When I faced my alcoholism my daughters were 4 and 6 years old. I'd been a high-functioning alcoholic for years, managing to keep up a career and my roles as mother and wife. I didn't hide booze, didn't drink during the day but ultimately my weekend "me time" was bleeding into an overlying sense of shame and hatred.
When you're a weekend binger such as I was its often not as noticeable. I had become quite adept at masking my need for release that only the bottle brought me. I'd hire mommy's helpers who arrived Friday at 6 p.m. when the first bottle of wine was uncorked, never missed appointments or work and left my weekend schedules free of events that didn't include alcohol.
There is an art to creating a safe environment for such a habit, one that began to erode over time as my need to drink increased.
After too many years of blackouts and poor choices it all came to a head for me in February 2010, when I woke knowing that I had a choice: either continue down the path to full destruction or give up my coveted bottles of wine.
Thankfully, I made the choice to admit I was an alcoholic, and through the support of a 12-step program, my family and friends, I'm still journeying through life sober.
It's been a full-on battle not to turn to the habits of days gone by, one that I had never thought I'd be able to persevere through, but a simple glance into the innocent eyes of my daughters brings home the reality of my blessings every day.
Being a mother who is a drunk is a shameful existence; I can remember justifying each huge glass of wine I'd pour to myself. There was no end to my reasons; from a tragedy to a celebration, I could easily justify this culturally-acceptable behavior. For me though, each time I poured a glass I felt a nagging pull of conscience.
That should have been a wakeup call right there. When a person feels guilty for having a glass of wine there's a good chance they should take a long, hard look at their relationship with alcohol and ask themselves why they feel this way.
Listen, I'm not saying that anyone should stop drinking. That's a personal choice I cannot make for anyone but myself. What I am asking, in fact what I'm screaming to the world, is to be aware of the risk of drinking.
To those women who are using alcohol to cope with the stresses of daily living, I hope that this article will strike a chord in you. It simply takes us to log onto Facebook and glance at the status feeds to understand how our culture accepts this kind of behavior. "Is it wine o'clock," "Mummy Wine Time is almost here," and such greets the eye daily.
Taking the edge off with alcohol is a dangerous path to tread if you're not being cognizant of the potential effect it can have upon you. Take me as a prime example of the worst case scenario: I was an educated, loving wife and mother of two who would never have asked to be in the situation I found myself in.
These days I ask myself what I want to model for my daughters, from my clothing to my words I choose carefully. We as a culture claim to want to empower our children, to provide the best possible life and environments for them, and yet we reserve the right to behave any which way we want because we deserve it.
With technology making life easier we find ourselves living in a high-paced world filled with the need for instant gratification. Isn't it time we realize that some things are worthy of contemplation and serious thought?
In a world where we're surrounded by alcohol the statistics aren't difficult to see, but somehow we refuse to see how they apply to us directly. Instead, it's the pointing finger approach that is often taken. We are much more comfortable identifying alcoholics as the people who don't have a job, are in jails or the fall-down drunks across town.
If you are a parent the day will come when you'll be having the conversation with your children about alcohol. Can you honestly say you've been modeling a healthy relationship for them?
Today I live without a mask, unable to hide from my emotions and stresses. I've learned other healthy techniques that allow me to actually dig deep and live effectively in this busy world.
My daughters will never know that Mom who rushed around frantically keeping up with the Jones of life, the one who coped Mon-Friday subconsciously waiting for the release the first pour on Friday night would bring. I am grateful for the changes in my life and seek not to judge, but to impart my story in order to raise awareness of this insidious, progressive disease.
I ask only that you take a moment to reflect upon your relationship with alcohol, just to consider it for a moment and ask yourself if you've been depending upon it for more than a simple beverage, which it's supposed to be.
For more by Julie Elsdon-Height, click here.
For more on addiction and recovery, click here.
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