What is it like to be a Sober Mum?
A friend asked me the other day, “What is it like to be a sober Mum? I just can’t imagine being able to cope with my kids without a drink!” We talked about how I deal with the stress when the kids are playing up, how I relax, how I let loose and have fun, how to cope with the tedium of being with the kids all day, all the usual stuff that I used to worry about before I quit drinking. Those words about needing wine to cope with our kids used to resonate with me so much. Now I wonder how I managed to be a Mum at all because things are just so different now.
The main thing I’ve found is that being a sober Mum doesn’t make everything sunshine and roses but it does give me the patience and clarity to deal with the difficulties much easier, I mean my eldest will still eat all the food in the fridge and my youngest regularly goes off on one when I take his tablet away but these things are all normal parts of having kids and I no longer see them as an excuse to drink.
The thing about being a sober Mum is that I no longer have these feelings of shame and regret because of my drinking.
In the past, anything would be an excuse to drink, homework time, tea time, story time bath and bedtime – I couldn’t imagine doing any of it without a beer or a glass of wine in my hand. Looking back, this makes me really sad and just writing this down is throwing up all kinds of emotions. I feel regret, I feel shame, I feel so so bad when I think of all the lost moments and the times when I could have done things better but I was too half cut to see it. When I was a few months sober I wrote this post about parenting and alcohol and highlighted one terrible thing that I did involving my youngest son when I was drunk. I wake up every day and feel so thankful that I won’t ever let that happen again.
The thing about being a sober Mum is that I no longer have these feelings of shame and regret because of my drinking. I don’t wake up in the morning and go mad at my kids for not doing their homework the night before, or losing it because they haven’t got any clothes set out. I don’t wake up with that deep feeling of sadness that we wasted yet another weekend because I was sat in the kitchen drinking all the time.
My kids were one of the reasons I chose to stop drinking and as soon as I did, I threw myself into my role as a Mum again and focusing on all the care giving I had neglected really helped me through the early days. I used to complain and stress out all the time about my kids and I was always looking for something to fill the void, but really what I needed was there right in front of me. I had just got a little lost and I had no idea how to cope when things got tough.
When my eldest started morphing into a teenager I totally freaked out when he answered back or didn’t come home at night. I had never had to deal with these things before so I tried to drown it all out with beer and pretend it wasn’t happening. After all kids don’t come with an 18 year guide book and when things weren’t going how I wanted them to I felt like a failure and just didn’t know what to do.
Now, just because I’m sober the homework problems haven’t gone away but I changed my approach
Most of the time, I still don’t know what I am doing but at least I am in a position to learn what to do and try different approaches. Homework was and still is a nightmare in our house. I used to get through about 4 glasses of wine while trying to help with maths or science (in Spanish!) My kids wouldn’t listen to me or say that I don’t speak Spanish well enough to understand or that they do it differently here (they do!) It would all end in tears and tantrums – from both of us. Now, just because I’m sober the homework problems haven’t gone away but I changed my approach – I no longer help them! Such freedom and no more stress. This works for us and yes I still get asked questions from time to time but there is no drama.
Changing my approach for many things has helped reduce the drama and being a sober Mum has made me much calmer and more relaxed. It’s crazy to think, like so many of us, that I believed that alcohol meant less stress but actually alcohol means lots of stress. Everything used to get blown up out of all proportion, I would go from one extreme emotion to the next, there were no boundaries and any rules I made just got forgotten. There was just no consistency to our routines and expectations and that is what caused the most stress.
Obviously I still get stressed when the kids are playing up and just because I don’t drink doesn’t mean I can’t wind down of an evening or ‘reward’ myself for making it through another day, it’s just I do things differently now. I tried all the tools at first, everything from meditation, to journaling, hot showers, afternoon walks, breathing exercises and endless cups of tea. I still use these techniques now at different points it just depends on what I need that particular day.
There is no quick fix anymore that comes with a glass of wine but I realized that I don’t want a quick fix, I don’t want to drown out what my body or my emotions are trying to tell me. I want to feel all the feelings and face them head on even when I’m terrified. Being honest and true to myself gets better, more long lasting results and in fact the stress, the anxiety and the overwhelm gets less and easier to manage, simply because I deal with what’s really going on.
There is no quick fix anymore that comes with a glass of wine but I realized that I don’t want a quick fix
For me, being a sober Mum means that I am there for my kids, and by that I mean really present. It sounds really boring but we have rules and I’m consistent with them, I’m no longer unpredictable and I know that they feel safe. I feel safe knowing that if anything happens whether it be they wake up in the night needing me or I have to go an pick them up from somewhere I can be relied upon to be there and that is priceless.
I have to admit that the first month or so was hard and actually quite boring! My husband and I would sit on the sofa, watch TV and eat chocolate. We’d be in bed by 9 and even the youngest one said that we were just soooo boring! That didn’t last though so if you’re thinking that sober means boring, well it might for a few weeks but slowly I got my energy back and I found I wanted to go out and do things again. Just a few months into this journey we found ourselves at an all night rock festival and the kids loved it. I wouldn’t have had the stamina for it if I had been drinking.
My idea of fun has changed, I find my release differently and that’s okay because I’m not that person who drinks anymore, I’m not that Mum who drank at home and who thought it cool to blast the music until 3am when my kids were trying to sleep and spent all of the next day in my own personal hell of pain, shame and utter despair. I am that Mum who loves waking up at 5am and going on an early morning hike with my family. I am that Mum who remembers what my kids said at bedtime, who can treat my kids to breakfast in bed on a school morning when it’s cold and dark.
Above all , I’m back where I need to be and sure, parenting will always be hard work but being a Mum who drinks makes it far harder than being one who doesn’t. As you will see in this video I made, being a sober Mum really is easier and that has been a revelation to me, I wondered how this could be possible and being sober has shown me the true possibilities and brought me so much happiness. I am a better parent but perhaps most importantly I am a better me which makes me a better Mum.
What will it mean for you to be a sober Mum? Let me know in the comments below.