I loved margaritas, martinis, and being a mother. I’m not sure what I liked most about the margarita. Was it was the salt, the sweet slushiness, the colossal glass, the tequila or the tequila chaser? Well let's get serious, it was the tequila I loved. How do I know this? Well, all I had to do to was to try the ‘virgin margarita,’ and that did it for me. Yuck! Add the word ‘virgin’ to anything, and I’m already turned off (pun definitely intended!)
I loved margaritas so much, that right after my first child was born, when a friend called me in the hospital and asked me if I wanted her to bring me anything, I replied, “Yes, bring me a pitcher of margaritas.” What I loved about the margarita was this: I thought it made me appear ‘lady-like’ instead of a barfly shooting shots.
I also loved martinis! I had the illusion martinis made me look classy and sophisticated. Somehow purchasing fancy expensive beverages seemed okay, but it was another way to hide my alcoholism.
Another great way to hide my alcoholism was to look good on the outside. How could I be an alcoholic? I owned a beautiful home, drove a nice car, kids were in private schools, taught aerobics, married to an attorney, and kept getting promoted in my job. I had the perfect job for an alcoholic. I was paid very well to take clients out to lunch which generally included a lot of drinking.
Alcohol was always with me. I threw lots of parties so I could make sure I wasn’t drinking alone. Social plans and interests revolved around drinking, and I hung out with people who drank as I did. Alcohol went with me to the park with the kids, the movies, long drives to the mountains with the kids in the car, kids sporting events, my bathtub, school events, and work.
I’ll never forget the morning of my son's interview at the Catholic grammar school. I had to have a friend drive me because I was still drunk from the night before. I was trying to hold it together when we met the nun for the interview. I was shocked when he got into the school. But it was the perfect school for me because all the school events served alcohol.
I never planned to stop drinking, and I didn’t think I had a problem with alcohol. I thought an alcoholic was the guy on the park bench wearing a raincoat with a bottle in a paper bag. But on November 12, 1999, everything changed.
That night I promised myself I was only going out for two drinks. I'd hired an eleven-year-old babysitter to watch my two, five, and eight-year-old children. I left at 7:00 p.m. and told her I’d be home in a couple of hours. Instead, I strolled in at 10:00 a.m. the next morning — I was still wearing the sequined gown from the night before, missing a shoe, and my hair and makeup were in shambles. The scene that met me there was heart-wrenching — my three children were lined up on the sofa in their pajamas, eyes filled with horror, staring at me, and my soon-to-be ex-husband shaking his head at me with disgust.
I loved being a mother and this was not the type of mother or the life I had planned for myself. With a foggy brain and crushing headache, I made a decision that day to stop drinking because I thought I'd lose my kids. I didn’t know it at that time, but that day I embarked on an incredible new journey of a life in recovery.
I was scared to death and had no idea how I would live my life without alcohol. I thought I was destined for a life of dread and misery. How would I ever have fun again? How would I do anything without alcohol? What would I drink at my daughter's wedding(she was eight years old at the time.) How would I raise these kids as a single mom without alcohol?
That night, I asked for help. I met women in recovery who used to feel the same way I did, and they shared how recovery gave them a life beyond their wildest dreams. These women came from all walks of life. Women of all ages, different cultures, some living in multimillion- dollar homes and some in tenements. Some of them told stories similar to mine and others vastly different.
These women talked about feelings of fear, shame, and guilt. At last, I knew I was not alone. I was intrigued by the miraculous stories of transformation I heard. Women in recovery who went from homeless to homeowners, broken to wholeness, self-hatred to self-love, and from resentment to forgiveness. These women taught me how to do the same and rebuild the fantastic life I have today.
Since then, I have worked with countless women, and I know our social standing, education, and self-knowledge don’t matter. When the alcohol or drugs get hold of us, we are taken over. We do things when we’re drinking and using that make us weep bitter tears when the high wears off.
In my recovery—eighteen years as of this writing— I never could imagine the beautiful life recovery has given me. Recovery is so much more than stopping drinking or other addictive behaviors.
I’ve laughed, felt deep joy, and had more fun than I ever had drunk. Recovery taught me to co-parent with my former husband, and I adore his wife, their beautiful young children, and so grateful to share holidays and fun times together. I have an authentic relationship with the most amazing friends and family. Words could never describe the close, loving, and incredible bonds I have with my children. I’ve found a faith in a Higher Power who I trust without a doubt is guiding me in my everyday life. It's taught me how to find peace, compassion, and forgiveness for myself and others.
I have also felt deep dark pain, gut-wrenching loneliness, my heart’s been broken, I’ve lost a home, and been in massive debt, and struggled with mental health issues. I didn’t have to pick up a drink or a drug, and I’ve come out on the other side of it all a better woman. Today I’m incredibly grateful to be a woman and mother in recovery. I'm honored to help other women and mothers still suffering from the devasting effects of addiction.
Getting clean and sober is like dropping a single rock into a still pond and sending healing ripples out to our family, friends, and all the people who share our journey of recovery.
Leave me a comment below. I'd love to hear your stories, thoughts, and ideas.
With over eighteen years of personal and professional experience, Rosemary O’Connor has helped thousands of people recover from addictions via her speaking engagements, workshops, private coaching sessions, and media interviews.
In response to the unaddressed needs mothers have in recovery, Rosemary wrote A Sober Mom's Guide to Recovery - Taking Care of Yourself to Take Care of Your Kids (Hazelden 2015).
She founded http://www.sobermomsguide.com, which offers resources and support for mothers in recovery and those interested in recovering from addiction.
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