Thursday, October 11, 2012

Truthful Thursdays - Living Wide Open

To contribute to the weekly Truthful Thursday series (it does not have to be on sobriety or recovery - any topic that is your truth is great), please FIRST read this post here, and send your submission to Thank you.

*** Submitted by Corinne

Two and a half years ago I made the decision to live wide open. 

I came out as an alcoholic to family and friends. I posted about my recovery on my blog. I decided I would rather live out loud with this thing, the thing that was a part of my whole truth, rather than have people know me half way.

I do not define myself by being an alcoholic. It is part of me, but I am so much more than that.

However, in this culture where alcohol is referenced at the drop of a hat, it can be difficult and trying to hide behind smiles and laughter when really you want to take anything alcohol related off the plate and help people to understand that their comments might be hurting someone. Because when you can’t, won’t, and don’t consume alcoholic beverages, it’s not always funny to joke about happy hour and the like.

So, in order to live my truth, most often I make people terribly uncomfortable for a bit. I am very up front and tell people my truth very easily. I am a recovering alcoholic. Mostly I do it to save myself having to say no to a drink. It’s kind of a safety net. But also, I don’t want new friends to find out later on, from my blog or from someone else, and feel bad about offering me a drink, or commenting on how wasted they were another time, or how badly they need a drink.

I just lay it out in the open. And that, is vulnerability.

But really? Sometimes I forget that is vulnerability. Because most of the time my truth is accepted and then we move along. Yes, I challenge peoples notions of an alcoholic, because my rock bottom was hardly as bad as it could have been. But still, it was my rock bottom. And I own that. I own that I had two little children, and that I could sense the changes in me and in my desires and in my entire being that called out and longed for and responded to  and found comfort in alcohol. So before I was hiding in the closet drinking stashed bottles {as I was pretty sure that’s where I was headed...} I stopped. I asked for help. I came clean and owned my whole self.

I feel like that is part of it, challenging people’s ideas of alcoholism. Taking away the shame in saying you have a problem. I think that my story can help someone, so I tell it, and in telling my story, I feel free.

And sometimes vulnerable.

The other week I was at a dinner for my homeschooling co-op. A bunch of us were sitting in one of those round, corner booths at a local chain restaurant. I had met most of the women once or twice, a few just that very night for the first time. Somehow the conversation turned to blogs and I was talking about mine and before I knew it I was laying down my truth on the table and about how I used to blog more about recovery. And there were nods and smiles and as soon as they knew I was not there to judge, all was good. Except for one woman.

She couldn’t get past the fact that I had two little ones. And she asked the question that kicks me in the gut because I still struggle with it.

“How did you nurse your littlest if you were drinking at night?”

I drank at night. I basically clocked out when the kids went to bed. By the time my second baby was six months old I barely nursed her at night. And as a very attached parent  {babywearing, co-sleeping, nursing on demand...} for the entire daylight hours I cannot tell you the guilt I felt for so long about letting my husband shoulder the responsibility with my baby daughter at night time.

“I just didn’t. I held off drinking heavily at night until she was around six months, and then I just didn’t nurse her when I was drinking.”

And the look the woman gave me, I can’t even begin to describe the disdain and shock and then she said “wow” and shook her head. And in that instant all I could do was stand still and say something along the lines of “I had a problem, it was a bad time, but you can’t move forward if you hold onto the past” or something like that. Because in that moment, I was shaking in my boots at the thought that this woman, who barely knew me, thought I was a bad mom.

Can I tell you something? I struggle every day to realize that when I was at my worst point with my alcoholism that I was still a good mom. I made some poor choices, but that does not make me a bad mother.

Realizing that is vulnerability. Saying that is being vulnerable. Owning the bad parts and moving forward with honesty and truth, again... you guessed it... vulnerability.

Ultimately, saying my truth and knowing that others will not agree or understand, and knowing I cannot ever change their minds, that too is vulnerability.

We cannot change the world and open eyes and hearts by being closed ourselves. 

Be vulnerable. 

Take a chance. 

As Brene Brown talks about, Dare Greatly. It is worth it, and while some might not understand it, many others will thank you. 

Your heart will too.


  1. You've just written my story, precisely. I'm just over 2.5 years sober and I see people do the math as they find out my girls are 8&6. I'm seriously open about my alcoholism simply because I didn't fit a preconceived mold.....mine was the same kind of mold as yours. Difficult to understand....and yet so strong in its imprisionment.

  2. The weird part is that if your bottom had been lower, say you had lost your kids and then gotten them back, people would more likely applaud your bravery and struggle. Our minds are funny things.

    But for every woman like that in the crowd, there is one sitting in the corner thinking "That's me. I do that. Maybe I should change." So tell your story. It's the quiet ones in the corner who need to hear.

    Love you.

  3. And how many mothers would have nursed her anyway, just to keep the guise up, or out of total ignorance? Wouldn't THAT be worse?! Goodness gracious, we are a judgmental people. As if you haven't punished yourself enough.

    But I suppose that's always the risk when we make the brave choice to be vulnerable.

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  5. I'll just say what everyone else is thinking: what a b#$%! Seriously, this woman sounds like the type that is just WAITING for the chance to disparage another mother for not nursing for ANY reason. Boy she would have loved me: I didn't nurse either of my 2 kids and I will say it loud and proud! One reason (not the primary)is that I like to drink! Imagine that! I like to enjoy a cocktail now and then and enjoyed having the freedom formula allowed. It was spectacular. I call formula the "miracle" and I would shout it from the rooftops whenenever given the chance. THANK.GOD.FOR.FORMULA! I was able to return to work and enjoyed at least 8 GLORIOUS hours of sleep each night once my kids were about 12/pounds 12/weeks. And I atribute it to the miracle of formula. I would love one minute with that judgemental woman. My 2 kids are happy, healthy, smart and thriving! Formula is a Godsend for so many of us and it makes me insane with judgement about those who condemn other mothers for not nursing. Who cares how you fed your kids? Really in the grand scheme of life are they going to know that you didn't nurse at night or past 6 months? I highly doubt it. Take that guilt and get rid of it. You self worth isn't measured by how long a baby was on your boob.

  6. May I offer another option, another potential point of view?

    Maybe, just maybe, what you saw as shock and disdain wasn't. Or wasn't directed at *you.* If I were in her situation, and asked that question (because you were being very open, and she knew you enough to know you were into Attachment Parenting, and thought it OK to ask the question within that arena of openness, without knowing it was The One that would make you feel bad and guilty yourself) then I may have reacted with shock. And perhaps any other number of emotions may have flitted across my face. But the shock and (possibly) disdain would have been directed at the alcohol. That something could have such a strong grip over you that it overruled all the other things that you held dear. That it could be such a b***h to you. That something you held dear could be taken from you, at night at least.

    Maybe, just maybe, what *you* read in her face was the shame you feel inside? That fear that whispers you were a bad mum. As you said, she barely knew you, so why is her opinion so important to you? Because it mirrors that nagging voice inside you?

    You speak the truth to yourself, that you made poor choices (Hah! Who doesn't?!) but that you were still a good mum (if such a thing can be defined!) and still there is that nagging fear.

    Well done on speaking out. Not on being in recovery, but for speaking out that nagging shame and guilt about the time as a mother when alcohol stopped you being Perfect. Well, there ain't no such thing as a perfect mother, and if it wasn't alcohol at night, it could have been any number of things in the day. Or, as in my case, chronic sleep deprivation turning me into Grumpy Mummy!

    You're not alone. There is no such thing as a Perfect Mother. The best compliment I have EVER heard was from a teenager friend of mine on his way to university, "I know my parents aren't perfect, but they were perfect for me." And you will learn and grow, and become the perfect mother for your children, but not - and never - Perfect.

  7. That sounds incredibly full on.. really intense. She obviously has no filter on her thoughts or reactions that she was able to show you her knee-jerk shocked reaction to a brutally honest and sad truth that you were brave enough to share and put out there. I am just like you - I am totally up front about my drinking, my problem, my sobriety and all the rest of it. But so far I have never been challenged as to what my drinking meant to my kids and my mothering when they were young. It is too scary to go there and really examine it. But bloody hell there are so so so so many women who aren't like us, brave enough to put our hands up, admit to problems and then fix them! So yeah we make ourselves vulnerable to judgements but we are the brave ones. We are. We are the brave ones. We are xxxx

  8. Kudos to you for not losing it right there in the booth. Honestly. People are so quick to judge before they know the facts, and then when the facts are in, they are so quick to judge. (Sighhh.) I can't tell you how much flak I got from folks for attachment parenting - baby-led mothering - following my heart.

    You are so right. Bad choices make mistakes, not a bad mom. Each of us has done / not done things she is ashamed of later. The only One who has the right to judge said to one woman who clearly had made a bad choice, "I don't condemn you."

    My favorite quote from a children's book says this: "Here is my secret. It is very simple. One does not see well except with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye." - Antoine de St-Exupéry, "The Little Prince ... I think you have the essential covered. :)

  9. You know I get it. And you know what helps me in those times that I feel judged or misunderstood? Picturing you and Ellie and Maggie, etc, sitting there with me. Love you.

  10. Good moms don't live in the closet and deny. You are a beautiful, loving mom and someone who I admire very very much. The world needs more kindness. Judgemental people have not had enough experience with kindness in their lives.
    What would people say if I told them I smoked when my child was in the womb?
    That I smoked during his nursing?
    That I smoked in the car while he rode in the back seat?
    Now, we are all free of it, but I look back and shudder at that desperate and addicted version of me.

  11. My son suffers with alcoholism so I am very aware to how much people drink and what they say. One thing that irks me is how loosely the word addiction is used in our society. People say they are addicted to all sorts of things, chocolate, TV shows and what have you. They liken people who suffer with addiction to the homeless man on the street or the movie star in rehab. But the truth is no one knows if they will become an alcoholic until they drink.

    And I agree with SueBob, it's usually both the people that don't say anything and the one's that speak the loudest who are the people who need to hear your story.

    All I can say is thank you for your honesty and courage to speak out about your experiences - you have no idea how many people you are helping by doing this : D

  12. wow. I don't know you at all, and if I had been in that booth with you, I would have been totally impressed that you were able to hold it together so well and be such a good mother to your children during the hours they were awake! if it is possible to be proud of someone you don't know, I'm proud of you, and glad that you are able and willing to share your story -- I'm sure it will help many others.

  13. Thank you for this post you are very inspiring. You talked a lot about vulnerability and I relate a lot to that. I am a recovering alcoholic with over three years sober. In sobriety, I had to be vulnerable and work through the things that led me to drink and use. When I was getting loaded, I did everything I could to stuff everything down and hope it would go away. I don't live my life like that anymore! I got help from a place called New Life House and they may be able to help you if you're suffering from alcoholism. Check out their website they are a great resource. New Life House- Structured Sober Living

  14. Corinne, thanks for sharing this. I'm many years sober, from both drugs and alcohol, and I know I wasn't a good mom when I was using and drinking. I just wasn't. The guilt from that...I hope it goes away one day. Even with my son grown and having apologized to him, knowing he loves me and cherishes me as the mom he has now, it's a bitter pill. You are brave.

  15. Thank you for your honesty and your bravery in sharing this post, Corinne. And thank you, Ellie, for hosting this important series.

    I am just starting to recognize the ways that I let shame paralyze me. It's always inspirational to read stories of others owning their own stories. xo