My name is Sheri, and I'm an alcoholic. That's right. Me. I'm an alcoholic. Fortunately, I have been sober for more than eight years now, and thankfully, I quit drinking before I became a mom. That sure made things a lot easier -- especially cause getting sober ain't easy. So, for obvious reasons, I was drawn to the new book Mommy Doesn't Drink Here Anymore: Getting Through the First Year of Sobriety by writer Rachael Brownell, whom I enjoyed reading over on Babble for some time.
"Even if I successfully lay off for a few days, I can't shake the image of the glasses I'm not drinking. I can taste, smell, and conjure them from clouds or soda cans, or from my children's faces. Wine is everywhere and seemingly all-powerful. It is all I can do to stop myself from rushing to the store to buy gallons and gallons of wine to swim in, to live in," Rachael writes about the pull to alcohol. And the love...yes, love. That's what it felt like for me too.
Along with getting the power of addiction, as it feels, pretty darn right, Rachael Brownell tackles a lot in one book: growing up with an alcoholic parent, love relationships, the birth of twins, marriage, the birth of another child, raising kids, work/life balance, the quest for and loss of self — and all are in the shadow of the discovery that she was, indeed, coping with motherhood, loss of self, marriage, life, and more with the help of wine. Lots and lots of wine.
I also used alcohol to cope with life, with everyday anxieties, with hard relationships, with fear, with boredom — and while it is not part of my story, I can completely relate to the idea of using alcohol to cope with motherhood. From childhood, I can remember being afraid of being the person I really am and motherhood and all its expectations only bring that kind of unbearable self-judgment out into the light of day.
Here I am, world, doing the best I can, making mistakes, often flailing — all under the microscope of society and in the name of another individual's life. Yikes! A drink sounds really good amid all of that.
And at the same time, whether the transition into motherhood feels just right or whether it feels very very wrong, something else gets lost. The self. For many women, the self gets lost altogether and for all women, the self as we once knew her changes.
Rachael says it well, "Since becoming a mother five years before, I've longed to hang on to a part of myself that isn't smeared in mommy goo."
"On the surface, I stay sassy and edgy and champion other mothers' need for time alone, for love and reading, for many worlds beyond raising young children. In public, I am the rebellious swearing mama who is lively, saucy, and driven. In private, I shudder in fear in the corner, as I lie myself into believing that alcohol isn't the destination, only a ticket to the real journey."
For alcoholics, booze is an incredibly good liar, even at the expense of our own happiness.
While, by a miracle of sorts, I have not partaken in alcohol since becoming a mom, I have definitely felt the very real struggle to maintain a sense of self that Rachael writes about. However, for me, what I thought was lost in early motherhood, only became fuel for the fire of actually being the person I am and pursuing my goals outside of motherhood. And I owe that not only to the strong belief that my children should have a mother who takes care of herself but overwhelmingly to the clarity that came with sobriety.
Getting to be who you are, who you were meant to be, and with your head held high is pretty much the best thing about being born. I hope by living this belief the best that I can, my kids will learn to believe it and live it for themselves. That would be the biggest gift I could give them.
"There is a real life hidden in there somewhere," Rachel writes of her drinking life, "but it's buried underneath denial and a whole bellyful of liquor."
Rachael's tale is ultimately a good one as she realizes the greatest gift of sobriety for an alcoholic mom. "I'm grateful to have a chance to be present and sober for their lives while they're still young... I've given them a mother who can change and learn to love them, learn to like them deeply, eye to eye, nose to nose."
And really, that's everything.
Thank you, Rachael for sharing your story with us. Read more about Rachael's book on her website rachaelbrownell.com.
Have you or someone you know struggled with alcohol addiction or drinking in moderation since becoming a mom? If you'd like me to post your response anonymously, send me your thoughts and I can post them here without your screenname.