I Convinced Myself I Couldn’t Be An Alcoholic…But I Was

I am a mother of two beautiful children, aged five months and three years. My father was an alcoholic and drug addict who was very abusive, physically and mentally. My mother left us at a young age because she couldn’t handle it. I grew up hating alcohol and not trusting anyone.

I’ve always thought that because I don’t abuse alcohol like my father that I didn’t have a problem. WRONG. I didn’t drink every day or in excess every day but I’ve lied to myself for too long. Now I risk losing my two kids and my husband because of my stubbornness and lack of self-control.

I’ve damaged my relationship with my husband so much. When we would fight, I would do those things to hurt him back (especially if I’d been drinking), hoping he would feel some of the pain raging inside me. I’ve ripped up pictures, flushed a ring and burned a shirt that my husband had made for us. It’s no wonder our relationship is suffering.

I thought I was over the abuse from my childhood, but when I drank it all came flooding back.

I’ve done so many stupid things under the influence and feel so ashamed. I’ve never have been physically abusive like my father but I have inflicted enough emotional damage to last a lifetime. I hope one day my husband can forgive me…but I need to change before my children are old enough to see my ugly side. Before they’re old enough to repeat the cycle.

Don’t get me wrong—I am a good mother to my children. I love them more than life itself. I’d give everything I have EVERY day to make sure they are happy and taken care of. But I’m only a great mama only 90% of the time, when I haven’t been drinking.

I can’t bear the thought of my children growing up with negative influences and losing sight of what is really important in life. I don’t want them to have the childhood that my siblings and I did. I realize that I can’t control the rest of the world (including sticky floors, crying colicky kids and a tired husband) but I CAN control ME. I want to be the one who helps my kids through life with their heads held high, respecting themselves and one another. I’ve made the decision to take my life back and protect my children’s future.

Today is day three without my children, my husband, and alcohol.

Even though I stayed at a house where a box of wine was stashed in the room I slept in, I DIDN’T TOUCH IT. I had every chance to drink. It would have been OK (in my alcoholic mind) because I didn’t have to worry about taking care of kids. I was hurting because I was missing my babies and needed something to calm me down so I could sleep. I knew no one would find out so what would it hurt to have a couple glasses, right??

WRONG.

Even if no one else knew about it, I would know.

I know in my heart that it’s time for me to change. I’m ready for it. I can feel the strength inside me that I haven’t had before, and I can feel the determination growing. I can beat this addiction, for my kids and for myself, and for my husband who I know loves me very much.

I want to be an awesome mom 100% of the time, not just 90%. I’ve been pointing fingers at everyone else for the last several years—NO MORE EXCUSES. I am determined to beat this. I know from being raised in support groups and from being around so many family members that have dealt with this addiction that it WON’T be easy—but with the support of my husband, this program and talking with others who are going through the same struggle I can win this battle.

Best of luck to you struggling moms out there, and please know I love each and every one of you who is reading this because it means you are trying just like myself to live a better life and give a better life to your family.

This post was submitted by Lisa.

Finding My Breath was Key to Fighting My Addiction

I have been thinking a lot about my first addiction recently. It developed when I was seven years old and is connected to my earliest, most spectacular act of self-sabotage.

When I was seven, I was diagnosed with asthma. I was given two different inhalers to use regularly. One was a preventative medicine, to be taken twice daily, to stop me having asthma attacks. It tasted disgusting, and I hated it.  The other was the reliever, designed to enable my airways to open when I had trouble breathing. I was only supposed to use this occasionally. This tasted sweet and delicious. I already had a powerful sweet tooth, so was very keen on the sweet medication, and rapidly became dependent. And I mean totally dependent.

Within a very short space of time, the realization that I didn’t have it with me could trigger a panic attack that would see me needing emergency hospital treatment. (Being British, I am fortunate to benefit from free healthcare. I might have behaved differently had I grown up in the US.)

Fast forward and ten years later, I was in a relationship with a manchild I didn’t feel worthy of and felt quite intimidated by in lots of ways. He cheated on me, a lot, and didn’t always treat me well and yet I felt constantly insecure in our relationship.

Whenever we argued (which was quite often) I would go off with a friend and smoke. You might think that someone who has grown up with asthma would steer clear of smoking. I did it because I knew he hated smoking, and it would really piss him off. Maybe deep down I was hoping he’d catch me and end the relationship, I don’t know. According to breath expert Max Strom, when we smoke we push down our emotions. I was clearly repressing a great deal about how I was feeling in that relationship. And after we split up, he went to war with me over our son. As he almost destroyed me in the process, I started smoking (and drinking, and taking other drugs) a lot more.

With the new friends, I discovered the delights of marijuana. Combined with alcohol, it felt like I had found my soulmates. As I took those deep breaths, taking that marijuana smoke into my lungs, I would feel my turmoil evaporating in the smoke I blew out of my mouth. Being an out of time, born too late, wannabe sixties hippy, I was able to convince myself that smoking weed and taking acid connected me to my musical heroes.

Throughout all this, of course, I still had asthma. It wasn’t likely to improve when I was assaulting my lungs with tobacco and weed on a daily basis! I would hold my inhaler in one hand, a joint in the other, puffing on both within minutes.

I would sometimes take a blast on my inhaler mid-smoke so I could carry on, rather than seeing it as the clear sign that my body was struggling.

It took me a long time to accept that I was an addicted smoker—until my first attempt to quit after about ten years of smoking. I was VERY good at denial, as my 20 years of “I’m not an alcoholic, I just like a drink” raging alcoholism will attest to.

At about 35, I made yoga a regular part of my life because I wanted to learn to breathe after yet another asthma attack. Of course, I could have done myself a lot of favors by giving up smoking, but my addicted brain didn’t see that as a viable option. Yoga would help me breathe, so Yoga was the perfect solution.

When the breakdown I had in 2013 rendered me incapable of full-time work, and I was looking for another career. Yoga seemed like the perfect option. I loved it, and wanted to teach it. It would be a good way to keep myself calm and grounded, something I desperately needed.

I spent a lot of time working with my breath. My lung capacity increased as I learned a wide range of breathing techniques. As my breath improved, so did my ability to deal with stress, to get a good night’s sleep and to relax. As I learned to breathe deeply, I wanted to smoke much less. My need for alcohol faded as I learned to deal with stress and I also learned to like myself at last.

Seven months into my training, I was able to quit drinking and smoking on the same day. I had always thought this would be impossible!

I know that learning to breathe was key to my recovery. It has transformed my health and well-being in so many ways. I look better, healthier and younger at 45 than I did at 35 when I was drinking and smoking! I have reduced my inhaler use considerably, and have reduced my emotional dependence on it.

Esther nagle breathe tattooIn 2016, when on my first visit to India, I got a tattoo on my wrist. It was a celebration of so much. I was sober. I had just published a book. I was in India. Life felt good, and I wanted to celebrate that.

But above all, it was a celebration of my breath, and the strength and recovery I had found in it. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I look at it and remember I have all I need to find peace in myself.

We all need to breathe to live, but if you learn to breathe well, it can help you to thrive. It can give you the space to relax, release tension and just be. In Yoga, prana, the life force that comes to us through the breath, is seen as a golden energy. I think of my breath as the golden thread in my life, connecting addiction and self-sabotage to recovery and self-discovery.

What can you find in your breath?

Take a few deep breaths now and see how it makes you feel.

Finding Sisterhood in Recovery

The person I was when I first got sober four years ago is not the same woman I am today. So much has changed and shaped me these last several years. I have learned, forgotten, and re-learned many lessons.

I got sober in a 12-step program. I believe it saved my life. Although I learned many slogans and principles in my home group, they are not what sustain my recovery. What sustains me now is being able to connect with other mothers in recovery—Sober Mommies specifically.

In 12-step programs, I often felt as if I was expected to fit into a box. I was totally okay with that for awhile, and I’m still okay with it. I just need my box to be bigger than the one I was given. I needed to add some things and find my tribe.

I got sober when I was seven months pregnant, basically forced into treatment by the state, still actively using.

Not many people told me, “It’s okay to just be where you are.”  I stuck with it though. I was no longer on medication-assisted treatment, so I felt comfortable there. I followed all the suggestions, did lots of work on myself, took service positions, and made many wonderful friends. Life was good.

When I was two years sober, after the birth of my second son, I was crippled with postpartum depression and anxiety. I couldn’t leave my house. I could barely care for my newborn and toddler. My supportive family, my 12-step friends, my beautiful children, and therapy could not fix what I felt was “wrong” with me.

At the time, I deepened my relationships in the Sober Mommies community. I found the online support and sisterhood refreshing and learned there was no right way to do recovery. It was time to build my own box and fill my toolkit with resources that worked for me. Discovering this was so liberating and I ran with it. I got to experience women from all over coming together to support, love, share and celebrate their achievements; great or small. I got more involved, volunteered my time within the group, and went to the live meetings when I could. I got to be honest, open and real. I started healing, exercising, practicing things I believed and sharing that with other women.

I could finally breathe—recovery was working for me again. I found my missing piece—my connection to other sober moms. I wanted to share and to receive hope and love. For me, I began to grow when I found others who understood what I was feeling and could say “Yes! Me too.” I could share things that I didn’t feel comfortable sharing in a crowd of men and women at a meeting.

I had a place to belong.

I still do many of the things I did in early recovery. I go to meetings and I continue to live by many of the principles I learned there. In a meeting recently, I had the opportunity to read a piece of literature I love to the group. The comfort of that reading and the foundation I’ve built in those meetings helped carry me to a place where I comfortable enough to explore other options in recovery. The open-minded attitude that I embrace today is because I explored those options.

I just want to be me.

I don’t know if I ever would have truly found my authentic self if I hadn’t found a community of women who support and uplift me and each other. In crisis life was breathed back into me through the rigidity of that structured program.

In recovery, I get to climb the mountain until I find the oxygen density that sustains me through the sisterhood in recovery.

Stop the Judgement: Laughter Doesn’t Make it Funny

I got really fired up after a recovery gathering last night. Like, beyond my usual passion for the recovering mother. In my community, there are a number of not-so-funny "slogans" that have become commonplace.

I'm not into controlling anyone else's words, but there is one particular slogan that's “supposed to be funny,” and needs some attention. Our 12-step group gives out tags for clean time; to recognize and congratulate certain lengths. This is supposed to be a joyous occasion. For a while now, when the nine-month tag is announced, some can be heard yelling out, "pregnant with recovery, not by someone in recovery."

I do not think this is funny, or cute.

When did it become acceptable to shame scared, pregnant women?!?!? I'm pregnant for the second time in recovery, but this comment made me angry long before. It’s not the pregnancy hormones that are upsetting me; it’s the fact that I was that scared, pregnant woman years ago. I found out I was pregnant when I was 60 days clean!

I saw people measuring the size of my belly and felt them judging it against my time free from drugs and alcohol. It almost caused me to stop going to meetings.

I saw people measuring the size of my belly and felt them judging it against my time free from drugs and alcohol. It almost caused me to stop going to meetings. I sat in those rooms blushing with shame when that stupid comment was said, and I WILL NOT allow anyone to shame a mother, her children, or a mother-to-be away from recovery.

I will speak up Every. Single. Time; and not worry about what anyone thinks of me because I do.

The world is hard enough on mothers AND people in recovery. We cannot afford to be so hard on each other. This is one of the reasons the Sober Mommies mission is so important to me. I never want my sisters to feel ashamed for being who they are, or afraid to enter recovery out of shame or embarrassment.

To the pregnant woman in recovery I say this

I love you, because if I love you, I love me. I support you, because if I support you, I support me. You have a place here; no matter what. We will protect you so you can be the best mommy you can be. Most of all, I promise to never shame you; because we’re in this together.

Dear Mom, You Didn’t Raise An Alcoholic

Dear Mom,

For so long, I’ve known that I was sorry for who I was in active addiction, but I’ve been unable to comprehend the true extent of my remorse. At least until, at just over a year sober, I found myself crying with my newborn as he received his first shots. It was then I realized that you felt every ounce of pain I did. All the years you spent watching me fall apart, in every tearful blackout, your heart broke. As you were forced to watch me drowning, you wondered how much more you could take.

I lost Watson in a department store, he was 18 months old. The fear was so overwhelming, I almost felt high. It became clear the years of constant angst I forced on you. I realized you had nights you couldn’t sleep as you worried if I was safe. I'm sure you regularly wondered if our every phone call might be the last.

In recovery, I am no longer in pain and I believe you share that sense of peace with me. I have found stability in sobriety and you no longer have to wonder where I am.

It wasn't until I was a mother that I finally recognized the guilt you must carry. At night I lay awake and wonder if today was the day I damaged my boys. Will Watts remember that I lost my temper? Will Em suffer from not having my undivided attention? Tonight as I went over every detail of our day, I was hit with a sickening realization—I’ve never told you—my addiction was not your fault.

Tonight as I went over every detail of our day, I was hit with a sickening realization—I’ve never told you—my addiction was not your fault.

I now grasp that like me, you’ve played the tape over and over again in your head. Like a song you can’t get out of your head, you’ve asked a million times, "Where did I go wrong?" The simplest answer is that you didn’t. No one could have foreseen the darkness we found ourselves trapped in. Neither of us imagined that I’d spend the majority of my young adult life in a constant state of blackouts and misery. No one could’ve predicted that.

When you wonder if you were too strict, or perhaps not strict enough, know that you implemented the perfect amount of discipline. When you reflect on the schools I attended—don’t waste your wishes longing to go back in time—the education system did not mold me into the alcoholic I became. In those moments when you can’t help but remember your lost little girl searching for something to fill the emptiness, know that you did not cause the void. Find peace in the fact that I am no longer empty, and you played a significant role in that.

Instead of my pain, I want you to see my strength—in part from the way you fought for me and taught me how to fight for myself. Do you notice the way I hear every bird and seek out the moon? You have instilled that love of beauty in me. By watching you, I learned to be both a wife and an independent woman. You taught me that beauty isn’t make-up and lace, it’s simply curly hair and a smile. I recognize the importance of manners and standing up for what’s right because I grew up seeing the way you treat others. You helped me understand the value of hard work and showing up when I say I will.

Because of you, I've mastered going with the flow and laughing things off. I know life isn't meant to be taken too seriously. And by watching you dance, I’ve found that personal joy is so much more important than the opinions of others.

I know that as long as I love my boys the way you loved me, they'll be just fine.

And now, possibly the most important lesson of all—as a parent, I am doing the best I can. As a mother, I need to be kinder to myself, because as long as I love my boys the way you loved me, they'll be just fine.

Mom, you didn't raise an alcoholic. You helped me pick up all my broken pieces and build me into the woman I am today. When you don’t believe that you’ve done enough—see who I am now—because you are every part of me that’s good, and that is everything I see in you.

I love you,

Missy