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My Kids Don’t Keep Me Sober

I rub my growing belly and sigh. Every waking moment I am swallowed in worries for the future and fears that I won’t be good enough.

I can’t cook, what will he eat?

I’ve never changed a diaper, will I hurt him?’

Can I handle the pain of labor? The sleepless nights?

Do I have enough love to give him? Do I even love myself?

I am able to walk myself through each of these fears—I can learn how to cook and how to change a diaper—I can drink enough coffee to get me through my exhaustion.

There is one fear though, which I am unable to get past, a dread that still haunts me four years later—what if I pick it up again?

What if, despite having long-term sobriety, I turn to the bottle that still occasionally calls my name.

I know the type of drunk I am—I cannot quit once I start. I get angry—the type of anger that has me chasing my ex with a knife—until I turn the knife on myself. Alcohol brings with it a wrath that causes me to throw computers against walls. I smash dishes with rage until broken glass covers the kitchen floor.

Alcohol makes me selfish. I become self-centered, stealing attention from my loved ones and their pain, as I demand they attend the pity-party I’ve decided to throw. It’s my problems, my pain, my chaos.

When I drink, I get so drunk I cannot see. My eyes glass over and I become creature-like.
I make phone calls and lie about miscarriages I didn’t have. I lose my house keys and wallet, and I get into my car and drive recklessly. I scream nonsense and fight with whoever happens to be in my blacked-out path.

I lie on the couch, nursing my hangover, and ignore every responsibility. I obsess over ways to get to the liquor store, and I forego buying toilet paper so I can buy more booze. I know that when I drink, the bottle of whiskey becomes more important than anything or anyone.

I worry that if it came down to it, I would choose that bottle over my baby. And it scares the shit out of me.

There’s a phrase thrown about—this idea that “my kids will keep me sober”—like my children will fill the hole I tried to fill with whiskey. It pisses me off. It discredits all of my recovery efforts. My sobriety feels minimized.

“You’re a mom now, you’re more mature.”

“Do you still have to go to those meetings, you have your babies to keep you sober.”

“You seem far too happy to go back to how you were.”

The truth is, I am susceptible to my disease more than ever. I have less time to focus on my lifelong treatment now because I am focused on this helpless little life—my son. I’ve gone days without showering because mom life can cause everything to blur. I cut out self-care for story time and make-believe games. These distractions are a perfect opportunity for my addiction to discreetly creep back in.

Motherhood comes with a box of new justifications and reasons to use. “You’re a mommy, you need some wine!”

At the end of a stressful day, I’d love nothing more than to chase my sleeping pills with a glass of red wine. I deserve to loosen up, don’t I? It’s the weekend after all. I’d love to enjoy a cocktail while playing outside with my kids or while cooking the dinner I don’t know how to cook. Children’s birthday parties must be more entertaining with a buzz. Why not? Everyone’s doing it! Dads are gripping their beers and moms are sipping mimosas while the kiddos bounce in the inflated castle—why can’t I?

Perhaps motherhood has given me maturity. I keep most doctor appointments, and I obey traffic laws. And, in a sense, motherhood has made me happier, or at least added a new layer of happiness. Yet, I am sober not because of my kids, nor for my kids.

My addiction didn’t promptly disappear the moment I saw that bright blue plus sign. I work harder on my sobriety now because I recognize how much I can lose. So here I sit, feeling my stress, my boredom, my exhaustion and each of my mom guilts—stone cold sober. Nothing is more frustrating than having my sobriety belittled by the notion that my kids have saved me, for I have saved myself.

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