I was both astonished and humbled by the outpouring of stories and support after my post earlier this week about Mommy Wine Culture and why I won’t be endorsing or supporting it anymore. So many women, so many of us, struggling, in various degrees and in various stages.
So before the long weekend, I wanted to share “Mommy’s” story with you. I hope it gives you food for thought. I hope her experience can be your moment of reckoning like I had last week. “Mommy” has shared her story in the hope that someone, just one person out there, may read her story and pause for thought. Maybe you will think that that daily glass of wine you need so desperately after herding your kids to be each night, won’t seem like such a great need anymore. Or maybe your eyes will be open to the naive thinking that it “could never happen to me!”
I love how you so often write posts that apply to my life. I was sad to have missed your live chat last week, but I was at an AA meeting at the time. There I said it. I’m that person. The past 11 months have been such an eye-opening time for me. A time of self-loathing, of learning to love me again, a time of learning. I still hate myself most days, but I’m getting better.
My name is “mommy” and I’m an alcoholic.
How did I get here?! How did this happen to me?! I never used to drink a lot. Somewhere in our infertility struggle that glass of wine I drank to calm or reward myself occasionally, became a glass or two every evening. Gradually over the years, it became a bottle every evening, by myself. Somehow without realizing it, I had crossed that invisible line into alcoholism.
I know I was trying to drink away the pain of infertility and multiple failed IVFs. I was very depressed. I often wanted to drink myself into oblivion and never wake up again. I didn’t drink at all during my pregnancy. Our daughter was very ill after birth and I suffered from post-natal depression and I also know now that I still suffer from PTSD.
After her birth, the occasional glass of wine or champagne quickly became a bottle again. It was the only thing my husband and I ever argued about. Alcoholism is a disease according to the WHO. It’s not a choice. It’s basically an allergy to alcohol that causes your mind to react differently to alcohol than those of other people. It’s a two-fold problem. While you’re not drinking you obsess over alcohol (e.g. you can’t wait to get home to have your first glass, you take extra wine to parties to make sure the hosts don’t run out) and once you pick up the first drink you can’t stop yourself from having more, no matter your intentions before you started drinking. Many times I told myself I was only going to have one drink, but when offered a second the first thing I would think was “oh what the hell, why not”.
I like to call it my “fuck it” button. My fuck it button got switched on as soon as I had that first drink. Like infertility, alcoholism isn’t something people understand unless they’re in it themselves. Because there is such a stigma attached to alcoholism and because I want my daughter to have friends, I cannot be as open about this as I would like to be.
I agree with you that the “mommy needs wine” memes normalizes alcoholism or the use of alcohol as a crutch. It took me a very long time to admit to myself or anyone else that I was an alcoholic. We all think of alcoholics as those people begging at traffic lights or hanging out outside the bottle store in the morning. Not someone who still has a job, a car, a house, and a family. I still had all those things, never got arrested for drunk driving and never had a car accident due to drinking. So, how could I be an alcoholic?
First AA Meeting
I was shaking with fear when I walked into my first AA meeting. I expected a bunch of old, homeless men. But I was shocked and pleasantly surprised to see so many young people there. I have met fascinating alcoholics from all walks of life at AA meetings. Engineers; dentists; university professors with medical degrees; fellow mommies; people who slept on park benches, went to jail 9 times and have now been sober for 20 years.
In the year before I finally stopped drinking, I tried stopping on my own many times. I would make rules for myself like I’m only going to drink on weekends, switch to whiskey and water instead of wine, save the money I would’ve spent on wine to motivate myself. None of these lasted very long before I was back to my old habits.
This kind of thing https://www.alcoholexperiment.com/ is great, but it won’t work if you’re an alcoholic. I completely disagree with her saying “The choice is entirely yours, not alcohol’s” “Society and conditioning will lead you to believe that changing your relationship with alcohol and giving yourself permission to have just 1, or not have any at all is impossible to do.” If you are a true alcoholic, you might do that experiment successfully for 30 days if you really try hard enough. Then you’ll think “See, I’m not an alcoholic”, accept that 1 glass of wine at your next social event and before you know it you are back to square one and worse than before. If you aren’t an alcoholic then you will be successful at that and you can just have one or two drinks. And then I say to you “Well done. You are darn lucky”.
The AA is rife with people who thought they could control their drinking. If you’re a true alcoholic the only way to beat it is complete abstinence. I envy people who can have half a glass of wine and then decide they don’t feel like it anymore. I wish I could drink alcohol like a normal person.
Believe me, I didn’t wake up one morning and decide it would be fun to be an alcoholic.
Many days the shame becomes very overwhelming. Because I was a secret drinker, the friends that I have told couldn’t believe that I am an alcoholic. They saw the two or three glasses of wine that I would have while we’re out to dinner and maybe saw that I got a bit tipsy, but they didn’t know about the two glasses I had before I went out and the half a bottle or whole bottle of wine I’d drink when I got home.
In the end, it was the blackouts that finally got to me. At the end of my drinking career, I didn’t even have to drink that much to have a blackout. I wasn’t the dance-on-the-tables kind of drinker. I wouldn’t pass out. I’d be completely awake and having conversations with people but the memory of entire evenings was missing.
My final push was my husband giving me an ultimatum the day after my last blackout, 5 February 2017.
The Saturday was a perfectly pleasant day. We went to a high tea for my aunt’s 50th birthday. I had a few too many glasses of wine and champagne. We came home. It was a lovely, warm afternoon and we decided to go for a swim. I had some more wine. I was playing with my daughter in the pool and the next thing I knew it was 3am. I woke up with a splitting headache in bed in my pajamas and have no idea how I got there. Apparently, after my husband put my daughter in bed, he commented on my drinking again and I had a complete meltdown crying, screaming and slamming doors. The noise woke up our daughter. It terrifies me that I have absolutely no recollection of any of this. And this wasn’t the first time that this had happened. I can’t have the daughter that we wanted so badly, grow up in an environment like that. It’s complete insanity.
I know now after 11 months of sobriety and weekly therapy sessions that I was using alcohol as a crutch to deal with depression, PTSD and the memory of childhood sexual abuse. I was shocked to find how my depression lifted when I stopped drinking. I never realized how much the alcohol was contributing to my depression.
I decided to write you this e-mail with the hope that you might post at least part of it on your blog. It’s entirely up to you of course. It’s your blog! I would like to warn people, but I don’t have a blog and therefore don’t have the reach that you have.
Plus I’m sure you can appreciate that I need to protect my identity for my daughter’s sake.
If you already know that you have an addictive personality then you need to be very, very careful with alcohol. People don’t realize what a powerful drug it is. Because it’s a legal drug, society has a very warped relationship with it. “Alcoholism is a chronic disease that develops over time and makes the body dependent on alcohol.” (https://www.addiction.com/a-z/alcoholism/) It’s a progressive disease and it’s gradual.
Thank you for having the guts to tackle these thorny issues. You are such an inspiration to many.
Some links for you if you want to do more reading:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6XjguFZckA – 9 Signs of a high functioning alcoholic. The only one of these that didn’t match me is that I didn’t hide the alcohol. But I did hide empty bottles, so technically it’s true for me too.
Thank you for sharing “Mommy”! I think you are incredibly brave and I’m honored that you’d choose this space to share your story and perhaps empower others through your sharing. I wish you nothing but the very best and years of health, happiness, and sobriety.
“Mommy’s” story gave me a lot to think about. After my “awakening” last weekend, I have realized that we are really niave to think this couldn’t/wouldn’t happen to us.
Do you have a story to share? Get in touch!