Oxygen Masks, Part 2

I write this one for my best friend.

You really understand who I am. You see me. You always did. In fact, I think one of the reasons I drank was because I couldn’t see what you saw. I didn’t believe it. I felt I could never live up to your vision. So, I drank and got mad at you and would find a way to sabotage our friendship.

But you didn’t run. You somehow believed (again and again and again) that I would come back.

I know I’m the reason I stayed sober this past year. But you helped give me the strength to keep trying. Today, I no longer look at all those attempts as failures. I am now able to see what you saw: A person not willing to give up.

And now I’m here to say: I see you. I know you. I know why you argued the way you did back then. You have your history and I have mine. And when our learned behaviors from the past collided, we got stuck. But you held on for me. I am not dumb or worthless; you never said I was. My own voice — the one my history molded — said I was. But you…… You loved me fiercely in those moments when I was slipping away. In your beautifully flawed way, you gave me room to put my oxygen mask on first. And that has made all the difference.

I see you. I know you.

I love you.

Always, your best friend.

Stupid neuropathways

(And now we’re up to date: July 15, 2021)

I took my youngest son into Boston this past Sunday. We visited Martin’s Park. It was beautiful and sad, and made me stop to feel such gratitude that I have my boys with me safe and sound. But there was an uncomfortable tug gnawing at my insides; and it took me a bit to sort it out.

Fifteen years ago, I moved to South Boston after my divorce. It was an amicable divorce. Neither one of us wanted to get married in the first place, really. We just weren’t emotionally equipped to say so. Anyway, living in South Boston was a remarkable time of independence and solitude. I was starting a ‘new chapter’ in my life; there was so much hope and wonder for love and a family someday. And through it all, I drank. With friends, or with my dog (in other words, alone). Some days were great! Other days…..well..…..I’m surprised I’m not a statistic. One thing was constant throughout those times: I didn’t realize the progression towards dependence that was ramping up.

Last week, I hit 10 months with not a drop of alcohol; and I’ve been so happy about it and joyous in the freedom from dependence. But going into Boston had me ‘idealizing’ those times…and that was the cement-like feeling in my gut. The idealization set me upside down this week. I’m still upside down (perhaps why I type here right now). I can talk it through and be 100% certain that vodka isn’t what made those times fun. But those stupid neuropathways were fired up on Sunday, and it’s taking a longer time to make the buzzing in my head go away this week.

So, I suppose it’s time for some tools: Off for a run, then to hug my little boys and remember that the life I have now is the life I was hoping for back then.

Pulled out of nose dive in COVID

(From June 2021. Adapted from my gratitude letter to The Bubble Hour)

On June 6th, I reached 9 months alcohol-free. The amount of time it takes to grow a new life. As a mom of two (VERY!) spirited young boys, I’m awed at the parallel I feel between how it took 9 months to “build” them, and how it’s taken me 9 months to build a patchworked foundation for a new life. A new life that is growing in ways I never thought I deserved.

I’m 43 years old. Mom of two small boys. Wife to one large boy (Ok, he’s 43, but has the devil-may-care attitude I see in his sons. I adore it). Daughter to a mom who battles anxiety every day; and daughter to a Dad to whom we had to say Good-bye in November 2020. I was there for his last days in the hospital. I was 72 days sober. And it was raw, and heartbreaking, and terrible, and beautiful to feel all those feelings. But I did feel them, and I could honor him.

My story is very much like those in this beautiful community. I started drinking at 15 to ease social anxiety and to feel a sense of self-worth. There’s been trauma, abuse, fear, rejection, anxiety – and I covered it all well with an armor of good grades, good behavior, people pleasing, shape shifting, wanting to be seen (but really NOT wanting to be seen), popularity, college, grad school, ‘good’ job, growing independence… Achieving all of this with an underlying, consistent stream of gross beer (high school and college), wine (young adulthood), then straight vodka (working mom hiding in the closet ashamed of failing at everything).

After plenty of stops and starts (and starts and starts and starts), I pulled out of a nosedive this past summer. My liver was inflamed due to all the vodka I was hiding in my bathroom cabinets. Why I was hiding it is a story in its own right. But it was the wake-up call I needed to turn things around. My drinking was causing actual physical harm.

I thought of my boys’ sweet faces. Of the way they hug me really tight, then take off to catch frogs in the back pond. Of how they say “I love you Mumma” before they start wrestling each other in the middle of the living room.

How much was I going to miss if I kept up this vodka habit? The answer was clear to me on my Day 1: All of it. I was going to miss ALL of it.

I’d like to share my patchwork for sober living as it currently stands:
•The amazingly honest, safe space Jean McCarthy provides in The Bubble Hour
•Weekly Zoom meetings with my dear friends in Women for Sobriety (WFS)
•Walks (and perhaps short jogging bursts when I feel daring!)
•The Soberistas WhatsApp group called “Wrong Side of the Ponders”
•A sober day counter/tracker
•Sober Instagram community (@mummadoesntdrink)
•Attempts at writing
•Therapy with a beautiful person who tries to help get me “unstuck”
•A friend in AA and a few tentative visits under my belt
•Rides on my Vespa named Cheese Doodle (because my husband calls me “Doodle” and the Vespa is bright orange)
•Other podcasts like HOME; WeCanDoHardThings; In Recovery; Dear Sugars; Love Sober
•Coffee & Jellybeans

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s Connection.” ~Johann Hari

The Bubble Hour was my first connection. From there, my hope and community started to sprawl. I never would’ve been able to get to 9 months alcohol free without connection.

What does your patchwork look like? Who or what group did you reach out to first to help you flip that switch and realize life really is better over here? To whom are you forever, and ever grateful — besides yourself? 🙂

Thank you for reading. Be well, be curious, be hopeful.


“Drink one glass of wine and call me in the morning”

(From April 2021)

So I’m in the hospital for chest pain. Everything is going to be fine. They’re sending me home. The nurse just said to me, “Go home and have a glass of wine.”

I know she was trying to lighten the mood. To reassure me I wasn’t going to have a cardiac event overnight. But it was just another example of how wine and booze is normalized. A go-to for “the fix.”

Felt good to tell her I don’t drink.

Sometimes the grass IS greener

(From April 2021)

Got kicked in the gut today, metaphorically speaking.

Kids went back to school full-time today after a year. Parents in the neighborhood got together to celebrate…..by poppin’ champagne and sluggin’ beer in pretty mugs at 10am.

I get it. I would’ve brought my own bottle (and not to share) once upon a time. And then I’d be tired by noon, needing a nap, and either cranky for my boys, or chasing the buzz all day long. That mind prison I loathe.

But today it hit me how important this COVID bubble was for my sobriety. It’s time to get out into the world again so I should celebrate small moments. I’m grateful because the shaky hands I saw this morning weren’t mine. I’m relieved I wasn’t worried if it was “too soon” to refill a glass. I’m hopeful that times like these are going to get easier. And I’m thankful for my 7 months. They’re a decent foundation for “No thanks. I don’t drink.”

<breathe in, breathe out>

Life actually is greener over here.

Genetics loads the gun / Environment pulls the trigger

(From March 2021)

“Genetics loads the gun; environment pulls the trigger.” (heard this on The Bubble Hour)

Promise to my boys: I don’t know if that’s all true. But I hope to provide an environment where you know you don’t have to “man up.” You will feel what you need to feel. Identify it. Then find the solution. You are worthy. And you will know it. And that will set you up for anything that comes your way, my boys.

Mumma loves you.

Calling all Shape Shifters

(From March 2021)

To my fellow Shape Shifters in the room:

How often could your personality twist and turn to adapt to the person you were with, or to the situation you were in?
How often did that go against what you were really feeling in the moment?
Sobriety helps us stay who we are. No need to twist and turn to fit in.

Sobriety. Quiet confidence to find out who you are. No more shape shifting.

Word of the Year 2021: Connection

(From March 2021)

The sober community offers so much. I’m part of “Women for Sobriety” (WFS), which I found here on WordPress. I meet weekly over Zoom with a group of beautiful women who all reside here in lovely Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Last week, our fearless leader and moderator asked us what our Word of the Year (WOTY) will be. I immediately felt “Connection” in my head, gut and heart — and when do those three ever align (outside of the desire for Hot Tamales. Duh!).

So I’m committing to Connection as my WOTY. It’s what’s gotten me to 4 months. 122 days. It’s been connection with you, with my husband (i.e., telling the truth), with WFS, with AA members, with a therapist, and through writing. I never reached out for help or connection in the past. I tried to soldier on quietly and do it by myself (and, for me, that meant: “I don’t have anyone other than myself to hold me accountable. If a slip happens, it happens.”). Nothing changes if you don’t do something different.

Connection will be my something different; and it has been everything so far. I will continue to connect in as many ways as possible this year — for sobriety first, then personal growth when it’s time.

So THANK YOU for connecting.

~Mumma Doesn’t Drink

MINDFUL Drinking?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

(From March 2021)

For Fuck Sake. No!! I got an add on FB for Mindful Drinking (I will no longer see this one. I vehemently hit HIDE AD). Want a mindful drinking habit?! STOP.

Another example of how marketing fucks with us. After years of “I’ll drink only on weekends”; No pre-gaming; “Just three tonight”; Water in between each drink…. I get to say Fuck This Ad.

Most of those times, nothing “bad” happened. No fights. No crimes. No injuries or bruises.

But the nagging feeling that something was not right. Why couldn’t I just stop. Who are these people who can just sip a glass of wine all night. Why can’t I imagine life w/out booze? That mind prison is hell. Hell.

Because I didn’t learn to deal with my shit. I learned to drown it out. Numb it silent. Throw vodka at the nagging little bitch voice.

I wanted more for my life as a woman, wife and mother. Moderation didn’t get me there. STOPPING is getting me there faster and faster everyday.

This Saturday, I will say it’s been a half year since I threw vodka at a situation. Good or bad.

This “moderation coaching” is stupid. Perhaps more than that. Dangerous even?

I tried it. I get to say it sucks. Please join me in yelling this out to any sober curious people out there. If you’re thinking AF is for you…if you’re THINKING it…then I bet you your bottom dollar it is.

I love and see you.