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. I’d been 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 crap all day 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. Mothers group nights out catapulted me into a whole new style of heavy binge drinking. The day to day grind of motherhood accentuated my indulgence. When I was expected to be tucking in, singing lullabies, I was going out and dancing on speakers in a dodgy underground nightclub.
Weeks would pass being a good mummy. I had the right snacks, the softest cotton wraps and a sporty three wheeled pram. I had wipes on hand for any unpredictable leaks, 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 80’s dancing.
I wanted to go out and be me again.
Drunk me, the only me I knew.
Heavy drinking on Mums nights out became my escape.
I heard the crying again. There was no point in feeding my son, my milk was toxic. Spoiled. The sun shone through the bedroom window, cutting the room in half. As I closed the curtains I had a sudden flashback to the night before. Stumbling around in the bathroom with my bra shoved down around my waist, demanding my husband hand the baby over. My sequin dress lay on the floor 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 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.
It wasn’t meant to be this way.
I thought I’d be a rockstar mum that partied, got the kids mohawks and wore ripped jeans. This motherhood thing was ruining my fun, interrupting my hangovers. Giving me consequences.
As I sat in my bed trying to push the memories from the night before out of my mind, 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 hoping to fall asleep.
But 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 been getting progressively worse every time I went on a bender. Being the drunkest person at every pub, club or wake for the past 26 years was catching up with me. I was losing my sparkle, suffering with terrible panic attacks and low self-worth. I felt depressed, I was lost and had no idea how to stop.
And then the baby.
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 bathrobe 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.”
At last, I had 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 counseling service and dialed the number.
“Hello, I’m Vicky. I’m a mum who 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, instead she said, “Yes, we can help with that.”
I booked an appointment.
That is the moment my sober story began. Reaching out saved me. Therapy cracked me open and helped me understand the reasons why I always overdid it.
I got to know the girl hiding behind the bottle and most importantly, I got to like her.
One Saturday evening, not long after my 12 weeks of counseling had finished, I remember tucking the baby into bed and saying to my husband, “What shall we do tomorrow? A picnic?”
It may sound like a simple statement, but it was the first time in my adult life that I’d considered doing something fun on a Sunday.
It was the moment I became an available parent instead of a drunken one. And I haven’t had a drink since.
I’m determined to never waste a Sunday again.
Victoria Vanstone lives on the East coast of Australia with three uncontrollable children, a scruffy dog and a very patient husband. Read more on her blog www.drunkmummysobermummy.com.
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