Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Speaking Out - Redbook Article about Mothers, Drinking and the Power of Sharing

In the October issue of Redbook Magazine there is an article about moms, drinking and the power of sharing our stories. 

I was interviewed for the article, (click here to view it online) along with my sober sisters Heather of The Extraordinary-Ordinary and Corinne of Trains, Tutus and Teatime.  Another amazing woman, Deb, is also featured in the article.  She isn't sober, and she has the grace and courage to talk openly about how she feels about her drinking.  Her story will resonate with so many women who have nagging thoughts about alcohol, but who don't feel safe talking about it. Deb is helping break down the walls of silence and fear, and I am so grateful to call her my friend.

Sometimes I forget to remember that these incredible women wouldn't be in my life if I wasn't sober; their friendship is as essential to me as oxygen. 

Although I've been writing about my addiction and recovery for a couple of years now, sometimes my own words make me cringe, and I wonder: why in the world am I putting myself out there like that?  There have been many times I held my finger nervously over the 'publish' button, contemplating whether I was sharing too much, aching to alter the story to make it prettier, or to make myself less vulnerable.

Especially in the early days of blogging, I would click 'send to publish' quickly, before I could overthink things too much and change my mind.  Then I'd sit nervously by and peer at the comments with trepidation, bracing myself for judgment, condemnation or ignorance.

They never came.

What came instead were words of support and encouragement, and email after email from women saying "your story is exactly like mine", or "I see myself in your words".

A pivotal moment in my own recovery happened early on, as I sat reluctantly in the back row of one of my first recovery meetings.  I hated being there, hated myself.  I thought I was irretrievably broken and weak.  I honestly believed I was a terrible person, that I was alone with my horrible thoughts and deeds.

An attractive woman, a mother, about my age approached the podium and introduced herself as an alcoholic.  She didn't look the part, in my mind's eye.  She can't be nearly as bad as me, I thought.  The words that flowed from her mouth that night told my story.  We were the same; we thought the same, felt the same, did the same things while we were drinking.  She was two years sober, and she was glowing.

In that moment, I realized I was not alone. That I was surrounded by people who understood, who had walked the path before me, who could help. Even more staggering to me was that my story moved them, too, helped them stay on the path of sobriety.  I didn't think I had anything to offer anybody, and here we were, leaning on each other in comraderie and kinship.

So when I put my words out there, tell my truths here in this space or in a magazine article, I remember that feeling from that night. That bolt of electricity and hope that shot through my body:  I am not alone.  There are many women who struggle in silence, who aren't about to walk into a recovery meeting - not yet, and maybe not ever - and who would never know they weren't alone if it wasn't for the stories shared online, or in magazines, or memoirs. In these safe places they can see themselves in the words, and realize there is hope.  There are thousands upon thousands of women exactly like them who have fought back addiction and won, a day at a time.

Writing my truths here has brought me great healing, too, and the unbelievable people I have met on this path - people like Corinne, Heather, Deb and so many more - are one of the biggest gifts I have received in recovery.  The emails I get from women who are struggling - who gulp back the fear and type out their truths - they help me so much.  I am humbled by their bravery, inspired by their honesty and grace.

Addiction is a disease of silence and isolation.  If you're reading this and you are struggling in silence and shame, please know you are not alone. Find someone safe - reach out and connect with someone who understands.  Try a recovery meeting, join a recovery chat room, or send an email to a sober blogger whose story touches you.  We understand.

The response from the Redbook article is amazing; I have received many emails from women who saw themselves in our stories, and are taking that first brave step of reaching out and telling their truth - some of them for the first time ever.

A big thank you to Redbook for tackling this sensitive, controversial topic - the more we talk openly about this, the more we can heal. 

And an extra special thank you to Nancy Ramsey, author of the article, for her professionalism, talent and kindness. 


  1. Many thanks for speaking out and telling your story. My light in my head went on one cold day in Feb 1984 and I was able to walk away from alcohol. I am still in awe of how well I have been supported in the last 27 years with love and understanding and patience.

    Thanks again.

  2. Thank you for having the courage to allow Redbook publish this. It will reach more of us than you know. I chuckle and yet frown when I read "I see your story in my life" because I see myself in the stories told. I personally question most why I do it. I don't really "hate my life" or want to live an "alternate reality" or anything of the sort.

    I think my biggest problem with everything is that I can't answer WHY I drink. I have a disabled child and many blame it on that, but it was happening long before he came. This is systemic and mine and mine alone. WHY do I do it?? I don't even really like the feeling, do I?? I had an alcoholism laced upbringing but I can't solely blame it on that (I am adopted, so can't really blame genetics either). From someone who has faced this and walked away... did you figure out WHY you drank too much?? I just want to be able to have 2 drinks and be done, like the people around me. Why could I be completely abstinant and happy when pregnant but be hiding alcohol and pumping and dumping 3 weeks after my last child's birth?? That speaks to my systemic problem and yet meditation and counseling, I can't find a reason WHY I drink!!!

    Thank you for all your contributions and openness to this issue. I can't tell you how much it means to everyone. THANK YOU!

  3. That article was like a "God sign" for me. I've been struggling for years, and actually stayed sober for almost a year before I relapsed. My drinking has gotten so out of control that it was starting to effect my health. It was hard enought that it was effecting my family for years, but when I started getting really sick a few months ago, I knew that if I didn't do something soon it would kill me, literally kill me, and I didn't want to leave my wonderful husband a widower and leave my 2 beautiful kids without a mom. I am tired emotionally and physically and I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. I admire your bravery and I can honestly tell you that you have helped save my life but being "out there". It's time for women and mothers who have a drinking problem to realize that that they are far from alone. As you said, alcoholism is a disease of isolation and shame. Your honestly brings to light a very serious problem and I am sure it will help many others to seek help and break the vicious cycle and learn to live again. I can't thank you enough for sharing your story and struggles. It has helped me realize how far from alone I am and it's ok to be human. Much love and peace!

  4. You are such an inspiration and truly just SO amazing. I hope you are as proud of yourself as we all are of you.

  5. Ellie, what you have done is revolutionary. I mean that. I am quite sure I wouldn't still be sober without Crying Out Now and One Crafty Mother and The Extraordinary Ordinary. I am so happy about the Redbook article as it will lead so many more women to this community and thus to healing and power. And then to an even larger circle of healing. I went to an event Wednesday and heard a woman speak about the violence being done to girls in Africa - I finally felt capable of doing something about it because I DONT DRINK. I finally had real hope for the future as I heard about the work she and countless other women are doing to heal because I wasn't projecting my own inability to heal onto the world. Our sobriety is not just about us. You prove that every day. Thank-you.

  6. The Redbook article came at a perfect time in my life. I struggle daily with whether I have a drinking problem or not. Truth is, I do...but it is easier to make bargains with myself. If I can go a few days without a drink I don't have a problem. After a few days I find myself having three or four drinks-never just one. Thank you for your honesty. Now it's time I get honest.

  7. Thanks! You are saving many lives/families with this!

  8. I'm another one who struggles with wondering whether she has a problem or not.

    I know I drink too much, but I don't know whether it's a problem or not. I'll find out really soon though, because I will not drink today. I will try not to drink tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that. I will try to cut my drinking back to weekend evenings only. If I can't stick with that, I will have to quit all together, which I really don't want to do.

    I am as full of excuses as the day is long.

    Wine is good for you (although I drink around three glasses each evening, knowing this increases my chances of certain cancers by over 30%); I just built a house with a wine fridge (it has to carry wine, right?); my friends drink socially (they're the wives of my husband's co-workers - I can't very well ditch them, can I?).

    I don't want to be like this. I want to be that person who can drink just one glass. The person who only drinks socially/occasionally/never.

    But I'm not. I'm me. In denial I guess.

  9. There are times it seems my drinking is under control. But then something happens - we fight, the kids are difficult, my depression sets in - and the urge to drink becomes overwhelming, becomes the ONLY thing that can soothe me. My friends don't do this... I'm the only one... I'm terrible, my kids are better off without me.
    Until today.
    Until I read your article in Redbook. You may have saved my life. I have read older postings for hours now, tears running down my face and holding a beer. But I see hope, or at least compassion.
    I cannot thank you enough for having the courage to share your story.

  10. Thank you, everyone, for all your support. It means so much to me, truly.

    And to the people who are opening up here, sharing your truths - that's AMAZING. There is so much hope, there really is, and entire communities of women who completely understand.

    Keep talking, stay honest, ask for help.

    You're totally worth it.