A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

How One Year in a Muslim Country Helped Me Quit Drinking and Become a Better Parent

14 months ago I quit drinking while residing in Abu Dhabi with my family.


Not only was I tired of the cycle of being hungover every morning and craving booze every night, my alcohol use seemed magnified in close proximity to a non-drinking Muslim population. Today, I credit a region of the world that confounds most Americans with bringing me clarity and ending my 11-year run as “Mommy Drunkest.”

How did I come to live in the desert and arrive at the decision to go dry? The answer is a perfect storm of identity and landscape. We moved to Abu Dhabi for my husband’s work and a family adventure, despite all that we’d heard about conflicts in the region at large. I stopped drinking because it was starting to kill me. The Middle East helped me reach the conclusion that I was my own worst enemy.

Part of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is actually a peace-loving and quiet oasis on the Persian Gulf, although a number of hostile nations and situations are located nearby. Airspace is closed over the surrounding countries of Syria and Yemen as battles rage below. Iraq and the frontlines of ISIL are a mere 605 nautical miles away. Ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya add to the region’s complications. Living in Abu Dhabi is akin to being a minnow in a fishbowl next to a tank of piranhas. You’re safe unless the glass breaks.

I began to rely on multiple glasses of wine to silence my fears about being in the Middle East. Truth is, I’d been relying on alcohol to assuage the worries I faced everywhere. Getting drunk seemed to mitigate a lot of things, including my family history of Alzheimer’s disease and my angst about raising my son in an increasingly dangerous world. Being in Abu Dhabi gave me added reason to up the booze ante despite challenges in obtaining my version of “mother’s little helper.”

U.A.E law prohibits the consumption, purchase, or possession of alcohol by Muslims. Expats from Western countries can imbibe in hotel bars or private clubs, and buy booze at a handful of liquor stores. Local society is divided along a number of lines, including the drinkers and the drink-nots. Falling firmly (and deeply) into the former category, I frequently found myself in the dubious position of instructing a Muslim cabbie to take me to a liquor store.

A concerned driver from Islamabad, Pakistan, once asked me if I drank every day. He sipped from an imaginary bottle to be sure I understood. Annoyed, I told him no. But I was drinking every day, with a vengeance. 

Inside the dark confines of Spinney’s — windows and doors blackened with plastic bags and duct tape — I’d load up on my favorite demons: chardonnay and Smirnoff. Buying liquor in Abu Dhabi typically requires a license verifying non-Muslim status, but at 5-feet-10-inches, blonde, and blue-eyed, it was so blatantly obvious that I was an American Christian the proprietor never asked for my license, which I never bothered to obtain anyway. The only thing that stood out more than my giant appearance was my huge purchases.

I’d emerge from Spinney’s with clanking black bags chock full of forbidden spirits. I’d try to muffle the telltale sound with my purse or jacket but because Abu Dhabi was hotter than hell, I’d walk quickly — and therefore noisily — back to the air-conditioned cab where my son was waiting for me. Yes, I repeatedly left my son in the company of a stranger while I bought booze to go.   

At precisely 5 p.m. every evening — an hour before the city’s sunset call to prayer — I’d pour vodka over ice and sit down to scare myself even further by watching the evening news. Meanwhile, my husband Allan worked late as the artistic director of the New York Film Academy campus and my son David played video games to unwind from a long day in fifth grade at the American International School.

By 8 p.m., I’d consumed a second cocktail and an entire bottle of wine. By 9 p.m. I was passed out in bed, claiming exhaustion from the heat and stress. I woke up feeling like I’d been run over by a war tank and swearing that I’d never drink again, but praying for happy hour to come quick.

My “come to Jesus” moment in the Middle East arrived on March 28, 2014, when my anti-depressant prescription ran out. Yes, I was taking Celexa and drinking chardonnay in tandem, a toxic cocktail considered by doctors to be a big no-n0. 

When I showed up to a hospital clinic to see about getting a refill, the nurse measured my blood pressure and body weight. Both were significantly elevated. The attending physician, who could only provide a 30-day supply of my meds in accordance with local healthcare regulations, wanted to run a battery of tests. What was the source of my soaring weight and BP?

Of course, I already knew the answer.

Then and there, I vowed to change the trajectory of my life. I had become a raging alcoholic in the Middle East. I was determined to un-become one in the same region. When I told my son about my decision to give up alcohol for good, his response cut me to the core.

“That’s good,” he said flatly. “You liked wine more than me.”

When David was born in 2004, I thought he was the most terrifying thing on Earth. Overwhelmed by the responsibility of keeping him safe, I discovered that a little wine in the evening helped push back the fear. The older he got, the more wine I needed to shield against the increasing threats facing us both. But my need to drink was making my son less safe and me less of a mother. It was moving to the Middle East — a hotbed of conflict — that led me to this conclusion. 

I went cold turkey in Abu Dhabi. For weeks, I endured cold sweats in the soaring temperatures. I lost control of my bowels in the back of a cab. I cried all night and slept all day. But I found strength and inspiration in the Emirate people, who enjoy existence without cocktails. I became a more engaged, present mother who likes nothing more than spending time with her son.

I’ve been sober for 15 months, perhaps one of the greatest and most difficult periods of my life. Recent family trips to Italy and France — landscapes filled with the grapes of my wrath — didn’t threaten my newfound, hard-won identity. 

These days, the words “courage, faith, and hope” seem to come out of my mouth as frequently as coffee seems to go in. Wherever I travel now, I still finds myself saying “shukron” (Arabic for thank you) for the privilege of being alive in the world.

Nancy’s brand new memoir, DRYLAND: One Woman’s Swim to Sobriety is currently climbing the memoir rankings on Amazon. Travel, murder, intrigue, and a life story that’s so fascinating it’s almost impossible to believe it’s true. 

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Just weeks after announcing her pregnancy and letting the world know that's she's determined to keep working while she's expecting, Amy Schumer dropped some bad news Thursday.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote, noting that she's had to cancel upcoming shows in Texas due to the condition.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum (also known as HG) is a rare but serious pregnancy complication, and it's really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.


It looks like Schumer is getting the medical help she obviously needs. In her Instagram post she wrote, "the doctors and nurses taking great care of me and Tati."

She seems to be getting IV fluids (she's probably super dehydrated) and hopefully her team can find a way to get her some relief with Zofran or another form of therapy.

Schumer says she feels very lucky to be pregnant, but HG can make a mama feel downright unlucky. As Schumer notes in her post, most mamas feel better in their second trimester, but HG can make it feel even worse than the first. "I've been even more ill this trimester," she says.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

You might also like:

There's a lot on a mama's to-do list, from running around with the kids to managing her mental load. That's why we love subscription services that do the remembering for us... because mom brain is real.

There are so many on the market that'll fit just about anything you need. Maybe it's a recurring option so you never run out of your household goods—or coffee—or it's toys that streamline your little's learning during the first year. Or, you just want to treat yourself to a little goodie each month.

Whatever you're looking for, here are some of our favorite services:

1. Monti Kids

Sure, it seems like you could just gaze at your newborn all day—but sometimes it's nice to mix it up. With toys tailored to the development of children from the age of zero up to three, the quarterly subscription box from Monti Kids helps integrate Montessori-style learning into the home through a series gradually advancing toys.

Not only are the items premium quality, but they are also thoughtfully selected to stimulate your child's development. Win-win.

Monti Kids, $297 every 3 months

SUBSCRIBE

[In partnership with Monti Kids]

2. Audible

While you might want to devour a good book, finding the time to sit down and have a few minutes of quiet isn't always possible. That's why we're obsessed with Audible, a service by Amazon that lets you download audiobooks and listen to them anywhere—in the carpool line, during a workout, while you're in the shower.

Each month you'll get a new credit that can be used towards an endless array of options. Use this link to score two free audiobooks with a trial.

Audible Subscription, $14.95 per month after 30 day trial

BUY

3. Stitch Fix Kids

Kids grow out of clothes so fast so instead of running to the store to purchase new items every few months, Stitch Fix sends 8-12 handpicked items to try. Tell them about your kids' personality, style and budget, then get your box. Pay for what you like and then send back the rest!

Stitch Fix Kids, Stitch Fix, $20 per box, items are typically $10.00-$35.00

SUBSCRIBE

4. WePlenish

While this one isn't technically its own subscription service, it's pretty similar. The smart container stores your favorite coffee and once you connect it to your Wi-Fi, it begins to update product levels.

Simply link to a consumable (we love using Amazon) and it will automatically reorder it when supplies run low. No more morning panic that there's no coffee left or having to remember to add to your cart.

WePlenish Java, Amazon, $39.99 (consumables prices vary)

SUBSCRIBE

5. Happy Legs Club

If you always seem to forget to pick up new razors, Happy Legs Club is there to help. You'll get to select from one of their premium razors, select your ideal delivery schedule, and never have to add 'razors' to your shopping list again. Plus, we love the free shipping!

Happy Legs Club, starting at $12.00 a cycle

SUBSCRIBE

6. Little Feminist Book Club

For the littles in your life, this book club membership will give them something to look forward to each month. Each box features one or two books about strong female characters and/or people of color, hand-selected by a team of teachers, librarians and parents. Then you get various activities that encourage kids to explore and guide conversations.

Little Feminist Book Club, $63.00 every 3 months

SUBSCRIBE

7. KidPass

Finding new activities for your little has never been easier. A KidPass membership works with thousands of brands so you can enjoy indoor playspaces, sports, museums, zoos, and classes with your child.

We love the flexible plans so you can choose ones that work best for your family—plus, credits rollover for 90 days for those busy months. You can enjoy a free month trial here.

KidPass, KidPass, $49.00-$189.00 per month

SUBSCRIBE

8. Shaker & Spoon

For the cocktail lovers, this is such a fun subscription. Each month, they'll send you everything you need to make about 12 fabulous drinks, including recipes, syrups, bitters, mixers, garnishes and citrus—all centered around one type of alcohol. No alcohol is included in the box, but one bottle will be enough so you can work with what you have at home.

Shaker & Spoon, Shaker & Spoon, $40-50 per month

SUBSCRIBE

9. New Wash

For a cleaner, greener new way to cleanse your hair, New Wash combines essential oils and natural saturated cleansers to keep your hair fresh. Most shampoos use detergents, which strip your hair of the good oils that your hair actually needs (which is why you probably have to use conditioner, too). We love the canister and travel bottle that comes with it!

New Wash Subscription Option, $90.00 per ship (you select frequency)

SUBSCRIBE

10.  Disney Princess Boxes

If you have a princess (or prince) in your life, they're sure to obsess over Disney's new Princess Boxes. Every other . month, a box of magical treasures will arrive at your door with Disney store costumes, a read-along storybook and CD and stickers and surprises.

Disney Princess Enchanting Experience Box, starting at $49.99

SUBSCRIBE

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

You might also like:

Childcare was the number one stressor for me as I prepared to return to work. It's something I had to think about early on because if I wanted to go the daycare route, I had to get on waiting lists... a YEAR in advance. Yes, you heard that right... ONE YEAR in advance to find childcare. Daycare was always what I thought I wanted for my baby—I didn't even consider a nanny mostly because of the cost.

However, once I started touring daycares, my heart was breaking. I couldn't imagine leaving my baby with strangers at 4 months old. Strangers that didn't know what each of her cries meant, strangers that wouldn't pay attention to her 24/7 because there were eight other babies in the room, strangers that I didn't know or trust.

These are all the wild thoughts that went through my head:

"What if she cries and no one picks her up to soothe her?"

"What if they pick her up and can't soothe her?"

"Will they remember that she needs her pacifier to fall asleep?"

"What if she gets hand, foot mouth?"

"Will she be sick all the time? Daycares are germ fests right?!"

"Will she be happy and loved?"

"Why am I letting strangers spend more time with my baby vs. me?"

"Shouldn't I stay home to take care of my baby for at least the first year?"

"She's so helpless--she can't talk or tell them what she wants--she's only 4 months!"

I could go on forever. I was a mess. I remember finally finding a daycare my husband and I liked. I went back to give them a deposit and when I walked in, I saw a baby laying in her crib crying and no one paying attention to her.

I ran out of there so fast, security deposit in hand and in tears telling my husband, "I can't do this!"

I took a break from the daycare search and tried to focus on enjoying every minute of maternity leave with Liv. About a month before I was heading back to work, I got a call from the daycare I originally wanted (a nice little year-plus waitlist).

We immediately signed up and secured our spot and I felt so much better. I still hated that I had to leave my 4-month-old baby in the care of someone else, but knew this place had a good reputation. It also gave me comfort to know my sister-in-law worked at a daycare when she was younger, and I knew how much she loved and cared for each of those babies (thank you for helping reassure me Allison).

To prepare for heading back to work, I did a couple trial daycare runs. For the first trial run, I planned on finally doing some self-care—getting my nails done, doing some shopping and maybe even working out. I walked out the door after dropping her off and immediately burst into tears. I made it to one store, got a coffee and was already headed back to the daycare 45 minutes later. The second time was a little better because I had a plan. I went to an event and it helped get my mind off worrying about her 24/7. I made it three hours that day... baby steps right?

I had so much anxiety about leaving her for the full day that I made the daycare employees in the infant room a "instruction manual" on Olivia. I remember emailing it to my mom and sister saying, "Is this okay to send to daycare? Will they think I'm crazy?"

My sister Lindsey said, "No why would they think that?! It's perfect. Olivia is your baby and you say whatever you want."

My mom said "No that's great! At the bottom put 'first time mother'—they will laugh but can use your info." Their responses were perfect and exactly what I needed to hear at the time. Thank you both.

For your viewing pleasure, here is a copy of the doc:

Once I was back at work, I thought about Liv 24/7. Is she okay at daycare? Is she crying? Does she miss me and need me? I counted down the minutes to get back to her and spent the evenings holding her.

Daycare was harder than I thought; coordinating pick up/drop offs, trying to get us out the door to get to work in time, planning bottles and her food for the day, etc. I was a hot mess and in tears most days.

Yes, I forgot bottles and jackets and extra clothes frequently. Yes, she got sick A LOT the first year she was there. I started to wonder if I had chosen the right option for Liv so I started looking into a nanny option.

I started a Nanny vs. Daycare pros and cons list (for those of you that know me, you know I do this for all important life decisions) which went a little something like this:

Pros of Nanny:

  • 1:1 interaction
  • Sick less often!
  • Less stress for mom
  • Help with house + meals
  • Cheaper if I ever have a second child
  • Not overstimulated
  • Another adult that loves Liv
  • Help with grocery shopping
  • Consistency for Liv
  • Works with my schedule
  • Not learning bad habits from other kids
  • Better quality food/more control
  • High turnover at daycare
Pros of Daycare:
  • Interaction with other kids at daycare
  • Social skills
  • Safety in numbers
  • Structured space and hours
  • More cost efficient

Everything except cost was leading me towards a nanny (double what daycare was), but in my gut I always knew I wanted to go the daycare route. It was the stress of figuring out this new working mom life that made me want to change my mind (along with some outsider's opinions).

I decided to stick with daycare and we moved Liv to one closer to our house. My husband and family members were able to help now with pick up/drop off so it wasn't all on me. As she got older (she's 19 months old now), she didn't get sick as often and I loved watching her play with the other kids. While it was hard in the beginning, it HAS gotten easier and I know I made the right choice.

For any moms struggling to choose childcare, I want you to know that whatever choice you make, make the best choice for you and your baby. No one else. And there is no wrong choice. You will figure it out, you will get through this, and your baby will thrive either way. Some days will be harder than others, but the most important thing is that you love your baby.

Originally posted on The Returnity Project.

You might also like:

Once Thanksgiving arrives, everyone's lives get a little more chaotic. There are holiday concerts and parties coming up and in between are the visits to family, the gift giving and all of the meals.

If you're already feeling a bit overwhelmed, here's a simple strategy to follow, mama.

1. Lay out your plan for the next 6 weeks

Your plan should include:

  • A calendar with all the events you and your family are signed up to attend. You might want to color code them by priority. Green could mean "must attend" while red could mean "optional attendance." You want to give yourself some wiggle room for the unexpected. After all, it's only when you are at your busiest that something will happen to throw a wrench into your plans.
  • To-do items that aren't date-sensitive, but can't be forgotten in the schedule. This could be making time to go to the Christmas tree farm, if you're getting a fresh tree, or putting up outside decorations. Or, it might be letting extended family know your plans for Christmas morning.
  • Gift shopping list, including where you will get each item from. The sooner you can start shopping, the more likely you are to find what you're looking for at the right price and in stock. If you're shopping some Black Friday deals, online or in person, the list can guide you so you're not overspending. If you're hiding gifts from the kids, make sure you note where you put them! There's nothing worse than getting to Christmas Eve and you have no idea where you stashed the presents.
  • Meal plan for days that you have friends or family at home. This can mean your own family, too. It's not just about planning the family dinner on a certain holiday, like Thanksgiving or Hanukkah, but also the days before and after. The more you can have at the ready for busy days, the less likely you will be to rely on the local pizza delivery place.

2. Stock up on what you can

Make a list of items you know you use each year and stock up on those. For example, if you burn the cranberry sauce Thanksgiving morning, you'll be glad that you stocked up on two cans of it and have extras handy in the pantry.

Some ideas of what to add to your cart:

  • Canned goods
  • Water
  • Wine, beer, drinks and mix
  • Wrapping paper, tape and gift bags
  • Extra gifts—have a few bottles of wine or chocolates in gift bags handy for that unexpected gift from the neighbor or crossing guard.
  • Extras of most-used items, like toiletries or favorite snacks
  • Firewood for the fireplace

3. Strategically decorate your home

Making the switch from autumn Thanksgiving decor to holiday mode may leave you scrambling, but it doesn't have to. Ideally, have plastic bins with decorations for each holiday in separate ones so you can put away one set while pulling out the next one, quickly and easily.

They'll also be that much easier to find next year. These can be stored away when they're not being used in a basement closet or storage area, safe and sound. For minimalist mamas, select only your favorite decorations and find ways to incorporate them throughout various holidays.

4. Be realistic when it comes to buying gifts

If you have a large family, you can suggest a Secret Santa method of gifts so your list will be more condensed. But even if you have to buy for everyone, you can plan to get it done in advance.

Leverage online shopping so you don't have to arrange childcare or deal with crowds, or plan to set aside a day that's just for you. Don't overbuy for kids too soon if possible. Kids might change their wish list in the weeks before the holiday. Many mamas found that implementing a three gift Christmas, or an experience gift, can lessen the stress and leave the kids happier.

5. Prepare for gatherings + in-law visits


If you host family or friends during the holidays, get some things done in advance so you're not worrying about them in the moment.

  • Have extras of toothbrushes and toiletries
  • Set aside guest laundry (towels, sheets, etc.) so you don't have to worry about laundry
  • Check with family about allergies or foods that they don't enjoy before you set the menus and buy ingredients
  • Make room in closets for extra coats, boots and clothing
  • Give yourself a present and have a cleaning service come in and do a thorough job of cleaning the house in the days before your mother-in-law arrives
Pro tip: A really nice way to greet people and make them feel at home is to have a basket of slippers in their space or lay out chocolate on their pillow.

Originally posted by Modular Closets.

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.