Can You Be An Alcoholic And A Good Mom?

by Misty Browne
Originally Published: 

Hi. My name is Misty, and I’m an alcoholic. I am also a mom.

“I’m an alcoholic.” I’ve uttered those three words so many times the past five years I can’t even begin to count. The first time though, when I gave my introduction to a full AA meeting room, I did it through eyes filled with tears.

I had just left the liquor store and had my bottle of whiskey and a 12-pack in the back of the truck. I saw one of the buildings where I knew AA meetings were held but had never stopped. I decided on a whim to see what it was all about. I still don’t know to this day why I went in there.

Fate or destiny? Maybe my higher power pushing me? I will never forget the impact that walking through those doors had on me. I cried like a baby. Several women came rushing to my side and guided me to a couch in the lobby. Finally somebody cared. Somebody wasn’t judging me.

When the meeting was over, I headed to my truck, knowing that the liquor and beer were waiting for me. I still planned on drinking it, and I felt horrible for that. Everyone had been so nice, caring and understanding, and here I was leaving with a list of their names and phone numbers in hand to “call when you need one of us to talk you through a craving.”

Oh, I had the craving. I never went back, and I could say I don’t know why but that would be a lie. I didn’t go back because I wasn’t ready to stop drinking. I didn’t even have the courage to tell my 15-year-old son about my half-ass attempt to sober up.

If you have never felt the love of an addiction, then you very well may be wondering what the hell is wrong with me. Love of an addiction? Doesn’t the love of your child trump addiction? Not always. We are not perfect.

My mother was an alcoholic, but I never knew her. She died before I was old enough to know her. I did not grow up watching my dad drink himself silly. He drank occasionally when bowling for the church league or had a beer or two while fishing with my brother-in-law. I saw my father drunk once during the 26 years we had together. It was not a pretty sight, and after so many years of thinking back on that day, I’m sure now it was because he was depressed—which is why I drink.

Depression and anxiety are brutal enemies of the mind. Combine the use of alcohol with those two emotions as a Band-Aid, and they become enemies of the body as well. I drink to calm my mind. Having bipolar II disorder causes me to be hypomanic most days, but sometimes full-blown mania creeps in, and my brain is trained to tell me that I need alcohol to combat that—to bring myself down before things get bad.

Alcohol is a natural antidepressant, hence the reason most people drink it after a long day to unwind. While you may have one or two glasses of wine to subdue the day’s hardships and help you sleep, I may have a pint or more of whiskey to help me keep my thoughts subdued.

Often it’s a fifth of Jim Beam to keep me on an even keel. I’m far from even though. I’m off-balance most nights. I’m happy, but it’s a fake happy. You see it on the outside, but inside a war is raging. I’m beating myself up for drinking in the first place. Memories come crashing in of past nights being drunk. I often remember the time that I went to one of my son’s basketball games drunk. I can assure you that I embarrassed my child.

I think a lot about why I drink. The depression is still winning even though, while in the moment looking into the bottle, I don’t see it. The scoreboard is in my favor when I’m drunk. It may seem as if I’m proud of the fact that I can label myself an alcoholic. I am far from proud though. My son is always at the forefront of my mind, yet even now that he is almost 18 years old, I still struggle with my addiction.

I’m doing the best I can in my own distorted way to save myself from the destruction of mental illness. I’m doing the best I can to save myself from the fear of anxiety. In essence, I’m creating destruction with the liquor. I face the real possibility of teaching my son that it’s healthy to drink beyond your control.

In my 20s, I watched movies such as Bridget Jones’s Diary and Leaving Las Vegas, which glorified drinking your pain away. It was cool to experiment with addictions back then. It was easy to get lost in the fiction of other people’s lives on screen and feel like you were living it with them.

I don’t drink all the time. In fact, I can go days and weeks without drinking. I certainly can’t drink the next morning with a hangover, and I don’t crave it during the day. I used to say, “I’m not an alcoholic. I’m a binge drinker.”

I’m still an alcoholic. Those four words are very hard to say—even more so when you are struggling to be a great mother. I do believe that awareness is a start.

So why am I saying them now? I’m admitting my fault to you. You, my reader, because I know I’m not alone, and perhaps there are others who feel this same way.

There have to be other mothers who create their own misery the same way I do, drink by drink. Others have to wonder if there is something inherently wrong with them that they feel like they will never be right. Will this situation ever be right? That’s for me to decide, and I’m the only one who gets to choose which path I take, and the path of least resistance beckons.

I’m a smart woman who knows right from wrong. I’m just trying to make it the best way I know how, and while my choices are not always right…well, just know this: You are not alone.

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