Welcome to part 3 of my four-part mums and booze post.
Looking around supermarkets, online or in bookshops it is only too easy to see that the overarching theme is that mums need to drink. I am not criticising this as such, I have written in the first part of this post series, Why do mums drink?, about the stresses and strains that can come with being a mum, I completely get the need to feel like your doing OK. I was the first one to say that I needed a drink to cope with life and being a mum. The problem is that alcohol was a totally destructive force in my life, and destructive to my health, my mental health and my ability to cope with life and being a mum. It did the exact opposite of what I needed it to do.
I am absolutely not challenging or criticising mums here, I am just trying to reach out to those mums who feel like they are alone in their struggle with motherhood and alcohol and say, ‘Hey, you are strong enough to manage everything in your life and I want to show you how!’. In next weeks post I will go through how you can not only survive but thrive as a sober mum!
But for this week, I want to look at why mums DO NOT need a drink.
I am not sure that this need any further explanation. Who would not like to never have a hangover again?!
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Better physical health
Not to mention reducing the risk of a whole host of health problems as you get older, not drinking will make you feel so much better immediately. No hangovers, no dehydration and not full of toxins – let’s face it these make you feel pretty dreadful! You will sleep better and have more energy – who doesn’t need more of these things as a mum!
More energy means you are more likely to exercise.
So, let’s look at the health benefits of better sleep and more exercise. Both are shown individually to
- Improve mood
- Improve memory
- Increase energy
- Aid weight loss
- Reduce the risk of ill health and chronic disease
- Reduce pain
- Improve the health of your brain, heart, bones, muscles and skin
Imagine what they do together! It’s a kind of self-perpetuating good cycle. It is basically the opposite of what alcohol does to us!
Better mental health
As you can see, a better physical state will lead to improved mental health. Definitely something that would help a lot of mums.
Depression rates are high among mums, for many reasons (see Why do mums drink?) and anxiety is rife. Modern life is almost designed to make mums feel like they cannot cope. These feelings affect our sense of self worth and our confidence in a negative spiral.
I know I suffered badly from depression, post and antenatal depression and anxiety. Then I added to it the shame, guilt and remorse I felt about my drinking.
So much time was spent in my head battling with these feelings. Most often, the overwhelming empty blackhole feeling would hit me around 4/5pm and I would drink to hide from it because it was so awful. I used to talk to My Love and say, maybe I just have to accept that my body and mind are designed to feel this way. But now, I absolutely know that it is no coincidence that since I quit drinking, I no longer have these feelings.
Obviously, I still get feelings and emotions. Obviously, I can still get a bit overwhelmed, but never in the same way and I never feel like I am being consumed and can’t handle it.
What I didn’t expect, and I’m sorry if I’ve said this a thousand times, is the complete disappearance of anxiety. I had anxiety to the point of not being able to leave the house. Before this happened to me, I didn’t even believe it could. It improved enough for me to start functioning normally again, but it was always present and was gradually increasing over the last few years before I quit drinking. My anxiety was one of the main reasons that I kept drinking, it allowed me to be free of it, however briefly. My anxiety did not disappear immediately after I stopped drinking, but at about the 6 months point, I realised that I wasn’t anxious anymore, I would almost say I was internally calm. No twisting stomach, no racing brain, no tight chest, no internal shaking and no anger. I was so stunned that I concentrated on noticing this lack of anxiety, in case it was some kind of accidental one off. But no, although I am not completely Zen (haha!) the anxiety is not there and I am the calmest I have ever been.
What would you give to be a mum who is not struggling daily with anxiety and low mood?
There is a feeling that I want you to imagine. Think about one of the occasions, even if it was a long time ago, when you felt genuinely good about yourself. Your body felt right, what you were wearing felt good, you seemed to glide easily through whatever occasion it was, people seemed drawn to you. Deep down things felt right.
Even if you it is not recent, I’m sure everyone has a memory like this, even if it was just one time! Wouldn’t it be lovely to feel like this more often, maybe even all the time?
When I stopped drinking for the final time, I gradually started to feel like this more often. I had more energy, better sleep (even if not more sleep!), I was exercising more, I lost 8kg in 9 months, I actually felt comfortable in my own body for the first time as an adult. I liked the way I looked; I no longer hid from photos. I started to actually know myself and what I was like. For the first time, I didn’t mind that person, and as my sobriety has continued, I actually quite liked her. This feeling, the feeling right in yourself, really started to manifest at about a year sober and the confidence that comes from knowing and respecting your own value is phenomenal.
Better social life
People worry so much about their social life once they stop drinking. It is naturally a very daunting prospect because everything in our society is geared up to join socialising with alcohol. Being the one who is different, the one standing out, is terrifying! Even more so if your confidence and sense of self-worth is shot.
Now, as I have mentioned before, I am something of a social introvert. I can pull it off when I have to, but there are times when I am just not comfortable.
My answer is simple: if you really don’t want to be a part of some social occasion, don’t be! I’m not saying reject it out of hand, I’m not saying don’t do it just because you’re afraid, what I am saying is assess why you feel the way you do, question yourself, and if you are still uncomfortable, go with your gut feeling and stay away!
There is a very real chance, and people get worried about this, that you may lose some friends along your path to being a sober mum. Some people won’t understand, some people will feel challenged, some people will have their own battles to deal with. Whatever the case, please know, that the friends you have left, will be the ones that have your best interests at heart – and those are the people you need to be around! I promise you, that the friends you make on your sober journey, will not be the ones who want to bring you down – because your increasing self-worth won’t let that happen anymore.
Not only your friendships, but most importantly your closer relationships will improve. Not being in your own head all the time gives you so much more head space to focus on those you love, and it makes a HUGE difference.
My relationships with My Love, my boys, my mother, my sister and my nieces and nephews feel so much more supportive and connected. My Love has been through the most awful 6 months due to the loss of close family members to cancer. It terrifies me to think of the lack of support he would probably have received had I still been drinking.
If you are not in a romantic relationships at the minute but would like to be, I can almost guarantee that your increasing sense of confidence and self-worth, not to mention the fact that you like and respect yourself more, will not allow you to slip back into any negative patterns of relationships. I cannot guarantee you the best relationships, relationships are funny things that work and don’t work for all sorts of reasons, but I can guarantee that your sober self will be less likely to head into a bad relationship or self-sabotage a good one.
I mean this is the crucial bit isn’t it? Who doesn’t want to be the best mum they can be? Although I’ve always been a good and committed mum and I’ve always loved my boys more than anything, I have never been a happy mum. It always felt like something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do.
I remember so many bad days where I knew during that day that I was actually creating that bad day. Children being their usual naughty boisterous selves but me not having the capacity to deal with it – usually due to a niggling hangover and bad sleep (I am still a monster with no sleep!). Those days ended with me annoyed, frustrated and unhappy and the boys disgruntled. Then cue the mum guilt and beating myself up about it, because I knew that on a different day in a different set of circumstances those days would have been absolutely fine.
Alcohol, no sleep, no energy and hangovers all deplete our capacity to cope with anything, let alone the demands of our offspring!
Being sober has given me a much longer fuse. The lack of anxiety has given me the ability to see the funny side of a lot of situations. It has all ultimately made me a much happier mother who really wants to be with her children. In turn has made my children happier and more secure.
More real fun
I have always been driven, and true to form, I always made sure we did lots of ‘fun’ things. By this stage, my drinking was not really what I could pretend was ’fun’ anymore. Trying desperately to reach fun yes, but real fun, no. The made ‘fun’ with a grim, controlled determination and although the boys and My Love did actually have fun, if I did it was by the exception rather than the rule.
In becoming sober I have become less anxious and more go with the flow. My family will probably howl with laughter reading this, but that only go to prove how bad I was!
Just to prove what I was like, even though I love the sea, I hardly ever went with my children and on one memorable occasion I had a complete melt down and left 10 minutes after traipsing everything to the beach. Why? Because I couldn’t cope with sandy children.
Another time, I was on holiday in a stunning location on the Pembrokeshire coast, I couldn’t cope with cleaning the caravan and the mess of 5 people in the gazebo, so I packed up a week into out two week holiday and drove our caravan the 8 hours back home. I then sold our hardly used caravan.
Even sober, the fear of the old me rearing her head again almost put me off going to the Greenman Festival because of having to deal with rain-soaked children. I am so eternally grateful that this didn’t put me off, and yes it rained! See more on this in my post Greenman Festival – Sober!
I’ll talk more about finding the sober activities that you love in the next post.
Don’t get me wrong, at times stuff can still accumulate and go wrong, See Furious Sober Yoga Mummy for an example of this, but thankfully these situation are now the exception.
I have talked about time in my previous post, What’s wrong with the mummy wine culture? and I will talk about it lots more in my next post, but having the extra time, created by being sober, open up so much opportunity.
Maybe not immediately, but I promise you, over time, as you get used to your sobriety, you will be genuinely far happier than you have ever been, not only as a mum but in your own life.