By Jada Bennett-Cross
I remember a morning where my son brought me a heart-shaped rock. It was so beautiful, and his precious little face was so proud, yet I felt so deeply sad.
You see, I was hungover (again) and my whole body hurt. I was in pieces, and I was sure I was hiding it so well, but at that moment it felt like he knew, and was trying to mend my broken heart.
I had always drunk to excess. I wasn’t a glass-here-and-there girl, I was an all-or-nothing one. But what I didn’t expect, was for that to continue into motherhood. When I thought about being a Mama, I envisaged baking muffins in the mornings, visiting playgroups in the park, and singing lullabies at night … And I didn’t expect to be trying to do it all with a hangover. But motherhood is hard. So much harder than I ever expected, and ultimately it was alcohol that I turned to, to cope. I never saw that coming.
My firstborn had severe colic, screamed for hours every afternoon, and never, ever slept. He woke every 40 minutes for the first two years of his life; if he ever did longer stretches, it was a miracle. So here I was with a baby that didn’t sleep, who hated the car, despised being worn in a carrier and wouldn’t take a bottle. Life felt hard. And despite having a wonderfully supportive family, I never reached out and asked for help. I never told anyone I was slowly sinking. In my mind, there was no way I was going to ‘fail’ at this motherhood thing so early on in the piece, so I soldiered on in silence, searching for something to cling to, to get me through another day.
Having breastfed my little one for 18 months in a sleep-deprived haze, the day after I stopped, I quickly went back to bad habits. All of a sudden I was ‘allowed’ to drink in excess again. I had birthed a little human and catered to his every need for well over a year, and I thought this was what I deserved. It was my time. ‘Wine o’clock’ was always on my mind and when 5pm came around I took that as my cue for freedom. I started to drink myself into a state of numbness, and used it as my coping mechanism for motherhood. I feel awful just writing that, but I did. I used it to get through the sleep deprivation, and thought that if I was going to start each morning feeling that shitty anyway, why not enjoy the night before?
During this time I also suffered two miscarriages and yet again, turned to wine to numb the pain. But all it did was fuel my anxiety and cement the feelings of depression that were quietly seeping in.
After a stressful but successful fourth pregnancy, my daughter was born and life was good. She was a much easier baby that smiled all day long, and my (now) toddler was finally sleeping a little better. I was happy. We did bake muffins in the mornings, visit playgroups in the park and sing lullabies at night, all hangover free. Until we didn’t. Because after a year of feeding the little one, I longed for the day I’d have my body back. A day that I didn’t have a baby latched to me, and I could finally do something for myself, just for me. And that was where it started, yet again.
The same old habits crept in and I found myself once again reaching for wine to cope. Play dates were organised around drinking times with other mums, where we could all ‘relax’ knowing that we weren’t alone in our need for some ‘me’ time. I used alcohol to cope with the stresses of going back to work, having two young kids, and trying to find my place in the world again. I think I was also trying to find a way and a time, to reconnect with my husband whom I had pushed aside in my grapple with motherhood and redefining my own sense of self.
Our nights became a cycle of rushing kids off to bed after dinner, baths and books so we could drink our way back to a connection. But it always went too far. In truth, all we ended up with were harsh words (from me) and (more) sleepless nights. The next morning I would be so angry with myself, and with him for ‘letting’ me do it again. I was livid that he wasn’t hearing my (most likely silent) cries for help.
So here I was again, at one of my lowest points. I loved my little family so much, yet I was making all the same mistakes I had made for so many years earlier. I was getting through each day (just) and keeping busy, but all the memories I was creating were foggy and blurred with Sauvignon Blanc.
Thank goodness, this time around it didn’t take long for me to realise that it was time for this habit to go, and just 6 short weeks into this Groundhog Day cycle I woke up one Thursday morning feeling bad enough (but strong enough) to finally decide that it was time to make a change. A switch had been flicked and I knew in my heart that I was sick of alcohol being the thief of my joy. No longer could I live my life trying to make the most of each and every day whilst drinking myself stupid in the evenings. I realised that rich, full days were far more important to me than long hazy nights, and that ultimately, I could be doing this thing called life so much better than I was.
It was time to embrace change.
And with that, I found Hello Sunday Morning’s Daybreak app. I reached out anonymously and told my story to others who listened and supported, unconditionally. I realised I wasn’t alone. Far from it, in fact. There was a whole bunch of people out there who also struggled with an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and whose drinking habits were having a negative impact on their lives.
It’s amazing just how much one change can impact so many facets of your life. Thanks to going alcohol free, I now have a thriving event management and styling business – She Blooms Wild – and am currently developing a festival encouraging health and wellbeing, through reducing our alcohol intake and making the most of our lives. My relationships with my husband, children, parents and friends are all so much richer now that I don’t rely on wine to celebrate or unwind. I am no longer ingrained in the notion that alcohol is the answer to my hard times, or a reward I should give myself for simply getting through the day. For me now, it’s human connection and mental freedom that sparks the comfort and peace within, that so naturally feels like home.
So I’m making every moment count. I’m listening to my heart and counting my blessings. I’m present and soaking-in the little things, the joy, the unspoken moments and feelings that probably went unnoticed before.
The future I am shaping is bright, balanced and free, and it’s full of treasured times, blue skies, heart-shaped rocks and endless possibilities.
Instagram: My life is but a dream