My kid brought me this lego figure recently and said, “mama, this looks just like you” and I was simultaneously flattered and a bit concerned because I mean, look at this face…
But in his sweetness he proudly said, “because you are so strong and she has short hair like you”. I grabbed him and hugged him so hard because, well, because this is how he sees me and that ain’t such a bad thing. Fierce mama? I will take it.
But also, this is what I’ve become. Because I’ve had to as life has made me a bit on edge and on guard and ready to face whatever needs facing even when I really don’t want to. And I need other women in order to be this fierce. I cannot do this without other women. But I also love. Oh how I love and receive love in return.
In living my life as a sober mama and a fierce woman who is unafraid of my rage or anger or enormous capacity for love and grace, I hope that my kids see that and know it’s all ok. I hope I raise feminists who value women in all their complexity and acknowledge, celebrate, and feel every single feeling in healthy ways.
I used to really not be happy. I don’t know if I’m happy today but I’m not actively trying not to be. Happy is something that feels forced. Joyful seems more attainable. There are moments of such enormous joy today that I cannot believe I almost missed it all.
It’s been almost 20 years since I had a drink but it still feels close. I still remember so much of it in my bones. There’s a thing that used to happen when I would drink. It was a click. I would drink until I could feel it starting to get fuzzy. Blurry. Surreal. But to me it didn’t feel surreal, it just felt real. It was what made me feel like my truest self. Of course I had no idea who my truest self was back then. It was a moment of smooth warmth taking over my body, my brain, my better judgement. I longed for that click. It’s what kept bringing me back. It’s what could bring me back on any given day, really. That click. That warmth.
I try to explain to my kids – when they ask – why I don’t drink beer or wine and I tell them because it made me feel not like myself. I felt unsteady and sad and didn’t make good choices when I drank beer and wine. I get to feel more joy when I don’t drink. And they celebrate my yearly coins with me and know that mama doesn’t drink. Ever. If I keep making the next good choice.
There’s a thing about women and alcohol where we think it makes us more of who we are. Who we should be. And that’s bullshit. We are perfect exactly as we are. We have so much expected of us and somehow it’s also become expected that when we are overwhelmed or feeling less than or wishing to change who we are, we will self medicate. And that is also bullshit.
We are who we are, and the longer I’m sober, the longer I don’t believe that I had or have so many flaws. I was made to believe there were things that were wrong with me, that I needed to change myself in order to be a better version of myself. And while that’s certainly true, that we should be evolving and bettering ourselves throughout our lives, there is nothing so wrong with me that I needed to drink myself into somehow believing THAT was a more acceptable version of me. A version that was acceptable to the world. The more subdued, vulnerable, more thoughtful, often carrying some rage, grace granting, oft internalized person that I really am, have always been, is perfect. I don’t need to be more outgoing. I don’t need to be anything but who I am.
This is what I’m telling you, women, in particular. You are perfect just as you are and a drink or a drug will not make you any better and it certainly won’t make you like yourself any better after it’s worn off.
I wasn’t invincible, I wasn’t any more beautiful than I was before taking that drink, I wasn’t sexy or in control. My insecurities were just stuffed away for this next bout and they would rear their ugly heads when the fog lifted once again.
There’s a thing that happens when you stop drinking. Your life doesn’t begin and end with the click. It just keeps going.
I remember the click and then the coming down as if it were yesterday because I see it happening in women around me. I remember so I remember.
I won’t tell you I don’t still long for that click some days. Some days, I want that click so badly, I look for it in all sorts of ways. Food, smoking, attention, shopping, coffee, denial, procrastination.
Most days though, I am ok. Most days I don’t miss it at all. Sure, I live with anxiety spikes and depression is never a stranger, but most days, I am ok. I have a clear head. That is still astounding to me.
Couple all this with Perimenopause, and well, we’ve got ourselves a real party.
I see the Rose All Day and the There’s a chance this is vodka crowd and I take a pass. I am not the mommy with booze in her coffee cup. Today. But I know many women are and while many can handle it, many cannot. Many cannot. Many are escaping and denying and acting as if this is all normal, when like so many other things happening today, this is not normal. The posts on the mom groups for my kids school that 90% of the time incorporate alcohol are unappealing to me. I can scroll on by and I can pass on attending those functions.
The way society acts as if mommys all need booze in their cups to get through a day is destructive and not at all healthy. Don’t fool yourselves. But I get it. Boy do I get it.
I know some of these women want off this boozy ride because THEY TELL ME THEY WANT OFF. They reach for me every single day and I am here. I am always here. Join me if you want to. If you don’t want to or aren’t ready, I am still here, holding space for you. You’ve got a friend in me.
I say all this gently and without any judgment, because nobody gets this more than me. Nobody understands what booze does for a woman more than I do. So I say to you women – you don’t have to drink. You don’t have to drink. You don’t have to drink.
Those of you who think I am bonkers for not drinking, or for merely suggesting this, I understand that too. I never ever understood what fun could be had with a clear head. What self love could I find without altering my view of myself with that boozy alter ego I had? Without all the mind-altering substances. What kind of escape do you have? Well, I don’t have an escape today. And that’s ok.
The thing with women and alcohol is that it robs us of things that we women in particular work so hard to achieve our whole lives. Our dignity, our confidence, our vast love, our empathy, our enduring strength, our nurturing spirit. Not to mention the overbearing shame of it all. To be a woman and say I am an alcoholic is still something that is somewhat taboo. Even though more and more of us are out here shouting it out and saying, come sit with us, it’s still something so many women hide away.
I am without a buffer or a blackout. I am without an escape. But I am walking through it and I am not fragile. My kids need me to be strong but I also cry in front of them when I’m sad or too stressed. It’s ok to show them that I feel the same things they do and I want them to be able to express it, work through it, and carry on. Mostly what they see though is a mom who is fully present and is grateful as hell to be their mom. A mom who thinks they are the most astounding wonderful thing in the entire world and while we walk through our mistakes and learn together, we love. Oh how we love. I am here and I am for them.
Sobriety brings with it so many feelings. Many I had stuffed and many I never allowed myself to feel in the first place as the first child and the daughter and the virgo and the people pleaser. I’ve done a lot of work on myself but there is always more to do. This next phase just brings more opportunity to try and fail and try and succeed. It’s never over. I never get to check everything off my list.
Whatever you may be recovering from or wish to be recovering from, I am for you. This is The Joy and Ferocity of Recovering Womanhood, because aren’t we all in recovery from something?
What I don’t get to stuff or miss or blur away are all the incredibly small and big moments that happen each and every day. The 100 days of school shirts that were covered with 100 cats each. Incidentally, 200 cats is the number I’d like to have in our home. The songs they make up. The jokes they tell. Their kindness and curiosity. How my girl loves nothing more than making me laugh and school days. The philosophical questions my boy asks me all day long that I struggle to answer without letting him in on my anger and rage about some things and let him form his own opinion. The way my husband makes me cry with laughter over stupid shit. The incredibly valuable visits with my parents and brother and nieces and nephews even when my kids are projectile vomiting all over me. The joy of connection with my friends and carrying myself into work and life with the confidence of someone who has nothing to regret or feel ashamed of. My little mama messaging me, “You are the most grateful person I know. Don’t ever let anybody steal that from you”. And so I DON’T. All these things, these moments that cannot be missed, aren’t. Won’t be. Because I am not drinking today.
No matter how long I’m sober, no matter how long it’s been that I have been working on myself, on my coping skills, on my processing emotions, on my ability to care for myself among all the others I care for, it all still feels hard and new. I don’t know if that ever goes away, but I do know that no matter how hard it is, I want to do it. Because I know the alternative of not, and well, that’s not for me. I’m certainly not a butterfly fully emerged yet and hell I may never be, but by gods, there is something to that, isn’t there?
And remember, you do not have to drink. You are perfect exactly as you are today. I am perfect exactly as I am today. And drinking certainly won’t make anything better.
Speaking of the joy and Ferocity of womanhood, I did this great podcast called Your Mom Friend. It celebrates every woman and the connections we can find when we look for them. Oh, and bed pie.