It wasn’t long ago that I could not imagine doing all the things I do as a mom without opening a bottle of wine every evening. That first glass always seemed to perk me up just enough to get the dinner, laundry, evening schoolwork routine running. I knew that I was drinking too much but I didn’t know how to juggle everything without the lift of the first glass of wine after work. I’m a mom, and I also work outside the home. I’m a high energy doer and a caregiver – I always ran full out all day and then rewarded myself, shut down, buzzed out necessarily I thought ! with wine. When I stopped drinking I was really worried that without my rocket fuel I would be useless. How could I do it all alcohol-free?
What I learned in my first two years of sobriety was that my wine time actually WAS necessary because I had MADE it so. The routine of drinking to shut down in the evening fed on itself. Rather than establishing genuine self-care routines over the early years of parenting, I had taught my brain and body to respond to a quick jolt of alcohol adrenaline to keep the marathon running.
At almost 5 years sober I’m still a doer. Much more so actually and happily so! But it took some time for me to learn how to balance what needs to be done, and what I want to do, against unrealistic expectations and assumptions of what everyone else needs from me. Alcohol-free me does what is essential and then enjoys doing what I want to do. I have learned how to actively delegate to others in my family and how to shut down and relax without getting blasted by alcohol. I’ve learned how to respond to what I feel and what I need rather than numbing it out.
But I had to learn those things. Learning self-care and establishing routines that have made it possible for me to say sober and revel in my alcohol-free life took time and focus.
Everything starts at the beginning and this is where I began…
A couple of things made it possible for me to stay sober and functional in the first weeks :
In the first weeks alcohol-free, most people find that any stress in the evening can quickly become an excuse to drink. Parents often have evenings that are relentless with family activities and responsibilities piled on at the end of an already exhausting workday. Alcohol is an unusual drug. It acts as a stimulant when it first hits your brain and then later a depressant. So it winds you up and then brings you down. That is really the perfect mix for those crazy busy parenting evenings. The problem is that alcohol, by nature, is addictive and tends to take over and overwhelm you when used regularly.
Turn your day upside down –
In the early weeks of sobriety, you may find that you go to sleep much earlier than you did when you were drinking. Move the busy, focused energy time where you handle the necessary daily dues to early morning. You may already get up early but I’m talking about deciding to get up an hour earlier or even two. Even if you do NOT want to…. get up ! At 5 or even 4. You will most likely find that after you’ve had a cup of coffee or tea and a shower, that the extra hour or two in the morning is super productive. I have found that the early morning is GOLD for peaceful productivity.
The evening is then for rest:
If you have found that there is nothing you want to do at night but drink ( don’t worry that is temporary, it will pass!) go ahead and let yourself go to sleep at 8:30 or 9 or even hit the sack at 7 and read safely and quietly snuggled under your covers. If you have a child or children at home invite them to quietly snuggle under the covers reading with you.
Set up Boundries with Your Family :
My son and daughter had absolute rock-solid instructions that there was to be no unnecessary drama in my early weeks alcohol-free. I told them that it was going to feel really weird to me not to drink and I needed their help.
So no bullshit.
Real problems that actually needed my attention were allowed to be brought to me in my inner sanctum of calm ( the bathtub) but absolutely no ridiculous he said she said attention-seeking drama.
Believe it or not, that worked!
Me being 100% present in the evenings, calm and alcohol-free every night, was important enough to my children for them to help me out – They were happy to cut out their 11-year-old brother/15-year-old sister theatrics in exchange for no more drunken drama from me.
Do Not Over-Extend Yourself for a While:
I was often taking on a lot of things that I did not need to be taking on and did not want to be taking on but I didn’t realize that.
Right now it is best if your focus at work is to do what NEEDS to be done, the essentials. You do not need to be a superhero. Right now sober is your superpower. It will pay off a thousand times over if you stick to not drinking today. Let that be enough for now.
You are healing:
If you let yourself heal you WILL heal but it does take some time and it requires rest- Self Care in Early Sobriety
My mom was a teacher and a single parent. I understand that there is most likely no more stressful combination BUT there is also no more rewarding combination for sobriety. Kids see it. They see the peace in your eyes. They will respond to that when you put down the wine. You’ll feel doubly good about what you’re doing when you look in their eyes.
This living alcohol-free thing we’re doing is a powerful thing. It’s about taking back the beauty of what is simple and true in you. Being proud of it. Reveling in it. Growing with it . No one can appreciate that more than a child. And you don’t even have to talk about it 🙂 Just look into their eyes.
If you give yourself that time and let yourself heal it will benefit you hugely in your work. You will be a much better professional sober than you were on the drink drunk repeat cycle-
Your brain will grab a hold of or create stress to justify having a therapeutic drink or ten – more reading How to Override your Lizard Brain
That’s a lie, don’t be fooled – more reading Silencing the “Drink Now” voice
Be Super-efficient and predictable with your evening routine and prepare for your week on Sunday.
I came up with 4 or 5 super easy dinners that I could make in ten or fifteen minutes and just repeated them over and over for a while so that I didn’t have to think and wasn’t challenged in any way by my ” mommy responsibilities” in the evening.
So on Sunday before lunch. I stocked up for the week and I made sure that I had batter for quinoa wraps, quinoa soaking for pizza, tomato sauce, grated cheese, salmon filets, lots of broccoli, hamburgers, buns, chips, ricotta and spinach tortellini, homemade soups ….. in the fridge ready for Dinner on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday ….. so that I did not have to go to the store or think about dinners at all –
I also made sure that I had stuff on hand to make my lunches with so that I didn’t have to think about lunch. Lunchtime was used for reading stuff that would inspire me to keep going, or I’d run home and do a bit of the domestic chores that I might normally leave for night time.
And I stocked up on Sunday, on treats as well. I made sure that I had lots of green tea bags so that I could take a big thermos of it to work. And ice cream and bath salts- Stuff to treat yourself with, stuff to relax with, make sure it’s waiting for you when you walk in the door
I assigned the kids more jobs than they’d ever had before…even simple things like put away your folded clothes or sort the socks into balls, they are still doing those jobs! and lots more! Because kids love having sober parents … they are more than happy to carry a bit more of the load in exchange for no drunken drama from the adults in their lives
And last but not least!
Alcohol is the perfect drug !
It works as both a stimulant and a depressant – The alcohol effect on middle aged “fun” sensors
That first glass when you walk in the door after work actually does give you a bit of energy and focus… before it knocks you out into a puddle of drunken stupid.
So if you have work you need to do in the evening find an alcohol-free replacement. Hot tea, dark chocolate, a hot shower, a run, dance in your kitchen to this That’ll get you going :)))
And know that every single day you say no to the numbing fluid you become a bit more fully alive and fully yourself and I can tell you from the vantage point of almost 5 years of sobriety THAT ROCKS! The Alcohol Dopamine Hit – a Pleasure and Pain Dichotomy
Go get some rest….. You’re Healing
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