Life in 3 acts

3 things I’m doing differently as a mother

Below is a picture of the moment that I became a mother.

This photo was taken about 12 hours after Anna was born…about 12 hours after I technically and biologically became a mother.  However, the first 12 hours of Anna’s life remain a blur to me. Her delivery was tough and I lost a lot of blood. So, instead of spending the first few hours of her life bonding with her, I was in and out of consciousness while she was cared for in the hospital nursery.

This photo was snapped by Kevin the following morning, once I was out of recovery and Anna was brought to me for the first time. I remember being shocked at how beautiful she was. When I saw her the first time, immediately after being born, she was a typical newborn–purple, coated in schmutz and, adding insult to injury was her conehead and wonky eyes–a direct result of the beating she took during delivery (let us not even speak of the beating I took during delivery).

In the moment that you’re seeing above, overcome with the fact that I’d made this perfect, whole and beautiful creature so full of potential, I made a vow to Anna to be the best mother I knew how to be. I knew that there were injustices from my childhood that I wanted to correct and, in that very moment, I knew that I had the opportunity to break a cycle.

I wish that one of the promises that I’d made to her that day was to stop drinking, but that wasn’t one of them–at least not yet.  At that time in my life, I knew that I’d need to stop drinking at some point in the future, but I also knew that motherhood would be hard and that I’d need to rely on “mommy’s little helper” a little too. Thankfully, I did quit drinking in the coming years but here is a list of the other cycles that I vowed to break on that day:

  1. Marry money, honey” : Beginning as a very small child, I can remember first commenting to my mother about a nice house or a nice car…or even a nice purse, my mother’s standard response was always a dismissive, “Well, marry money, honey.” It wasn’t until I was a lot older that I really stopped to consider what that meant. What my mother was effectively saying to me–even if it was just in jest, was this, “you’ll only be able to have nice things if you find a man to take care of you.” Funny thing is, that I didn’t marry a man with money. Instead, I married a man with big dreams and tons of confidence who taught me how to set goals and encouraged me to go after what I wanted in life. And that’s the message that we’re giving our kids too. When Anna remarks on a nice item, my standard response is, “Work hard. Do the right thing. Study. Make good choices and earn it yourself.” I can’t even conceive of ever making Anna feel like she wasn’t capable of earning something on her own the, hard way.
  2. Talking about other people (gossip): When I was a young girl, I knew all of the community gossip. I know now that probably my mother just lacked friends to talk to, but often times, I was the one that she gossiped to. I was included in adult conversations that I had no business being a part of. Even at an early age, I knew who in our community was in an unhappy marriage, who was still pining for their high school sweetheart, whose children might not be biologically related to the man who raised them…basically, I knew way more than any child should know (or any other person NOT DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN THE RELATIONSHIP should know.). I remember learning early on, that rush of knowing something about someone and how that garnered me the attention of others when I spilled the beans.  I cringe when I think of the things that I knew at such a young age and it shaped who I am and how I’ve handled the responsibility of harboring gossip as an adult. Now that I’m a mother, I’ve made a conscious plan not to ever talk about anyone in front of my kids–that includes my kids peers as well as the adults in our life. Now, all bets are off about what’s said among me and my mom friends at the bus stop before the kids get home, but when my kids are around, I don’t talk about people unless it’s kind words or giving the benefit of the doubt. Little pitchers have big ears…
  3. Talking badly about myself: I grew up with a mother who hated her body. I have vivid memories of her calling herself a “fat pig” and other horrible things. Perhaps she was fishing for compliments, but as a child, all I knew was that my mother said terrible things about herself all the time. So, I grew up silently critiquing my own body. I didn’t want this for my children, so I’ve made a pointed effort never to say anything but empowering things about my body when I do talk about my body (which is seldom) in front of my kids. Our society talks about our bodies too much as it is. I don’t want my kids even thinking about their bodies as anything other than running, jumping, ball-throwing, jump-roping, dancing-machines.

As an adult, I am (mostly) forgiving and (reasonably) accepting of my body. When it comes up in conversation with my kids, I commend my body on its feats of strength and endurance and I very much just portray my body as a vehicle for my soul to travel around in. I try to preach kindness to all–ourselves included–to my kids and we talk about respect and acceptance more than is probably necessary, but it’s something I feel strongly about.

When I made these promises to baby Anna, 10 years ago, honestly, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to hold up my end of the bargain. I knew that I desperately wanted to break the cycle that I grew up with, but I also wasn’t sure if it was possible.

As the years have gone on, not only do I feel like I’ve broken the cycle, but the dialog that I was raised with is a whole way of thinking that I can’t even wrap my brain around anymore. I’m a happier, healthier person than I ever thought possible–and I’m not a half-bad parent either. Granted, my kids will likely have a whole new set of cycles that they will vow to break with her own children, and honestly, I think that’s rad. I think that we should get better with each generation. It’s evolution at its finest.

 

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Life in 3 acts

A letter

(Alternate title: May the 4th be with me)

I’m not going to lie: April was a doozy for me.

My creativity was nonexistent. My attitude was piss-poor and my self-doubt and lack of confidence ruled my every move. It was a strange month.

I found out, at the end of April, that Mercury had been in retrograde, so that’s what I’m attributing all of this to. Obviously. Duh.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I also had a few intensely-social weekends in April. There were a couple of themes that presented themselves those weekends and I’m planning to write at length about them in the coming weeks. Basically, you take introvertedness + socializing + lack of motivation x self doubt (cubed)=ick.

(I’m bad at math, so if that equation doesn’t add up, figure it out yourself)

Then, I attended a Women’s Leadership Conference last week that turned it all around.

That’s me in the top with lemons on it. Because, of course lemons…that’s how my brain works.

 

I begrudgingly went–thinking of 75 other things that I needed or wanted to do that day–but instead, I came home a new person. I wrote one of the organizers a letter, because I wanted to let someone know how much I was moved by it. Here’s an excerpt from that letter:

Initially, I was interested in attending the summit only because one of my favorite authors, Katherine Center would be speaking. When I saw that the summit was a “leadership” summit, my gut reaction was, “Leadership? I’m not a leader…I’m JUST a mom.” But, I decided to sign up anyway–even thinking that I might just go hear Center speak and then duck out early to get back home to my responsibilities.

 

Well, I had hardly gotten in the front door at Trinity University Friday morning, before I was greeted warmly by Karen Love and Leisa Holland-Nelson. Their genuine interest in who I was and what had brought me to the summit stopped me in my tracks. Next, Katherine Center approached me and introduced herself. To say that I was gobsmacked by the welcome that I received would be an understatement.

 

Perhaps it goes without saying that I stayed for the entire day and from the first presentation until the last, I felt engaged, inspired and challenged to think outside of the “box” that I’ve been operating within. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I fought back tears several times during the day as I realized that I was witnessing women empowering one another, valuing each other’s opinions and NOT ONCE was I asked about my children (which is expected and par for the course when you’re a mom). Instead, I was asked about who I was and what I was passionate about. It was a thrilling, restorative experience for me and I immediately wished that I’d recruited more friends and neighbors to join me.

 

I know you’re busy and I’m sorry if this is simply one more email in your inbox that you have to contend with, but I felt like you should know how much the summit meant to me and how much it has inspired me to do better in my daily life and pursue some of the ideas that I’ve been “marinating on” for awhile. I hope to attend again in the future and would also be honored if I could play a role in any future leadership summits that you are a part of.

 

Please let me know if there are any opportunities for “just moms,” such as myself to participate. I’m a freelance writer who is working to spearhead a growing “sober mom” movement, offering support for women who are finding themselves self-medicating through the perils of parenthood and looking for healthier ways to cope with the feelings of isolation and self-doubt that are so prevalent in motherhood.

I received a lovely response back from the organizer, who sounded as if she had been disappointed in the poor turn-out for the summit. I hope that my letter lifted her up and changed her perception of how the summit was received.

All of this to say: Going forward, you’ll notice a shift in this blog. I won’t be posting as often, but when I do, I want it to only be heart-felt and authentic. I won’t be doing Friday Favorites every week, but instead, holding off and doing a Favorites post when I have something special to tell you about. (Do you know how hard it is to come up with things that are my “favorites” on a weekly basis? Especially in that God-awful month of April when, really and truly, NOTHING felt like my favorite, as I wallowed in self-pity and doubt?) 

Also, I’d really appreciate hearing from you about what you’d like to see more of on the blog. I have oodles of more alcohol/sobriety posts in my head, as well as an endless supply of posts about being an introvert (naval-gazing at its best). Let me hear from you in the comments, via email (jenny@introvertsguidetosobriety.com) or find me on social media and let’s visit about things.

Thanks for hanging in there during my April of doom…I missed you!

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Life in 3 acts

Feeling excluded

Feeling excluded was a common emotion that I experienced when I first stopped drinking.

Now, let’s be clear: It certainly wasn’t anything anyone did on purpose. But it was the nature of the social scene. When people get together–specifically moms of young children–drinking is the main event. When I stopped drinking, I struggled to find things to do socially that wouldn’t make me feel uncomfortable. But it also made me very aware of how much alcohol plays into social events.

Continue reading “Feeling excluded”

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Life in 3 acts

Making friends when you’re a teetotaler

I’ve been asked many times how I make new friends as a woman (specifically a mother) who doesn’t drink.

On the surface, this might sound like a stupid question to someone who doesn’t think much about alcohol. But, in our culture of “Mommy Juice,” and PTA meetings that end with tequila shots at the taco joint next to the school, it’s a formidable question.

The shorts answer is that…well, it is difficult–I’m not going to sugar coat it.

Part of this is likely due to my introverted personality. I would much rather be a fly on the wall at a party than be actively moving about the room visiting and getting to know people.

Also, if someone is part of a recovery community, they’ve got a built-in safety net of people to socialize with.

I didn’t have this at my disposal.

When I was a drinker, meeting people was a bit easier because alcohol allowed me to be more open and friendly. I took more chances and I didn’t quietly observe the room quite as much as I do sober. I could also tolerate certain personality types when I was drinking that I typically couldn’t have tolerated sober.

When I stopped drinking, I had a wonderful home-base of lady friends. When I told them that I was going to stop drinking, they were supportive but also largely non pulsed, which is just what i needed at the time. It was no big deal and they loved me regardless of my drinking habits.

Then, we moved away from my friends and I was faced with making all new friends.

So, I started mixing and mingling with people in our new community. When my drinking status came up in conversation, I found that it was usually met with 3 possible reactions:

Oh, okay…that’s cool.

(Then I’d be watched closely to see if I exhibited any overtly religious behaviors, which might explain my teetotaling. Spoiler: If you’re around me for more than about 15 min and hear my potty mouth, you’ll quickly learn that I’m not fanatically religious)

Oh, wow! That’s so interesting! I want to hear more!

I love this response, because, it not only shows that the person cares about who I am and getting to know me better, but it also gives me an opportunity to share a bit of my story with others who might benefit from hearing it.

Oh. My. God. Are you kidding me? I could NEVER give up my wine! You’re crazy.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but this is my least-favorite response and generally lets me know pretty early on that: a. this person and I aren’t going to jive and b. this person might have a bit of an issue with alcohol herself.

I have an acquaintance who still–every time she introduces me to others–says this, “This is Jenny. She doesn’t drink!“. This can be at any setting at all, be it a place where that explanation is necessary (say, at a winery tour) or absolutely not necessary (at a funeral). She’s definitely one of those people who blurts things out all the time and her mouth often gets her into trouble, but I find it so telling that that’s the thing that she chooses to tell people about me. Not, “This is Jenny. She’s the mother of 2 kids.” Or even, “This is Jenny. She has 4 cats, a dog and a fish.” Nope. Every time, it’s, “This is Jenny. She doesn’t drink…not even wine! Can you believe that? I could NEVER give up my wine.”

There have been instances when I’ve met someone–a potential friend–and when they find out that I don’t drink, their face falls and I notice that resigned, “Oh, and I really LIKED her” look go across her face. It makes me sad but I also know that I USED TO BE that person too. In my drinking days, when I met someone who didn’t drink I’d often mentally cross them off of my list of potential friends. “Clearly, we have nothing in common.” I feared judgement from non-drinkers. I assumed that anyone who didn’t drink wasn’t my people. So, I totally understand how people feel when they meet me.

And, all is not lost when first meetings don’t go well. Often, once someone gets to know me and sees that, in addition to being sober, I’m also funny, self-deprecating  and wildly inappropriate, they forget that we differ in our drinking habits and they accept me anyway. That’s really all that I typically hope for.

I also work hard (perhaps harder than I should) so that my friends feel comfortable drinking around me. The thing is, just because I can’t drink doesn’t mean that they can’t. I’m not here to judge but I am here to be an example of what a sober woman looks like.

If you’re a teetotaler, have you found it difficult to make friends? 

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Life in 3 acts

Overcoming shame

…and admitting that you have a problem.

One of the hardest things for me when I stopped drinking (and still today) is admitting that it had become a problem for me.

You see, I like to uphold this lofty “Superwoman” persona. I’ve got a bit of a competitive streak in me and I like doing my best. Sue me.

So, admitting that I was failing in an aspect of my life was painful for me. Especially being a mother, I felt like I was failing my children, my husband AND myself when I drank too much. Maybe it’s the same for you?

The way that I was raised, you didn’t show your cards to anyone. Everything is perfect. I’m perfect; we’re perfect. It was all about appearances and how we appeared to be functioning in other’s eyes. This has fucked me up. Yup. Effed my ass up.

Last January, I posted a link to this article on Facebook. It resonated so much with me and I wanted to share it, in the hopes that it would resonate with someone else as well.

I got several private messages from acquaintances telling me such things as, “I REALLY needed to read this,” and “I think that I really need to reevaluate my relationship with alcohol.”

That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head: I could use my voice and my experiences to help someone else.

I have been so conditioned not to speak of my weaknesses that talking about my sobriety felt as foreign to me as trying to speak Portuguese. This blog has been a learning experience for me. If you’ll notice, as time has gone on, my posts have gotten more and more real. I hope to continue to dive deep for you.

It comes down to this: What’s more shameful–drinking too much, saying things that you’ll regret, harming relationships…

or

admitting that you’re human and you’re working on yourself?

Do you have difficulties with shame? 

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Life in 3 acts

How to ditch alcohol forever


(the way that I did it)

*Disclaimer: As I’ve stated here before, my road to sobriety was different from most. I didn’t require the assistance of a 12-step program, rehab and only minimal counseling. If you feel as though you can’t stop drinking on your own, please seek help promptly! 

When I decided to stop drinking, I just did it. I drank too much on a Sunday afternoon and fell asleep about dinnertime, leaving my husband to take on the feeding of the kids/bathing/bedtime routine. I woke up later that night, embarrassed at what I’d let happen. I went to a board meeting at my kids’ church preschool the following morning hungover and vowed right then and there. Enough. I can’t keep up with this habit anymore. That was the Fall of 2010.

If you’ve ever wondered if maybe you need to stop drinking, <as blunt as this sounds> you probably do. A good way to find out is to quit for a little while–and I don’t mean for a day–I mean for an extended amount of time to see how things change in your life. From there you can consider moderating your drinking or maybe you’ll continue to abstain. The trick is to be honest with yourself about your drinking. 

Some of the following tips I followed and some, I wish I’d followed. But all of them have dawned upon me at one time or another over the course of the past 6 years.

Continue reading “How to ditch alcohol forever”

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Life in 3 acts

On sadness and anger in early sobriety

I was looking through old photos this morning–trying to find photos of me drinking that I could share with you (I’m not sure why, but it seems important to show you who I used to be).

Sadly, (or maybe fortunately) I couldn’t find much. I think that our photos from that time period aren’t on this computer, but what I found instead were lots of photos of me in those first few months of sobriety.

Continue reading “On sadness and anger in early sobriety”

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Life in 3 acts

2017 goals

I’m an action-oriented, list-making type of person, so I enjoy the beginning of a new year and all of the promise and potential that it holds. I’ve never really been a resolution-maker but lately, I’ve grown accustomed to setting some goals and intentions for myself at the beginning of the year. 

This year, I have some goals and I thought I’d share them here, in the hopes that they’ll inspire you and also hold me accountable.

Without further ado, here are my goals for 2017…

Continue reading “2017 goals”

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Life in 3 acts

Happy New Year!

I’ll be back full-swing later this week, but wanted to drop in and say Happy New Year! I hope that your celebration was just what you wanted it to be and that the new year brings much peace and joy to you and yours. 

It was a super low-key evening here (just the way I like it). 

First, the kids and I toasted to the new year with our sparkling grape juice, using our wedding crystal (which sees exactly zero action anymore)

Then we did a DIY “paint night” at home, courtesy of The Art Sherpa on YouTube. (Anna went “rogue” and decided to paint something else.) 

The finished products.

And no, that’s actually not supposed to be The Empire State Building in my painting, but that might be what I end up going with, since that’s essentially what it turned into. So, yeah…that’s the Empire State Building at dusk. Or something. 
 

Do you have any suggestions for blog posts that you’d like to see here? Please leave your suggestions in the comments below. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

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Life in 3 acts

Why “moderating” my drinking didn’t work for me


Years ago, when I realized that I needed to make a change in my drinking habits, I decided that I’d simply “moderate” my drinking. I’d make a plan and have “x” amount of drinks per week/day/event. This sounded way more doable than flat-out quitting entirely.

So, the first few weeks, it worked brilliantly. I held myself to that one glass of wine with dinner. Then, in the coming weeks, when confronted with the temptation to have more than my allotment, I bent the rules…just a smidgen.

Then, the next event or dinner out, the rules bent even further.

The next thing I knew, I wasn’t “moderating” my drinking at all. I was right back where I started.

You see, my brain is funny like that. It’s a master at talking me out of or into things. Here’s how the dialog went in my head when I was trying to moderate:

Jenny: “I’m only having 2 glasses of wine at the dinner out with friends tonight. That seems like a reasonable amount and won’t get me into too much trouble.”

Brain: “Absolutely! 2 glasses is the perfect amount! Let’s do this!”

Jenny (over dinner): “I’m having a great time! We’re enjoying a leisurely meal with good friends. Everyone else is finishing up their second drink too and the main courses haven’t even arrived yet. What should I do? I really want another drink…”

Brain: “You know, this IS a special circumstance. I mean, how often do you get to have dinner with these good friends? And, you got a babysitter, so you’re foot-loose and fancy-free tonight. I wonder if just 1 more drink wouldn’t hurt?”

The next thing I know, I’m in a pickle.

My brain talked me out of moderating so many times. It became exhausting trying to keep up with the rules that I’d established beforehand for my drinking and then keeping up with the change-on-the-fly rules that I had as the evening progressed. Then, after that evening was over, I had to reevaluate my whole system for moderating. It was way too much work and spent too much of my mental energy.

image courtesy of intherooms.com

That’s when I decided that I needed to abstain all together.

Abstaining completely took away all of that extra psychic baggage that I was carrying around, constantly dividing and multiplying in my head; negotiating and re-negotiating all night. Abstaining from alcohol set me free and made my decisions easier. It allowed me to be present. It took the guesswork out of drinking and eliminated those inner negotiations that made me crazy.

Moderating works for many people. It’s a good place to start if you’re thinking about curbing your drinking. It helps you to step back and take a look at your drinking habits. From there, you can determine if you can continue moderating or if you need to abstain entirely.

I wish I could have made moderation work for me–I really do–but in the end, I needed a finite rule to my drinking. I needed to stop completely. And this is what worked for me.

Have you ever tried (successfully or unsuccessfully) to moderate your drinking?  

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