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.
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.
“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.
A few months before I got sober I remember a meme I posted. It was when those here’s your flavor Oreo memes were popular. This Oreo flavor was the “Suburban Mom”. I’ll let you take a second and give me your best guess.
…coffee and avocados
…La Croix and chocolate
…Xanax and Franzia (wine)
Ding ding ding!!
If you guessed that. You won. Not sure what you win, but it’s definitely not the Mom of the Year Award. For those that are reading this and are appalled that I just said that. I get it. I was YOU, just 22 months ago.
I had shared that meme on my Instagram page with the caption, “That’s me. The suburban soccer mom rolling up to my son’s soccer practices and games with a to go cup of wine, and Xanax to pass out when I get home.” I cringe even just writing that.
A woman who had followed me for a while made a comment. And I can’t remember exactly what she said but it was similar to “mom of the year right here”. I got so offended and was like who are you to judge me for having wine like all the other moms. I attacked her back and blasted her on my page. Ugh. I wish I could remember who she was because I want to sincerely from the bottom of my heart apologize to her. She was right. Drinking wine and taking Xanax isn’t normal and shouldn’t be glorified.
If you know me, you know I love a good sense of humor. I’m a sarcastic smart ass. But now looking back at it, it’s not fucking funny. There are mothers dying every day from alcoholism. 88,000 people die from alcohol every year, which is 20,000 more than people who die from opioids. Yet it’s not considered an epidemic. Is your mind boggled just as much as mine? Good. In our society we glamorize alcohol, like it’s the nectar of the Gods. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s not worse than an illegal drug like heroin.
Before anyone else feels the need to be like how dare you. I’m not talking about the moms that have a glass of wine here and there or every night for that matter. I don’t care if someone drinks. Let me say that again for the people in the back. I DO NOT CARE IF YOU DRINK. What I do care about is the messaging behind these memes that I see all day, everyday.
What brought me to write this post today was a meme I saw on a popular Instagram page geared towards mothers. On the top it said, “When you realize being a parent is a lot harder than you thought it was going to be.” Then on the bottom under a picture of a woman having a drink was, “I’m gonna be an alcoholic by the time this shit is over.” I saw red and couldn’t help but comment on it. Maybe I should’ve kept my mouth closed, but then I feel like I’m giving in. Saying nothing to me feels like defeat.
Who says their kids are going to turn them into alcoholics? First of all, if you can’t parent without wine, then I suggest seeing a therapist. Second of all, being an alcoholic isn’t glamorous. It’s pure hell. Constantly thinking about when your next drink is going to be, hiding it in different cups so no one will notice you’re drinking wine out of a cup at 9 am, and the most important of all not being the parent you could be if you weren’t hungover. The alcohol marketing geared towards mothers needs to stop. It’s hard enough being a parent, now add being sober to the mix and it’s a nightmare.
I guess my point of all this is I understand that you think it’s funny and it isn’t causing any harm, but you’re wrong. The number of deaths from alcohol keeps increasing every year. That should be your first red flag that something isn’t right. Not to mention in the last few weeks there’s been articles saying no amount of alcohol is considered safe or “healthy”. We’re all being fooled by the alcohol companies and they’re laughing in our faces. The more it gets promoted as “mommy juice” and the only way you’ll make it through motherhood is to drink, the more women will buy because they think it’s the norm to drink all the time. And not to mention they won’t think they have a problem and maybe they actually don’t. But there are a lot of moms who are scared to admit it because they feel they won’t fit in anymore. We shouldn’t be the outcasts for living life to the fullest, and I wish more people would realize that.
The memes will continue, the apparel will keep being sold, and alcohol won’t stop being promoted everywhere we turn until we speak up and say enough is enough. The sad part is I don’t spend my days looking to call out people. It just appears in my Facebook and Instagram feed all the time. I’m not saying to engage in confrontation. All I’m saying is open your eyes to what’s happening. I’m not here to change the world. But I am here to make it a little less uncomfortable for the mothers who are trying their damn best to stay sober. In the meantime, I’m not judging you if you drink so don’t throw that in my face. And if you’re getting super defensive like I was before I got sober, then you may need to look inward.
Lastly, know what’s even more amazing? I wrote this while at my son’s soccer practice. It blows my mind how much more I get accomplished and the bigger purpose I have for life now. I’m not just going through the motions and drinking my life away anymore. And for that I will be forever grateful.
Authors - Various