Sobriety and Motherhood

Mother and baby napping

The “easy” days

In the grand scheme of things, I was doing okay. I had a job, a husband, a great kid, and a weird dog. I haven’t had a drink since March 2014, and I was working a strong recovery program. And then I had a baby. And it blew up my cozy little life.

Motherhood was a whole new ballgame and my tools for sobriety didn’t fit in.

I had desperately wanted to have children my whole life, but when this tiny, needy, projectile-vomiting thing was dropped in my arms, I could not have been less prepared.   But I did all the research! I read baby books and blogs, and everyone agreed I was the most maternal person they knew!   I’d expected it to come naturally and it didn’t. While I never thought it would be easy, I also never thought it would be this hard. And I certainly never expected it to be this lonely.

Too many people

All of a sudden I had to be two people – a full-time businesswoman, and a mom. How was I supposed to have time to be a third – my sober self? Because though I put my son in daycare, I certainly never felt like a part-time mom…   So I pumped at my desk while typing work emails like a much more disheveled version of the typical stock photo.

Happy woman pumping at desk
Bitch, please.

I would come home and attempt to do all the things I used to do, cooking dinner, doing laundry, scheduling time with friends… But it was just too much.

I’m failing at this, aren’t I?

I’ve heard the expression that women today don’t “Have it All” we “DO it all”. I would like to add one word to that phrase – Badly. We do it all badly because there is no way to do the work you used to do with quality when you add 60 tasks a day to them. As a new mother, I used to make a list of everything I needed to do that day including “shower” and “eat”, and still didn’t manage to accomplish both on a daily basis. As a perfectionist, having to sacrifice “done right” for simply “done” felt like failure. I sucked at work, and I was cranky at home.

“This is probably supposed to be the happiest time of my life,” I thought while pushing my son down the street in his stroller. “My baby is small and cuddly, I have a great relationship with my husband. This is what I always wanted. So why do I always feel like crying?”

I called my sponsor. “You need meetings.” She said. “There is no way you can do this without meetings. You have to prioritize them.” She was of course right. But how could I explain to her that there literally was not time in my day to take out two hours (including travel time). It just wasn’t there. Every minute of my day was scheduled. Though I tried bringing my son to meetings a couple of times, when he wasn’t distracting me he was distracting others. I just didn’t feel like it was fair.

“This is probably supposed to be the happiest time of my life” I thought while pushing my son down the street in his stroller. “My baby is small and cuddly, I have a great relationship with my husband. This is what I always wanted. So why do I always feel like crying?”

When “Mommy Needs Wine” doesn’t cut it

So I’ve had to adapt. I have found tools that have been helpful to me, but more than anything most of the time what I needed was to not feel so alone in this. I read plenty of mommy blogs that I would identify with right until the point where they would say something like: “So go have your glass (or three!) of wine mama! You deserve it!” And I’d just want to bang my head against the wall.

What I hope to provide here is some solace from that — a promise that you are not alone. You can find a way to make your recovery and your life fit together again. It’s different work than perhaps your early days. You can’t simply “speak your truth” to your baby and ask if he can keep it down because he’s really fucking with your serenity… No, these require some advanced tools.

The 12 steps were founded by men. Very smart men, but men nonetheless, and therefore do not necessarily account for a life where you are physically tethered to another human and can’t make a program your #1 priority. I don’t intend to reinvent the steps by any means. Nor do you need to be a 12 stepper to interact here. I just think that as women, we have to adapt the tools we have been given to accommodate our bodies and our lives. I’m going to tell you what has worked for me from podcasts and online forums to hiding in the bathroom and watching trashy television shows. I hope you’ll join me. Together, we can do this.