Family, Self

3 Things Every Mom Struggling With Alcoholism Wants You To Know

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3 Things Every Mom Struggling With Alcoholism Wants You To Know

By Dana Bowman

I have dropped my boys off at theater camp and am speed-walking out the door when I hear, “Hey! Dana! Come get coffee with us!” 

I stop, pivot, and see one of my dearest friends smiling at me. She’s in full on summer momgear — baseball cap, tank top, and the mom bag and she is beckoning to me. She knows I love coffee. She knows I haven’t gabbed with her in ages. She knows it would be so easy to say yes. 

And immediately, I start to stammer because I can’t say yes.

“Hi! Cute bag. So, I can’t… I gotta go to this thing.”

“What thing?” she smiles and jangles her keys like I’m a cat and might pounce and follow her. 

“My, uh, thing that I go to.” 

I start to inch towards the door. She tilts her head to the side and smiles even more. I take a breath and try to summon a banter-y tone: “I have a meeting. You know. Recovery.”

Now, I didn’t have to tell her this. I could have just fibbed about a random appointment, but I’m kind of over that now. When I first got sober, I kind of told everyone, so what’s the problem? 

But still. It just feels weird.

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My friend is sweet and lovely. She would insist to me that it is not weird. She would also insist that she is proud of me, and I would believe her because she is a great encourager. But she is also from that different galaxy of people who don’t drink much at all, and she just does not get it. We have bonded over feverish kids, and frustration with the daily mom-grind. We have discussed everything from tantrums, to sex, to tantrums about sex. So, part of me wishes we could heart-to-heart about this too. 

It feels a little lonely. 

As far as I know, there are no other alcoholic moms in my circle of friends. It’s possible there is one. We are so very good at lurking under the radar. I seem to be the “token alcoholic” in my group, and I’m mostly okay with it. But there are a few aspects about recovery that I wish my normie friends could understand, things that only alcoholic moms really seem to comprehend. Things like...

1. Motherhood did not cause this. 

While it is true that binge-drinking among moms is reaching epidemic levels, it is not the act of mom-ing that got us there. This seems to be the most common culprit on social media, from the snarky memes about my children driving me to drink. I understand this. Children are nutballs. They thrive on chaos and mess, and a lot of moms might relish a nice cocktail at the day’s end to toast this nuttiness. 

But for alcoholics? Our children didn’t cause it. Our spouses didn’t either, as much as they might try. I believe alcoholism was there, waiting, all along, and there is a whole litany of reasons and explanations. But why did I drink too much? Because I am an alcoholic.

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2. I didn’t get sober for my children. 

As much as they didn’t start all of this, my children did not inspire me to stop, either.

In the major throes of my alcoholism, I tried to get sober for my boys. I really did. But unfortunately, my love for them was so tied to my anxiety about parenting, and my shame about my drinking, that my addiction gripped on harder to those negative feelings and won the fight. It wasn’t until I surrendered entirely and decided to do this for me that I got sober.

3. Relapse is not a dirty word.

With Demi Lovato’s recent revelation about her relapse, I found myself frustrated by the response. Relapse seemed to be such a shocking thing when it’s a pervasive part of recovery. 

Mom life is so hard. It’s a daily walk that can be brutal, boring, repetitive. My relapse was awful. It was a failure. But my goodness, let’s not treat me like I must stitch a scarlet letter R to my shirt forever. 

If I’ve learned anything in my parenting, it’s that failure is a way to learn and grow, and my relapse echoed this. This is not to say that I am recommending relapse. But there is room for grace and mess-ups. Thank goodness.

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This article was originally published at Ravishly. Reprinted with permission from the author.