Never in a million years did I think I would EVER give up alcohol. EVER. I thought it made me a better mother. It seemed to make the harder things easier. I believed I deserved the reward at the end of the day and the unlimited binge drinking on the weekends because being a mom is hard and is a lot of work. I thought my drinking was acting as a way to relieve stress and that it was fun to do, and why wouldn’t I do it because everyone else was?! Let’s face it…it wasn’t all about my kids, it was still about me, so why should I feel like I have to make a change in something that I thought was benefiting me and that I enjoyed?
I remembered tons of times after I took the first drink, getting that euphoric buzz thinking “Ah…this feels so good, I will NEVER give this up! I will figure out how to take control of my drinking so I never have to!”
I had an immense amount of cognitive dissonance around drinking over the years – since I started drinking in my teenage years. On one hand, I loved the way it made me feel initially and I felt like it acted like a magic potion, helping the introverted Alison come out of her shell, allowing her to feel more comfortable and outgoing in social situations. On the other hand, I knew how bad it was for my physical and mental health, and I HATED the hangovers and how it truly sucked all the energy out of me, even on days after I didn’t drink. But I was so afraid to let it go and didn’t know if I could even do it!
I am proud to say that I have been alcohol-free for over 3 years. How did I go from “never in a million years would I EVER give up alcohol” to “I am proud to be an alcohol-free mom!”? Two main reasons pushed me over the edge and motivated me to change my lifestyle. My 2 “whys.”
First, I made a conscious decision to make my health a priority. Worrying that I would someday develop breast cancer as a result of my heavy drinking was completely wearing on me. I worried about what my brain health would be like when I got older. The fact that I was knowingly hurting my physical, mental and emotional health by drinking unhealthy amounts of alcohol was eating away at my dignity.
Second, when my boys were little, I always figured they were too young to understand and notice that I was drinking unhealthy amounts of alcohol, so I was good. They had no clue. Once my twins turned 10 years old, my unhealthy habits started to completely consume me. I became very worried and concerned that they were noticing and observing my negative relationship with alcohol. I was essentially teaching them that it was necessary to have an alcoholic beverage in your hand to have fun and enjoy life or when life gets tough.
I decided to reevaluate my situation and make a choice. I could either carry on as I had been and mold them into young men who could potentially develop a risky relationship with alcohol when they get older (like I did), or model a healthy lifestyle where I make healthy choices and lead their future in a positive direction the best I can.
Since I decided to become an even better role model for my sons, the rewards keep showing up in my life. My boys are impressed that I am following my passion to support other moms who are in similar situations as I was. I do not preach to my sons. I live my life as an example that they are present to witness. One of my sons has said to me a few times that when he gets older, he is not going to drink alcohol. My now 15 year old twins have both talked to me about how they know alcohol can mess up your brain and they both have goals to have a bright future with their education and continue having fun playing sports. Being open with my sons around the subject and hearing them share with me their take on all of it, is reward and motivation enough to stay on my alcohol-free path.
I am not naive, I understand my boys are still young and they will encounter many situations where peer pressure will be involved, but I am warm-hearted knowing that by modeling a healthy lifestyle is not only benefiting myself, but those who are most important to me.
Just becoming aware of what is going on in your life instead of always being on autopilot can make a world of a difference and open doors and opportunities that were completely unexpected. Awareness is the first step.
While my life was in a sense stagnant when I was a drinker, since then I have flourished and continue to grow as a person in so many ways. I would not trade it in for anything.