“Haven’t you had enough yet?”
This is the question I asked myself, aloud, on the morning of May 2, 2013. I was hovered over my bathroom sink. My insides felt like they had been poisoned, which, I guess they had, and by my own doing. I could barely withstand my own weight, I was shaking so profoundly. I looked at my reflection in the mirror: a bloated shell of a young woman, harrowed and hung over.
I needed to pull myself together in order to get to my job where I worked as a special education teacher at a junior high, in Northern California. From the outside, I looked like I had it together: newly married, new house, trying for a baby. But everyday a terrifying thought would spin around in my head: all I’ve ever wanted is to become a mother, but I am willing to abandon that dream completely because I want to drink more. I knew that night I’d come home and do it all over again.
I couldn’t continue to live like this and had known for a while. The truth was, I wasn’t living at all; I was dying. At 29 years old, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I wanted my suffering to end, but I just didn’t think I could survive one day without alcohol, let alone an entire lifetime. The mental anguish, the obsession, had consumed every single part of me. I decided to try something I had never done before; I asked for help.
Fast forward 7.5 years and I now have three incredible daughters who have never seen their mother take even one sip of alcohol.
Sobriety doesn’t just happen. It’s a dedicated action that takes effort and support. It wasn’t until the pandemic that I decided to become a vocal and active sober advocate, especially among other mothers. I drew too many parallels between the isolation we have all been experiencing with the emergence of COVID-19 and the darkest days of my addiction. This push for Moms to use alcohol as a coping strategy for numbing out the struggles associated with parenthood has only gotten worse. So many Moms are blurring the lines of what’s an acceptable amount of intoxication to parent their children by creating what feel like valid excuses due to stress, anxiety, and depression.
As a sober alcoholic, friends and family often come to me to discuss worrisome alcohol consumption among themselves and their loved ones. I wonder if this sounds familiar:
What started out as two glasses a night of wine after the kids went to bed, reflecting on the challenges of the day with your partner, has now turned into drinking at least a bottle alone to dull the ache of everyday suffering. The “want” for a drink or drug has transformed into a “need.”
Right now, people are catapulting themselves from light to moderate drinkers and recreational drug users into full-blown alcoholics and addicts in the matter of a few short months. We are desperate to find anything to mute the mental anguish of this pandemic and the chaos it has left in its wake. We have become addicted to an addictive substance that falsely promises, “More, more will make all this hurting disappear.”
Please know this: You don’t need to live like that anymore. There is another way.
Although addiction is recognized as a treatable, chronic disease by the American Medical Association, it is still puzzling, largely in part by the stigma associated with it. People are quick to be sympathetic toward someone suffering from a mental health crisis, but they brush addiction off as the fault of the addict. What they fail to recognize is that these are one in the same. There’s a quote that says, “To one who has addiction, no explanation is necessary; to one without addiction, no explanation is possible.” When addiction has cost too many their lives, why don’t we try compassion and empathy? These things literally cost us nothing.
After an article I wrote entitled “How Dax Shepard’s Relapse is Saving my Sobriety” was published on Scary Mommy, I was given the opportunity to interview MJ Gottlieb, CEO and co-founder of Loosid, a sober social networking site whose mission is to normalize addiction and end the stigma and shame associated with the disease. Gottlieb shared the staggering statistic that within the first three weeks of COVD, his app saw a 1,900% increase in calls for help. Messages of desperation:“I have the pills lined up on my counter and I’m going to overdose. I can’t do this anymore.” Individuals who were pleading to be talked off the ledge, seeking help, suffering alone.
Gottlieb believes, “the opposite of addiction is connection” which is why, as a person in recovery himself, he created a network for those affected by addiction. Within the app, users can access helplines, treatment facilities, and sober chat groups, completely free of charge. They also offer “sober curious” groups, a safe space for testing the waters and getting answers to some of the hardest questions we have to ask ourselves. Loosid offers a glimpse into another way of life—including guides to sober living, sober dating, even sober vacation destinations. Even though so much of our society centers around wine tastings and happy hours, there is so much out there that doesn’t have to involve picking up a drink. Sober life is anything but boring!
Now more than ever, people are seeking connection. There’s a reason that, in a pre-COVID world, at the end of a 12-step meeting, we would form a circle and join hands. The circle represents that we walk through this journey together. There is something about relating to someone else’s experience, looking a fellow alcoholic in the eye, that reminds us we are all human and, most importantly, we are not alone.
And so, I will continue to be vocal about my experience in sobriety. I have found strength in this vulnerability. What was once a source of shame has become a doorway for others to acknowledge their struggle. By hearing a message of hope, it could mean the difference between someone dying of addiction and someone thriving in recovery.