I'm a sober mum. I don't drink alcohol. Ever. Alcohol to me is an emotional, spiritual, and physical poison. I went through my sh*t, dug myself out, and am now a mum in recovery. That's what we alcoholics call it — in recovery — to describe the ongoing process by which we can choose sobriety each and every day. It's been the most challenging work of my life, but I've gotten to a point where I'm so grateful for everything I've been through. I'm even grateful that I am an alcoholic, because in the end, I discovered this new and amazing way to live. I appreciate the little things in life more than I ever have before, and I have emerged as the best version of myself.
Still, being in recovery can feel lonely at times. And being a mum in recovery? Maybe even more so. As I continue to run in the mum circles that include carpool pick-up, soccer practices, and PTO meetings, I look around and wonder if I'm the only sober mum in the room. It's a huge part of my life that most people know nothing about. Here is what I want you to know about my life as a sober mum.
1. I Worry What You'll Think of Me
Underneath the gratitude and spirituality lies a wounded woman who is worried about my secret getting out. If you, PTA mom, found out that I'm a sober alcoholic, would you think differently of me? Would you whisper to the other mums behind my back? Swiftly defriend me on Facebook? Would you still let your son come to my house for a play date? The truth is, as I've learned through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), what you think of me is none of my business. Sometimes I can put that into action, and other times, well, I care just a little too much. I care because I'm human. I care because my self-esteem is still a work in progress and because I don't want my kids to be hurt anymore because of my alcoholism. I want you to see me for who I am today, not who I was five years ago.
2. My Sobriety Is My No.1 Priority
My sobriety is the most important thing in my life, and it must stay that way. My disease wants to find any reason it can to get me inside a bar or a liquor store. My disease wants me dead, and this means that I must fight for myself and my sobriety every day. I must go to AA meetings regularly. Meetings keep me sane, sober, and grateful, because I gather with people like me, and we share our experience, strengths, and hopes. We remind each other how awful it was, and how quickly we can return to where we came from, with one tiny sip of alcohol. I may miss my daughter's hockey game on a Saturday morning or a school event on a Tuesday night because I need to sit my butt down in a meeting to stay sober. It means that when I'm exhausted and all I want to do is lay in bed and watch a movie, I still have to get to a meeting. I call a sponsor every day, and I have sponsees who call me every day. If I'm on the phone at school pick-up time, it may be because one sober alcoholic is helping another one stay away from a drink. This is life-saving for us. My sobriety comes before everything, including my children.
3. I Won't Laugh at Drinking Jokes
If you're telling me a story about you getting drunk and sending a stupid text, sure, I can laugh with you about your drinking stories. But all too often, people who don't know my history will joke to me about my hypothetical drinking. The other day at work, I mentioned to a coworker that it had been a long week, to which she replied, "You need to get yourself a few bottles of wine before you go home." Such an innocent and well-intentioned comment. I took no offence to it whatsoever; however, I simply can't giggle or laugh at such statements. For me, to offer a fake laugh is too dangerous. Remember, my disease wants to find a reason to get me to a liquor store. One laugh at a joke or one comment pretending I drink would be making light of a disease that wants me dead. My typical response is often a stern, "I don't drink." I feel badly sometimes because I worry that I come off as rude or holier than thou. In reality, my response to such comments is simply me protecting my sobriety.
4. It's OK to Drink Around Me
I promise. If we make plans to go to dinner and you want a glass of red, have one. I often get asked, "Is it OK with you if I order a drink?" There's no need to get my approval before ordering your first, second, or third drink. I promise your drinking will not make me want to drink, nor will it make me uncomfortable. I'm more likely to feel a little off if I know you want to drink but decide against it to make me feel better. My sobriety has nothing to do with you or your drinking and has everything to do with my own spirituality, acceptance, and level of gratitude. I sincerely appreciate the intent behind the permission-asking, but know it's not necessary.
5. I'm Still Pretty Damn Fun
I'm actually more fun now than I was in my drinking days. When I first got sober, I told my sponsor how I really missed the buzz-stage of drinking — when your inhibitions start fading, and you just do what feels right and fun in the moment. Your mouth and your brain have lost their filters, and you feel complete and total freedom to just be you. My sponsor assured me I would get that same feeling in sobriety. I would feel that buzz of freedom without so much as a sip of alcohol. Just wait, she said. I didn't believe her, but I chose to trust her anyway, and she was right. I waited, and I finally dance like no one is watching. I act like a rebellious teenager. I take risks, and I live in the moment.
I'm experiencing a new type of freedom in recovery. It's not freedom from sobriety, which is what I thought I wanted back in my drunken days. Rather, it's freedom from fear and worry, and freedom from the control that alcohol had over me for so long. I will trade in a drunken buzz for this new sober buzz any day. So, please, don't turn away from me. Invite me in or along for the ride, because now I'm more fun and present, a little wise, and truly free.