication, I awoke in a detox center on January 25, 2017. I quickly realized this what not what I had truly envisioned, so I checked myself out as soon as I could that day. I then was able to detox in the comfort of our home, thanks to the medication I had received.
After I had shared this story out loud at the coffee date, I felt this inner peace overcome me. I wasn’t full of shame. In fact, I felt sincerely grateful.
I wasn’t tearful. I was strong in my words.
I didn’t hesitate on the details. I was honest.
I wasn’t beating myself up, as I have made my own personal peace and received all the forgiveness I’ve needed from those who matter most.
Saying my story out loud made me realize how different my life truly is now. That girl I was, that mom who was struggling to keep her (emotional) head above water is not in our home anymore.
Because of that day, my faith has grown tenfold. My marriage is stronger, but slightly different. My relationship with my kids is honest and pure. Who I am is real and most definitely perfectly imperfect.
It’s taken a long time to get to this place of peace, but I’m there. I know this journey has no end, and there is still plenty of work to do. But sharing my story out loud shows that time really does wonders. It shows where I am at, as well as where I want to be. It shows how far I’ve come, and reminds me of who I will hopefully never ever be, again.
I know we all ride this journey at our own pace, and we all enter it at different points. But to give yourself a gut check on where you are today- I say, share your story. It could bring hope to others, as well as build a great deal of strength within you!
Alison Evans is a military wife and stay-at-home mom to three fun-loving, wild kiddos. She recently finished her second masters (like a crazy person) in Exercise Science, and is now a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. She will be rolling out health and wellness services for other sober mommies in the very near future. For now, you can check out her personal blog www.FromWinetoFine.com to read her other sober ramblings. You can also follow her on IG @teetotallyfit.
One of the beliefs that held me captive in my addiction, long after I knew I had a problem, was the assumption that I could never “do life” without alcohol. Vacations, football games, festivals, girls’ nights, date nights, holidays…HOW?!
HOW in the world could I ever attend a black-tie event with Carl’s clients, a holiday party or tailgating without a drink in my hand? For years, I justified drinking excessively, restrained by the lie that it would be impossible to survive socially without it.
I didn’t, until I gained clarity in sobriety, recognize that one (just one) of the reasons I drank was to cope with my social anxiety. I was uncomfortable in my own skin, felt like an outsider, and dreaded situations that would require excessive interaction for long periods of time. Liquid courage? No. Liquid tolerance. I wasn’t insecure, just uncomfortable unless I was drinking. Then I felt funnier, smarter, more engaging.
For years, and years, and years, I was in complete denial that I wasn’t social. I thought I just wasn’t trying hard enough. I didn’t want to be “anti-social,” or a snob, so I forced myself to be more, going places and doing things that were terribly uncomfortable and never worth the discomfort.
But the mental obsession of needing to drink to get ready to go anywhere, wondering how soon I could get a drink once I arrived, and trying to manage my drinking so as not to get sloppy, embarrassing myself or my family, was driving me crazy.
“The anxiety that came from obsessing over drinking was becoming as bad as the anxiety I felt when I didn’t.”
I was stressing over my behavior more, questioning my condition more, fearing the potential consequences more, worrying about who was noticing more, and agonizing over decisions more. I was more irritable, more restless, and more discontent.
It wasn’t until the second day in my recovery program, when my behavior, my condition, and my situation were SIMPLIFIED into LESS that I began to heal. Simply put, I was sick. I wasn’t a failure or lazy, or a snob. I had a disease. I could not, would not, ever cure it on my own anymore than someone with cancer can will away their disease. I needed help and that too came in the easiest of explanations. All I had to do was GIVE UP.
Not I. Not Me.
When I was in charge of my life, I over complicated things. My own thinking was destructive, hopeless. I put so much pressure on myself to do more, to be more that I drank more. I didn’t like who I was because I thought I was supposed to be someone else. I never felt like enough. And I was doing the same things over and over, expecting a different result. Insanity. Something had to change. I had to get out of my own way and ask God for help. I had to give up managing my life, especially my drinking. I didn’t need to control it, or try harder to change me, or worry about all the “what ifs, when…”
I just needed to focus on not taking the first drink, right now, today. And in the moments when it felt impossible or I was overwhelmed with temptation, I had to ask God to take away that craving. If I use whatever means necessary to avoid the FIRST DRINK, TODAY, I won’t drink the second, or seventh. I can worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.
In the beginning, I was careful in choosing which social situations to attend. I knew these environments were triggers. I didn’t attend things that were centered around drinking. We traveled a couple of times that first month, short weekend trips with family, but I attended meetings and stayed in constant contact with my sponsor.
Slowly, over time, I was able to venture out, to visit a few more places. And by then, I had started to get stronger, more confident. I’d gone many “one” days without a drink, so my obsession, my temptation was weakening. I was still careful, reading from my big book, praying, and talking to my sponsor. I always had a predetermined “exit” plan should I need to leave due to unhealthy cravings. And more than anything, I gave myself grace. I didn’t feel so much pressure to go everywhere, all the time, with all the people, doing all the things. If I was feeling good, I’d go. If I felt weak, I’d avoid it and work on my recovery.
Today, after years of making choices about what I can handle and where I can go, I don’t feel left out, bitter or resentful. I don’t feel sorry for myself.
“The peace that has come in sobriety is immeasurably more than any of the temporary relief I got from drinking.”
Sure, I’ve had meltdowns, crying, scared and confused (see The First Thanksgiving), but the need to drink to cope has faded.
People ask how I do it, if I tell servers that I “can’t” drink, if I pretend that I’m pregnant, or if I just accept being miserable. The answer is no. I don’t go if I think I’ll be uncomfortable, and I tell everyone close to me which allows for a safer, more inclusive experience. I practice what I’ve been taught. I stay connected to others in sobriety, serve those who are still sick, and ask God to keep me humble. I can honestly say that at this moment, I have been relieved of my desire to drink and empowered by God’s grace to live as I am. I know I have a progressive disease, always lying in wait and if I get too confident, compliant or think I’m “cured,” I’ll relapse into a much worse state. So I’m still careful, vigilant about my comfort zone.
I no longer overthink things, I don’t worry about being more or doing more. Giving it all over to God has transferred the burden so there’s no more pressure. I’m just me, thanking Him for saving me so far and asking for the strength to not take the first drink, today. Surprisingly, my life is more fun because my mood is no longer situational, dependent on when and where I can drink. Instead, I lean into the simplicity of my recovery, following the lead of others and depending on God for strength. I’m healthier and happier. I can go places, do things and have a great time, free from mental obsession and full with self confidence.
I didn’t care much for alcohol when I began drinking—I didn’t like the feeling of being intoxicated and hated hangovers. Even at my twenty-first birthday party I remember giving away the endless flow of free drinks as I slowly sipped on a light beer. Despite this early dislike of alcohol, things took a turn for the worse and within a matter of one year, I found myself knee-deep in an alcohol habit that I couldn’t seem to find my way out of.
Becoming dependent on alcohol
I entered into a relationship in my early twenties with a man who was a very heavy drinker. I had fallen in love with him before I realized he was an alcoholic, and I began to see that alcohol was either going to build a wedge between us or bring us together. So, I picked up his habit and a couple of drinks in the evenings after work quickly turned into late night binges and booze filled weekends. At the time I thought it was fun, innocent and what people my age were supposed to do. I never intended to become addicted to alcohol and in fact, I distinctly remember thinking it was just a phase and I’d outgrow it someday. I was terribly wrong.
Trying to moderate my drinking
It had been a couple years since I started my heavy drinking habit--I recall sitting on the beach, sipping a warm cocktail out of a can, and not being able to remember the last day that I hadn’t drank alcohol. Could it have been six months? A year? I could not remember. It was at that moment that I decided to take a weeklong break. I completed the full week without alcohol, but barely, and was so glad when it was over because all I wanted to do was drink. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was my very first of dozens of attempts to try to wrangle in the beast called alcohol addiction.
Though I was a heavy drinker, alcohol never impacted my life in a major way—I never got a DUI (thankfully) and was still able to hold down a job and lead a relatively normal life. But alcohol had me functioning in a daily fog, with perpetual hangovers and incurable feelings of anxiety—that is, until I had more alcohol. After the addiction had set in, I couldn’t figure out why I was no longer a moderate drinker. I would recall the days in my early twenties where I didn’t really care for alcohol, and could easily just have one or two drinks and then go for months without thinking about it. But things were different now. Each time I would try to quit drinking, I was met with incessant cravings and thoughts of alcohol. Sobriety felt like torture because I’d just be thinking about alcohol and everything triggered a craving to drink. Eventually, I would cave in and over-do it— again and again and again. No matter how much want and will power I would put in to my attempts to quit or cut back, I would always fall back into the habit of heavy drinking. That is, until I learned about pharmacotherapy and something called The Sinclair Method.
So, what are Pharmacotherapy and The Sinclair Method?
Pharmacotherapy is a fancy way to say that I used medication (combined with therapy support) to help myself drink less and crave less alcohol. The Sinclair Method (TSM) uses a technique called targeted dosing—where a medication is taken prior to drinking that blocks pleasure effects of alcohol. It doesn’t make you sick or anything, alcohol just starts to become less interesting. As a result, over time, many people lose interest in alcohol and naturally begin to drink less—and that is exactly what happened to me… and sometimes I still find it hard to believe.
From Alcohol-Dependent to Alcohol-Free
Today, it has been over one year since I started pharmacotherapy and TSM, and it has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I watched myself go from a daily heavy drinker, to a moderate drinker, to a light drinker, to someone who does not drink at all anymore—and I felt like it all happened naturally, no white-knuckling-it. Over time, I simply lost interest in alcohol and began to genuinely prefer and enjoy sobriety. Alcohol is no longer a thought or factor in my life. This experience is a stark contrast to what quitting alcohol was like for me before pharmacotherapy—where even though on the outside I was sober, on the inside, I couldn’t stop thinking about alcohol and drinking. I was triggered by bars, advertisements and even the mere thoughts of alcohol. I always felt like I was missing out at social gatherings if I wasn’t drinking. The chatter never stopped and I would eventually cave in to the urge to drink—convincing myself I didn’t have a problem even though deep down I knew I did.
I was biologically addicted to alcohol
What I’ve realized through this experience is that on a biological level, I was addicted to and dependent on alcohol. I was wired to crave it and when I didn’t have it, I craved it more because I felt deprived of it. What pharmacotherapy did for me (and my brain) was allow me to unlearn the alcohol addiction that I had learned in my 20s (think Pavlov’s dog in reverse). Each time I took the medication combined with the alcohol, I was slowly undoing the biological addiction. In fact, when I first started down this road, my goal was to be a moderate, “normal” drinker—consuming alcohol only on special occasions. I got to that point, and I felt so empowered being able to easily just have one drink on the rare occasion. But from there, I still continued to lose interest in alcohol, which has brought me to where I am today—happily and peacefully sober.
Spreading the word about pharmacotherapy
My passion for pharmacotherapy and The Sinclair Method has lead me to sharing my story on YouTube, and working as the Director of Community Engagement with Ria Health—a telemedicine company that uses pharmacotherapy to help people suffering from alcohol use disorder. I love Ria. I joined the team because what Ria offers is a truly comprehensive solution to help people drink less alcohol—with great effectiveness too—on average, members reduce their drinking by 50% within the first 30 days in the program. Of course, results may vary which is why Ria takes a one-on-one approach when helping people to overcome alcohol use disorder. Ria’s program sets their members up for success, helping people achieve lasting results in changing their relationship to alcohol. The program is personalized, confidential and everything is done from home. If you’re curious about pharmacotherapy, check us out, RiaHealth.com
I’m not sure if it really was the conversation 102 I had with myself, I lost track somewhere along the way, but today I am back to where I had particular one I remember, one of those conversations in my head. It kind of went like this:
Me: what the hell is wrong with you?
My head: what the hell have you done again?
Me: this is it, I am done.
My head: you really don’t have to be done, you should just cut back.
Me: you could just cut back, but you should be done.
My head: you really don’t have to be done, you could just cut back.
Me: who is mad at me?
My head: really, you really don’t have to be done, you could just cut back.
Me: how bad did you f up?
My head: you really don’t have to be done, you could just cut back.
Me: I’m done, I’m not drinking again. That was it.
My head: Take some time off, you really don’t have to be done, you could just cut back.
So what would I do? I would take the time off, like 7 – 21 days or so, and then slowly would ease back into it. The first few times would go ok, I could do it, I could be a social drinker, I can lose my binge drinking label. Bam, another one would come out of nowhere, one meaning another morning waking up at 3am, gasping for water, judging myself and what I would do, then once again the conversation in my head.
This particular one, conversation 102, I really hadn’t planned it this way. I didn’t plan to get wasted, those are the ones that get ya, the ones you don’t plan for, this particular drunk night that led to conversation #102 really hadn’t though.
The day went like every other volleyball tournament day. Woke up super early, drove 2 hours to the tournament, watched them play all day, don’t eat because the food choices aren’t the best here, work out in a hotel room, go out to dinner with team. It was the go out to dinner with the team thing that got me, well more specifically, the martini’s that got me. I hadn’t eaten, worked out, went to dinner, drank 2 martini’s and bam…wasted!
My girls were there, the team was there, I didn’t offend anyone and wasn’t a mean or angry drunk, honestly, the parents thought it was great, I was fun, but I was wasted. My middle daughter asked my older daughter what was wrong with me, she had to explain it to her. I ran up the escalator, ran through the hotel, and remember every single step of it. I never blacked out, never forgot. I woke up in the middle of the night with that familiar, you f’ing idiot.
The next day I walked down an empty hallway in the convention center. I sat on the floor, wrote myself a note, and told myself I had to get this in check, I should be done. I grabbed both my girls, apologized, and told them how alcohol affects different people and it was clearly effecting me bad. I felt remorse, guilt, shame all the usual. I never told them I was done drinking, I told them I wasn’t going to drink for a long time. I made it through the grease cravings, the shakes, the heart palpitations and the restless sleep so now it was time I was going to stay straight, giving it up. I had told my girls, I won’t drink for a while and I didn’t. But like always I crept back. I knew I wanted to quit, I knew I wanted to be done, but the thought of never drinking again, scared me. Wtf is wrong with that, quitting drinking forever scared me more than acting like a fool in front of my kids. Wtf! something about never again, freaked me out. I think more so failing at never drinking again was the scary thing, not the not drinking. Or getting through events, holidays, outings without drinking, I couldn’t do that.
The difference about conversation #102 that I had with myself in the particular place I am in right now, it was the closest I came to stopping. I had typed a text to my non-drinking friend telling her I was quitting which was going to be my accountability, she would keep me on track. How silly is that thinking, I am the only one that can keep me on track. Yes, I can have accountability and friends along with support along the way, but ultimately, it is me.
I had this conversation maybe about 20 more times before the last day. Well, what I am hopeful is the last time, before the change really took place. Although conversation #102 wasn’t the one, it was a little deeper and a bit more meaningful than the ones before it, even the ones that came after.
Currently I am super grateful I had it, where it led me, it got me to where I am now and while it may not be the path I envisioned, I like the path and I am grateful that I get to navigate it! Today back in this place, back where it all went down, I am thankful to be here without remorse. The remorse I am hoping to have today is the amount of junk I will eat while watching the matches. Thankful to be here with my girl I had freaked out a year prior, clear minded.
Authors - Various