I was five and a half years sober when I had my daughter. I was active in my recovery. I was married to another sober alcoholic. Overall, my life was pretty damned good and surprisingly stable. Then a familiar obsession started creeping back. Maybe I can have a drink. Maybe I’m not an alcoholic after all.
Maybe, just maybe…
Becoming a mother, not unlike getting sober, has brought me a sense of peace and an abundance of joy and gratitude I never knew were possible.
And being a mother, not unlike being sober, is at times really, really hard.
When I first got sober, before I felt the benefits, before I was able to see the miracles happening in my life, all I felt was a sense of loss. My identity had long been synonymous with alcohol, and I felt a profound loss of self. I was only 21, and I felt as though I was losing out on my youth; my right to drink.
I wanted the drinking lifestyle I had become accustomed to without the consequences but inherently knew that wasn’t going to work. Eventually, with time, work on myself, and an amazing support network, that sense of loss was replaced with a fullness of heart, self-worth, and hope that I had been missing through all those years of drinking.
When I became a mother, the sense of loss returned. Gone was my independence, my free time, my ability to make plans at a moments notice. I suddenly felt incredibly tied-down, isolated, and even bitter. I was torn up about these feelings, because I knew 100% in my heart that I wanted to be a mom, I wanted that little baby girl more than I had ever wanted anything in the world, but I didn’t want the mom lifestyle.
And then I wanted to drink.
I have become comfortable with the idea that, as a recovering alcoholic, there will always be times I want to drink. I had thought, however, that the obsession over a drink had been removed. For a long time, it was.
Motherhood brought it back…with a vengeance.
Because here’s the thing: in my alcoholic mind, it was ok to want a drink, but God forbid I want, even for a second, to not be a mother anymore. What kind of mother would I be if I thought such a thing? What would people think of me if I voiced that out loud? And so, instead of recognizing what I was really mourning—the loss of my independence as a non-parent—I reverted to an old familiar loss, the loss of my friend, Booze.
Thankfully, I never did have to pick up a drink, but it wasn’t easy; sometimes it’s still not. I know the rewards of sobriety and they vastly outweigh the rewards of drinking. It took me time to adjust to sobriety, and it has taken me time to adjust to motherhood.
In many ways, sobriety and motherhood aren’t all that different: there is a steep learning curve at the beginning that can make for some rough waters, and there are always days that are harder than others. And there is strength in numbers. I am better at being sober and better at being a mom when I surround myself with people who are doing those things too. And most importantly, like sobriety, the rewards of motherhood vastly outweigh the rewards of independence.
I will keep that in mind the next time a drink looks good.
This post originally appeared on Sober Mommies in March, 2014.