You know me. You would have seen me in bars, at restaurants and at children’s playdates.
I was the one doing the bad robot dancing on grubby dancefloors, the one that spilled my beer on you as I stumbled back from the bar. I was the ‘just staying for one’ Mum that got thrown in a Taxi at 2am with vomit on her cardigan.
I was that girl. The party girl with no off switch, the woman that couldn’t say no, the one tripping up curbs and falling down stairs.
It was me.
For 25 years I fulfilled my role as the ‘fun’ person, the social drinker that always had a smile on her face and a punch line on hand.
But now, as I sit here, I haven’t had a sip of alcohol for over 1000 days. Yes, me, the reliable drinking buddy, is sober.
This mum has changed.
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My drinking habit throughout my life had been clever. I never drank alone or before 6pm, or because I was sad or depressed, it was always celebratory, frivolous – raising a glass to the sky surrounded by friends.
You’d never have told me to slow down or get help, because I looked like I was enjoying it. My drinking didn’t look extreme enough or destructive enough, so it went under the radar for many years. A problem diluted by the crowd, dissolved into modern day drinking culture and well deserved “mummy wines”.
Before having children, I didn’t see any consequences to my drinking. Embarrassing escapades were quickly soaked up by a Bloody Mary and a giggle with some equally hung over mates.
All I cared about was having a good story and a bacon sandwich the following morning. I never stopped to question if my behaviour was ok, or damaging in any way. Everyone around me was doing the same thing. I was just rolling from one bar to the next with my gang of fellow boozers enjoying the ride.
In my 20’s I travelled the world; a never-ending party in which my drinking remained disguised as jovial. I could crack open a beer with a different nomad every day of the week.
I never stayed anywhere long enough to get a reputation and if I did something humiliating, I just packed my bags before dawn and legged it to my next port of call.
No matter where in the world– at home, or in some far-flung destination– I managed to bring the party with me. All I needed was a bottle, a corkscrew and a willing drinking buddy.
Sharing alcohol was how I chose to connect with people and how I chose to represent myself throughout my life. It was so ingrained in my day-to-day that I never even paused to consider if what I was doing was right.
I just staggered through life leaving nothing in my wake but the fading scent of exploded party poppers.
Then, the baby.
Babies have a clever superpower; they shower you in something that is impossible to ignore.
love… and it cause all sorts of problems.
After my first child was born I was overwhelmed. I went from being the drunken party girl to being stuck at home with a pile of mounting washing and a crying baby. The only way I knew how to escape was to go out at weekends and get wasted. I carried on my binge drinking when I should have been at home singing lullabies.
The collision of these two worlds each Sunday morning made me feel unbearable guilt which led to panic attacks and the loss of my mental equilibrium. I had to listen to my husband taking the baby out for the day as I lay in a pit of discontent; unable to breast feed, hating myself and questioning everything.
The questioning was the first time I had ever reflected upon my drinking habit. It was unavoidable. My love for that baby meant I had to look at why.
Why was I missing out on time with my precious child? Why was I suffering with this severe anxiety?
The answer was clear but because my drinking wasn’t extreme, because I wasn’t lying in a gutter clutching a bottle of Jack Daniels, I carried on. For four long and painful years I tried to be a “better drinker”, a moderator, a mum that let her hair down every now again. I mean, what else was there?
How could I be another way?
Drunk me was the only person I’d ever known. Change seemed impossible. But the questions banged against my brain after every heavy session until, in the end, my internal scream could no longer be discounted.
With my head hung down, I plodded into the lounge and said to my husband, “I can’t do this anymore. I need help.”
I knew that carrying on something I hated and not being able to slow down, no matter how good my intentions, meant I had a drinking problem.
It was hard to admit it at first because I didn’t really feel like your typical alcoholic. I was just a social drinker, a stressed-out mum in need of release. I didn’t really feel like my incy wincy problem was worthy of help.
But, in a small office not far from my house, sat opposite a lovely lady with bright blue eyes. And it was then that I learned I was worthy.
It turned out I’d been drowning out insecurities and heartache with alcohol and hiding my true self behind a bottle. Over many weeks of ugly crying I discovered I didn’t have to drink to be liked or to relax. I learned I mattered and that I needed to be kinder to myself, (and to my body).
Therapy taught me to change into a shinier version of me. It wasn’t easy but I got there.
Now, here I am: The party girl, the mum that was only staying for one, 1000 days without a drop.
Life is better now. There is no shame or anxiety. No more lying in bed feeling full of regret. All that is left over are the bits I like and am proud of.
The alcohol has drained from my bloodstream and all that’s left is me: span dangly, glittery, slightly awkward, sober me.
Reaching out for help and now living an alcohol-free lifestyle has been the best thing I have ever done for myself and my family.
I’m not a perfect mum, I still shout too much and probably don’t pack enough Paleo snacks! But I’m present now, available when they need me. I don’t feel the urge to pour wine down my neck in order to be the life and soul of the party. I’m happy just being my authentic self, because that what sobriety is all about.
Just being you.
So, if you find yourself questioning your relationship with alcohol and things feel a little more complicated than they used to, then maybe it’s time to put in a little bit of work and be rewarded with a whole new you.
A fizzy water warrior with no hangover in sight!
(But let’s not talk about chocolate, that’s a whole different story!)