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International Women's Day - Miss You Mom

I miss you everyday, not just today.

I would be lying if I said I don't think of her everyday. Having found freedom from alcohol is something I will always have profound gratitude for. I wish she could have shared this experience with me, but we lost her 4 years ago (early on set dementia and cancer). If I'm being honest, due to alcohol consumption, we lost parts of her long before that. Also I am fully aware she is getting to experience sobriety with me, right here right now, and that always brings a smile to my face.

It is interesting to me, the further along I get on my journey, the more I feel different (at times being surprised by grief), and the more I feel the same (a complete state of calm and clarity). Having had my own struggles and challenges with alcohol is something I never thought I would be grateful for, seriously. But within those struggles I was given the gift of understanding, forgiveness and peace.

I can say for certain I always felt cared about by my mom, I always felt loved. I want to be clear about that. But this is where I can see and feel that time does change our emotions and perspective. Because when I really think back: I also remember feeling confused, frustrated, angry, sad. I so badly wanted to help her, but I had no idea how. I genuinely believe I've always held a high level of compassion, but that becomes a heavy weight to feel when someone you love is stuck in the cycle. I could not understand how she was "choosing" wine over us (I didn't know then what I know now).

Sometimes without trying to change our memories, the way we view or recall things change based on how we change. I've learned to share from scars, not wounds. When I was wounded (struggling) my entire perspective was different. And I am not here to say I am some fully healed human, I believe healing is like growth: an ongoing process.

I saw a video where a woman said she did not like that so much of the sober messaging felt directed towards moms who drink wine. She said how men drink too, why is it all about the women? To be honest, I fully understand that alcohol is an everyone problem. Not males, not females, not the rich, not the poor: there is no discrimination. But the reason I want to speak to the mommy wine culture, is because I've sent and felt the effects of it first hand. I've seen the progression. I have felt the loss before I actually experienced the loss. And I so badly want to alter anyones path if they are concerned that they may be heading down that road. If someone has a voice in their head saying: maybe this is becoming a bit of a problem, I want to urge them to listen to that voice. I want to tell them it is perfectly okay (and encouraged) to change your relationship with alcohol. I also think the conversation surrounding alcohol is quickly changing, and there doesn't have to be such a stigma with deciding to stop drinking. I want the world to know that AA is not the only way. You do NOT need to label yourself - AT ALL. It can be a choice rooted in self love and empowerment, not shame and deprivation.

I think I will save some of this story for another time, and just focus on the earlier days.

Canada has dramatically decreased the amount of alcohol that is safe to consume. You can look anywhere and find the links between alcohol and cancer. One bottle of wine is the equivalent of 5 cigarettes for men and 10 for women - yes, read that again. This information is scary but I'd like to shift the focus to what else is at risk.

It is commonly known that addiction is a result of trauma. I'm not here to argue that. I am here to say that alcohol dependency (whatever phrase suits you) can also be something that started as a habit that was seeking pleasure. Or perhaps, after working all day and running after kids, it is what you view as a "reward" or "relief" - but would smoking cigarettes be viewed as a reward or relief? No. And believing it is a reward or relief is associating it with a positive benefit. Have you ever tried other things to unwind and relax at the end of the day? Something that isn't cancer causing and doesn't make you feel like garbage in the morning? Something that is an addictive substance that might not be a problem yet, but very well could growing into one? Growing up drinking is very encouraged, it is normalized, but as that consumption continues, you create neural pathways and eventually can find the habit very difficult to give up. That is not because you are flawed, broken, or weak willed. Alcohol changes brain chemistry. It is addictive. Period. There is nothing wrong with you.

So what started as an innocent habit, has now become something you can't seem to go without. You may even gravitate towards social friends who encourage you to drink or they drink the same. You like hanging around those people because if other people are doing it, it's not a problem right? When I mentioned focusing on what else is at risk, I am speaking specifically to your relationship with yourself, or your relationship with your kids. I see it in groups all of the time, notes that children have left their parents asking them not to drink anymore because they are scary or they don't like them when they are like that. By the way, these women are incredibly smart, successful and thriving in many areas of life, but this is the one piece of the puzzle that they just can't gain control over.

I remember not wanting to invite my friends over because I was embarrassed and scared of how my mom would act. I didn't understand it at all then, but I didn't want to have to try and explain any of it. I think back to begging my mom to drive for one of my birthday dinners and when she refused, and was visibly uncomfortable, I knew something was wrong. You may be showing up for your kids and getting through the early mornings and events, but can you imagine the mental space that would become available if your mind wasn't gravitating around your next drink? You've maybe had some sober weekends here and there, but the physical difference you feel after taking a break allows you to truly feel the benefits. Can you imagine waking up at the hockey tournament and not dragging yourself to the rink? Or getting up to go skiing and feeling 100% clarity? Instead of feeling like "you have to do" these things, you may actually look forward to them. You may pay more attention to everything going on around you because you aren't fixated on that next drink.

Kids notice so much more than we realize, and I remember hearing that kids don't listen to what you tell them, they do what you do. You tell them to read, they won't. They see you reading, they may get curious. Yes, again, I get it - not everyone will having a drinking problem. But just for a second, think about how many people do. Think about the culture and conditioning kids are getting when they see that every adult needs alcohol to have fun, they need alcohol to relax, they are being raised thinking alcohol is the elixir of life. It is the solution to all problems. But that is not true. Alcohol is gasoline on the fire. Alcohol disconnects you from yourself, which ultimately can disconnect you from friends, family, your kids and your partner. Alcohol is a group 1 carcinogen like tobacco and asbestos. Alcohol slowly and insidiously creeps in, and the longer it takes for you to acknowledge the problem, the harder it may be to stop.

I remember encouraging my mom to quit, and being so supportive when she quit smoking. I made her a certificate, saying how proud I was that she was making a decision that was good for her health. I drew a cigarette with an X over top. I wanted her to know how proud I was. So maybe I've always a little compassionate coach within me. When my mom was drinking, I only knew of AA, and I am SO grateful there are other resources and methods coming to light. I wish I could go back and change some conversations, but I can't. I remember sitting at our dinner table crying, and asking her why she didn't want to quit. How could she not want to quit? I honestly can say sitting here now: she was stuck in the cycle, terrified, full of shame, and the options weren't exactly welcoming. AA in a small town is terrifying. I mean, sobriety in a small town is terrifying - OR - empowering, it all depends on the way you look at things. I remember saying compassionately that she wouldn't be around if I ever got married or had kids and that was terrifying. Then I remember saying if she was around I wouldn't be able to trust her taking care of my baby anyways and I wouldn't know how she would act at my wedding. I think when I told her she wouldn't be around for those things, I didn't really believe it. At that age and with my lack of understanding, I thought those things would scare her into change. I had no idea that is not how it works.

I could write about this forever, but I've already kept you here for longer than intended (as per usual).

The point I'm trying to make is this: I know how hard it can be to change your habits, I know how hard it can be to give up an addictive substance, I know how scary it can feel. I know all of the fears and limiting beliefs that will pop up. But those are beliefs and not facts. Life can and will get better. You can still go out and have fun, you can maintain many of the same relationships (the ones you lose weren't meant to stay) and you can create a life free of hangxiety. You can create an entirely different outcome. Alcohol dependency is progressive, so if you are looking at reevaluating your relationship with it: do it.

I highly recommend reading "This Naked Mind" by Annie Grace. Reading is such a good introduction to sober curiousity, without having to leave the comfort of your own home.

Your kids may not understand, but they will, and they'll be forever grateful that you made this decision.

It is easy to look at other peoples stories and think: I'm not that bad, so maybe it is fine. Or, perhaps, I'll do it next year. Which becomes the year after that, which becomes never. The thing is, every single person who has ever found themselves drinking in a problematic way, they said the same thing. They thought they'd eventually get it under control. It isn't about will power.

And by the way, if you have kids and find yourself struggling: the fact that you are even here reading this is amazing. The journey is not linear, it isn't a one size fits all approach, it is very rarely an immediate success story. There is no pass or fail. A lot of beliefs have to be broken, a lot of change has to occur. I often tell my clients that removing alcohol is the easy part (and no no - I know it isn't easy). Then the real work begins. That isn't meant to be scary, it is actually my favourite part. It is where you get to build your empowered identity and realize alcohol is so small and insignificant, you now have the opportunity to truly walk into your potential. If you are worried about your kids seeing you try to get sober, slip, try again.. I believe they will eventually understand more about it. They won't see the slips as anything other than you being resilient and trying to overcome something that is no longer serving you. I for one can feel in my heart how proud I would have been.

I would love to connect with you on a FREE discovery call. You don't need alcohol, you just believe you do.

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