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I Was Every 'Alcoholic Mother' Cliché for Years — Now Things Are Different

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Four years ago, my children and I unexpectedly started a new Mother’s Day tradition. Mother’s Day, 2014, is now a day seared into my memory, a day I will never forget, marking a tradition I’d like to continue forever.

For many years, I was everything a mother should not be. I was unreliable and untrustworthy. I broke promises, and I lied. I did not provide my children with the emotional and physical safety every child deserves. I was every alcoholic mother cliché: I drank around the clock and showed up places smelling like alcohol. I promised I would make it to important events, and then I would not show up. I would pass out when the children were in my care, and they would call their dad to come pick them up and take them to safety. Eventually, I lost custody and my time with them was limited to supervised visits for one, short hour each week.

Throughout my lowest lows, my kids still loved me and celebrated me on Mother’s Day. Their young minds could not make sense of the craziness that was me, yet their hearts never stopped loving me. Each year on Mother’s Day, my kids would present me with gifts they had made at school, and I would spend the day with them, promising myself I would not drink during our time together. They hugged me and showered me with love on Mother’s Day, even when I was at my lowest. I didn’t deserve those gifts or hugs at the time, but that is the beauty of children’s hearts — they forgive easily, and they love tremendously. I accepted their gifts and spent the day with them, year after year, as I struggled to find a way to get and stay sober.

Four years ago, I checked into rehab for the third and last time in my adult life. I stayed for six months. I learned, one step at a time, how to live sober. I learned how to process emotions and face challenges without picking up a drink. I learned how to laugh sober, fall asleep sober, and dance sober. Soon, I would learn to have fun with my kids sober, too.

On my first sober Mother’s Day, I was able to leave rehab for the day and take my kids to the local trampoline park, where we jumped for two hours. I was nervous and anxious about being a sober mom, but the kids were so happy to have just a few hours with me. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was feeling such a tremendous amount of guilt and shame over all the pain I had caused my children. I was consumed with thoughts of regret, and I wanted so badly to make it up to them — to be the mom they deserved all along. I knew I could not go back in time and change the past, but I was going to do everything in my power to give them the best mom they could dream of on that day. I made a conscious decision to make the day 100 percent about them. I wanted them to enjoy themselves. I wanted to say yes to their every request, put my fears and anxiety away, and be 100 percent present for them. I was not sure how to be a fun, sober mom, but I was willing to try.

So, I jumped and I jumped. We played arcade games and dodgeball. We did flips on the trampoline, and we jumped into the huge foam pit. I laughed so much with my kids that day — and somewhere in those moments at the trampoline park, I learned how to have sober fun as a mom. I did not need alcohol to calm my nerves or induce a good time. I simply needed my kids, myself, and the will to jump! My kids saw a new side of me at that Trampoline Park, and so did I. I realized that I kind of liked that side of me, too.

A New Mother's Day Tradition

As the day came to an end, I could not believe how wonderful of a day we had just had together. I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to be certain there would be more days to come just like this one. When it was time for our goodbyes, I kissed my kids and gave them each a long hug, as tears fell from our eyes. When they asked, “Mom can we come back here again soon?” I replied, “We will come here every year on Mother’s Day! It is our new tradition.”

And so, our tradition was born. It was born out of guilt and shame and fun and laughter. It was born out of the hope that we all had four years ago — that this sober version of me was not going anywhere. Alongside our excitement and love that day was an understandable fear that maybe this mom wouldn’t last. Even I held that same fear.

But that version of me is still here. I am much more comfortable in my sobriety today. My relationship with my kids has healed tremendously. I have regained 50 percent custody, and I would say I’ve kind of got the hang of being a sober mom.

This Mother’s Day, we will head back to that same trampoline park for sober Mother’s Day number four. I will say yes to every request, and hope that I can make my kids feel that they have the best mom in the world, if only for one day. I will look around that trampoline park and remember how scared and nervous I was just four years ago, and I will take a deep, slow breath of gratitude for the healing that has taken place in me, my children, and our lives. I will celebrate my kids this Mother’s Day — and somewhere inside me, I will also honor the four-year anniversary of the day I learned I could be a sober mom, and have fun doing it.

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