Over the past few years, I’ve shared my story about alcoholism several times. In the winter of 2011, I wrote an anonymous feature for FASHION Magazine about early recovery. In the summer of 2012, I came out online as an alcoholic in a series of self-reflective diary-like posts on Shedoesthecity. In June of 2013, I was interviewed by Anna Maria Tremonti for a segment on women and binge drinking that aired nationwide on CBC’s The Current. When nutritionist and good friend Meghan Telpner asked if I would join her at her studio last summer for a taped discussion on how family and friends could best support a loved one in recovery, I agreed without hesitation; I was more than happy to participate.
About three weeks after that taping, I discovered I was pregnant. Since then, I haven’t uttered a word about my alcoholism publicly. Not a peep. This morning, with just a few weeks to go before my due date, I let out a very long “oh noooo” when I noticed a tweet indicating that the segment, taped 10 months ago, had finally gone live.
Just because I’m 9-months pregnant, about to have a baby, and been sober almost four years, doesn’t mean that I’m no longer an alcoholic. I will be an alcoholic until the day I die, but there is something incredibly uncomfortable when you connect the word “alcoholic” with “mommy”. I was okay with being the ex-party girl in recovery but publicly identifying with the term “alcoholic” as a new mom makes me self-conscious, scared and ashamed. I know I’m the same person, I know that I haven’t had a drink since October of 2010, nor do I want to, but what do others think when a pregnant woman says, “I’m an alcoholic”? I know what I thought.
When I was newly sober and I saw a pregnant woman, or a mom with young children, walk into the rooms of recovery, I immediately cast judgement. Is she drinking during pregnancy? Is she here because she could fall off the wagon at any second? Why is that woman having a child if she’s an alcoholic? I wonder if she got knocked up by a stranger when she was wasted? Does that mom get blackout drunk once she puts her toddler to bed? I would sit there, stare at these women, invent stories and judge. It was an awful thing to do.
The more months of sobriety I had under my belt, the more I realized that many of these pregnant women beside me had longterm sobriety. They were emotionally stable, I was not. They were there being strong for their families, staying sober and managing their health. They were brave for showing up.
I got sober because I wanted, some day, to have children. I knew that the way things were, the way I drank, I couldn’t be the kind of mom I wanted to be. I was unfit; I couldn’t take care of myself, never mind an infant! A lot has changed in the last few years.
Since my bump made an appearance in late fall, it’s been really easy to attend cocktail parties and work the room with a glass of Perrier. Are you having a boy or a girl? How are you feeling? Can I touch it? Everyone loves to talk about babies; it’s an easy conversation starter and I’ve enjoyed the attention.
When you’re visibly pregnant, people almost take pleasure passing you sparkling water, and they do so with an endearing smile. I know that the minute my body slims down again, I’ll have to once again deal with the stares and questions as to why I don’t want a glass of wine, why I’m not drinking. People aren’t quite as eager to offer you a Perrier when you’re not pregnant; it’s simply not fun. Society is interesting, isn’t it? I’ve become fond of being “Jen the expectant mom” versus “Jen the alcoholic.”
I was nervous to watch the clip on Meghan TV this morning. But I found myself impressed with the woman who talked so honestly, unabashedly about her alcoholism. Even if my life is now about folding infant clothes, reading about breastfeeding, decorating a nursery and feeling little kicks in my tummy; I’m still an alcoholic. And that’s okay, as long as I continue to take care of myself, one day at a time.