The witching hour is a popular saying among parents. It usually refers to when your kids are just absolutely dead for the day, but for me, that magic hour of 5pm was my own witching hour. It was when I was official done and I could drink wine – my “mother juice” – to help me deal with being the parent of an outgoing, spirited toddler. I was at the zoo with my son and he was having some kind of meltdown and I looked at my watch and I was like, I can get through this. I’ll be drinking wine in an hour. i will be deaf I don’t have to think about being a shitty mom and doing a terrible job raising my son. I do not care. I will miss it. I’m giving myself a break.
But after my son went to bed, I drank more than just that one glass intended as a “break.” I was up to two bottles of wine a night — my tolerance was so high I didn’t feel the high anymore, and I kept drinking more to quench that fuzzy tipsy feeling I was craving. I took alcohol to deal with the nagging feeling that I wasn’t good enough. I was a bad mother, something was wrong with my child and I shouldn’t have tried so hard and for so long to be a parent because everything was just horrible.
I know I’m not alone. Many mothers I know and Not We know we use alcohol to cope, thanks to the “mommy wine culture” that’s seeping into our scrolling — both in pretty, stemless wine glasses with “Mommy’s Juice” written on them, and in boxes of hard Selters – through memes, Instagram posts and Facebook advertising. Studies show women are generally drinking more than they have in the past, but let’s face it: The last two years have been filled with jokes about how moms need Instacart to deliver wine during the peak of the pandemic quarantine, moms need to get drunk to coping with digital learning and moms who need alcohol as a safety crutch when life “gets back to normal” with play dates and social functions. It’s no wonder so many moms look forward to the 5pm drink and beyond, and I was right there by her side.
I spent most of our vacation—the one I was so looking forward to, the one I could spend to fully focus on having fun with my kid—in a haze.
But on September 13, 2021 I decided to take my life back.
It was the last night of our annual Jekyll Island beach trip. I was extremely emotional and cried a lot and I thought because I was really depressed that our vacation I had been looking forward to all year was coming to an end. But really, I think it was because I spent most of our vacation – the one I was looking forward to so much, that I needed to spend fully concentrating on having fun with my kid – in spent in a fog. I was ashamed of how many bottles of wine I had calculated that I would ‘need’ on our week long vacation when we shopped for our trip. (I tried to hide it from my husband.) And I cried because deep down I knew my drinking wasn’t okay. That it didn’t help me be a better mom, it didn’t help me have a better time, it didn’t help me be happier.
At midnight I walked into the kitchen of the beach house we rented, stared at a giant seashell, and poured the rest of my giant glass of red wine into the sink. I told my husband that was it. I’m sure he didn’t believe me. I’ve said that a thousand times. But this was different. I was tired of not feeling good in general, but especially around my son. I felt like I couldn’t function without her. Or at least, wine was my “reward” for parenthood and gave me “something to look forward to.”
It was different. But I was terrified.
As I watched the palm trees slowly disappear and be replaced by malls, I listened to a “quit lit” audio book and realized I was absolutely addicted to alcohol. I had to fix it – for my husband, my son, my friends, my family and most importantly myself – and this was this time will be the end.
When we got home from the trip everything was in shambles as soon as we opened the door. Our dogs were fighting and running around excitedly, my 3 year old started chasing them and tried to hug them, everyone was knocking things on the ground, my child was screaming because a dog was stepping on him and we were yelling at him to leave the dogs alone so he wouldn’t accidentally get bitten and of course he wasn’t listening and I just remember thinking, ‘How the hell am I supposed to deal with life without drink?” And I cried and cried and cried.
Up to this point I had only successfully abstained from alcohol during my pregnancy. I maintained sobriety for a while after the birth. It wasn’t until I was absolutely stressed out because my son couldn’t breastfeed, the fact that he never did ever was asleep, and that every day I was anxious, tired, exhausted, and scared that I was screwing up this tiny human I loved to death, that I was taking that first sip of wine again to “relax.”
I kept trading one bad day for two.
I gave in and I wish I hadn’t.
Because drinking doesn’t fix anything. I kept trading one bad day for two. If you drink when you’re having a bad day, you’re going to have a bad day the next day because you’re hungover and not 100%. I did this every week all week. I tried to limit myself to drinking on the weekends, but that only worked for a few weeks before I got out of hand and convinced myself I earn it. I have to drink to have fun and relax.
After that last night of vacation, I realized that even when I wasn’t drinking, I was hungover and actively withdrawing until the next dose of alcohol, subconsciously waiting for the next time I could drink. For the first few weeks after quitting, the physical and mental withdrawal felt like the worst PMS I had ever experienced. I felt despair, I felt suicidal, I went through denial. I had headaches and body aches. My body craved the poison – it was overwhelming. And if I told myself I wouldn’t have it that night or ever again, I would cry like I’d lost my best friend. It was absolutely a grieving process.
The confidence I’ve gained from being sober is palpable and shows in everything I do — including parenting.
Drinking (especially to the point of intoxication) is not a good coping mechanism, it’s not a good way to experience life, but I still knew it was going to be hard to give up. People expect not to feel or experience pain or ever be uncomfortable, but that’s just so life. Now when my son has a zoo meltdown, I try to take a deep breath and guide my son to navigate his own big emotions. It’s still incredibly hard being a parent, even on my best days, but now I’m focused on getting through with my son and being present instead of looking forward to wiping it all out by getting drunk. I try to get to my son’s level and explain a situation to him, help him breathe, and tell myself in words why he’s upset, rather than immediately getting frustrated and embarrassed by his outbursts and feeling that people are staring at us.
Because getting sober taught me otherwise? Not caring about what other people think. The confidence I’ve gained from being sober is palpable and shows in everything I do — including parenting. And now, instead of looking forward to drinking alcohol at the end of the day, I get my high knowing that I did the best I could with my son and I’m teaching him how to drink his Really feeling emotions, feeling safe in those emotions, and not feeling like he needs to numb them like I did. And I like doing family activities that don’t involve sneaking alcohol in a mug over the weekend anymore.
Being sober has made me a better mom. I no longer have headaches or have trouble getting out of bed because I’m hungover and feeling depressed. I get up and make breakfast and play with my son. We build forts in front of the school, play board games and have so many monster jam monster truck races we should have our own youtube channel.
Now that I’m sober, I’m far more active with my son than I ever dreamed of. I can keep up with him. I remember every single moment I have with him and absorb it because I’m awake, aware and clear. I’m here. I am myself at my best, 100%. And on those days when I’m not at 100%? That’s okay. It’s still better than hungover or getting drunk. I will never be who I was before I got sober. But it’s fine anyway. Because my son deserves this version of me.
I deserve this version of me.