Why I Am a Sober Mom in a Not-So Sober World

Mom wine-culture tells us to keep drinking. Here's why I quit.

Posted Feb 10, 2020

Dana Bowman
Source: Dana Bowman

I used to take all the "Are you an alcoholic?" self-tests. Glass of wine in hand, I would google them online, and answer the questions. 

And I would solidly flunk every one. 

At this point I would refill my glass and click right on over to Facebook, where my wine-drinking moms were all hanging out. And with the help of some soothing social media, I would push down the growing fear that I really did have a problem with alcohol. 

I lived that way for many years while my children were very young. I was miserable drinking, but I was miserable even considering NOT drinking. I couldn't comprehend my life without my nightly "I deserve this" wine habit, which was rapidly becoming an afternoon habit, and so forth. 

After many failed attempts, I finally quit drinking in August of 2014. It was the toughest and best thing I have ever done, outside of childbirth. But let's face it, if I hadn't given up alcohol I wouldn't be here to be a mother anyway.

Problematic drinking for women has been steadily rising, and addictive patterns among women have exceedingly harmful results. Not only can women become physically addicted to alcohol sooner than men, but they can suffer from pronounced mental health issues because of their drinking. The stigma of the alcoholic mom, unable to properly care for her children, can actually keep the mom in her addiction. Plagued by guilt and sadness, she self-medicates all the more. I suffered in silence, unable to voice my fears and self-loathing about my drinking. But as my drinking increased, my depression grew, and I knew I had to quit the rollercoaster. 

Early sobriety was tough, but the tiny moments of peace and serenity that were starting to catch hold in my soul were enough to keep me walking forward, day by day, in recovery. As I did, I found clarity and was able to formulate the reasons why I needed to be a sober mom:

1. Depression cannot be fixed with drinking

I know. This seems like an obvious one since alcohol is, after all, a depressant, but this took me years to accept. My depression was sometimes muffled by a nightly drink, but what I failed to notice is that drinking really only managed to solidify a stronghold of depressive and anxiety-riddled thinking. 

2. Mom-hood is hard enough. 

I kept thinking that my parenting needed something to "take the edge off" when in fact, alcohol was adding sharp, painful edges all around it. Drinking didn't make me sleep better. It didn't refresh me for the next day. It didn't help me be present for my children. It didn't even suitably numb out the boredom or take away the monotony. It only blanketed these very normal parenting feelings, and then took away any tiny shred of strength I had to deal with them while sober. Alcohol broke resolve and took away ingenuity; two things any parent needs on a daily basis. 

3. My liver had only so much time left. 

Towards the end of my drinking days I was waking up with pain in my lower back and sides. I was swollen and bloated. I found it difficult to walk downstairs; my joints were creaking, and I crept along, bent and sore, like a very old woman. I was only in my forties and I was repeatedly dosing my body with a poison that was aging me beyond my body's limits. At some point, alcohol takes the reins and your body follows into ruin. It's only a matter of time. 

4. My soul had only so much time left. 

I had forgotten what it felt like to be joyful, to be interested in the world around me, to even have an appetite for simple pleasures or pursuits. I existed. That is all. I waited for the next drink and I existed in between. I was unable to live a creative life, which I believed is integral to human existence. My soul was sick. 

5. I didn't feel ready to quit. But I did it anyway.

So very often I hear, "I'm just not sure if I can do this whole sobriety thing. I don't feel ready. I'm not even sure I am an alcoholic." My response is simply,

"If you keep wondering about it, why not give it a try? What do you have to lose?"

I didn't feel ready to get sober. In all honesty, I didn't really want to. I wanted to keep drinking, because it had been all I'd known for years. I was afraid of change and terrified I'd fail. These are all very legitimate reasons to avoid taking the leap. But, so what? 

"What do you have to lose?"

I didn't feel like getting sober. But I did it anyway. Somehow, deep inside of me, a small, still voice was asking for me to put down the drink and pick up a life. I am grateful I listened.

Have questions about getting sober? Stay tuned for more:

How I Got Sober (and Stayed that Way)

Why Shame and Addiction Don't Mix

How Do I Talk to My Kids about Recovery

Can We Laugh Again in Sober Living?