Almost five months. Sobriety has been like a slingshot into a new way of thinking. I can’t hold onto regrets I have about my Dad. I can honor him not by “forgiving” him but by “promising” him I will keep growing up and learning the lessons. When we heal for ourselves, we heal for others. I miss you Dad. Today was for you.
This is hard as f$&@. And it’s boring. And it’s scary. And it’s exhilarating. And it’s exhausting. And it’s annoying. And it’s life saving.
And that sums up how I feel in one minute in early sobriety.
No alcohol for 135 days today. Honoring the space between “what was” and “what’s next”. Damn skippy.
65 days. This laughter will get me to 66 days.
Don’t worry. I’m not going on some “mask vs. no mask” rant or hashtag stay-the-fuck-home preach. I’m here to talk science of the body and its functioning. Physiology, baby.
So, on my Day 2 I learned how I inflamed my liver with excessive vodka shots. My liver levels were borderline in June 2020. By Sept 8, 2020, they were dangerously high. My liver was screaming at me. I was scared and ashamed. I thought, “What if I can’t be here for my boys?! What am I doing?!?! This stops now.”
Well, I got my liver levels rechecked yesterday. 37 days with no alcohol. Five weeks and two days. Liver regeneration is real people. Today, we need science more than ever. Well, here’s some scientific evidence that not drinking HEALS you!
Hello healed liver. I promise to treat you with respect for the rest of this life.
Day 25 🙏. I put my little boys on the bus to in-person school today. This is the first time my oldest goes back to school since March 16 2020. And today is my youngest’s first day in Kindergarten. He gets to ride the bus with his big brother! We’ve been waiting years for this day. The pandemic sure threw a wrench in that initial vision. But my boys are off in this “new next” of hybrid learning; and we will take what we can get. I sit here now and take pause to realize something. I was clear headed, not hungover, this morning. The rush felt positive and we made it to the bus in the nick of time. I felt a slight shift in the air around me when my boys climbed those bus stairs. It was bittersweet. Pride, joy, sadness, exhaustion, love so big my heart hurt. And I felt all of it. Because this mumma doesn’t drink. I will cherish today’s memory. And I will be here for EVERY milestone my boys hit. I will remember every single one. I won’t be buzzed or drunk or irritated. I will be present. I am here for them today, tomorrow and always. I love you boys. Day 25 is for you.
I wish the “mommy wine” culture would go away. Just vanish. All the T-shirt puns. The memes. All the oversized wine glasses. And for the love god, every single piece of “Pump and Dump” merchandise. Believe me – I’m not claiming to be the first to point out this twisted marketing mess. Goddesses Glennon, Annie, Clare, Lauren…and so many more…have helped us see just how mommy wine is perversely revered. But after a year of relapses, I believe I’ve earned the right to say “mommy wine” is irritating. F’n irritating.
That said, I get it. I was one of those mommies a while back. When my youngest was a baby, I’d put him down for a nap. Then I’d hope to hell that my husband would take our 2.5-year-old somewhere so I could sit and have a glass(es) of wine in quiet. I’d joke around with my newfound mommy friends who had children the same age as mine. I’d snap photos of my wine glass and group text them with pride: #NAPWINE! (I’m hilarious…<eye roll>). Once, I even made the comment: “I’m a better mom when I drink.” I wince at that memory (and throw up in my mouth a little at its recall).
I’m sitting here now…trying to think of where to take this blog entry. I’m cautiously optimistic about this go-around in sobriety. It feels different. Nothing at all against AA; I know it’s helped countless men and women. But in the times I’ve tried, I’ve picked up faster and faster. Something about being immersed in the stories. Always talking about drinking, drugging, addiction. Just made me want to say, “see I didn’t end up under a bridge. I’m fine.” But that’s not how it goes. We know that. But this time, I choose to take AA’s “one day at a time” and apply it minute by minute while I reach out to you all for support.
And in this minute, that little baby, whose 1PM snooze gifted me nap wine, just climbed up into my lap. He’s five now, and he just told me I’m the “Bestest Mumma.” This minute will propel me into the next minute…and into the next hour, and the next…until tomorrow, when I hit Day 17.
So, F’ You mommy wine culture. This Mumma doesn’t drink.
Family can be a strong motivator to stop drinking. But I’m learning that this change really needs to come from within one’s self. It’s like that oxygen mask rule on a plane. Put yours on first then assist others.
My husband and I had an argument this morning. I’m sad by how hurtful he is during confrontation. He is incapable of pausing and listening in the moment. It’s like he feels backed into some corner and lashes out. It hurts.
This is not new. But when I drank, I couldn’t stop myself from trying to fix everything in the moment during these arguments. I felt desperate to make up. Or, if I knew to stop and try to disengage, he’d just pull me back in with comments like, “Ya…I thought so. You have nothing to say.” Or “You don’t even know what you’re talking about.” Or “Do you even know what condescending means?” Classic gaslighting.
But sober…truly sober and feeling strong this morning…I saw him during our argument. Really saw him in the moment. And I was crushed. He’s an amazing Dad, husband and friend. All couples argue, and I certainly play my part, but he can’t argue in any sort of healthy way. These moments can floor me most times.
And these are the moments that I would drink; and for a second this morning, I wanted to. But that pink cloud and the strength that’s been building these last 11 days pushed their way back in. I’m subdued today because I miss my best friend. I know we’ll get back to us, but not today. Today, I’m putting on my own oxygen mask before I help anyone else. Onwards to Day 12.
Bear with me. I took my 5-yr-old to the dentist last Thursday for his regular check-up. All was going well. He sat still, joked with the hygienist, and got a glowing report on his healthy gums. Nice!
Then came the X-rays. After a few minutes of review, the dentist came back to talk to me. She saw the start of two cavities. In my 5-year old’s mouth. Seriously?! My older son just went through a traumatizing process of capping three cavities with silver coverings. I tried to call them his “Iron Man” teeth to make light of the situation, but he’s not stupid. He hated every second of the procedure and can’t wait for his “big” teeth to come in so the silver caps pop off into oblivion. Now, his little brother could be facing the same invasive fate. And it’s my fault.
This dentist visit was on my official Day 4. My liver wasn’t screaming anymore, and the brain fog was thinning. I was feeling hopeful for the first time in days. Then I got this news and a shame wave surged. It’s not that he has cavities on the horizon. It’s why he does.
There’s a cute Mini-Mart five minutes up the road from our house. We call it the “Treat Store.” It has candy, gum, and snacks. It was a safe haven at the beginning of the pandemic when everyone was on lockdown. When the kids’ schools shut down. When I needed to drink again…
See, the “Treat Store” is attached to a liquor store. A liquor store that sells little bottles of vodka. So, it was Mumma’s treat store, too. They know the boys and me there. We built quite the routine over the last several months. My sons would choose their candy and toss it up on the counter. Then, I’d send them over to look in the ice cream counter (i.e., divert their attention) and quietly say to the cashier, “Three in a bag, please.” Mumma’s treat for later that evening.
I took them to the Treat Store every time they asked to go. Every.Single.Time. And on Day 4, with the news of my youngest son’s impending cavities, I realized my selfishness. A better mom would’ve said, “You can’t have candy every day, babies. We’ll go another time.” But I needed my f’n treat. Every.Single.Time. And now my kids’ teeth are paying the price.
Today is Day 10. It’s about a week past that dentist visit. As I think more about it, perhaps we in recovery should give ourselves a break here or there. Maybe it was selfish of me. But there’s always time to turn it around, right? So, like drinking, it’s time to take Flossing by the horns…one day at a time.
I love Clare Pooley’s “The Sober Diaries”. She’s amazing. She is so witty. Not in the least condescending. When I read her Day 0, I laughed. She writes about how she looked down at her coffee mug filled with the remnants of a wine bottle…at 11AM. It said “World’s Best Mum” on the outside of the mug. I interpreted it as her highlighting the contradiction between the mug’s outside and the mug’s insides. The irony. She made me giggle…but then sigh. I can’t imagine what she truly felt. Those were Ms. Pooley’s raw feelings to feel. Yet, she put her story out there in the world, for the rest of us to read, to make us feel seen. Feel understood. Feel less alone. And if she meant to interject humor into her Day 0 story, then I love her even more.
But I won’t assume anyone’s Day 0 is funny. When you reach the somber realization that you NEED to stop drinking, it should never be taken lightly. I do wish, though, that there was some element of humor to my Day 0.
That day, I woke up and was irritable. Just super irritable and anxious and shaky. I wanted a drink. My body actually needed alcohol…to maintain. What a terrible realization. “STOP NOW!” my body begged. But my brain had different plans. Two more secret mini bottles down in the bathroom, and Whooooosh…. “Ah….that’s better,” said my pickled brain. I went out into the day – no buzz, not drunk – but anxiety managed…with vodka. At 11AM, nonetheless.
But later that day, when those two mini bottles wore off, I felt an excruciating jolt in my left side. I realized something in that moment. It was my liver. An actual f’n organ. My drinking was causing undeniable physical harm. On my Day 0, my liver hurt. Like Game of Thrones Red Wedding stabbing pain. Nothing about that pain (or that GoT episode) was funny.
And that was it. Here I am 9 days later. My liver is forgiving me, but I will never, ever forget that pain. I can’t. I want this blog to focus on recovery. On the future ahead, one day at a time. But I need to put down how I got here, so I won’t forget this time. And if I do, I’ll subject myself to that horrific episode of GoT again and again as punishment. You know what I’m talking about.
“Hey Mumma! How come Daddy has a beer bottle, but you don’t?” I looked into my seven-year-old son’s gigantic, blue eyes. He was sincerely curious. We were hosting a party in our backyard. I surveyed the scene while I gripped a lime seltzer in my hand. Most of our guests were lazily swinging golden beer bottles that reflected the late summer sun. They were laughing and chatting it up in small groups. All the kids were running around, squealing that high-pitched squeal that only dogs can hear. All seemed right in the world. I looked back down at my boy and answered, “Because Mumma doesn’t drink, little love.”
If only that were true…
Just five minutes earlier, “Mumma” was in the bathroom, downing two vodka mini bottles to take the edge off. They were hidden strategically in the travel case tucked way back in the bathroom sink cupboard behind the tampons. Because who the hell would think to look behind the tampons (brilliant, right?) Vodka makes her interesting. Vodka makes her worthy. Vodka is lying.
F*** it. Mumma is lying. I am lying. I’ve been drinking on and off in secret for over a year. I’ve been lying to my amazing husband, who thinks I’ve been sober this entire pandemic. He’s cheered me on, told me I’m doing great in the wake of personal issues with my parents, issues that would normally send me on a bender (spoiler alert: They did). I smile weakly when he praises me. And that sends me right back into the bathroom to lie some more in the form of one or two more tiny bottles.
To make matters worse, I just lied to my first-born son. I guess I told him what I wished for. Perhaps there’s some solace in knowing that. But not enough. Not nearly enough. The lies need to stop…
So I’m here. It’s my fifth (sixth?) attempt at getting sober. I’ve tried AA, tried a psychic (yep!), tried paid-for online support groups, sheer will, quit lit, you name it. But I’m back at the beginning. My hope is this blog will hold me accountable. I will conjure up that saying (and I paraphrase) “It’s not failing if you get up and try again.” So here I am not failing, I guess. I’m going to “try try again“. Because some day, I want to say to my boy, with confidence and pride — and some final f’n honesty —
“Mumma doesn’t drink.”