There’s no more cracking open a bottle of wine, sipping it to relax while I cook dinner. There’s no more stepping away to slyly smoke a joint, returning with bleary eyes and a goofy smile. There’s just me, my daughter, my husband and more of myself — breathing, playing, bathing, laughing, working, dancing, singing, going to bed, waking up early and doing it all again.
I used to need help from outside sources to enjoy and endure motherhood. I would live my days looking forward to when I could drink or smoke to take the edge off, to finally relax, to get rid of the anxiety, to find fun in the endless playing with baby toys, to get through the fits of crying and sleepless nights.
I didn’t know how to face all the stress or emotions of being a new mom. I had so much grief, rage and regret stuffed down, so much heaviness, guilt and shame I was lugging around. I tried to numb it with weed and booze and carry on with some semblance of a life.
I justified this, of course. I found reasons and I medicated myself— mostly with pink wine and purple weed, though other colors and flavors would do just fine. I really didn’t see a problem with smoking some weed during the day and having a few drinks at night. Even when it turned into smoking every single day and drinking almost every night, I still found ways to rationalize it.
What I didn’t realize until it was almost too late, was that all that self-medicating with my substance addictions was actually making my issues worse. Even though the tequila or wine would take the edge off in the moment, it led to more depression. Even though the marijuana in the middle of the day would take the intensity of my anxiety down a few notches, it actually led to more anxiety because it suppressed my real emotions. And all of it made me more exhausted than I already was from the sleep deprived reality of early motherhood. After a few months I found myself in a deeply engrained cycle of weed, alcohol and coffee to keep it all going which led to severe depression, anxiety and panic attacks.
Eventually it all broke down. The panic attacks got too frequent and extreme. My self-loathing soared to unbearable, suicidal levels. The alcohol and the marijuana no longer did much to suppress anything. The can of worms was open and either I had to face it, get some help and get sober, or lose my mind or life.
It didn’t get better overnight. It was a process. I stopped and started again a few times before I found my way to true sobriety. I found a great therapist that helped me understand my cycle of suppressing feelings with substances, and helped me to look underneath the addiction, anxiety and depression to understand what I was actually feeling. I found anger, rage, grief, trauma, shame, resentment, sadness and so much more. I had to actually look at, allow and feel the feelings in order to get through the need to cover them up with addictions.
I also learned mindfulness meditation, which was one of my biggest saviors. I learned how to be with all the anxiety—the tracking, planning, scheduling, worries, endless lists, to-do’s and thought loops that come with being a parent. Almost everything I was trying to do with alcohol and pot, meditation did better and without side effects. Then I started going to recovery meetings and quit for real.
Now that I am sober, I don’t have panic attacks any more. I am way less anxious in general, and when I do feel anxiety I know how to work with it. Depression is almost non-existent, and even though I still feel tired often, I am not utterly exhausted. It’s manageable, and I know how to recharge myself.
I’m a better mom now, too. I am more present, patient and kind. I am able to process my emotions faster. I am in a better mood more often. I have more energy. I enjoy our time together and show my love for my daughter more. I am more responsible and available. I’m not trying to escape anything. I’m here.
And, in the wake of my sobriety, has come real success. I published my first book six months after I got sober, and am working on my second one. I found my mission in life: to help other moms create sustainable mental health for themselves, by teaching what I’ve learned on my own journey, and it gives me a sense of pride and purpose that I’ve never had before. I never would have been able to do that if I was still drinking and smoking.
Now, I crack open an audio book and drink kombucha while I cook dinner, savoring the indulgence in some me-time. I find so much joy in the simple things, and love when I get the time to just be with myself, out in nature, in meditation or in the kitchen.
Learning how to authentically enjoy life is one of the greatest gifts sobriety has given me. And, gaining the skills to naturally relax and deal with my emotions instead of faking it with substances was the most important thing I ever did for myself as a human and parent. I don’t have to numb out from my life any more in order to make it through the days. I am genuinely healthy, happy and here. Most importantly, I get to give my daughter my full attention, love and a childhood that she truly deserves—one with a genuinely present, calm and sober mother.