Mama Doesn’t Drink Anymore

Mama Doesn't Drink Anymore

A few years ago, I was gathering my kids up after summer day camp, wrangling backpacks full to the brim with wet swimsuits and towels. My daughter was attending a local program that took place at a theater in the park. They learned all about acting, singing and dancing in the mornings, and in the afternoons they ran around in the sprinklers that watered the large lawn where people sat on the weekends enjoying outdoor versions of My Fair Lady or Grease. We were walking to the car, when my daughter saw a sign hanging next to a booth that said, “Beer and Wine – $5.” She stopped and tugged on my arm. “Mama, you should come here! They have wine! And it’s only $5!”

My heart broke in to a million pieces as I looked down at her sweet, innocent face. I wanted to burst out crying, but somehow managed to hold back my tears. I knelt down and looked her straight in the eye. “Sweetie, thank you for thinking of me, but you know, mama doesn’t drink wine anymore.”

She looked a little confused, and I couldn’t blame her. Until a few months prior, wine was my constant companion. I always had lots of rules around my drinking, one of which was that I would not drink in front of my kids. Or, at least, that was the plan. But then those rules started to bend.

OK, I won’t drink in front of the kids. Well, maybe if we’re at a BBQ with other families and the other moms are drinking. Or if it’s a Saturday and we’re watching a football game. Or if we’re at a fancy dinner. OK, not until 6 p.m. Nevermind, 5 p.m. OK, 4:30 p.m. on weekends. Well, I mean, I guess I could have a glass while I cook dinner, right? But not before!

You see where this is going… while I always contended that I wasn’t “that bad,” it became more and more apparent that I was losing control of my drinking. However, if you knew me, you probably had no idea. I was the epitome of a super mommy. I was perfection, personified. That’s how I proved to myself it was OK. I couldn’t have a drinking problem if I was working 50 hours a week at a high stress job, raising two kids, cooking healthy dinners and creating Pinterest-worthy birthday parties! As long as I was acting the part of the best mom in the world, I figured my dirty, little secret would stay hidden.

Until one day I woke up and I just simply couldn’t do it anymore. While I hadn’t had any public consequences from my drinking, I felt awful almost all of the time. Physically I was bloated, my skin was sallow, my hair was fried and I had dark circles under my eyes. I hid all of this quite well, but every morning when I looked myself in the mirror, I could see the damage I was doing to myself. I would wake up every night around 3 a.m., head pounding and mouth dry, hating who I was becoming. Mentally I was being eaten away daily by the shame and remorse I felt. I knew the way I was drinking was not normal. I knew I was losing control. And I was terrified if something didn’t change very soon, I would end up losing everything.

I can’t tell you why that day become “the day” for me. I know so many women, mothers just like me who love their kids just as much as I do, who weren’t so fortunate. I have watched as friends and people I love have sunk further and further into their own wine glasses, until they have lost nearly everything. I am one of the lucky ones. My children were very young when I quit, and barely remember. I’m honest with them and tell them I don’t drink anymore. I started talking to them early on, giving them examples they could understand and relate to. We talk about how I have an “allergy” to alcohol, in the same way many of their friends can’t have dairy or peanuts. If I drink alcohol, my body does not react in a healthy way, so I just can’t have it. End of story.

As my kids get older, I plan on talking to them about their risks for alcohol abuse. While addiction is still very misunderstood, doctors and mental health experts agree there are environmental and genetic factors at play. No one really knows why some people develop problems with addiction and others don’t, but if you come from a family where there is a history of mental health and addition issues, your chances for battling something similar in your lifetime are higher than the average population. I want my kids to be aware, and while I know I can’t protect them forever, I want to be an example of what long term recovery can look like.

On my very worst day in recovery, I still feel a million times better than I ever did when I was drinking. I thought that when I put down the wine glass, my life was over. I’d be boring and everyone would think I was crazy. But when I threw away that last bottle, that’s when my life really began. Now I can be the mother I always wanted to be. I may not be perfect, or anywhere close, but I’m doing my best. Some days are still hard, but I know that every time I choose to deal with my life head on instead of numbing out with a bottle of red, the road gets more beautiful. It may not be easy… but it’s always worth it.

(Photo Credit: Rita Clark Photography)

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36 Responses to Mama Doesn’t Drink Anymore

  1. Catherine December 14, 2015 at 6:44 am #

    This is a truly wonderful, brave, soulful, inspiring article.
    Kids notice a lot more about our drinking than we realise. I remember being aware of my father’s excessive drinking when I was around 6.
    Showing our kids that we don’t need to disappear into a bottle when the going gets tough, or numb uncomfortable feelings with alcohol, or drink to be happy, is a fantastic thing.

    • Megan
      Megan December 14, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

      It’s so funny, I think my kids (especially my oldest) knew much more than she let on, even at 6 (the age she was when I quit). She told me once she liked it that I didn’t drink anymore, and when I asked why, she simply said, “You’re different now.” I definitely am.

  2. Sara Tripoli December 14, 2015 at 7:01 am #

    “Life begins in sobriety”. Yes!! Thank you for being a sober lighthouse for those who can’t find their way. Xoxoxo

    • Megan
      Megan December 14, 2015 at 10:21 pm #

      Thank you so much, Sara! I definitely feel lucky that I have a platform from which to speak AND that I am at a place in my life where I can speak. I know not everyone can due to jobs/family/life, so I feel like if I can, I should. xoxo

  3. TMary December 14, 2015 at 8:30 am #

    I enjoyed this article and need to remember that “On my very worst day in recovery, I still feel a million times better than I ever did when I was drinking.” Megan has a direct writing style that gets the message across. Great article!

    • Megan
      Megan December 14, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

      Thank you TMary for your kind words! And it’s so true…in recovery I still have awful, no good, very bad days. But even those are so much better than the very best day I ever had when I was drinking.

  4. christina coletta December 14, 2015 at 8:39 am #

    Great article about a phenomenon that brews just under the surface of our society–the “mommy drinker”. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Megan
      Megan December 14, 2015 at 10:24 pm #

      Thank you, Christina! I think this issue is getting more and more attention these days, and for good reason. The pressure we put on ourselves as super women can be totally overwhelming, and it makes sense that some of us would reach for the bottle. It’s those of us, like me, who can’t stop, that really need to watch themselves and find better avenues for stress release.

  5. Tara December 14, 2015 at 8:40 am #

    Powerful message. I’ve been in recovery for almost two years. Best thing I’ve done for my family and more importantly, for myself! Love you Megan!

    • Megan
      Megan December 14, 2015 at 10:25 pm #

      Thanks for your comment, Tara! I agree…I definitely set out on this path for my family. But as I’ve gotten deeper into my recovery, I realized I needed to do this for myself. I am worth it!

  6. WISA MARTIN December 14, 2015 at 10:05 am #

    MY DAUGHTER AND HUSBAND HAVE DRINKING PROBLEMS….AND A SON 8….

    • Megan
      Megan December 14, 2015 at 10:26 pm #

      I’m so sorry to hear people in your family are struggling. Reaching out is so hard, but it can save lives. Sending love and light to you.

  7. Michelle Perry December 14, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

    Megan told MY story. At the time I was struggling with my drinking I thought I was unique because Imy life looked so good from the outside. After two years sober I couldn’t agree more: it’s not always easy, but so absolutely worth it!

    • Megan
      Megan December 14, 2015 at 10:28 pm #

      Yes, exactly this Michelle! Part of the whole game for me was making my life look perfect on the outside…and it did! Which is why it shocked my friends and family when I first quit, because they really didn’t know how bad it had gotten. I know now that this behavior is so common among high functioning alcoholics and I’ve seen how quickly it can spiral out of control. Scary stuff, and I’m so grateful to be in recovery today!

  8. Meagan December 14, 2015 at 1:16 pm #

    Yes. I too was working full time, going to law school at night, raising three boys and drinking a magnum bottle of wine almost every night. Took wine to PTO and boy scout camp. I was “functional” so had no problem (haha). 19 months in recovery and I, too, can say that even the worst day in recovery is so much easier to handle than a day drunk. Plus I’ve lost weight, my skin is clearer and, most importantly, my kids want to spend time with me and trust me again.

    • Megan
      Megan December 14, 2015 at 10:30 pm #

      I’m not going to lie, I’d love to tell everyone all the inspirational stuff is what made me stay in recovery…but in the beginning, it was quite honestly astonishing how much better I looked physically. I lost 25 pounds of bloat in two months…I wasn’t even exercising or really eating well. I just quit drinking wine for dinner and I immediately looked better. And yes, the kids trusting me is pretty awesome too 😉

  9. Suzy Carson December 14, 2015 at 10:36 pm #

    I’ve been around people all my life (40 years) and while the article is good, I have never seen anyone addicted to alcohol
    just say “Mama doesn’t drink no more” is not reality. It is the rare person that says that and quits. I’ve heard many women say this to their family and friends, it being a lie to get something from them. Mama will always be an alcoholic. As soon as she thinks people believe her and made all the promises in the world, 99% will be drinking again in less than a year.
    I hope this mama doesn’t drink anymore but there is more heartache ahead for the family and friends that are in the mama’s 99% percentile go back to drinking soon. Learned the hard way being hurt for years. Well known alchohol MDs addiction counselors gave me the statistics. They were right mama was drinking again in six months. Living several states away she thought we would not find out. Be real, addiction is not that easy to actually quit even with your children begging you and wanting to believe you.

    • Libby December 15, 2015 at 8:04 pm #

      I can understand your point of view, Suzy. There are many people who never see their loved one get sober. But many do. I’ve seen it and I’ve lived it. I have been sober six years. Just like Megan wrote, one day, I woke up and had had enough. And there is help and support out there for those who are ready. You’re right that some people are never ready and they continue to cause chaos and suffering in their disease. But Megan’s article is quite familiar to me because she is one of many mothers I have witnessed taking this brave step. I think stating grim statistics is not constructive. The purpose of an alcoholic in recovery telling her story is an act of love as she tries to reach out to others who are still sick and suffering and would like to know that they are not alone. I applaud Megan for doing so. I don’t know that I would have decided sobriety was a good alternative to me had I not seen other young, vibrant mothers in recovery modeling sober living for me, just like Megan is now doing for so many.

    • Brigette December 17, 2015 at 6:48 am #

      There are a lot of moms — and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters — who stop drinking and stay sober for years, often the rest of their lives. My dad did, and has been sober for decades. God willing, I plan to be just like him. I know a lot of people who have been sober for 10 years, 20 years, 30 years and more. A dear friend will celebrate 50 years of sobriety this February. I have no idea where the 99% statistic comes from. Even people in the field of addiction and recovery treatment acknowledge that real numbers are just about impossible to quantify accurately. So many of us, like Megan and Libby and me, stop drinking but aren’t in any official statistic anywhere. We just stop. To anyone reading this who feels hopeless, feels as though she wants to stop but doesn’t know how, please don’t despair. It is possible to stop drinking and live a sober life, for yourself and for your children. It is.

    • Megan
      Megan December 17, 2015 at 7:11 am #

      Thanks for commenting, Suzy. I’m so sorry you’ve been through the hell of addiction with a loved one. It’s such a roller coaster and you are right in that active addicts certainly can be some of the most manipulative, conning people on the planet. Even before I struggled, I dealt (and still deal) with addiction in my family, and even though I know what it’s like on the other side, sometimes it’s difficult for me to find compassion for people who are active in the disease and hurting everyone around them.

      But the bright side is that there are so many amazing, kind, wonderful people in recovery who are making the world a much better place. Unfortunately, most of these people don’t get on the front page of the news for staying sober. Experts estimate there are over 23 million people in the US alone living in long term recovery…but as addiction is a self-reported disease and there is a such a stigma, most won’t be open about it, so it’s hard to show how successful recovery can be and has been. There is an amazing film called The Anonymous People which talks about the recovery movement, which I highly recommend: http://manyfaces1voice.org/

      Again, my heart hurts reading your story. Sending love and light to your family, and the hope that recovery is soon on the horizon.

  10. Meredith December 15, 2015 at 6:30 am #

    Thank you for writing this. I was lost for so long in the abyss of trying to prove I was a good mom and using alcohol to cope (under the guise of playdate champagne and wine while cooking dinner) that I didn’t even realize I had crossed the line into a drinking problem. Life is so much better, so much easier, so much calmer and my children are so much happier now that I am sober. Thank you Megan for writing this, I think so many other moms don’t know they are stuck just like I didn’t and blog posts like this will reach them. There are so many of us.

    • Megan
      Megan December 17, 2015 at 6:57 am #

      I am the exact same way…for years I knew the problem was getting worse, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do next. It was when I found blogs by other women in the same situation that I found hope and a way forward. It wasn’t automatic, but I knew where to go when I was ready. Thank you for commenting!

  11. bonnie December 15, 2015 at 10:10 am #

    This was me.

    • Megan
      Megan December 17, 2015 at 6:58 am #

      Thanks for commenting, Bonnie! I’m glad this resonated with you. There are so many more of us out there than people know about. xo

  12. christinad December 15, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    Me, too. Well said.

    • Megan
      Megan December 17, 2015 at 6:59 am #

      Thank you Christina!

  13. Jessica December 15, 2015 at 9:18 pm #

    Megan, your story is my story. Alcohol, and wine specifically, became such a crutch for me that I didn’t remember my son’s bedtime routine most nights. Now that I’ve quit drinking, I sometimes struggle with feeling boring, irrelevant, and isolated. But I also feel more in control of my life, more content, and much more connected to my husband and son. I thank you for sharing your journey and for helping to banish the stigma of addiction.

    • Megan
      Megan December 17, 2015 at 7:01 am #

      Your comment totally brought me back to those fuzzy bedtime routines…it was such a sad time. And yes, I also can feel so bored in sobriety, but I think the boredom is a good thing. Before I was always so sure I was missing out on something, but now I’m realizing what boredom really feels like is contentment. And honestly, as I gained more traction in recovery, the boredom went away. Now I try new things and meet new friends and started a business…all things I never would have done when I was drinking! xo

  14. Brigette December 16, 2015 at 9:25 am #

    You’re so brave to share your story publicly, Megan. Someday I hope I will be as brave, because stories like yours were what helped me find the courage to admit I had a problem and get sober. Like you, I was supermom on the outside, and dying on the inside. And like you, I find that even the worst sober days are better than sinking into that wine glass.

    • Megan
      Megan December 17, 2015 at 7:03 am #

      Thank you Brigette….I think if I am able to share (which many people aren’t, due to family, jobs, etc.) I should. For years I didn’t share because I was worried about people at my job finding out, but now I work for myself so I just let the freak flag fly! I don’t think everyone has to be open, but I’m glad I am. It feels right for me. I’m so glad you’re on this path with me! xo

  15. Nikki December 17, 2015 at 8:14 am #

    Thank you for telling your story, Megan. I started drinking more after my divorce, trying to cope with some horrific emotions and stresses with two young children. As a single mom for the last 11 years, I too, seemed to be the super mom – going back to grad school, working, volunteering, and trying to be the everything to my kids. Alcohol helped me cope, until it made everything worse. I’ve been trying for long term sobriety for over a year and although doing pretty well, I’m still working very hard to get to the light. I want what you have and I’m going to work my ass off trying to get there.
    Alcohol is addictive, this can happen to anyone using alcohol to cope…and it’s happened to me. I’m sad it’s such a hidden and stigmatized problem and I hope to someday be helping more people like you are.

    • Megan
      Megan December 21, 2015 at 6:58 am #

      Thanks for commenting, Nikki…and I hear you. I’m not a single mother, and I can’t imagine the amount of stress and overwhelm that must come along with that. And you’re right, alcohol seems like a legit way to cope, until it’s not. Recovery isn’t a straight line, and struggle is part of the journey. Sometimes I think we look at people who have what we want in recovery and think they must have a function we just don’t have, but every person I’ve met in recovery went through struggle and immense hardship to get where they are, myself included. You will get there, sister. Sending love…

  16. Abigail December 19, 2015 at 11:30 pm #

    Your article is incredibly timely as it seems every mommy blog and individual social media posts talk a lot about drinking going hand-in-hand with mothering. And, of course, you reference “recovery” in the comments frequently.

    However, for mothers that are looking for solid steps to take in determining whether they have a problem and what to do about it…is there any advice based on your experience? I see that you’re recovering but what for us that might be recognizing the problem? I’ve heard controversial things about traditional means like AA. Additionally, this is not something to be taken lightly if, for example, a custody dispute is pending. Just curious what the details are of recovery.

    Again, thank you so much for sharing your story. You have touched so many people who need to hear this.

    • Megan
      Megan December 21, 2015 at 7:08 am #

      Thanks for your comment, Abigail. You bring up an important point, for sure. I hope to write a follow up post about how I got into recovery and some steps I took. For me, I think as soon as I started questioning if there was a problem, that was a sign there was a problem. Normal drinkers don’t question their drinking. And as I kept questioning, I started keeping my drinking more hidden, which is another huge red flag. I realize now that it wasn’t even the amount I was drinking, it was more about how I was doing it. I was sneaking around, hiding from friends and family, feeling so much shame and guilt. I googled “signs of alcoholism” and took one of those quizzes. I’d find the things I didn’t do and then use that to justify why I didn’t have a problem. My road to recovery was LONG. It was years of stopping and then starting again before it finally stuck.

      In terms of recovery, there are so many paths people can take. I know people who do AA exclusively and it works wonderfully for them. I also know people who do yoga and meditation. I know people who strictly have online support, and those who go to addiction therapists. There are alternative recovery meeting groups, such as SMART Recovery, which focus on changing your thinking instead of the spiritual nature of AA. Some friends listen to recovery podcasts and read blogs. I do a combination of several of these things, and it works for me. I call it my “Recovery Toolbox.” One great place I recommend people start is by listening to a podcast called “The Bubble Hour.” It’s an incredible resource, and I’ve been lucky to be on it a few times as well, which is such a treat because it helped me so much in the beginning. http://www.thebubblehour.com/

      I hope this helps!

  17. Kat December 23, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

    You are a courageous woman to share your story. This is a problem for so many, often it goes unnoticed until something terrible happens. I am so glad yo were able to recover and move forward. I pray that your story helps another mom make the decision to change. It can be overcome, maybe it won’t be easy, but its possible.

  18. Candice February 2, 2016 at 3:26 pm #

    Thank you for writing this! The shame that is felt with battling alcohol while raising kids is one of the worst feelings in the world. It’s amazing how many woman are going through this and are too ashamed to admit it to anyone. Kudos to you for the bravery to come out and I KNOW it will helps others – myself included 🙂