I spotted a friend recently at the grocery store, and as we tried to quickly update each other on our summer, we ended up commiserating on motherhood and its challenges. And then, she said it: "I don't know how I could do this without wine, I tell you."
As soon as the words were out of her mouth, her eyes widened and she started to apologize. I laughed. I simply answered, "I don't know how I would do it WITH wine! So, we're even!"
I am a sober mom. Initially, I thought there were only a few of us—like we're an endangered species only talked about in recovery circles. The wine culture that social media often promotes might seem to contradict this, but more and more moms are choosing not to drink.
When my children were very little, I leaned heavily on that five o'clock cocktail. I can remember many afternoons when I would be sitting, either miserably hungover or miserably waiting until I could crack open a bottle, watching my boys play with their Thomas the Train set. Envious, I would watch their orchestrations of the train tracks; their glee at a drawbridge, their immediate pleasure in an afternoon of Thomas and graham crackers, with mom nearby.
A 2-year-old is the poster child for living in the moment. I wanted that ability to be in my own skin, feeling no lack or despair or gloom. Instead, I was slowly disappearing. My children would play, toddle over to me to hand me a train or to pat my knee, and I would nod and smile, absently.
One afternoon Henry had a difficult time going down for his much-needed afternoon nap, and I found myself increasingly agitated by his cries. I caught a glimpse of my reflection, bobbing with him in my arms, my face etched with annoyance. And then something inside me shifted and said, "Wake up. He needs you. And you need you, too."
I finally gathered the courage to try sobriety. And, it was not easy.
I was not blessed with an immediately zen-like confirmation of peaceful living in the now. In fact, for weeks, my world was fraught with re-wiring some strung-out behaviors. But eventually, as my days of sobriety started to add up, a happy unfolding in my soul occurred.
When I gave up drinking, I didn't have a plan. I didn't read a lot of books or start a journal, or research "how to not drink when your kids are driving you nuts" on the internet. I just started to listen to what I call my small "inside voice," that had been trying to have a conversation with me for years but had been drowned out by wine.
My inside voice had been quietly uttering things like this:
"You have the strength to do this."
"You deserve to do this."
"Deal with your life, Dana. Put down the glass, and let's do this."
I think we all have such a voice. It's the one that wakes us at four in the morning with a fabulous idea about a new online business, or storyline, or how we should stop coloring our hair and embrace the grey. The voice is soft and is used to being ignored. We moms often end up silencing it because we are exhausted and are surrounded by tiny humans that are dominating our time and brain cells.
But, if we are able and willing, the voice has some really cool stuff to say. And finally, I listened.
Now, my life that had once been hobbled by nightly drinking and morning tiredness has clarity and purpose. I wake up early, headache free, and make breakfast for my boys. As my children inevitably start to bicker over who has more raisins, I eye them quietly over the rim of my coffee mug.
Sober parenting doesn't earn me any medals or drama-free days. There are still tantrums and lack of sleep and endless cycles of colds being passed around. It is far from perfect, but sobriety helped me to stop being so reactionary. I don't feel like I'm always catching up with chaos. Instead, I deal with life on life's terms.
And the benefits keep unfolding. I sleep better. I took up running again, not to combat the bloat of the alcohol, but because I love the vibrancy it adds to my mornings. I eat better, usually, but I also love a great slice of cheesecake. I am selective about life now; not just scrolling through or mindlessly scarfing down. I understand fulfillment. It doesn't have to be metered out in a glass, but in daily experiences with others.
It's not always easy, but it is better. And for me, it was the obvious choice.