At the age of 17, I had my first drink, and I never looked back. Obviously, I took a break from alcohol while I was pregnant with each of my three children, but as soon as I recovered, I was back to it every single night, during social outings, at lunch, and so on. By the time I was 30, I was sneaking a drink here and there during the day just to get through it.
One day, at the age of eight, my oldest son asked me why I liked alcohol so much, and I didn’t know how to answer. I was embarrassed, and I knew I had to do something about it fast or I was going to raise three little ones who would grow up with an increased chance of dealing with their own addictions. It wasn’t easy at first — it took about a year — but my son’s blunt question led to me becoming sober. It’s still not easy, but I’ve found that cutting alcohol from my life has made me a better parent than I ever could have been with it in my life. Here’s why:
1. I felt better.
I never knew how bad (or old) I felt until I stopped drinking. After the initial withdrawal, I was surprised to actually wake up many mornings feeling like a new person. It put me in a better mood, something my kids always appreciate. I wasn’t hungover or grumpy because I didn’t sleep well. I didn’t have heartburn or a pounding headache all the time.
2. I became a better role model.
Little did I know that my kids, especially my oldest, were watching my every move. They knew I was drinking, even when I thought I hid it pretty well. It took my son asking me about it to make me stop, and that’s when I realized how much of an impression I made on my kids. Even if I don’t think so, they look to me as a role model. It’s easier to be that person when you’re leading a healthy lifestyle, not drowning your fears and anxiety in wine and liquor.
3. I had more money to spend on the kids.
You have no idea how much extra money you spend on alcohol until you stop buying it. I’m talking hundreds and sometimes thousands a month when I went out frequently. Now I can spend that money on important things like family vacations, new school clothes, or that one thing my child really wants for his birthday. It’s the best feeling to say “yes” when your child wants something occasionally, instead of trying to mentally add up how much of your paycheck will go towards your weekly alcohol habit.
4. I’m more patient.
Because I feel better, I’m a more patient parent. I don’t lash out or yell at my kids for little things like I used to. That’s not to say they don’t get in trouble or get punished, but the way I go about it is far more rational now. In return, I see fewer temper tantrums from my kids.
5. I have more time for my kids.
Looking back, it makes me sad to think about how many times I rushed my kids off to bed because I wanted nothing more than to sit around and drink for the next few hours. I literally turned down hugs and stories from my own babies so I could have a glass (or a bottle) of wine. They begged for family movie nights, to play outside until dark on summer days, or to stay up a little later to read or play games. I always said no. It’s heartbreaking to think about now, and it’s one reason I’ll work hard to never have another drink.
6. I remember more.
You have no idea how much alcohol impacts your memory until you stop drinking it. I’m not saying I blacked out for portions of time, but there were many mornings when the events of the night before were a bit fuzzy. I’d find myself forgetting important tasks like signing permission slips or whether I’d packed lunches. My kids deserve a parent who is present at all times.
7. I work harder.
Staying sober is like a job in itself. There are days when I’m tempted to relapse, and I work hard at it so that I don’t. Somehow, this translates to me working harder in all aspects of my life. I’m able to hold down a real job now that my kids are all in school. I’m able to volunteer for school events and PTA meetings. I keep the house cleaner than I did. I cook dinner instead of ordering out most nights.
8. I have more energy.
Of course, I couldn’t do all that if I didn’t have the energy for it. I sleep more soundly at night, and because I’m not hungover or still drunk, it’s easier to get up in the morning and hit the ground running for work and school. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in a day without alcohol slowing you down.
9. I earned my children’s respect.
Finally, and perhaps the most important reason why quitting drinking made me a better parent is that I have earned my children’s respect. The younger ones may not fully understand it, but I know they will one day. My oldest son tells me he’s proud of me for becoming sober. We’ve talked about it openly and honestly. He says I’m more fun and much nicer since I’ve stopped. That means more to me than anything.
About the Author
Marissa Nichols, a marketer for international radio and mom of 3, has made it her mission to spread her journey of battling alcoholism across all parents around the world. Fabulous Moms is proud to feature her.