Dealing With The Mom Guilt From Past Drinking.
It is almost two years since I had my last drink. At the time, I didn’t realize it would be, but that random day at the end of March 2018 led to a change in my life that I had been dreaming of for so long. I love my new life, don’t get me wrong these past two years have been extremely challenging and not all of it sobriety related, but I finally feel that I am getting to where I need to be and learning how to love and accept myself again.
I am a sober mum and extremely proud of this. Why then, do I still get sudden, overwhelming, full on snot induced crying moments where I feel extreme pain and regret about my past? The answer is the mom guilt from my drinking days.
Most of the time I am extremely happy about where I am in my life, now that I don’t drink. I am so grateful to be the mum I always wanted to be and knew I could be. Just yesterday the whole family were sitting in the living room together having a cuppa. It was calm, peaceful and just lovely. My eldest was actually sitting next to me and if you have teenagers you’ll know what a rarity that is! My youngest was quietly doing homework and I just thought, ‘this is it!’ these precious moments are what it is all about.
Almost immediately though, I got a pang of guilt and regret that had me almost sobbing in pain, I escaped to the loo for some serious deep breathing. Things are good, my kids are happy, I am happy but I couldn’t shake the darkness that was filling my soul.
When I was drinking, I was trying to be somebody I am not, it is only now that I understand this. I thought I wanted to be the cool mom, the mom who let her kids stay up late, the mom with the relaxed household, the mom who could have a laugh with her kids, be their friend, be the mom their friends wanted, be the mom who let loose on a Saturday night, be the mom who was fun, quirky, adventurous and perhaps a little bit wild! So, I tried, I really did even though I was in constant conflict with myself.
While my drinking did allow me to relax a bit and create a light, fun atmosphere at home it never lasted and almost always got out of control.
One evening I had been drinking to escape the loneliness, the boredom and the angst at needing beer to help me cope with the afternoon with my son. My eldest was about five or six. We had spent time together and I wanted to retreat now. I can’t remember what happened exactly but I got frustrated and angry that he wouldn’t leave me alone. The more I drank, the worse I felt the tug of war between wanting to be with him yet wanting to be a grown up and enjoy my ‘well deserved’ alone time. I just snapped and literally screamed in his face, “you are making me ill boy!” My husband came and took me away, asking me what I meant and I just kept seeing my son’s little face full of hurt and pain about what I had just said. He once blurted out that I must really hate him and that hurt so much. My drinking must have turned me into a monster at times in his eyes.
I recognise that drinking made me selfish but I am not a selfish person at all. But the more I drank, the more I focused on myself. On relaxing, having fun, being a grown up, being me, not Josh and Nico’s mum. “Just one more,” is what I would always say amid their whines of, “I’m hungry” or “I’m tired and I want to go home.”
Apart from the terrible things I said and did like this incident I wrote about on Medium, it’s the times I can’t remember that haunt me. Those lost moments, the evenings when I blacked out unable to remember giving my sons their tea or putting them to bed. Fun, family afternoons that cumulated in yet more drinking at home.
What did they do all afternoon? Did they put their pyjamas on, clean their teeth, what about their bedtime story? Did they go to bed sad or happy? Do they know I love them? Sometimes I would barely notice as my youngest tucked me up in bed and kissed my cheek goodnight. In no fit state to do anything, my youngest would make sure I was safe and sound in bed. Wasn’t I supposed to do that for him?
The times we went out with friends and I literally forgot I had a child or children with me to look after. The times we had people over and I didn’t want the night to end, to go back to normality so I drank more, made them drink more. I put on loud music, made eggy bread and danced the night away. Where were my kids throughout all of this?
The next morning would reveal the true extent of the chaotic mess that was my life. Amongst the unwashed dishes, half empty beer cans, and sticky glasses were feelings of shame, regret, turmoil, fear, panic, anxiety and silent vows to never do that again.
My children always forgave my behaviour, my absence, the mornings spent in bed too hungover to take them swimming or to the park or whatever thing I’d promised. Sometimes they would ask me not to do it again and I would promise I wouldn’t and I would really try to be good, to be a proper mum until it all got too much and I did, do it again.
Why moms drink
Why did I drink so much? Why did I want it and need it? I never imagined that my life would be controlled by alcohol. When I was pregnant with my boys I was exactly who I wanted to be and had exactly what I wanted. I stopped smoking and drinking for about a year with each pregnancy. I ate well, exercised, looked after my sleep and I felt great. I was doing the very best I could for my kids.
But, slowly as the stark realization that motherhood is bloody hard work, I started to drink to cope, to ease the boredom of children’s telly, homework, endless walks, forever cleaning, tidying, changing, preparing, stories, games, books, tears, tantrums and hugs.
I had all I ever wanted in the world but at the same time I had a desperate need to escape, to go back to me, to be free, independent, be grown up, have my own hobbies, my own likes and watch something other than Tree Fu Tom on the telly or chat about things more interesting than tractors, worms or DTDM.
At first, I didn’t feel too bad because all the other mums I knew drank too, we are encouraged to do so on a daily basis. We are told we deserve it, we need out alone time and that ‘happy mums mean happy babies’ But , what if underneath all the jokes, the memes, the wine related cards and gifts there are mums struggling like I was.
What happens when the thing we are using to cope is slowly tearing us apart? We feel ashamed, we feel like we’re the problem, we feel scared of what is happening, we are fearful of judgement. We feel like dying inside, we feel trapped with no idea of what our life is supposed to look like. We can’t carry on with things the way they are yet we can’t imagine not drinking either with no means of coping. We are desperately unhappy yet the alternative seems so impossible.
Mom Guilt from Past Drinking – Letting go
I was stuck in an internal battle with myself for so many years. As I talk about in this blog post, alcohol and parenting seem to go hand in hand these days, but the reality is that being a mum who drank was the worst thing I could have possible done for my kids and myself. I knew I wasn’t really living my life how I wanted to, nor was I being true to myself yet I couldn’t seem to make the change I knew I desperately wanted.
One day I did. I took that step after lots of false starts and many day ones until I finally understood that unless I changed, then my life wasn’t going to either. I won’t lie, it has been tough, early sobriety was exhausting and I was bored, restless with little clue about how I was going to carry on. Slowly though I picked up the pieces, threw myself into my role as a mum, obviously overcompensating at times but finding true peace and happiness along the way.
The mom guilt from past drinking hits me when I least expect it though. I know I am in a good place now. I know my children know they are loved. We have boundaries, I am not unpredictable or chaotic. When I shout it is with good reason, not because I am pissed or hungover. I know all this, yet I still feel pain and regret about what went before.
But, I am learning to let go. At times the only thing that helps is a good old cry or a walk by myself where I can scream and shout amongst the trees. I am learning new ways to let it all out and have recently started EFT which is helping enormously with the release of withheld shame, pain and of course, guilt.
Mostly though I am learning to love and accept myself. I understand that I have so much to be thankful for and so more to give. My kids get breakfast in bed, they get extra hugs and kisses, especially at night (not the teenager though, he’s too cool for kisses from his mum now!) perhaps I am trying to make up for lost time even though I know in my heart I’ll never get those moments back.
Alcohol is, at best, a dubious remedy to deal with the stresses of day to day life. At worst, the one thing we use to escape and self medicate that can rob us of our children
I have found a new purpose in life too. This blog, my website and the work I do with other mums is so important to me. I have been on both sides of this story and if I can help just one mum to find the peace, freedom, joy and happiness I have by quitting drinking, then it is all worth it.
Alcohol is, at best, a dubious remedy to deal with the stresses of day to day life. At worst, the one thing we use to escape and self medicate that can rob us of our children, the precious moments with them, their goodnight kisses and something that can turn love into hate without us intending or realizing.
I am dealing with the mom guilt from my drinking days, the regret is real especially the regret that I didn’t stop drinking sooner and I have to live with that.
Nowadays, I feel like I have been let into the most beautiful secret and I want to share it with the world. You don’t need wine to cope with your kids, you really don’t.
If you are struggling with mom guilt from past drinking or if you need help to take that first step to becoming the mom you know you can be, then please get in touch and let’s have a chat.
I had one year sober then I started drinking again in August. I think after today that I am done for good but I sure could use some support from another Mom that doesn’t drink. I snapped on my daughter tonight and am feeling heartbroken.
Oh Sarah, all the support you need is right here, I am right here. Don’t be hard on yourself, things will get better I promise, just keep going and being super kind to yourself. Reach out again whenever you need to xx
I have young adult children. After 6 years of being sober I drank in front of them while they were home on break from college. I went to rehab to get back into my recovery. They were hurt and angry and are not speaking to me. I feel like I am back on track and more into my recovery than ever. The silent treatment though is excruciatingly painful. I fear they will never speak to me again – and will never trust and forgive me. And their dad (my ex) takes every opportunity to criticize me and I feel does so with the kids. Just heartbroken…
Hi Marie. Thank you so much for posting. I am so happy that you feel you are back on track with your recover, this is such a wonderful place to be. Please be kind to yourself and patient with yourself and your kids too. This takes time and all you need to do right now is focus on your recovery. They will see how much you are growing and changing and in time, things will get easier. Keep going. You can do this. xxx
I feel EXACTLY how you felt when you were drinking, but I am still in the midst of it. I have four kids (one only a baby) and am struggling to stop due to habit, stress and a way to escape. I literally could have written the exact same article with some of the things you said- guilt, shame, mess in the morning, blackouts. I am so disappointed in myself and want to change. I can’t believe I’ve let it get this far. I wish I could shake the guilt and be the person I used to be. Thank you for your words I know I’m not alone but I know the road I need to take.
Hi Tara, thank you so much for posting and you are not alone in this. Please don’t be hard on yourself. There is hope and if you want to make a change you can. If you need some support I am here for you. You can do this. I believe in you you just need to believe in yourself too. Sending love and support your way xx
I have 2 babies and just fell off the wagon hard I went on a 4 day bender and barely remember changing diapers feeding them just everything. I was only drinking about once a month and as my stress increased the drinking increased and I feel so alone because I don’t know even one mom who has been as terrible as I am.
Hey Jessica. You are not a terrible mom, really you are not. And you are certainly not alone in feeling this way. You are not to blame, always remember that, it is alcohol’s fault – not yours. The fact that yue feeling this way means that you are a great mom, who loves her babies dearly. Be kind to yourself, you deserve love and kindness, not guilt and shame. I am here if you need more support. Sending so much love your way xx
I can so relate to you and most everyone who has written in. The only difference is that I stopped drinking l, for the last time, when my kids were adults and my daughter and I were working on mending our relationship. She had told me that she forgives me but that I now need to forgive myself s unfortunately my precious daughter died in 2018 at 46, and the guilt is still overwhelming. Memories are always popping into my head off the days of my drinking and neglecting my kids. Sometimes I just feel like this is the price that I must pay.
Oh Debi, I’m so sorry. Thank you for sharing, this is very brave of you. I think you have to hold onto the fact that your daughter told you that she forgave you and I’m sure she loved you very much. Of course you will still feel these feelings of guilt and the memories won’t go away (I don’t think they are supposed to) But they do get easier to deal with and will appear less frequently as you get stronger and become more loving to yourself. This is very important. What happened then, was then. You made amends and an effort to move on which shows that you love your kids, like nothing else. Now is the time to forgive yourself, you really must and you deserve to.