It’s hard to believe I reconciled this self defeating strategy. I was married now and for the first time had something I really cared about that I didn’t want to lose.
The miracle came when I thought I’d stumbled into another brilliant plan. I’d tell my husband we could begin to “try” to start a family. I’d been hearing from friends that it can take time for a pregnancy to actually take. Since I’d somehow avoided pregnancy until now, I thought I’d bought myself six months at the very least, to get used to the idea while also keeping my husband off my case. I also believed, falsely, that I probably couldn’t get pregnant on my own at all. Mind you, no medical doctor gave me any reason to believe this would be the case. In that false assumption was my moment of grace. I truly believe that if I had not secretly thought I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant, I might never have gotten sober.
It pushed me to find a better solution to my problems
When we conceived on the first and only try, I was shocked and humbled. Something had my attention. It was in that powerlessness that I became open to the idea of sparing my own child from the hardship of being raised by an unavailable addicted parent. Imagining the horror of him having to endure the same experiences I had was just enough to get me to where I could admit I didn’t actually know how to get through life any other way. It pushed me, quite surprisingly, in the direction of seeking to find a better solution to my problems. Even if that meant trying to do things differently than I had always done them. Even if that meant finally admitting to my own alcoholism.
After the few weeks of shock began to fade into a steadily progressing pregnancy, I was finally able to see the truth. I didn’t want to drink and jeopardize my son’s life and I could see that I honestly didn’t know how I was going to do that without help. Looking back on how all these events lined up perfectly, gently guiding me into recovery at the precise moment I was ready and willing to try anything (if only for the sake of what other people would think of me, initially) I feel nothing but immense gratitude.
Motherhood was just what I feared it would be. Hard. Impossible to do “perfectly”, whatever the hell that means. Really humbling. Challenging beyond words most days and requiring of a daily surrender to the reality that I am not in control and that I have to let go of my many ideas of how things should be, or be dragged. Some days I get dragged pretty mercilessly.
Being honest about my greatist shame has helped me be honest in other areas of my life
Entering recovery when I did, luckily, began to set the ground work I needed for motherhood. I learned alternative ways of dealing with parenting that I would never have thought of before I quit depending on a drink (or 5) to do it for me. First things first, being honest about my greatest shame has helped me to begin to be honest in a lot of other areas of my life. This has had the most transforming effect. I can now admit when shit is tough and say out loud to someone that I wish things were going my way, actually. Even if admitting this ever present truth can’t actually make the challenges I face easier. Being able to be honest about it helps me move toward acceptance.
Being a Mom is hard grueling work on a daily basis. No way around that. But, I don’t have to pretend to know what I am doing if the truth is that I haven’t got the first clue. It has been a huge relief. I am starting to accept my own humanity and the things about myself that make getting through a day harder than I want it to be. I never told the whole truth to anyone, not even myself, before sobriety. I didn’t know my half truths were slowly killing me. Now, admitting my truth is a daily practice that I can use to help me build my new and more constructive life.
I also am learning to ask for help in sobriety. This was a totally foreign concept for me, too. But, turns out it is necessary with a capital N for parenthood. It really does take a village and trying to raise a child in isolation would have spelled disaster for me. Asking for help was never modeled in my home growing up. In fact it was explicitly discouraged. It’s not easy for me to do and I still struggle with knowing whom to ask and when it’s appropriate. But I’m finding thatÂ my previous actions were a silent cry for help that nobody could hear. Asking for a hand when I need one is just a more direct and honest way to move through the world. And it does get easier the more I practice. Plus, it hasn’t killed me yet. The instinct I’m fighting is the one that tells me to deny my God given right as a person to have a hard time every now and again. This is a really old survival technique that I don’t have to rely on anymore, thank god.
A new cycle
When I was drinking the loop I was stuck on was vicious. Unmentionable problem, scheming, pretending, hiding and drinking. Repeat. As my shame grew so too did my dependency. Now the cycle goes like this. I admit I don’t know how to do something, I tell someone, I become willing to receive the help or advice that is offered, even if it doesn’t look like the help I think I need. Because what I think I need is wacky. My solution to a snowstorm, for instance, is buy a bigger bottle of whiskey. Admitting I didn’t know how to drink safely gave me permission to not know how to do a lot of other things. Of course I didn’t know how to raise a baby, sober. This too was never modeled for me. I take all the help I can get now and my son and I are so much better for it.
I also am starting to learn I am capable of taking care of myself. Again, foreign concept. Self care is different from self reliance in that self care acknowledges that I have a self that not only deserves but requires tender loving care. The same as my son. I get to be human and to haveÂ basic universal needs, like fatigue and hunger, that are my responsibility to identify and address. I was so mad that nobody (my sick and suffering parents) took the time to help me learn how to properly care for myself, that I was unconsciously refusing to do so. How to feed myself, do laundry, sort mail, pay bills, these simple adult tasks were really baffling. Adding care for a baby into the mix wouldn’t have gone over well if I hadn’t gotten sober and began to appreciate myself and the care I could offer me. Self care is something all Mamas could benefit from, no doubt. It’s been a life saving practice for this sober Mama.
It’s amazing to think that I have managed to somehow weather early sobriety and the first few years of motherhood simultaneously. It’s startling to me how disastrous the alternative could have been. This is something I wouldn’t have picked if the choice had been mine to make. But, it helps me stay surrendered. The tenderness and love I am now conscious enough to receive from my growing son helps me to know that all the humbling work has not been in vain. It’s an honest to God gift to know him and be his champion as he navigates this bumpy human experience. It’s not easy. The intensity of the first few years with him have solidified the necessity of sobriety being first and foremost in my life if I hope to continue to be able to show up for my life and for his.
I sincerely don’t miss drinking today. I am more horrified at what I put myself through in the name of trying to avoid my very human vulnerabilities. But, it takes what it takes. I have been blessed with this experience and think that as long as I stay sober a day at a time and stay open to learning more about myself and the world, motherhood and all of its many challenges will be the things that I use to continue to grow. Instead of self destruct. Motherhood and drinking are no longer things I think of as a problem, and I am so grateful that today I don’t have to figure anything else out.
If your drinking or a loved one’s drinking feels out of control, Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon are two organizations are free to all seeking relief. They are a great place to begin your journey of recovery.