You don’t need alcohol to parent

Mom life means drinking. It’s the meme you see on your feed, the joke you hear at carline. It’s everywhere. And it’s a lie. About 6 months ago, I said goodbye to alcohol (at least for now) and every part of my life improved.

Parts of this post were also featured on KGET, the NBC affiliate in Bakersfield, California, in a story about how drinking among women jumped 41 percent in the months during Covid. Scroll to the bottom of this post to watch the video and my hard-truths interview with the reporter who did the story, along with a Facebook Live where I walk through the chronology of drinking and my motherhood.

“Wine is Mommy juice.”

“Coffee, wine, repeat.”

Subtle or not, the messages are everywhere.

You need alcohol to parent.

It’s not true.

But, I get it.

In a way, it makes sense.

And if you’ve believed this message, I understand.

Completely.

I was a new mom, about a week into motherhood. My newborn baby would cry for hours every evening.

I remember one night, I was swaying on our back porch, my baby’s wails screeching into my ears as I patted him in the Baby Bjorn I wore him in on my chest. I was convinced the neighbors could hear the nightly wails and probably thought I was a total failure as a mom.

But there was another soul-crushing thought I could not escape:

I can’t believe this is so hard.

I’d thought motherhood would be so easy.

Seriously. As a career-minded TV news reporter, the thought of having a newborn baby seemed relaxing. Changing diapers and making dinner each night, I reasoned, would be straightforward tasks that I would excel at. Motherhood, I had determined, would be a cake walk.

But those first few weeks, I felt like I was drowning.

And so slowly, as the cries began their nightly ramp-up around 5pm, I’d pour a glass of red wine.

The warm rush down my throat relaxed my anxious mind. I eased into the evening, and slowly, the feelings of gratitude and peace would resurface.

I exhaled as the less-than melted into my evening flow.

It wasn’t a problem.

It was a solution.

I was a stressed new mom. An occasional glass of wine helped me to not feel stressed.

For a while, it made sense.

Of course it did! I didn’t want to feel stressed and overwhelmed. (Duh, who would?)

Having a few sips of alcohol stopped those feelings.

It was a tool that worked.

I’m not crazy for choosing alcohol as my coping strategy. And neither are you.

It worked.

Until it didn’t.

Ironically, as I prepped to write this post today, this photo popped into my Facebook memories. I took this picture 10 years ago today.

I remember being tickled by the dichotomy of this visual from our night at the beach with our newborn.

The baby’s life-giving liquid next to the burgundy proof that I was still fun and I still knew how to do things for me.

I am killing it as a mom. Having a baby hasn’t changed me, I wanted this photo to declare.

The slow pour of that feeling continued for 10 years after this photo.

A glass of red wine was fine for a while. Then I rediscovered my love of martinis. Nothing wrong with any of it. It helped me loosen up and enjoy my new mom life.

Several years later, things started to accelerate. I had a friend group that loved drinking, and I loved every minute of being with them, doing our favorite thing. One martini was no longer what I was after. My large Yeti was thirsty for Tito’s and my favorite mixers. I never wanted to see the ice at the bottom. And so my favorite liquids would alternate their nightly dance, one after the other, until I could collapse into a deep sleep that would be followed by a severe headache and sick stomach that would often overtake the entire next day.

I just took 10 minutes to manually search through my old photos and here is what I found in that short time:

Was this every day?

NO.

Was this an issue my friends or family noticed?

NO.

Was I able to function and parent?

YES.

But on those next mornings, I felt so low.

I knew this wasn’t right.

I knew I wasn’t thriving.

I’d resurface a few days later, or maybe stop drinking for a week or 2. Once I even went 6 weeks, all in the name of Operation: Lose the Baby Weight.

But eventually, I always found my way back. I justified it. My friends justified it. My family justified it. Our culture justifies it.

See, the thing about my drinking is it made sense. It worked for me.

But then it didn’t.

I refuse to shame myself for what I’ve done.

I will never call myself the A-word (alcoholic). I don’t like that word or that label. (Besides, alcoholic is not a medical term anyway. No one can call you that, accurately, but you.)

I was simply trying to fix an issue.

It worked for a long time.

Until it didn’t.

And if you’ve read my story, you know that one particularly low morning about 6 months ago, I’d had enough.

And I finally said that terrifying truth that’d sat on the tip of tongue for years:

I’m done.

I was sick of feeling sick, most of all.

I was sick of breaking promises to myself.

I loved my dear and loyal companion, alcohol. I would do almost anything for her. But I knew she was bad for me.

Still, we had a history. A powerful history. A history I loved.

When I was sad, she made me happy. When I was bored of sitting alone with my kids, she entertained me. When I was lonely, she comforted me. When I was feeling suffocated by mom stress, she soothed me.

I did not want to let go of my good friend, alcohol.

We’d been through so much.

But taking a break from alcohol on March 28, 2021 was like a painful breakup I knew was coming.

I never said it was forever, and still haven’t.

I don’t know how long I won’t drink.

But I know that, today, my life is better without alcohol.

All that “de-stressing my worst mom moments.”

Yeah, that’s a lie. Alcohol didn’t really do that. It helped me feel better for a few minutes, but it didn’t stop my kids’ behavior issues. It just sent me into an evening of denial.

Now that alcohol is out of the equation for me, I feel more focused on being a better mom. (Not that if you drink, you’re not. NO! I am not shaming anyone who drinks — in any way whatsoever. Everyone is on their own journey. I’m sharing about mine.)

Today, my life is free of alcohol.

And that is a life free of the shame of knowing my kids saw me not acting totally myself last night.

It’s a life free of the shame of having no idea how my daughter got to bed last night or who put her into her pajamas. Was it me?

It’s a life free of feeling sick in the morning, only to recover by about 2pm and do it again.

All of that is gone.

I know I am fully present and engaged and myself — ALL OF THE TIME. Without fail.

And let me tell you, that is a powerful feeling.

I feel powerful.

If my kids get into a serious accident, I will always have the wherewithal to handle it.

If my kids are hurting, I will always be present enough to see it, since I’m not chasing a haze.

If my kids need discipline, I will be patient and controlled in my response because I’m fueled by an inner pride and self-love that is born out of my choice to keep this powerful promise to myself for another day.

I don’t need alcohol to parent.

I thought I did because it’s what I was told. I thought I did because I wanted to.

I thought I did because I didn’t think there was another way to do it.

Friend, there is another way.

And skip the 10 years of hangovers that I went through to learn this:

It’s really fun over here.

We dance and laugh and drink all kinds of other things. Non-alcoholic beers and seltzers, coffee drinks and prosecco dupes, fresh fruit juice and tons of yummy coffee. We eat dessert and actually feel rested in the morning. There are lots of early mornings and beautiful moments I no longer miss.

If you’re interested in coming over here, or even just peeking over the fence, DO IT.

You will never regret your decision to not drink. Even if it’s just one drink.

Alcohol didn’t help me do anything better.

It was a relationship I thought I needed but it was hurting me.

I never wanted to live life without alcohol.

BUT I AM.

And it’s freaking gorgeous over here.

Do you need support in this part of your life? Not committing to quit. (I mean, who would agree to that? *wink*) But, are you curious about your relationship with alcohol? I would love to help you walk this journey in a brand-new private, one-on-one coaching experience called Joy Coaching With Janie. If you’re interested, share your info with me at the bottom of this page, and I’ll be in touch. And be sure to join our private Facebook group, She Just Glows – Living Free, which is for anyone who’s curious about my journey with alcohol, or wants to learn more about taking a break.

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