In junior high, I couldn’t wait to go to high school.
In high school, I couldn’t wait to go to college.
In college, I couldn’t wait to graduate and start teaching.
Once I started teaching, I couldn’t wait to meet my future husband.
Once I met Carl, I couldn’t wait to get married.
Once we got married, I couldn’t wait to have children.
Once I had my children, I couldn’t wait to get promoted to my dream job.
By 2012, Carl and I were happily married with three healthy children, and a gorgeous home. I’d worked my way up to becoming the principal of the perfect little elementary school. I’d achieved everything I’d ever wanted, my life was better than I ever imagined, and I’d done it earlier in life than expected. But I was empty. Why wasn’t I satisfied, fulfilled, content, cup overflowing, dancing with joy, sharing the love and singing with joy?!
“I wanted to FEEL
how everyone else LOOKED.”
I feel like my early life was one big rush. I don’t recall ever “enjoying the moment.” You know the quote “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey?” Yeah, that was probably written for me specifically. What about “stop and smell the roses,” or “take the scenic route?” I was always a sprint by the roses...on the highway...while mentally writing my grocery list...and applying mascara...before lurching at the stoplight at the end of the exit ramp. I was too oblivious to see the approaching stop light in time to slow down, so I’d get mad...at the stoplight!
We had our son Ben one year into our marriage, then Mia and Addy followed immediately after. I had three kids under the age of three while working part time as an elementary administrator. I thought I could do it all! I had a happy marriage, three healthy kids, a beautiful home and a job I loved. I had arrived! I was determined to be the hot wife, the playgroup mom, the favorite boss, the community volunteer And while I was doing all of these things in some capacity, I wasn’t doing any of them well.
One day, I looked around and realized that despite my seemingly perfect life, I was always restless, irritable, and discontent.
I tried to feel better with new clothes, renovating a new house, taking on more at my job. I hoped to feel complete when I was thinner, hosted more parties, gave to more charities, or received more professional accolades. I looked for fulfillment in new outfits, new relationships, new projects. But nothing changed, I still felt the same inside: less than. Unequipped. Incompetent.
Why wasn’t my house always clean and organized? Why didn’t I always have seven nights of meals planned and the grocery shopping done before leaving for work Monday morning? Why didn’t my kids always have everything they needed on the day it was requested at school? Why did Carl feel like he wasn’t getting enough attention, and I preferred to stay home than go out? Why did I want to stay in the car in silence instead of socializing with the other moms at soccer practice? Why did I dread kids’ activities, being around other people? Why didn’t I want to be more involved at church? Why couldn’t I stick with an eating plan, a workout plan or a morning devotional?
Every time I measured myself using someone’s else’s ruler, I came up short. I was always off, late, unprepared. Things didn’t come together the way they looked like they did for everyone else. Clearly, I miscalculated somewhere, preventing the perfect execution of how I envisioned the perfect woman to live. If I viewed the PERFECT LIFE as a Pinterest Post, my attempt was an epic fail. No matter how hard I tried, I could not nail it.
Unless I was drinking.
When I was drinking, I was fun mom, sexy wife, sophisticated professional. I was more mature, more social, more outgoing, more creative, more productive. I was less uptight, less sad, less anxious, less worried.
Life through my drinking glass was perfect.
“Until the next morning, when the glass was empty…
and so was I.”
No matter how perfect I thought my life looked, I was never satisfied. I wanted more. Nothing was giving me a sense of satisfaction, of accomplishment, of being “finished.” And while drinking temporarily removed those feelings of restlessness and incompletion, once I “came to,” I felt more lost and hopeless than ever. The lowest, loneliest and most pathetic I’ve ever felt in my life, were those moments after I’d failed yet again, to control my drinking. I’d become dependent on alcohol to numb the feelings of failure, yet it was giving me something else at which to fail. It felt like a riptide pulling me under, the more I fought against it, the closer I came to drowning.
Today, I am 39 months sober. And over the course of these last three years, I’ve learned I’ll never feel fulfilled with any thing in this world. I’ll never arrive or finish, or achieve a diploma. I’m not perfect, my life isn’t perfect, and neither are supposed to be.
I’ve chosen to share my past and chronicle my daily life in sobriety (the easy AND the hard) through my personal website, THIS THORN. There’s a passage in the bible, (2 Corinthians 12:7-12:), where the apostle Paul describes the “thorn in his side.” He complains of the recurring pain but comes to accept it as a gift from God. While we never learn the nature of the thorn in Paul’s side, I know mine is my alcoholism. Every day I must depend on God, along with my recovery program and support system to keep me from falling back into my alcoholic thinking. It reminds me to keep my eyes on how God created me to be ME: different, and imperfect, and human. By starting each day with gratitude for His grace, I've learning to give myself some. I’m now living a life more fulfilled than ever. It’s not perfect, and I still have days of frustration and moments of self-pity. But by leaning into Him, I make it through those times sober, stronger, and smarter. I’m more confident in my weaknesses than I ever was in my perceived perfection. I’m now comfortable in my own skin, proud of who I am, accepting of my flaws...and finally willing to share them with the world.
Alyssa Adkins got sober in July of 2015. She is a wife to Carl and busy mother of three tween/teenagers with active social lives but no drivers licenses. Before staying home full time to be more emotionally available to her family, she spent 12 years in education as a teacher then an elementary administrator. She now owns her own virtual skincare business. She’s a homebody, preferring intimate conversations with a few, over small talk at large social gatherings. She and Carl rely on their faith and relationship with God to navigate parenting, marriage and serving others. Over the last few years, she’s become very vocal about her alcoholism with the hopes that someone will identify a similarity in her story. Follow her on IG @alyssasthorn, or her blog at www.thisthorn.com where she shares living sober when it’s easy...and when it’s not.
“You have your hands FULL!” and “I don’t know how you do it!?!” are two of the most popular phrases I hear out of people’s mouths when I explain my current life.
So what’s my life? Well, I am a military and pilot’s wife, so holding the fort down solo occurs quite often. We have three children, now 6, 5 and 3. I am a professional school counselor turned stay-at-home-mom as of the last year. I am also a full-time graduate student.
Just typing all of that makes me want to take a nap.
A little less than two years ago, I was on the struggle bus on how to handle this life. Let me rephrase that- I was driving the struggle bus! All the stress that had accumulated from years of trying to find balance between working full-time, cranking out three kids in a matter of four years, and dealing with it all as my husband travelled was taking its toll on me. I felt as though I had nowhere to to turn to, as we have no family in the area, so I hit what I thought was the “easy button.” AKA: I drank my face off whenever I could.
Alcohol was my escape, my friend, my crutch, my medication, my everything!
Surprisingly, though, I still made time to workout, eat a fairly healthy diet, and occasionally get together with friends. But it took a couple of hard falls to realize that the booze had to go. I had to find a way to face my life, to stop running from it, and find my sanity among the chaos.
After 630 days of managing to stay both semi-sane AND sober, here is what I found works for me:
Stay one-step ahead
If I know that my husband has a 7 or 10 day mission coming up, I prep as much as I can ahead time. Something as simple as getting a massive amount of groceries or filling up the van with gas helps. Planning out meals and/or prepping them helps. Making sure I don’t schedule appointments for the kids during that time helps. Making sure that all the laundry is caught up prior to his departure helps. My husband will also jump in on this process and take care of yard duties, the garbage or any manly things that need to be done.
It’s these little forward-thinking steps that can make a HUGE difference once you’re in the single-parent-zone.
Keep life simple
More times than not I switch into ultra-basic mode during these stints. What this looks like is the kids eating off of paper plates most of the week to save myself from having to do dishes all the time. I won’t touch the laundry baskets until a kid runs out of underwear (which should lead me to simply buy extra underwear ;). I also prioritize my “To-do” list and follow through with only the absolute necessary items.
Basically, I’ll avoid or simplify certain tasks to make room for the really important things, like spending little chunks of time with my kids when I’m not glued to my own school and adulting responsibilities. The house will eventually get cleaned, and the clothes will get folded. I just need to make sure that all the basics are met. Everyone fed? Yep! Everyone dressed? Yep! Everyone getting to-and-from school and/or activities? Yep! Are assignments for school getting done? Yep! Everyone getting some Mommy love? Yep! Then we’re good!
Make “me-time” a priority
This one is HUGE! It is SO easy to get caught up in the mental and physical stress of these weeks, even if I am rolling out ultra-basic mode. Therefore, you will find me squeezing in “me-time” both first thing in the morning and right before bed.
I wake up at least an hour or two before my kids. During this time, I quietly enjoy my coffee, journaling, catching up on IG, and possibly a quick workout or yoga. With the time left over, I begin checking off items on my “To-do” list. Then at night, I might enjoy a quick 20-minute bath. I’ll read. I’ll maybe indulge in some TV, although that’s not really my thing, but hey! When the hubby’s away, the Bachelor will be played!
Again, this step is incredibly crucial because not so long ago this time was filled with either the thought of booze or with booze. I had to practice and convince myself on the regular that wine o’clock is NOT self-care. It will NOT make me feel better as a wife, mom, or woman. Only me, myself, and I can improve myself. So I make these times an absolute priority when in single-mom-mode.
Gratefully accept any help, support or encouragement
As I mentioned before, we don’t have any family around us. I’ve had to manage these years mostly on my own. However, slowly but surely I’ve learned ways to lean on others.
Even if the budget has been a little tight, I’ll spring for a babysitter so I can connect with friends or attend an event. These are also the weeks that my long-distance friends hear from me the most because I NEED adult interaction and laughter. I also post a lot more on IG because I greatly appreciate the connections with other sober moms and friends. I attend church on Sundays for the personal growth, as well as for Sunday School for the kids. Our family is well known at the gym because the KidsZone is the best gift ever! I happily accept the neighbors stopping us in our driveway to give the kiddos a squeeze. Playdates are also welcomed for the sake of everyone’s sanity.
Much like in sobriety, mommy support is incredibly important. Saying “Yes!” to help is even more so important. Letting others in is beyond OK, as “it takes a village,” right?
Last but most certainly not least is staying active during these single-mom-mode stints. If I did not make the time to exercise, even if it’s a simple yoga session in the morning or a stroller walk with our youngest, I would lose my mind and possibly risk my sober streak.
Exercise is by far my strongest tool in my box. Exercise releases all the emotions and boost my mood almost immediately. It gives me energy when I’m tired. It gives me strength to keep moving forward- figuratively and literally. Plus, as mentioned earlier, the gym takes care of the kids so I can fit this time in (nearly) stress free!
Even if it’s for 15 or 20 minutes a day, finding a physical activity that makes you want to move is an easy, cheap, and powerful sanity saver.
In addition to all these major items, other things that help me are coffee, small bowls of ice cream, naps, and prayer. Lots and lots of prayer!
What are your go-tos to stay sane among the fulfilling chaos that we call motherhood?
Alison Evans is a military wife and stay-at-home mom to three. She is currently working on her second masters (like a crazy person) in Exercise Science, and 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.
“Mama, you’re drinking wine!”
My three year old knew the smell of cabernet on my breath when I tucked him in at night. His statement boasted only of his pride of recognition of the aroma, but it felt like a nightly indictment. His nightly proclamation alerted me that I needed to change my habits.
I can’t pinpoint when my drinking went from “normal” (if you call ingesting a toxic substance as recreation and stress relief normal) to problematic. In my college days, I binge drank as did most of my peers. Alcohol was the common denominator in a slew of reckless choices I am grateful to have survived mostly unscathed.
As I settled into adulthood and marriage, my drinking slowed, became less frequent. I avoided alcohol entirely in my three pregnancies, other than a small sip of champagne on New Year’s Eve 2012.
Somewhere in my early years of motherhood, however, my drinking became less about celebration and recreation. I found a glass of wine in my hand every night, then two, and eventually an empty bottle on the counter. I swapped out my bottles for boxes claiming I was making the economical choice when really it allowed me to drink more while spending less.
In the summer of 2017, I knew I had to make a change or alcohol could ruin my life. I vividly remember thinking if I needed a bottle of wine to get through a typical day’s stress, what would I do when my parents died, or someone got sick? I am a religious person, and I believe this thought came straight from the Holy Spirit, prompting me to examine my relationship with alcohol and my unhealthy stress management.
What began as a six-month trial period of sobriety is now over a year of wine-free nights and headache–free mornings. I can’t imagine going back to where I was 18 months ago. Now my baby only smells sparkling water or sleepy time tea on my breath when I tuck him in. My oldest has mentioned I yell less, and I feel significantly more present for my family.
Sobriety has come with many gifts, but the most significant to me are my new eyes. When I was drinking, I saw advertising for alcohol everywhere, but I didn’t think twice about it. Like a woman desperately longing for a baby who seems to see pregnant women everywhere, the newly sober me felt overwhelmed by the amount of alcohol promotion around me. Yoga and wine, races ending with a beer, handbags with hidden beverage dispensing compartments, t-shirts yelling about mimosas and rose all day.
The sheer amount of alcohol merchandising daunted me, but I became particularly alert to how alcohol is marketed to women as our prize for modern womanhood. Studies continue to link alcohol to breast and other cancers, not to mention a whole host of other diseases. Yet somehow we hear more about the “heart –healthy benefits” of wine than the risks that enormously outweigh the benefits.
Admitting to yourself you have a problem with alcohol is tough. Sharing your deepest secrets with your circle of influence is terrifying. Even though I was scared, I decided to share my struggles publicly. I know I am not the only mom who nightly drowned her stress, disappointment, and overwhelm in a bottle of wine. I want women, especially mothers, to see there is another way. In sharing my story, I have been connected to a community of sober women from across the globe that are ringing the alarm bells and showing our sisters the path to freedom.
One day the sweet little ones I tuck in each night will have to make their own decisions regarding alcohol. I hope they remember the deep divide between drinking mom and sober mom. I hope they can make informed choices and realize anyone can become addicted to an addictive substance. More than anything, I hope they dare to see when society tries to sell them a lie, to speak against it, and live boldly in the truth. This is the gift sobriety has given me. I want that gift for us all.
Learn more about Lindsay here.
Authors - Various