Motherhood and Sobriety During a Global Pandemic
Growing up I never thought that I would become an alcoholic. Looking back on it all I can see the red flags that were raised throughout my lifetime, but during the course of my life, it felt like more of a gradual slope that led me into addiction rather than one particular event. I also never would have guessed that I would be alive during a global pandemic. I guess these just aren’t the types of things they teach about in school. But here we are and here I am eight years sober and a mother of two children, trying to navigate my way through what it means to be alive during COVID-19.
I never really was the type of person that was very good at drinking in moderation, hence the alcoholism. I first started drinking at the age of 14. A few months after my 25th birthday, I found myself checking into rehab at a Narconon center. At that point in my life, I was just trying to make it through each day without drinking and, to be completely honest, that was about all I could handle. I didn’t realize at the time that I was learning skills that would help me achieve a life of long-term recovery even while the world began to seemingly fall apart around me.
I think it is pretty safe to say that 2020 has presented one major challenge after another for all of us. While we are all on different spectrums of these challenges one thing remains the same, we are all in one form of this storm or another. The initial challenges of the lockdowns took a heavy toll on almost everyone in various ways, and the political climate of late has resembled a powder keg. Many people have lost their jobs or the lives of loved ones, so it only makes sense that so many people are on edge.
Parenting has reached a whole new level of stress. Trying to navigate remote learning, working from home and deciding the best levels of interaction with others is no easy task. As the months have stretched on and the number of cases has risen, many people are either completely over it and feel things have been blown out of proportion or are even more fearful than they were back in March. Things are not easy right now for anyone that’s for sure.
For months I have been worried about someone in my family getting sick. As much as I have tried not to think about it too much, it has been a pretty constant worry on my mind. I am thankful that I have learned how to confront my problems and focus on what is in front of me in the here and now, otherwise, I am sure I would have let my anxiety spiral out of control. Learning how to calm myself down in uncomfortable situations has been one of the most beneficial aspects of my recovery.
The morning before Thanksgiving my husband woke up and wasn’t able to smell anything. As I got out the various types of my overly priced essential oils, my anxiety began to grow more and more as he continued to tell me he couldn’t smell any of them. There was no denying that the virus I have been afraid of for the past eight months was finally knocking on my front door. I can’t explain the sinking feeling I felt as I began to contemplate the possibility that my husband had COVID-19. Luckily, he was able to get in to get a rapid test done that evening but unfortunately, the results came back positive.
I don’t think I will ever forget the moment he called me with the results as I was trying to clean up dinner and the noodles my three-year-old son had spilled on the floor. My toddler was crying, my baby was crying, and soon after I was crying as the reality hit me. I am hopeful that he will be okay, but the scary thing is, you just never know. Throughout the evening my emotions have ranged from shock and anger to fear and sadness. I just got the kids to bed and I’ve got a pile of dirty dishes in the sink that need my attention and the whole idea of getting through these next few weeks is weighing very heavy on my mind.
Despite all of this it has hit me that not once did I think to myself “I need a drink to get through this!” My response has been the opposite and I am grateful that I no longer feel the need to drink to get through something that is difficult. While I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders right now, I feel free from the chains that alcohol once held me in. Eight years ago, my first thought would have been to grab a drink because that was my response to any sort of emotion that felt even the slightest bit uncomfortable but tonight, I’ve had no desire for alcohol.
I think the biggest freedom I have gained throughout the course of my recovery was the realization that I no longer HAD to drink. It may be hard for someone who has never had an addiction to understand, but by the time I went to rehab, I couldn’t even comprehend the thought of going throughout a day without a drink. When I first got sober I went through a sort of grieving process as I began to realize I could no longer drink if I wanted to have a better life. Somewhere along the way, my mindset shifted from “Poor me, I can no longer drink” to “Thank goodness, I no longer have to drink.” I wish I could accurately describe the sense of relief this realization provided me but the only thing I can compare it to is feeling the sun on your face after being let go from jail.
So while I know I have some difficult times ahead and that these next few weeks are going to be tough, I am grateful that on top of everything else, I don’t have to worry about my drinking problem anymore. You see that initial buzz after a couple drinks may be nice for thirty minutes or so, but I know myself well enough to understand the price of those thirty minutes, and trust me, they’re not worth it. So while this year’s holidays probably won’t make it to my top ten best holidays ever, it actually won’t be my worst one either. Alcohol ruined plenty of holidays for me in my former life of addiction. As hard as this year has been at times, I know that if I were still drinking it would be at least twenty times harder, so now more than ever I am thankful for my sobriety because without it I’d hate to see where I would be. And the thing is not only do my husband and my children deserve the best version of myself that I can give, I do too, now more than ever.