The smell of bug spray permeates the air and the sunscreen bottles are eternally empty. We have to walk out the door 10 minutes before leaving to perform our elaborate spray routine before scooting to camp. Their caps are sweaty and their socks are muddy. The blow up pool has been rotated around he backyard enough times that the indented grass spots present as extra terrestrial crop circles from the ever present planes flying above. I wake up every morning this summer with enormous gratitude that I get to have all this right outside our door.
It’s the time of year when folks gather for drinks and relaxation at every turn and it includes a lot of alcohol and at times stifling heat. Two things that, if indulged, turn me into a monster.
My kids turned 6 and a half recently. They are incredible. They are the most fun. As they finished kindergarten this year and look forward to first grade, we have two full months of Summer to make the absolute most of. Last summer was our kindergartenmoon and I am not nearly as emotional as I was last summer for several reasons but I still intend to suck every drop out of these two months. While sober. I am the sober mom, after all.
When I breathe deeply this summer and hear the squeals from the backyard I am reminded of how simple this really is. They are in camp for four hours some days and I get to work and have some alone time – maybe go to the gym – listen to my music – read – write. Maybe. And then the rest of the time, we are together. We are in the summer reading program at the library so we are working on reading (but when are we not visiting the library our very favorite place) but that’s our only structured program and even that is not that structured.
There were a lot of things, moments, that were incredibly hard when they were babies and then toddlers. But these days, the logistical part of mothering is more intense. The getting them to and from where they need to be and making sure they have what they need and all the exploring and fun things we get to do, well it requires PRESENCE. It requires that we SHOW UP. Babies and toddlers need us for safety and food and cleanliness and love. Kids need us for so much more. And it’s just incredibly humbling that I get to do all this with them. For them. Alongside them. It really is, in between the maddening and frustrating and protective mothering moments, the most fun.
It feels so incredibly fleeting and precious, these Summers with them. I am taking it easier and not filling every minute with activity, but slowing down and just listening to them read or play pretend with them or sit on the stoop and paint nails while chatting with neighbors.
Summer is this stand still time of year – both in time if we so choose it and in stagnant heat – where I used to feel like I was missing out on so much if I didn’t attend parties and concerts and festivals and just DRINK. I see the shandys and the gin & tonics and I have a moment of longing but then I snap out of it knowing that it would take my space away. It would wrap it’s tentacles around me and never let me go.
It would ignite the spark of longing for more that I have worked so hard to erase. The staying in this very moment business is difficult to achieve but during the Summer I’m practicing even harder to be present with them. The best way for me to begin that – to stay in that – is to be sober.
Being in and of my body – this exact body not the one I had or could have – is about breathing into it and out of it and knowing that this is exactly where I am meant to be. All these years of sobriety, all these years of practicing being mindful and grateful and available for whatever crosses my path has prepared me for this. To enjoy this. To be part of this right here and right now.
So every walk to camp, every freeze pop, every mosquito bite reaction, every bike and scooter ride, every nature walk, every mocktail, every sip of cold, clean water has special meaning to me. It may seem mundane or dull to many, but to me, it is absolute paradise.
Summer. Sobriety. I am the sober mom.
It would seem I’m in the minority. It would seem I am alone in the sea of cute bedazzled wine glasses and happy hours with pedicured feet, beer cozies and a pool view.
I am the sober mom. I am a mom and I don’t drink. I am the mom who CANNOT drink. I am the mom who chooses not to drink.
This is a lonely place to be at times when it seems every mom on the internet and every mom on your block is partaking. The pictures on social media are enough to make me want to drink, if I didn’t have a solid foundation of sobriety.
It is a heavy responsibility to be the sober mom. I don’t take it lightly. But it doesn’t mean I strike fear into anybody or make it their issue. I just stand firm in my sobriety and nobody gets hurt. This is my deal, my responsibility, nobody else’s. And in NO WAY am I a downer. There’s a difference between taking care of yourself – knowing what’s best for you – and putting your problem on somebody else who doesn’t have your problem.
Most folks can let loose and relieve their stress with some drinks. As the sober mom, I don’t have that option. So I can either choose to be bitter about it OR I can be the best mom I can be in spite of it. BECAUSE of it. I get to make that choice every day. Am I grateful or am I bitter with resentment? I’ve tried it both ways, and choosing to be grateful is SO MUCH EASIER and joyful than the alternative. Being bitter and resentful is a lot of work. I’m not into it, man. Not anymore.
Would I like a drink to loosen up and forget my troubles a bit? OF COURSE. Actually no, I don’t want a drink, but sure, it would be so very nice to not be so damn sober all the time. Still. It’s been almost 18 years and I still want it. I will always want it. That’s the obsession. It remembers. And it would take only one to spark it back up again. Maybe not immediately, but the obsession would start in and I would eventually be doomed. That’s why one is too many and one hundred is never enough.
Look, I am not thrilled with my yelling and shortness of temper when I hear, “she/he went first last time” for the 158th time that day (twins, man), but I cannot imagine how absolutely horrifically I would respond (if at all) if I were drinking. I shudder.
There is a freedom in recovery that comes from acceptance and finding joy in the everyday things. I get to be free from the bondage of where my next drink will come from and when, I get to be free from the blackouts and the forgetting, I get to be free from hangovers and just the entire cycle of doom and gloom. No matter how awful a day is now, it’s not THAT. Gratitude abounds. And I get to be present and not miss a thing with these kids.
Luckily for me, I’ve accepted that I can’t ever drink like other moms. There is no judgement from me and hopefully no judgment from them. The only people who give me shit about my not drinking are the folks who usually have a problem themselves. The rest just let it roll off like water down a duck’s back.
I’m trying to think if I knew any moms who didn’t drink while I was growing up. I remember all kinds of parties for my brother’s soccer team and drinking was the main activity. I don’t remember anybody being openly sober. That may be simply because it wasn’t so openly discussed back then. But you know what? I’m going to be that mom. I’m going to be openly sober and talk about it – when it’s appropriate – with my kids.
My job is not to scare these kids or tell them they can’t or shouldn’t drink. That’s no way for a kid to grow up. Just because Mommy is an alcoholic does NOT mean that they will be too. Neither of my parents are alcoholics, and here we are. But my kids will be aware of where they came from. Who their mama is. They should have the facts and be able to talk about it and ask questions and know that they are safe. They will make their own choices ultimately, but I am their guide. I will lead by example. Whether that’s a good example or a poor one is up to me. I hope they are proud of me – even if not right away. Hopefully they will never see their mother drunk. Their father sets the example of being able to drink moderately (WHAT?) and lead a responsible life. So we have the best of both worlds in our family.
It’s not always easy being the sober mom. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to say, “I don’t drink” when somebody new offers me a drink in hospitality and make it all awkward, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Maybe just maybe, I’m a beacon to somebody else who needs it out there who is just watching. Not all moms drink to let off steam. Or even if you do feel like you NEED to you don’t HAVE to. Once you live sober for a while you find other outlets for your stress and your happiness. And it is so good. We are not alone, us sober moms. I’m honored to be in this position with you. One day at a time. And if you are not here with us yet, or never will be, I’m here with you too.