There’s no more cracking open a bottle of wine, sipping it to relax while I cook dinner. There’s no more stepping away to hit my vape pen, returning with bleary eyes and a goofy smile. There’s just me, my daughter, my husband and more of myself.
I used to need “help” to both enjoy and endure motherhood. I lived my days waiting to drink or smoke to take the edge off.
I didn’t know how to face all the stress of being a new mom. I thought I was relieving my anxiety. Numbing allowed me to get through the fits of crying and the sleepless nights. I had so much grief, rage, guilt, and shame I was lugging around. I thought weed and booze allowed me to carry on with some semblance of a life.
I justified this, of course. I medicated myself with pink wine and purple weed, though other colors and flavors would do just fine. I didn’t see a problem with smoking some weed during the day and having a few drinks at night. Even when it turned into every single day and night, I still found ways to rationalize it.
What I didn’t realize until it was almost too late, was that all that self-medicating was making everything worse. Even though the tequila or wine or gin would take the edge off in the moment, it led to more depression. Even though marijuana made life with a baby bearable for a few hours it made me more anxious. It made me more exhausted than I already was from the sleep-deprived reality of early motherhood. After a few months, I found myself in a cycle of weed, alcohol, and coffee.
The cycle spiraled into severe depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.
The panic attacks became more frequent and extreme. My self-loathing soared to unbearable, suicidal levels. Alcohol and marijuana no longer did much to suppress anything. The can of worms was open and either I had to face it, get some help and get sober, or lose my mind or my life.
It didn’t get better overnight. I stopped and started again a few times before I found my way to true sobriety. I found a great therapist that helped me understand the cycle. She helped me to understand what I was actually feeling. I found anger, rage, grief, trauma, shame, resentment, sadness and so much more. I had to process my feelings to get through the need to cover them up with addictions.
I also learned mindfulness meditation, which was one of my biggest saviors. Meditation worked better than the alcohol and pot and without side effects.
Then I started going to recovery meetings and quit for real. Parenting got so much better after I got sober. Not right away though. At first, I hit a serious period of boredom. Life with a baby without alcohol or marijuana seemed so bland.
The stark reality of the mundane was hard for me. But over time I learned to find enjoyment without any substances.
Now that I am sober, I don’t have panic attacks anymore. I am way less anxious in general, and when I do feel anxiety I know how to work with it. Depression is almost non-existent for me now. Even though I still feel tired often, I am not exhausted. It’s manageable, and I know how to recharge myself.
I’m a better mom now, too. I am more present, patient and kind. I am better able to process my emotions and in a better mood more often. I have more energy. I enjoy our time together and show my love for her more. I am more responsible and available. I’m not trying to escape—I’m here.
I don’t need alcohol or drugs to endure parenthood, to get through it, to cope with it, to escape from it. This is my life, after all, and it will be for a very long time. Instead of “using” to mask my emotions, I let myself actually “feel.” I talk about it. I write about it. I dance about it. I even sing about it. I work on it in therapy.
Learning how to deal with my emotions instead of faking it with wine or weed is the most important thing I’ve ever done.
I don’t have to numb to make it through the day. I get to give my daughter my full attention. I’m giving her the childhood that she truly deserves—one with a genuinely present, calm and sober mother.
This post was submitted by Flow Belinsky.