Confessions of a high achieving professional and mom of 4

What I learned from abstaining from alcohol for 5 years

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Spring can be a time of renewal. Historically, it’s when I’ve chosen to emotionally “clean house.” I’m approaching my 5 year anniversary without alcohol and I’m turning 40-all within the span of 5 weeks. At the age of 16 I thought…”Maybe when I’m 40 I’ll have my sh*t together.” I’m certainly nowhere near perfect (thank goodness) but I’ve done intensive work on myself and in my relationships that I actually might pull this one off.

You could be thinking is she an alcoholic? How much did she drink? She must have drank in the morning? I bet she got a DUI? The answer to all of these questions are no. Labels aside, I hated myself and I was spiritually and emotionally bankrupt not living my best life. High functioning to a fault, I hid my deep despair and earned the reputation of work hard/play hard albeit blackouts and a mountain of regrets from my behavior while intoxicated. I’m unihibited without alcohol so you can only imagine. 

Some fun facts…

Women are at higher risk than men of developing alcoholism later in life due to biological, psychological, underlying mental health issues, and trauma history. 

Women have more on our plates than ever before leaving us feeling stressed beyond measure and trying to do it all.

1/4 of us struggle with anxiety and we use alcohol to self medicate.

We’re encouraged to drink surrounded by “Moms Who Need Wine” culture which minimizes and rationalizes drinking and the effects it has on us and our families. 

I was a binge drinker until the very end of my drinking career. I was relying on wine every night to unwind just to get through the monotony of a working mother’s boring routine of homework, dinner, bath, and bed with 4 children.

I was sick and tired of trying to manage and control my drinking. “If I can just make it until 5pm…I’ll only have 2 drinks tonight (with the most hefty pour) of wine, tequila, vodka and a splash of soda. I’ll alternate each drink with a glass of water.” The hangovers became unmanageable and every morning I’d swear off drinking for good only to be filled with shame by happy hour because I had broken a promise I made to myself. 

The addiction gene runs strong in my family of origin. I had already overcome an eating disorder and survived sexual traumas which are risk factors for developing substance use disorder so I knew I was playing with fire.

I’m successful, high functioning, over achieving, intelligent,- I know how to treat addiction, it was my concentration in graduate school. These characteristics did not make me immune. Nothing worked until I decided to give it up completely. I was terrified of what a life without alcohol would look like, it was all I ever knew. I took a leap of faith when my children were ages 7, 5, 3, and 1. Since then, I have found the following…

Clarity- the fog has lifted. I get to feel all the feels all the time and they are not induced by a substance.

Consistency- I try to live my life by showing up and doing the next right thing. My friends in the 12 step program taught me this. Basic living skills such as sleep, nutrition, and exercise have never been more important.

Connection- I’ve built a community of support. I used to think I got this (fill in the blank.) I can do it all on my own. I have found depth in my relationships I never imagined to be possible and I’ve learned to lean on people I can trust.

Compassion- for self and others. I’m more patient and tolerant despite fu*k being my favorite word. I take a more gentle and soft approach to life while trying to keep it simple.

Can do attitude-I have less fear and anxiety and I take more risks (the appropriate ones.) I close my eyes, dare to dream big, hustle hard, and leave the rest up to the universe.

If you drink? No judgement here. I love sitting at the bar with you and having good conversation while laughing until my stomach hurts and downing a few virgin mojitos chased by a couple of diet cokes. I love to dance and sing at the top of my lungs. Yes, I still have fun, even more so than when I was drinking because now I remember everything. I expire at about 9pm because I wake up early and start my day in silence, meditating, praying, journaling, and drinking a warm cup of coffee.

I love my life today. All of it, and it’s certainly not all good.

Every year on March 10th I give gratitude to the woman who took my hand and showed me the light to a life without alcohol and self hatred. I buy a chocolate peanut butter cake, red velvet, or both and my family sings happy anniversary. My kids remind me what a better mom I am sober just by the simplicity of the smiles on their faces. Oh, and the card that has a picture of a beer can with a circle around it and a line through it. My marriage is on solid foundation and my husband and I continue to grow together. It’s still one day at a time and usually one hour at a time but I anticipate floating on this pink cloud of life forever.

Whatever you are struggling with, I know we all have something, please don’t do it alone. When we ask for help and share our stories with one another we become stronger together and we heal. Namaste. 

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