[This story is my story. Last week I emailed Annie Grace to thank her for her work and to tell her about the impact it has had on me. Her team replied and asked me to submit my story for publication on their blog. Fingers crossed it will be published in a few weeks, but I wanted to post it here in the meantime.]
I am typing very slowly. Pondering, as I deliberately click and clack away at these keys, how to summon words that could possibly capture how profoundly This Naked Mind and The Alcohol Experiment have changed my life and the lives of people I don’t even know. (More on that in a moment.)
So. Much. Gratitude. And I haven’t even finished The Alcohol Experiment yet! (I’m on Day 27 of The Experiment, and day 40 alcohol-free.)
A little about me: I am a stay-at-home mom of two amazing/occasionally soul-sucking kids, ages 4 and 6. I have a wonderful husband and two delightful dogs, and we live outside NYC. I left my non-profit fundraising career (and the tiny paycheck that came with it) to raise my family. I volunteer for a local colon cancer organization and our town’s ambulance corps, writing and fundraising and generally trying to keep the professional part of my brain active and challenged.
But I am a mom, first and foremost. An ever-aspiring supermom. Some days I get there, most days I don’t. I used to guilt myself about that – about failing to do all the things. And I would relieve my guilt by opening a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc during the witching hour, and drinking more of it than I planned or wanted. The anticipation as I’d pour the chilled vino into my oversized wine glass, and those first few crisp, tangy sips, would take the edge off whatever kiddie and/or doggy chaos was happening around me. I’d feel a boost of energy (Hello, dopamine! Hello, sugar!) as my body donned the invisible alcohol-armor I thought I needed to battle through dinner, bath, and bed time.
By the time my kids were scarfing their hot dogs and refusing their broccoli, I’d usually have a pleasant buzz. When bath time finally arrived, I’d send them upstairs to pick out their pajamas while I chugged the rest of my glass, steeling myself for the next hour and a half of our nightly routine. At some point during those 90 minutes, pleasantly buzzed mama turned into irritable, short-fused mama. And it was all downhill from there. I couldn’t wait to get my kids to sleep so that I could pour myself another glass of wine as my reward for surviving another sanity-shredding day of stay-at-home-mamahood.
I would go to bed in a sea of shame (compounded by my efforts to hide my drunkenness from my husband), sleep like crap, and wake up in the middle of the night soaked with sweat that felt like the physical manifestation of my self-loathing. In the morning I would walk my dog and try to shake off my hangover, promising myself I would not drink that night. Then the witching hour would strike, and you know the rest.
I was stuck in a vicious cycle, revolving around the ever-present bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. The stress of sacrificing myself – as I used to see it – in order to raise the greatest human beings to ever walk the planet made me a devoted subscriber to the mommy juice myth. Until it didn’t.
Cut to 2017. My son turned three and I decided I was tired of feeling fat and exhausted. I joined Weight Watchers and lost 23 pounds in ten weeks, which felt amazing. Yet I still found ways to drink too much. I would save half my daily points and use basically all my weekly points for wine. I was no longer fat, but still felt exhausted and gross. My discomfort with my drinking had been growing for a long, long time. Finally, in December 2017, I wrote a post on the Weight Watchers social media network, Connect, saying I was going to commit to Dry January. I started following a few people who posted using #sobersisters, for inspiration and support. I was terrified and felt ashamed that my life had come to this – that I was writing to strangers on a weight loss app, desperate to not feel alone in my struggle. Desperate for connection, community, and support.
And that’s exactly what I got. In spades.
Even though I was dreading it, Dry January was a joyous and revelatory month for me. Through Connect, I learned about This Naked Mind. I read it, I wrote about it, I didn’t want it to end. But it did, and so did Dry January.
Over the next six weeks alcohol regained control of the reins, and I felt myself slipping back down into that damn pitcher plant. During one of the several nor’easters we had this winter, we lost power for four days. Not the end of the world, but no picnic either. The moment the power came back on, I opened a bottle of wine to soothe my frayed nerves and over the course of a few hours I drank the whole thing. Later that night, I threw up.
I used to drink a bottle of wine in an evening once or twice a week, and it would never make me sick. Hungover, yes, but not sick. But instead of throwing myself a pity party, I decided this was my turning point. Here was my body showing me how far I’d come since January 1. Here was my body telling me, “Nah girl, we don’t do this anymore.”
I knew I needed to take another booze break. I appealed to my Connect friends (at this point, having written about my Dry January journey, I had a couple hundred followers) and several recommended The Alcohol Experiment. I signed up immediately with relief and excitement.
I decided I would write about it, too. It’s been 40 days since I started The Experiment, and I now have 733 followers on Connect. I write about each day, synthesizing the lesson and adding content from my journal entries. It has been an incredible personal exercise for me, and I have been blown away by the thoughtful, sometimes joyful and sometimes searing comments that others write in response. A beautiful community has formed around the work of Annie Grace. She is recommended, she is quoted, she is celebrated for the way she has empowered us all.
Have I mentioned how grateful I am?
The Connect platform is fairly arcane, which was frustrating for me when I wanted to access previous posts I’d written. So I decided to put my posts up on a blog which I call Maintaining Mama. No one reads it except my mom and my best friend, but I’m ok with that. It’s just a landing place for my writing while I decide what I want to do.
I want to do something bigger. I’m not sure what yet. But I want to be a resource for others who feel like they can’t put down their mommy juice. I don’t want any mom, or anyone, to feel alone in her struggle like I did. The phrase “the opposite of addiction is connection” – from that phenomenal video on Day 22 – could not have rung more true or literal for me. Connect has become a lifeline and, I think, a jumping off point.
This Naked Mind is at the heart of it all. It’s part of me and so many others I have become privileged to support on Connect. I don’t know any of these people, and only know a few of their names. But I do know that we are all in a better, healthier place because of Annie Grace.
As for the dreaded witching hour? It passes with nary a white knuckle these days. My kids still drive me bonkers with their occasional monkey business. But I now relish the good moments with presence and energy that alcohol denied me for too long. I have never felt more like myself, and I am finally becoming the supermom I want to be.