Becoming a parent for the first time is one of the best feelings in the world. It’s terrifying at the same time. We over-prepare when we find out we’re expecting. We read all the books and buy all the necessary equipment. Then we have nine-ish months to wonder if we’ll be good parents or not. When in reality, we don’t know what we’re in for until the time comes … which is also unknown.
Somehow, we’re allowed to leave the hospital with a delicate human in our arms and no instruction manual to go with. Whose idea was this, anyway? The whole thing is sort of mind-boggling to me.
When I became a mother, I wasn’t prepared for how much my life would change. I was suddenly required to go from selfish, obnoxious party girl to somebody’s mom with less than a year’s notice. That’s a big change for someone who had only been worried about herself for the last 30 years.
I attempted to keep up my carefree lifestyle after I had my son and quickly became stuck in a cycle of drinking too much on weekends. Hangovers hit differently when you’re a parent. I couldn’t hang and decided it was time to get off the train before it crashed. Eighteen months after my son was born, I quit drinking. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I had continued, and I’m parenting on an entirely new level now that I’m alcohol-free.
Parenting sober is great, but…
Just like parenting can feel lonely, so can sobriety. And sober parenting can feel even worse. Alcohol is everywhere. It’s sold at most grocery stores and it seems like there’s a liquor store on every corner. Holidays, celebrations, and other get-togethers are centered around drinking. Most social events include alcohol in one way or another. There’s a sense of camaraderie around the consumption of alcohol. It makes sense, though; we let loose when we’re drinking. And I get it, because drinking wasn’t all bad for me.
Whether it’s all in our heads or other people think we’re outsiders too, we still have to deal with that feeling of being left out. Whenever I felt lonely from not drinking, I tried to remember why I quit in the first place. My son deserves a mom who is parenting at her highest potential.
Now that I don’t drink, I’m not the obnoxious overly-drunk person at the party. I can drive my family home from events and I can put my son to bed without smelling like a winery. I wake up and remember what happened the night before. And I no longer start my day with self-loathing … and a headache.
It’s not our fault
We live in a society that glamorizes alcohol, but this isn’t by accident. Big Alcohol brands convince us that we need what they’re selling. They market their product in eye-catching and easy-to-consume packages, and they target the people who “need” it.
Drinking while parenting is normalized too. We joke that we need a drink after a long day. We think alcohol is an accessory to parenthood. Go to any gift shop and you’ll see products that have sayings on them like it’s not drinking alone if your kids are home and mommy’s sippy cup.
I understand why parents drink alcohol. It makes us feel carefree again. We like drinking because it gives us a fun and relaxed feeling. Everyone raising children deserves to feel this way. But some of us don’t have an off-switch. And although Big Alcohol brands remind us to “drink responsibly,” they’ve yet to tell us how exactly to do that when their product is made with ingredients that do the opposite.
Drinking is so normal that not doing it seems strange. Not doing the thing that everyone else is doing would make anyone feel out of place. Especially if it’s something you’re struggling with.
How I got here
Since I can remember, I’ve been a binge drinker with no off switch. I was always down for a good time. I was the life of the party, I thought. After becoming a mother I attempted to keep up my drinking ways, and pulled it off for a little while. But it was different. Being a mom meant I couldn’t go out as much and I spent more time enjoying cocktails at home. Society told me I “deserved it” because parenting is hard work.
It all came to a head when I had another night of indulging too much and my husband said I couldn’t drink alone with our son anymore. He had a good point, but at the time it felt like a dagger to my chest. For so long I had let alcohol decide whether or not I was having fun, feeling relaxed, or if I was part of the in-crowd. During another emotional hangover, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Quitting drinking allowed me to take my power back.
My AF (alcohol-free) life
Now that I don’t drink, I’m more confident in who I am and how I like to spend my time. I’m a better parent. I’m still selfish, but not at the expense of others. Most days I wake up feeling refreshed and ready for whatever is to come.
Although my life is better, it’s not perfect. Removing alcohol was only one piece of the puzzle. I still get tired, irritated, and need to destress at the end of the day. I’ve had to find new strategies to get through the hard times. I go to therapy. I prioritize my comfort and rest. I found new hobbies like writing and going for walks.
After four and a half years without alcohol, my life is completely different. I’m the same person, but I’m better. I’m not better than anyone else, I’m just better than the old me. I don’t judge anyone who drinks, but I share my experience in case it can help another parent who is struggling.
I talk openly about drinking and being alcohol-free because when I quit it helped me to hear other people tell their stories too. Talking about our struggles and what we’ve overcome makes people feel like they can do it too.