So, we have reached the final post in my four-part post on mums and alcohol. If you have missed any and my content resonates with you then please follow the links below.
The first post, Why do mums drink? Looks at the reasons that mums feel that they want or need to have a drink.
The second post looks at the problems associated with the societally accepted mummy wine culture that is so prevalent currently. Read that post here.
The penultimate post aims to show mums who are struggling with booze, all the benefits of not drinking and how much better off they can be without it. That post is Why mums DO NOT need to drink.
In this final post, I want to show you that you can not only survive as a sober mum but you can thrive way beyond your expectations!
Before you dismiss this as impossible, let me reassure you that I am living, breathing proof of this! I am a mother of 3 boys. I drank for 22 years and for 12 years I tried to quit. I believed there must just be something wrong with me that I couldn’t do it, when other people seemed to be able to. I also thought that if I did, I’d be unhappy and craving for the rest of my life.
Please let me reassure you, that now, at nearly 18 months sober, I have never looked back and I have never been happier. I am also craving free!
This post is not going to go into detail about how to quit. Instead I want to show you how you can manage being a mum while sober, and that when you are a sober mum, your life will be so much better and happier.
If you are still struggling with quitting drinking, I have some other posts that will help.
How to Quit drinking, is obviously the big post with practical tips about how to quit once you have decided that you want to. However, it is never quite that easy and there is groundwork that you need to commit to first.
Seeing alcohol for what it really is often helps people to realise that in reality it is not what they need – see How to beat the alcohol illusion for more on this.
The fear of cravings really put me off trying to quit for good, so have a read of How to stop alcohol cravings to find out how you can be craving free.
However, if you feel that you are physically addicted, by which I mean experiencing shakes, sweating, vomiting or uncontrollable irritability, please contact a health professional to discuss your needs.
How to survive as a sober mum
Being a mum can be such a lonely time, and being a mum struggling with a problem with alcohol that you don’t feel like you can talk about, can be the loneliest feeling in the world.
If you feel there are people you can talk to then do talk to them. But if you are not keen, find some non-drinking friends to talk to. Social Media in great for this. I have met incredible people through Instagram, who are all on their own alcohol-free journey, and happy to share and talk. There are also loads on Facebook and places like Join Club Soda have a private group where you can air all your struggles and receive support and advise from fellow members.
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Also, you could join One Year No Beer and meet people who are similarly reassessing their relationship with alcohol. Or, if you are feeling brave, there are more and more sober cafés and sober events popping up. Find one and go along, find someone who will go with you to make it less daunting initially. My husband and I are off to our first sober rave for Halloween this year in our towns sober bar.
Community is often what will give you the strength to finally get to where you want to be. Be aware that you may lose people along the way but do not let this put you off! Sometimes we have to lose in some places to gain in others, and the friends that you make on your sober journey will be the ones who have your back.
So that’s outside life sorted, what about at home? Parenting is hard. More often than not as mums, we just keep going and going, and it can be completely overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. We need to break stuff up into bits, and then find out which the problem bits actually are. Try to really think about you day and what you actually do. Then as you are doing each thing assess how you feel when doing it. There unfortunately is no escape from some parenting jobs no matter how much we hate them! Washing has to be done, meals have to be cooked and the house needs to be cleaned.
This is an example that worked for me.
I loathe cleaning. I have said this before that hey ho! I did have a cleaner for while but working part time with 3 children I couldn’t really justify the expense. But if you can, (your drinking probably cost more than £20 a week!) the go for it!
I found every time I had to clean I ended up furious with everyone and everything! So I broke everything down. I realised that I actually I have no issue tidying I just hate actual cleaning. Then I broke it down further and realised that doing it all at once was just too much. So I broke each job down onto different days. On the days I don’t have a shift I’ll clean either the bathroom, or hoover downstairs, or clean the kitchen, but not all together. By doing this, each cleaning job takes less than 20 minutes, so not overwhelming, and it all gets done pretty painlessly. My worst job seems to be hoovering upstairs, so I make sure that I do it at a time where I am not feeling stressed or tired, but also that I get it out of the way as soon as possible!
It seems simple, but it is so easy to let everything become a massive overwhelming black whole when really, it’s all just little manageable bits put together. Just put them together differently in a way that works for you!
This will help so much later when it comes to nurturing yourself, which I talk more about it the next section.
It also helped me to find a routine that works with the children. Children usually respond really well to routine They want their freedom and independence, but routine helped them to feel safe, because they know what is coming and what is expected.
We have a routine where we use a 10 minute musical timer for The Baby to dress himself in the morning. It works, mostly, and the big boys love it too – they know it’s nearly time to leave and they know what they have to do.
In the evening, after supper, the boys (usually) clear the table, my husband and I will take turns for who does the washing up and who washes The Baby, and then I will read stories and he’ll go to sleep with his train nightlight and classic FM. My eldest goes to sleep every night with the fan and a low string of fairy lights.
I have found, if every member of the family understands of the rules of the game, it all becomes so much easier to manage!
You don’t always need to follow your plan or get frustrated if you don’t, you can just have it in the background as a fall back. But ultimately do what works for you, assessing how you feel and how your children are responding as you go.
Take time for yourself
Part of having a routine is ensuring that there is time for you. It is so important, as I have mentioned so many times, to have regular time for yourself! I will talk more about nurturing yourself in the next section but make sure every day, you routinely fit some ‘you time’ into the day.
When your ‘you time’ is routine, it will have become so normal that taking emergency time for yourself, when things are going wrong, will not seem too alien and you will know what you need to do with that time, whether that is have a bath, have a cup of tea, listen to music, paint, breath, yoga – whatever works for you.
Share the mental load
This isn’t really optional but can be extremely difficult.
Mental load is the idea that as mothers, we have everything for every family member going on in our heads. Not just the day to day household and parenting jobs, but we know who has homework for when, who has a doctors appointment, who needs what for a class trip, when they last saw the dentist, whose shoes are getting to small, who has what extracurricular class and what they need. Often this mental load includes partners as well as children. In my first marriage, there was an explosion because I had put the ironed shirt in the wrong drawer and he would have had to open a different draw to find it! Thinking more kindly, your partner just might not realise exactly what you have to juggle; so talk about it. It’s about your partner learning that they are equally responsible for the family mental load and are not there to ‘help you’ – they are there to share it all with you.
If you have no idea what I am talking about then have a read of this amazing comic that explains it all!
Manage your expectations
Realise that most of what you see on social media or in photographs or at church are just the good bits among all the same shit that you have to deal with on a daily basis. We really are all in the same boat! Be realistic about what family life is, one big messy, hopefully love filled, mess.
Manage your frustrations
I have mentioned that being a mum can often be frustrating because it isn’t the picture of the life you imagined, and it is hard once you are a mum to achieve the things that you hoped to achieve. If you are struggling with this, have a read of my posts How to build a life you do not want to escape from and Change your thoughts to change your life.
Expect and accept that there will be bad days, emotional days, tough times, difficult stages. Everyone in a family is just a human with all the ups and downs that humans go through. Accept that a bad day or two or three doesn’t make you a bad mum. Again, you are human not superhuman. You children have shocking days and you still love them unconditionally, so your bad days won’t make them love you any less. Yes, you are an adult, and may have slightly more control over your emotions and reactions, but in reality, this often isn’t the case and being an adult doesn’t make you superhuman either.
There will be hard times but it’s ok – you will be ok.
How to thrive as a sober mum
Consciously nurture yourself
I cannot say this enough. Find something that fulfils you and brings you joy and do it every day. I love reading, I love yoga, I love meditating, I love watching a crime series episode at the end of the night, I love having a bath, I love writing this blog. Make sure, without fail, you put your small bit of time aside every day. It helps to nurture your soul and remind you who you are. It gives you an non-alcohol related break in the circle of parenting life.
Find the activities you love
Don’t do things just because you feel like you should. I used to hate going to the play park, so don’t force yourself to go. Your children and you will both be aware that you’re not enjoying it.
Find the activities that you do enjoy and that you can enjoy together. We love cycling – this can be a big day out in clumber park with a picnic, or just a short cycle in the park. Equally, I realised that although I hate the play park in the day, I love it in the evening! Sunsets in summer, getting dark and the lights coming on in the winter. I love reading to my children. I used to see this as a school related chore, but we have put school stuff aside and I read what we’ve chosen together.
Try lots of different things but remember to assess your feelings as you go because then you know how you are genuinely feeling.
I have talked about exercise a lot, and I also talk about it in my free 7 days to feel better about yourself course which you can sign up for below. It is too big a topic to broach here, and I will write a proper post about it soon.
But exercise, along with other health benefits, gives you some space, increases your confidence, improves your mood, increases your ability to cope, boosts your happy hormones and generally makes you feel amazing!
Don’t be put off. There will be an exercise that you love, you just have a try a few out to find it. Also, the first two weeks are usually a bit ugh, but your fitness and stamina will improve quickly and it will all become easier – I promise!!
We can be so overwhelmed with parenting that we sometimes miss the whole point of it! Your children need your time and attention, but they don’t need it all the time. They want their own time to do their own thing too. So compromise. Give them your full attention at some point during each day, it doesn’t have to be for long, but they definitely know whether they have your attention for not. By doing this, your children are happy that they have had concentrated mummy time, and you don’t feel guilty about taking the time for yourself or for whatever else you need to do.
This is such a important topic that my next post will be all about gratitude. But gratitude is a practice. Sometimes it come naturally, but there are days when we can feel that we have nothing to be grateful for or if we say we are its not sincere. By looking every day to find even one thing to be grateful for, we build up a bank to things that we are grateful for, which we can drawn on on those crappy days. The more we feel grateful, the more there is to be grateful for. Gratitude is exponential.
Why it is so much better being a sober mum
To conclude, being a sober mum is a real and frightening experience. All those emotions and experiences to deal with! No hiding behind anything. But facing these experiences sober will give you so much strength and self-respect. These things are self-perpetuating and the more you face, the more you realise you can manage, the better and more secure you will feel.
For you and your children, you will share love, closeness and time. Your time together will be more enjoyable and more memorable.
Ultimately, as a sober mum, I am a happier mum.