I am super excited to be able to share a guest writer on my blog today. This is a topic close to my own heart and I felt it was one you’d all enjoy!
My husband and I are also sober parents – well, technically my husband is sober but I only drink a glass once a year… if that! We have had family members who have had bad relationships with alcohol so we made the decision to not drink too.
Wonderful Victoria, who is a British-born mum and lives on The Sunshine Coast in Australia with three noisy children, a very patient husband and a confused dog.
She has been writing about her journey to sobriety and motherhood for the past 3 years and has written a book on sober parenting. When she isn’t at her computer, you can find her crying alone in the shower or hiding from her children at a local cafe with a peppermint tea and a large slice of chocolate brownie.
Victoria has kindly come on my blog today to share her experiences of becoming a sober mum.
Becoming a Sober Mum
As she opened the fridge, she heard the chink of the bottles. They banged together in the snug compartment inside the door. The noise made her mouth water. She reached in and grabbed the cool bottle neck. Her touch allowed little droplets of condensation to escape and dribble down the sides. She lifted it out and reached up above the sink to find her favourite glass, the massive one that looked like an astronauts helmet. As the liquid glugged out, filling the huge vessel, she felt a sense of relief envelop her entire body.
No more kids, no more washing, no more school run. Just her, the wine and silence.
She was me.
The mother that drank because the kids were annoying because I was bored of changing nappies because I’d lost myself to motherhood. Those evening glasses of wine became my escape from the daily grind, my companion when it all got too much. There was always an excuse to crack open a bottle of red or pop a cheap fizzy.
Tired: wine. Bored: wine. Grumpy: wine.
The problem was, once I started, I couldn’t stop. One wasn’t enough and two was way too many.
Evenings that began with my head full of good intentions, without fail, ended with my head in a toilet. I was one of those drinkers that couldn’t stop once I started, whose nights out were flushed down the bog in a blackout.. along with three sour-tasting shots of tequila.
I’d been a huge binge drinker all my life, an invincible party girl with no consequences. Being a boozer was how I’d chosen to represent myself throughout my life. I was a reliable drinking partner, a girl that knew the best clubs, bars and punch-lines. I was fun I suppose. A never-ending conga line of laughs and lager.
But, when the kids came along, my drinking changed, the long gaps between nights out actually accentuated my indulgence. I went heavier on Mum’s Nights Out and found myself leaning on wine every evening to relieve the stresses and strains of my day.
Honestly, I’d found my new ‘Mummy’ role a bit boring. I was used to being independent and wild yet here I was procrastinating over paleo snacks and if my pram was posh enough, if I had the right cotton wraps and whether the baby had slept enough. I found the mundanity and repetitiveness of motherhood were as dull as the dishwater that filled my sink.
I loved my kids but I was lost, stuck somewhere between who I was and who I had become. My new responsibilities weighed heavy upon my shoulders, boozing drowned out worries and took the edge off many puke filled days. After-all, alcohol was the only way I knew how to feel better.
I drank and parented. Parented and drank.
But each Sunday with a stonking headache, I began to realise that my two worlds were not compatible. My drinking began to have negative side effects that rippled throughout my household.
Anxiety and shame started to creep into my hangovers. I was failing because I was unable to parent well after a night out. I hid in my bedroom as my husbands gave the baby a bottle instead of my toxic breast milk.
I knew what I was doing was wrong, but who was I without being a party girl? Just a boring mum with cracked nipples and vomit down her best Target T-shirt? No thanks.
So I continued… and my panic got worse.
I began missing out on things: family days out, trips to the park, time with my precious babies that I would never get back.
My drinking was getting in the way of my parenting, making me unavailable and filling me with regret. And with regret came the questions.
‘Why do I keep doing this to myself?’ ‘Why can’t I be me and be a good mum?’
Drinking was so ingrained in me, in my family, my culture and my environment, that I could not see a way out.
‘Quit drinking, me? You must be mad!’
But, as I sit here, at my computer with a coffee to my right and a smelly dog looking up at me, I’m nearly 1000 days without a drink.
Me, the party girl, the hostess with the most, that Rockstar Mum… is now a Sober Mum.
My sobriety is surprisingly undramatic. I wasn’t dragged into a rehab facility. There were no interventions or massive break-downs. It was just my husband and I standing in the kitchen one Sunday afternoon.
‘I can’t do this anymore’ I’d said to him
‘I’ve had enough – I think I need help’
My rock bottom was that I’d had enough. Enough of it all, the anxiety, the shame, the hangovers, the feeling like I always had to be the drunkest person in the room, the waking up with no idea why I was wearing a feather boa. I was done being me. It was a hard fact to face. But being me wasn’t working anymore.
The time had come for this party girl to grow up.
‘I feel like I’m losing grip’ I said to my husband, ‘I can’t stop drinking even though I hate it. I think I have a problem?’
He put his arms around me and said he would support me in whatever I wanted to do. He knew I was suffering, I saw it in his eyes as he passed me the packet of paracetamol every Sunday morning.
‘I’m sorry’ I bubbled into his shoulder.
I knew I had to change, for him and the kids.
So, it started there, in my kitchen with porridge burning on the stove behind us. Admitting defeat was how all this began.
I reached out. I got therapy. I found the Sober Curious Community. I read books and listened to every sobriety podcast under the sun. I spent time when I would have been drinking, learning about why alcohol had always been the answer.
It wasn’t an easy process, I had to dig up some ugly wiggly worms from my past and build a new foundation for my life, I had to form a totally new mindset, but after lots of tears and scribbling in my little notebook, I got there.
Now I’m a sober mum and I’m proud.
Life is better, I mean, it’s not perfect, I still shout too much and fail often, but I’m happier.
There certainly isn’t as much Karaoke or bad robot dancing – but I’m more content.
I drink tea now, and I enjoy remembering a night out and having real interactions. I don’t hide my true self behind the bottle anymore.
Sober isn’t boring at all – It’s better. Better for me and them.
My kids won’t know me as a drinker, they won’t see me slurring my words or moaning with my head in a toilet. They won’t see ‘that’ me.
All they’ll know is – I’m here, I’m available, I’m present…and that is everything.
To reach that point, I had to listen to my body and learn how to treat it with respect. I had to be kinder to myself in order for me to become a better mum. I had to understand that I was worthy of not numbing out anymore and that an alcohol-free life was a possibility for me.
So, if you are questioning those ‘cheeky’ wines and if (like me) one isn’t enough and two is too many or you’re feeling in need of change, then maybe it’s time to take the first steps and start the journey away from drinking?
There doesn’t have to be a rock bottom, you don’t have to be down and out before you make the change. Therapy taught me how to be my true self, my booze-free self without a fake smile. It taught me that the genuine me is enough.
No more wine, no more anxiety and no more drunk mummy.
Just me, my kids and time. Oh, and the odd Lindt ball! But that’s a whole other story!