Confessions of a Sober Mummy...
By Victoria Vanstone
I heard the baby crying again,
I didn’t get up.
I stayed, hiding in my bedroom.
He needed me, but I couldn’t do it.
I was too hungover. Again.
I don’t remember getting home. The last thing I recall was seeing both my hands outstretched in front of me clutching two huge jugs of Sangria. The red liquid was lapping over the sides as I declared triumphantly, “It’s two for one!” to my wasted, smiling friends.
My life had always been one big party. A social drinker extraordinaire. A binger that never drank alone and never went home early. I wouldn’t have described my drinking as a problem.
I thought I was just like everyone else, overdo it on Saturday then feel like killing myself on Sunday. That’s normal right? Wasted hungover days were as ingrained as my habit. My drinking felt ordinary, typical. You wouldn’t have picked me out as an alcoholic, you’d have thought I was great company.
My addiction was clever, absorbed into everyone else’s, diluted by the crowd. I had my first child at 34. Mother’s group nights out catapulted me into a whole new style of heavy binge drinking. The mundanity of motherhood and the long gaps between piss-ups accentuated my indulgence. By the time a night out was upon me I was gagging to get annihilated.
I was expected to be tucking in, singing lullabies and instead I was going out and dancing on speakers in a dodgy underground nightclub.
Weeks would pass of being good mummy. I had the right snacks, the softest cotton wraps and a sporty three-wheeled pram. I’d fought my way out of germ-infested play pits and had wipes on hand for any unpredictable leeks, drips or explosions. On the outside I was doing well at my new role. But, inside I was hurting, mourning the loss of that fun party girl I knew, the one that linked arms with strangers and did bad ’80s robot dancing.
I wanted to go out and be me again. Drunk me, the only me I knew. Mum’s nights out became my escape… I heard the crying again. There was no point in feeding him, my milk was toxic, spoiled. The sun shone through the bedroom window, cutting the room in half.
As I closed the curtains, a sudden flashback leapt at me from my blackout, an image of stumbling around in the bathroom with my bra shoved down around my waist, demanding my husband hand the baby over. I was covered in vomit. “Get in the bath” he’d said. I sat in the empty bath as my husband put the baby to bed with a bottle. He then plugged the hose in and sprayed me down, fully clothed, like a zookeeper that was washing a muddy elephant.
I saw lumps of sick lodged in the plug hole…. The embarrassing memory stung my heart, guilt crept into my bones.
Panic kicked in and filled my body with negativity. I began the slow painful demise into my hangover. My mind took over and led me down a dark, frightening path. I envisaged dreadful ways I might die; irrational thoughts filled my soul. It wasn’t meant to be this way. I meant to do better, be better. I thought I’d be able to carry on being me, a rockstar mum that partied till dawn, got the kids mohawks and wore ripped jeans. This motherhood thingy was ruining my fun, interrupting my hangovers. Giving me consequences.
I sighed as I heard the front door open and close. I guessed it was my family going out, doing fun stuff without me. Joining them wasn’t an option. I was too broken. Instead I chose to lay there in my pit of self-hatred and discontentment hoping to fall asleep.
Sleep didn’t come.
Only questions did…
Why do I keep doing this? Why do I keep doing something I hate? What’s wrong with me?
My anxiety had got progressively worse every time I went out on a bender. Being the drunkest person at every pub, club or wake for the previous 26 years was catching up with me. I was losing my sparkle, suffering with terrible panic attacks and low self-worth.
I felt depressed, lost and had no idea how to stop. I tried slowing down. I failed at moderation. I drank waters between gins and ate carbs before big nights. Dry July’s dribbled down the drain along with my own sour tasting bile. None of it worked.
Then the baby.
That perfect little bundle of human that was crying beyond my bedroom door had got me questioning my drinking. Questioning my whole life. I had a baby to look after now. It was overwhelming.
Me in charge of a life, it seemed ridiculous. I had to do better. Laying there that afternoon, smelling like a brewery with a bucket of sick next to me, I knew the time had come. I stood up, put on my bath robe and plodded into the lounge. My son was eating spaghetti in his highchair.
I leaned down and gave him a kiss on his forehead and whispered that I was sorry. I plonked myself down on the couch next to my husband and said,
“I want to stop drinking. I think I need help…”
Ten words. That was all it took.
At last, I’d taken responsibility for my drinking and admitted that, perhaps, I had a problem. My husband took my hand and promised to support me. He said he hated seeing me so unwell and he told me he loved me.
The next morning, I searched the internet for help. I reached out. I found a local counselling service and dialled the number.
“Hello, I’m Vicky. I’m a mum that hates binge drinking but can’t seem to stop. Can you help me?”
I thought she was going to laugh and say, “Sorry love, we only deal with real alcoholics here.” But she didn’t, she said, “Yes, we can help with that.” I booked an appointment.
That exact moment is when my sober story began.
Reaching out saved me, therapy cracked me open and helped me understand my reasons why. One Saturday, a few months after my therapy finished, I asked my husband, “What shall we do tomorrow?” It sounds like a simple statement, but it was the first time in my adult life I’d considered doing something on a Sunday.
It was the moment I became an available parent instead of a drunken one. It’s official, I’m now a better mum. A mum-of-three who’s determined to never waste a Sunday again. It’s been two years since I stopped drinking and I’m happier in every single way. I don’t suffer from anxiety anymore and I feel healthy.
I’m not leaning on booze to get me through. Quitting made me realise how much I’d been missing out on. Now I look forward to weekends and I celebrate by having a Virgin Mojito instead of necking shots. It’s better that way, for everyone!
I’m over being the party girl, I’m better off just being me. I know there are many women stuck in this Pinot Gris purgatory, somewhere between the pub and an AA meeting and I hope my story will help women understand that any problem, no matter how big or small, is worthy of attention.
Reaching out and getting help from a therapist, psychologist or even a close friend, is the only way to get better.