ERP 395: How To Navigate Relationship When One Partner Is Choosing Sobriety — An Interview With Celeste Yvonne

By Posted in - Podcast October 31st, 2023 0 Comments HOW TO NAVIGATE RELATIONSHIP WHEN ONE PARTNER IS CHOOSING SOBRIETY

In recent years, the rise of the celebrated “mommy wine” culture has given rise to a pressing issue that provides a deceptively innocent escape for mothers. Yet beneath the surface, many mothers find themselves entangled in a web of excessive alcohol consumption that negatively affects their lives and relationships.

In this episode, Celeste Yvonne and Dr. Jessica Higgins delve into the challenging dynamics faced by couples when one partner decides to embrace sobriety while the other continues to drink. We explore the isolation and emotional strain often experienced by those navigating this complex terrain. The discussion offers actionable steps and resources to help couples communicate effectively, set boundaries, and ultimately find a path to understanding and connection amid the complexities of one partner’s journey toward sobriety.

Sober mom advocate, Celeste Yvonne, is a writer and certified recovery coach (IAPRC) with over 20 years of experience as a communications professional in corporate America. Over five years sober and a founding host of the Sober Mom Squad, Celeste advocates for mothers who struggle with addiction and mental health.

In this Episode

3:20 Celeste Yvonne’s journey from corporate professional to sobriety advocate.

8:08 Understanding the emotional impact of substance use in motherhood.

15:48 Honest conversations and support in navigating alcoholism and recovery.

20:54 The power of community in sobriety: Overcoming loneliness and isolation.

25:23 Strategies for addressing problematic drinking within relationships.

32:16 Creating empathetic conversations and finding support in challenging relationships.

48:27 Support for moms: Breaking free from the mommy wine culture.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Take time to assess your relationship with alcohol and its impact on your life and well-being.
  • Engage in open and honest conversations with your partner about your concerns and intentions regarding sobriety.
  • Approach conversations about your partner’s drinking with empathy, focusing on understanding their perspective rather than blaming or criticizing.
  • Establish clear boundaries around alcohol use, such as not having alcohol in the house or refusing to engage in conversations when your partner is intoxicated.
  • Show by example how living a sober, fulfilling life can be attractive to your partner and those around you.
  • Find online or in-person support groups or communities that resonate with your journey.
  • Consider seeking the support of a licensed therapist or counselor who understands addiction and can facilitate productive conversations between you and your partner.

Mentioned

It’s Not About the Wine: The Loaded Truth Behind Mommy Wine Culture (*Amazon Affiliate link) (book)

Connect with Celeste Yvonne

Websites: celesteyvonne.substack.com | sobermomsquad.com

Facebook: facebook.com/sobermomsquad

Instagram: instagram.com/theultimatemomchallenge | instagram.com/sobermomsquad

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Celeste, thank you for joining us today. 

Thank you, Jessica. Glad to be here.

Yes. I know we’re going to be talking very specifically about an area as it relates to intimate relationship, where one person is drinking more and perhaps the other one is not, and how to negotiate that. You do a lot to support people in living more of a sober life. Is that right?

Right. I work with a lot of women, and specifically mothers, who are looking to get sober or they are sober or they have been sober for a long time. 

Okay, what got you into supporting people in this way?

Yeah. I think if you had asked me even 10 years ago, or told me that I’d be doing this, I would think that’s wild. Because 10 years ago, I was working in a corporate job, just trying to break through glass ceilings, thinking that the end goal was a corner office and a job at the C-suite. But when I became a mother, my drinking changed. I was always a big drinker. I was always a party drinker. But when I became a mother and a lot of the socializing kind of went away, and you’re in that new motherhood, where you’re not sleeping well, and you’re not eating well, and it feels a lot like survival, I started using alcohol as a coping tool and a coping mechanism to get through those early stages of motherhood. And it was problematic, to say the least. But I always thought it was okay and safe, because I wasn’t drinking every day; some days, I would just have one or two. I was very inconsistent in my drinking. And now I know that this is referred to as grey area drinking. But at the time, I didn’t have the language for that. I didn’t know that there was even something to describe this. All I knew is, I’m not an alcoholic, but I’m not sober. I’m somewhere in between that, and I think that’s okay. 

But as I continued to drink more, as my tolerance grew in motherhood, it did impact the way I was showing up and presenting myself as a parent, as a mom. I realized, here I was, I’ve always wanted to be a mom, I’ve always looked forward to this phase in my life, and I wasn’t looking forward to being present at the time. I was just whiling away the day to go by, to five o’clock where I could get my first drink. I was whiling the time to pass when I was reading to my kids trying to get them to sleep. I just wanted my next drink, and I did not like how I was showing up. 

I did decide to quit drinking after having a panic attack. That was really where I think my beautiful journey in motherhood started, was when I was able to take that off the table, I was able to really show up as the mother. I’ve always wanted to be present for my children, and just stop focusing on alcohol and the drink. I feel like in so many ways, I’ve got my life back to focus on what really mattered. That’s the start of the rest of this journey. I thought I was just going to quit drinking and that would be that. But when the pandemic hit, a friend of mine started the Sober Mom Squad and was looking for other people to join his support. I was two years sober at that time. I said: “Yeah, let me in, I want to help.” That was such a vital time for mothers. Because many of us were struggling, many of us did turn to alcohol to help during the strain and stress and isolation of those early pandemic days. I got to host meetings, and I got to be part of that community. It really changed my outlook on how to thrive in sobriety. That’s what made me want to be more involved and become a recovery coach, and really help people change their relationships with alcohol, just based on my own experience and what I saw during the pandemic.

Well, you and your colleague are doing such beautiful work in supporting people, and helping them have access and the support. Because I think one of the things I’m hearing in what you’re describing is the isolation and the demands, it’s an easy turn-to to have a drink. And while that is an understandable, totally valid impulse to want to get some relief from the stress, that over time, there’s this cumulative effect that can be problematic, to your point. Also, I wonder in your own story, if even the panic attack, sometimes when I am talking with people about their substance use, one of the things that is often present is this desire to get relief that takes them out of the emotional process, so that they’re not metabolizing, working with, dealing with the stressors and the emotional turmoil. So it’s almost a bypass. But then those emotions don’t just go away. So I’m wondering if there’s some correlation that you’re seeing, whether or not in your own life or others.

Yeah, in so many ways. I think a lot of us are not used to, or we’re told not to, feel discomfort, to be afraid of being uncomfortable, to be afraid of negative feelings. That the bypass is the solution, instead of riding those waves. That can be really harmful in that we don’t learn healthy coping strategies, and ultimately, when you look at what happens with alcohol, it gives you a little high, and then it gives you quite a bit of a low as your body works to get the alcohol out of your system. So ultimately, it’s doing more damage than good, which is why a lot of people complain about anxiety. This hangover anxiety situation that comes the next morning, there’s a very real reason for that. I didn’t realize that my alcohol use was impacting my anxiety, that it was impacting my mental health. I genuinely thought it was serving me. And knowing what I know now, that’s the first thing I tell people. But at the time, it was very confusing to me. Because I didn’t see alcohol as part of the problem, but I saw all these other problems that I now know were being built through my alcohol use.

Right. As you’re describing, not having other ways of coping, or even just the isolation, that that furthers isolating. When there’s the substance or the drinking, and what’s happening physiologically, and not even knowing how that’s relating to the emotional process or mental health dynamics, and even relationship dynamics, that it’s a private thing that maybe one is evaluating around how problematic their drinking is. But again, it’s so helpful in some ways, or it seems to be helpful in some ways. But I don’t know that people really talk that transparently about their drinking and the impact, so it’s further isolating,

All we see is the positive messaging around it; we see the advertising, we see the social media. Then another thing that is really dangerous, and that I see a lot of the impact in my Sober Mom Squad, is mommy wine culture, which is this messaging, this social narrative that parents, specifically mothers, need alcohol to cope with raising children. I see the implications of that, both as somebody who once did that, and as a daughter of a self-defined alcoholic, who saw the implications of my father’s drinking and the effect it had on our family. So I’ve seen both sides of that, and it’s a no-win situation. It’s a harmful message to be sending to mothers that alcohol will cure what ails you, when genuinely, we are going to be better off mentally, and our families will be better off, if we’re more present, and riding those waves, and showing our children how to ride those waves in a healthy way.

Absolutely. As you shared really beautifully, that your motherhood really felt much more available and was poignant and started, when you were sober. That’s when it came really in full effect.

That’s when I think I felt genuine satisfaction in my journey, in my role as mother, and fulfillment. Not to say it always feels that way. But I never could get there when my entire trajectory over my schedule or my planning was rooted in when will I get my next drink? 

Yes. For a lot of people, alcohol can be numbing and dulling. So while there’s this initial, like when one drinks, this initial high that might feel enlivening or exciting or something compelling, to your point around there’s a lot of focus around it. But it can also have that side effect, as you’re describing, of increasing anxiety, but also dulling other emotions. It’s really difficult for humans to limit some aspect of relationship, like difficult emotions, and then expect to be able to feel all the positive. It typically restricts all emotions. So it makes a lot of sense that you felt so much more present and aware and available to motherhood when you were sober.

Yeah.

Free Man Carrying Woman Stock Photo

“I like to remind people that keep in mind that if you’re drinking to navigate the hard parts of parenting, you’re also going to be drinking and numbing out the beautiful positive moments.”

I don’t say that to scare anybody. And there are many people, my husband and my mom included, who can just have a drink. I was not one of those people. So when I talk about a lot of this, I do want to be clear, that I was very much a gray area drinker. A lot of people can have a healthy relationship with alcohol, and I’m not here to make anyone feel bad about that.

Well, I mean, just even for someone who’s not necessarily thinking about their next drink throughout the day, but is turning towards alcohol. Like: “Oh, I had such a day, I need a drink.” Just even that pairing of that’s the relief, just to notice. And not, again, to blame or shame, but just to have witness and a noticing. Over time, that has a cumulative effect.

Yes, it will have a cumulative effect on your mental health. And if you’re taking an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, it can impact the benefits or effects of that medicine, which is just really important to keep in mind if you’re worried or more inclined to have anxiety or depression. 

Yes, thank you for acknowledging that. Now, as we pivot towards the dynamic in relationship where one is drinking and the other isn’t or isn’t to the same degree. I guess I’m wondering if you’re open to sharing, did your husband notice your drinking when you were in young motherhood?

No, he did not, and there’s a couple reasons for that. Number one, because I was a gray area drinker, there were some days where I wasn’t drinking. But number two, as my drinking and my tolerance increased, I was more secretive about it. The fact that I could finish an entire bottle of wine by myself felt harmless to me, because my tolerance had been built up. But I knew that didn’t look good. So I started being a little more subtle and secretive about just how much I was drinking. And all the time playing in my head that this is okay, this is harmless, I just have a higher tolerance than most people, I need three to their one. Whatever it was, the games I was playing in my head that made it make sense. So my husband had no idea that it was a problem, that I was concerned, and that I had reached this point where I could have a couple drinks before he even got home and play off the “let’s open a bottle of wine,” and make it sound like this would be my first drink. 

So when I quit, it was probably out of the blue from his perspective. But for me, it was months in the making. I underplayed that too. I just said: “Hey, I’m going to quit drinking, this is just something I need to do.” And we left it at that. I didn’t talk through why I had to do this; my concerns, how bad it got, and where I needed his support. And in hindsight, that would have been pretty helpful to help me get through those early days. But I was so frightened of what people would think, him included, if they knew the truth, if they knew to what point I had reached, how uncomfortable I was with this. So I downplayed it. And as a result, he continued to drink around me, because why wouldn’t he? He continued to leave alcohol in my presence. I don’t know if he ever said would you like one, if he was pouring a drink? I don’t recall. But he certainly went back to business as usual. Everything worked out, I remained sober. It wasn’t until later that he realized just how bad it had gotten for me. But if I could go back, I would have these vital conversations in the early days to talk to him about what I needed, what would be helpful, maybe set some boundaries about what I will and won’t do at this point. With the understanding that over time, as I got more comfortable, things would change. But it’s just, knowing what I now know, I would certainly have done it differently than the way I did it.

Yeah, I appreciate you sharing and acknowledging. If you don’t mind me asking, did he know that you had had a panic attack? Because that sounds like a little bit of the kind of pushing or turning point for you.

Yeah, I think he knew. Because I went to the ER, and I told him that I had gone to the ER for a panic attack, and that I need to quit drinking. That’s really kind of all that came out of that conversation. It wasn’t even two-sided. It was just me making that statement that I need to stop drinking, and then I don’t think we touched upon it again.

So were you able to get other support? I mean, there’s an incredible amount of willpower and clarity and resilience that you’re describing in your story. Did you get support in other ways?

Initially, no. Initially, I just white-knuckled it, which again, it’s not something I would recommend anybody do. But just something I’ve learned over the course of this time. I didn’t start digging into sobriety and recovery and hearing other people’s stories and reading the books, until the later months. As I had more time and as I started to see the positive benefits in my life, and started to say this is the direction I want to go anyway, I started to dig in deeper and learn more about how to make this a way of life, how to live a life in recovery, to feel the freedom that comes with sobriety. It was the Sober Mom Squad that actually I had my first experience with community. And now, I would say that would be in my top three of things I would recommend for anybody who is starting their sober journey. 

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“Community can be so vital, it’s a beautiful part of the process. And when you think of loneliness, those early days of sobriety can feel extremely lonely, and community can help you feel connection in a very empowering way.”

Absolutely. Because often as we’ve been talking, it can feel so isolating, even with the most intimate person, like our spouse. So to have that community and that support can help reduce that isolation, that loneliness, and as you’re describing, can be so supportive and help in so many ways. I think in some ways, it could bring someone a little bit more. I mean, you just beautifully talked about all the ways that can help. But I’m just imagining that it’s almost as if taking that scary, terrifying risk to share with the significant other, that there’s almost the backing up, the support, the community, that they got you in there with you. I don’t know if you would agree with that. But is that what happens for people sometimes?

I do, I absolutely agree with that. My husband has been so supportive, in the best way he can be as somebody who doesn’t quite understand what it’s like. So to be able to also have my community of other, not just women, but other mothers who know exactly what it’s like, who are going through the exact same things as me, is so empowering, it’s validating. And we also help keep each other accountable. So there’s so many amazing benefits that I think our loved ones who might not quite understand what we’re going through, would want and would love to help us with, but it’s not quite the same. 

Yeah, that’s so critical for recovery and mental health, and to have the validation and the understanding and the empathy for what the journey is like. In your Sober Mom Squad, do you also have people that choose to not drink and it’s almost not the norm, and thus they like to have community but maybe aren’t on a recovery journey?

Yeah. I mean, we do have people who just, like you said, don’t like to drink, but they feel very isolated in this decision; they don’t have a squad, so to speak, of other mothers who also abstain. I mean, it really is all over the map. Many of the people in the community were gray area drinkers, but a lot of them also self-identify as alcoholic. So it really is all over the spectrum. I think it’s challenging, even in my day-to-day, in my life at home, almost every single person I know, who’s an adult, drinks at some capacity. So to find a virtual community is such a great part about being sober in 2023. It’s not even something necessarily I know that I’d be able to have found 10 years ago. The online presence of recovery really came into fruition during the pandemic. It not only opened up meetups like Sober Mom Squad, but many, dozens of different communities were born out of that. And for mothers specifically who are home, or they work but they’ve got kids, they’re all over the place, they’ve got a million things to do and a million places to be, and they have to care for children on top of that. Getting to an in-person meeting regularly is very hard, and that’s one of the main reasons I never attempted in my early recovery. So to have the virtual option is such a gift.

Yeah, no kidding! Come in your PJs, or breastfeeding. Obviously, hopefully one’s not drinking too heavily breastfeeding. But that there’s certain circumstances that just make that, like if the child was napping or whatever.

Or they’re screaming in the background. We’ve seen it all, and it’s wonderful. 

Yes. So as we’re talking about this, and I know one of the things we wanted to focus on is if one person is drinking and it seems problematic to some extent, what do you suggest around those conversations? It sounds like you’re saying there’s a process that the non-drinking spouse, or the one that’s perhaps not gray area drinking or is having problematic drinking, could say or do, or how they might relate to the person drinking? Where are you wanting to start with us? 

Yeah, I mean, that’s such a hard situation. Because if you are the one in a relationship with somebody, and you are concerned about their drinking, you can have the conversations. But oftentimes, it could be not well-received or not well-taken. 

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“I think one of the biggest things you learn in codependency and Al-Anon is we really only have control over our own actions. You can say what you need to say, and you can set the boundaries about what you will and will not do if something happens. But you can’t change other people’s behavior. So that’s kind of a critical thing to understand.”

One of the most common things I see in Sober Mom Squad is people who are part of the group, who know they have to quit, or they’ve recently quit, and their spouse or their partner, or even family members, they either don’t understand or they don’t approve of their attempt to be sober; they don’t like it, they’re losing their drinking buddy. So they’re unsupportive. That is such a challenging situation in so many ways. Because quitting drinking is already hard, and to not have that support from people that you live with and see regularly is extremely challenging. When that happens, I like to remind people that we try to foster attraction over promotion. That’s an AA way of doing it. That’s a common expression, and it’s so powerful. That the goal isn’t to incline everyone around you to also quit drinking. Stay in your lane, focus on what you’re doing, and the hope is that people around you will see the benefits you’re experiencing and become advocates, become supporters, and see the benefits firsthand. So that would be the first thing, I would encourage that. 

But I would also say, to have the conversation, find out their concerns. “What are you worried about? Is it about losing a drinking buddy? Or are you worried that I’m going to start criticizing the way you’re drinking?” Getting to the bottom of where the fear is can be such a powerful tool, that you can find out just through candid conversations or through couples’ counseling. There’s different ways to approach that. 

The other thing that I think I mentioned earlier, but it’s really important, is to figure out what your boundaries are and to set them. In this kind of situation, that could look like: “I know in early sobriety, I don’t want alcohol in my house. Or I know in early sobriety, I will not have a conversation with a partner or a family member if they are visibly intoxicated.” So in certain situations, things like those examples: “I can’t handle that. That’s too hard, and I’m not ready to go there.” With the understanding that it’s not going to be like this forever, that this is just a critical time that we need to make these necessary accommodations, and then have negotiations around those things. Like, if your partner does want alcohol in the house, or if your loved one that you live with does insist on it, can you come up with a negotiation of maybe just keeping it to the garage or a closet, something where it’s not in your eye every single time you open up the fridge or something like that? So things like that are really helpful tools for navigating early sobriety when your partner or your loved ones aren’t necessarily onboard. 

Thank you. There’s three areas here that I’d love to flesh out a little bit more. And as you talked about the third one around boundaries and negotiating, you gave some example around someone who’s in their journey of early recovery. Can you also give us an example if the person is a non-drinker, mild drinker, and perhaps they want to set some boundaries, but their spouse or partner who is drinking more?

The beautiful thing is, I think these can work both ways. I think the attraction over promotion would work if you were on the other side of it. If you saw a loved one over-consuming, you were concerned, you can show by example, a decreased amount of drinking, making it less available from your side of it, maybe declining alcohol at parties and whatnot. And showing just through those behaviors and those patterns, a different way to do it, they might be able to see that you’re leading by example. Or at least it’ll catch on that you’re waking up in the morning feeling not disgusting and groggy and gross with a hangover, but you’re alive and awake and ready to start your day. And they might be more inclined to go that direction too, or to try to reduce their intake. So that’s one way to try it. Of course, you know, you can also set boundaries in this situation too, that when somebody is drinking too much, you can say: “I will not have these conversations with you when you are under the influence, let’s re-approach this in the morning.” I mean, those are the kinds of boundaries you can set. Because let’s face it, no good conversation ever comes out after a bottle of wine, certainly not in my experience either. So it’s really beneficial for everybody, in those circumstances, to have those boundaries and to not just go with the flow. Because when you’ve had the conversation or your concerns were raised, they shut down or got angry. 

Exactly. Perhaps even to the second point around sharing or tuning in towards the concerns, that in the example where the non-drinker is wanting to hold safe space for the one that’s been drinking more, that it’s not so much: “Oh, I’m concerned about your behavior, let’s talk about that.” But it’s more of like: “Hey, I’ve noticed, it seems like maybe you’ve been drinking more than I’ve known you too. Do you want to talk about anything you’re experiencing? Or maybe we haven’t had a heart-to-heart in a while, and I just would love to hear where you’re at if you’re open to sharing.” Like, creating some safety there to talk about some of the things that do feel heavy or do feel hard. Would you think that would be helpful?

I do. I think approaching it without finger-pointing and just showing empathy and wanting to connect and to try to understand, is such a great way to approach it. It might not be well-received, regardless. But you are still putting a bug in their ear. I would say, if you get to a place where you do feel like you’re not being heard, or your concerns are not being addressed or heard, it might be worthwhile to speak to a couples’ counselor, who can really address and mitigate concerns in a more safe environment, where it feels like both parties or all parties are being heard.

Perhaps one that has training in substance or even addiction and alcoholism. Because sometimes it can really inhibit, for the person that’s drinking, their ability to engage in those safe dialogues in real vulnerable ways.

Absolutely. I mean, when you talk about the numbing out, you are numbing out a lot of cognitive functions. So like, when I think about my father, who was deep in his addiction for such a long time, he couldn’t even think with clarity over things that seemed so simple to me. Like, as a 15-year-old me having this conversation, why do you choose alcohol over your family? And him just getting really angry. Because physically, his body could not respond any other way. It really emotionally strains us when you are in the addiction cycle and stuck in the addiction trap. It can really emotionally stunt us too. 

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“I think that’s a really important thing to consider, that if you are with somebody who’s deep in their problem, addict drinking or in an addiction, to be able to have the conversations in a safe place, with a licensed professional and somebody who understands how it works and how addiction works. So both people feel like they’re being heard and respected, even when somebody is struggling with addiction.”

Yeah, I have so much empathy for this terrain. It’s really difficult when you’re talking about how progressed or deep the substance addiction or abuse or issues happening, alcoholism, it’s quite tremendous. 

It’s so hard. I was actually just having a conversation with a friend, whose husband was in addiction for a long time before he got into recovery. She was saying how important Al-Anon can be, and to have that community for you as a loved one of someone struggling. Because for all the reasons we talked about the importance of community earlier, the same goes for this. It is a very lonely place to be. It’s scary.

Absolutely. Because when you were talking a moment ago, I was thinking about your first point around attraction versus promotion, and the loved one can be caught in this bind around: “I want to live fully. So I can maybe go do a sport or be active and social and all these things. But that means I’m not with you, and we’re not together and connected.” Obviously, we want some individuation in relationship, but I’m talking about cumulatively, again, that if I’m living in this fuller, sober way, and you’re not along, we’re not together, then that means we’re not together. Versus we’re together, and then I’m feeling the need to care-take or be in these codependent ways maybe to be in connection. That’s a difficult place to kind of straddle one’s own health and well-being, and living fully and the attraction of that. But also, to stay in connection. Sometimes we have a real bind there that it’s not quite possible.

Right. I mean, it is such a challenging place to be, in some ways. In so many ways, it feels impossible. Then when you add kids to the picture, there’s a level of safety and concern that comes with that as well, that adds just so many different facets to the conversation.

Absolutely. Now, again, coming back to your story, is your father still alive?

No, he passed away a few years ago. But he had a debilitating stroke young, he was only 52, from his drinking, and it severely disabled him for the rest of his life. He was a live-in nurse for his final years, and he was sober at that point. But I would say he was never emotionally sober. I think he was only sober because he no longer could physically access alcohol. But he never really experienced the joy that can come with emotional sobriety, and with living a life of freedom and recovery from substance use. It’s heartbreaking, because he missed out on so much. The beautiful part of our story is that we were able to make amends in those final years, in part because he wasn’t drinking. But of course, I do believe his life could have been longer, it certainly would have been more fulfilling. But it was such a momentum piece for me in my own journey to get sober while my kids were present and around, so I didn’t do the same patterns as my dad, and so my kids wouldn’t have to grow up with that. So he really had such a forceful, in the best way, influence over my decision to quit drinking. And for that, I’ll always be so grateful.

Yeah. Well, I feel sad to hear about his health condition, and then resulting to him passing. And I’m also grateful there were some amends that you got to feel, some repair there. And it wasn’t to the capacity that I’m sure could have been, or you would have liked to have felt with him. Because one of my questions is how did it feel, or what was his response to your decision and the work you’re doing? It sounds like, that’s perhaps in a different realm that you get to feel.

He did get to see me in early sobriety. I think that’s a beautiful thing, even if he couldn’t express himself towards that. I think he was proud of that, or excited for that. And he got to see me start to break this cycle that he had known from his own family and life, and he gets to see that cycle end with me, hopefully. I’d like to also think that wherever he is, however he watches, I get to be and do these things with him watching, because it just adds such a beautiful connection to a story that’s not over. 

Exactly. That was kind of what I was hearing in what you were describing the gift around even the hardship of it, what you were able to take and transform it into, and the lineage of that. Generationally, that’s something really powerful.

Yeah, and he got to see it. I think when he first died, there was a part of me that was like, if I started drinking again right now, nobody would be surprised, and nobody would blame me. But what would my father think, what kind of legacy what I then be setting for what he did teach me and what I can teach my children? I knew that this story and my presence here is so much bigger than just alcohol and what alcohol could ever be. I want so much more for my life now, now that I’ve seen all that life is capable of, and it’s something that even my best day drinking could never have offered me. 

Yeah, no kidding. How old are your children now?

They’re nine and seven, so they’re still young.

They’re still young, and what you’ve been able to experience with them, and your being aware and present and available, is profound. We can’t even give that full justice here on this show, as we’re talking about drinking. Just even the modeling, that you’re a living example, and that attraction of what it looks like to be living full and awake and not with any substance.

Yeah, I love that they get to see both sides of it. They see a father who can have a healthy relationship with alcohol, and they see a mother who just doesn’t drink at all; they get to see two different ways to approach this. I hope that that has an influence over them. I saw what not to do, which had an influence over me. But I hope that my kids will see different ways to do it healthily, and that will influence them.

Beautiful. Well, is there anything that we haven’t touched on that you wanted to address in the way of how to negotiate this dynamic in relationship, and then anything that you typically like to share in regards to? 

Yeah. I would say, especially around the dynamic of somebody who is ready to quit drinking, and they have loved ones who maybe aren’t excited about that, or feeling cautious about that, or just not happy about that choice. One of the things I like to say, because this took some time, I think, for my husband to really get onboard and understand that this is a lifestyle and not just a phase or a trend. I think in some ways, he did feel like he was missing his drinking buddy. But what I tell people now, over Mom Squad or people just that I’m connecting with who have the same concerns, is yes, my partner lost his drinking buddy. But I think about all the beautiful positive things that have come out of my sobriety and our life as a result, that the benefits far outweigh the cons that he might consider me not drinking anymore. I think about the late night fights, or I think about waking up in the morning and not quite remembering what I said or what I did. Just all the accumulation that could have happened in the last five years if I were still drinking, and that we don’t have to deal with any of that anymore, and that I am present for all of it, I’m a safe environment for my family. If the downside of that is my husband lost his drinking buddy, then I think we’re in a pretty good place.

Yes, and you’re healthy. The health implications of what it does to the body and the longevity, like to have you around is huge. 

Yes. To know that I have a better chance of being around for our kids getting older, and maybe grandchildren someday, who knows. But I’m not sabotaging my own health anymore. I think to have that presence as a mother, to have that presence in my family, with my loved ones, with my husband, with my children, it’s been such a blessing and a gift. 

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“I hope that anybody who feels stuck in the alcohol trap will want and try to explore what sobriety can look like. Because it’s not perhaps what you think it might look like. It’s the opposite of deprivation, I say it’s liberation in every aspect.”

Wow. Well, I want to turn towards all the resources and what you want to share in helping people get more support and more connection here. I just also want to ask, before we turn towards that, has your husband, in the conversations and in the evolution of this, does he have a greater understanding of your emotional world around your journey, and have you been able to share that with him?

Yeah, all my secrets have been revealed. He not only understands the context of why I quit when I quit, but he understands what could have happened if I didn’t. Now, I would say he’s my biggest supporter.

Yay, I’m happy to hear that! Thanks for sharing. 

Okay, great. Well, what would you want to direct people towards?

Yeah. I would love people to check out my new book, it just came out. It’s called It’s Not about the Wine: The Loaded Truth Behind Mommy Wine Culture. It talks about my sober journey. But it also talks about why women are drinking more than ever, and what to do if you are stuck in the alcohol trap. The other thing I would just say is, if you are looking for support and you identify as a mother, I host meetings with Sober Mom Squad; we have meetings three to six times a day, every day. It’s a great resource. It’s a resource I utilize, and I know it can be so transformative to so many. You can find me on social media at the @UltimateMomChallenge on Facebook or Instagram. 

Wonderful. And where might they find the groups? Is that on your website or the SoberMomSquad website? 

SoberMomSquad.com. 

Okay, I’ll make sure to have that link and your social media handles. And your book, it sounds really important. I mean, I’m reminded of some clients that I’ve had, who live in wine country or live in areas where it’s smaller communities. And it just seems like I’ve heard the different clients report that as a mother, it’s incredibly alienating and isolating to be in an environment where all the moms seem to be drinking, and that’s incredibly difficult. So it sounds like your book, and the support and groups that you have, are just critical here.

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“I think motherhood in general is very isolating, especially in those early years. But then when you add quitting drinking and not being actively involved in the mommy wine culture, it can feel even more so.”

So to have a group of other women who are going through the same thing, who know how it feels, it’s amazing. I would say my greatest sober friends are all through online, virtual, or social media groups or spaces. Because it’s hard to find in real life, for so many of us.

Yes, and a lot translates and is transmitted even through the virtual space. So I think it’s incredibly powerful. 

Well, thank you for what you’re doing and the message you’re promoting, and just your willingness to share so openly. I’m very touched by what you’ve shared here today, so thank you. 

Thank you. Thank you for giving me this space.

Signing Off

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching