Successful Working Mom, Addiction, and Healed Through Sharing Authentically: Michelle’s Story

Social drinking developed into an unhealthy dependence on alcohol for Michelle. Recovery enabled her to experience healing through sharing with a supportive community. Michelle discovered a life where she can love herself and pursue her passions and new adventures.

Finding Healing Through My Story

People are often surprised when I tell them about the depths of addiction I dealt with. I worked so hard to hide it, and now I have discovered and built a thriving life. I’ve been able to experience healing from unaddressed pain and am now able to give back to those who still suffer from the effects of addiction. Sharing my story is important because I care deeply about ending the silence and stigma around this issue.

I come from a long history of addiction in my family. My father was a doctor, and both a workaholic and alcoholic, although he was able to achieve sobriety for some time before he passed away. I worked hard in college – I completed my degree in three years – and didn’t drink much there, so I thought I would never struggle with alcohol addiction.

As a successful working mother, I tried hard to balance my career with motherhood. I worked for my county and had a lot of success, helping individuals in criminal justice who were dealing with co-occurring mental health disorders. However, things really started to shift after my second child. Postpartum depression affected the way I performed my daily tasks. I didn’t want to leave the house, I didn’t want to go back to work, and I was drinking a lot more and not seeking help because of the stigma and shame attached. Pleasing people has always been important to me, so it felt like I was in a pressure cooker.

My Relationship with Alcohol as a Mom

Before this, I had found a lot of comfort in drinking wine with other mothers, going to happy hour events, and more. But my relationship with alcohol began to shift: one glass soon became three. I realized that I was drinking more than those around me, and I would stop by home to grab an extra bottle to drink by myself. Even though I realized my predisposition to alcoholism, I just internalized this issue and didn’t share it with anyone because I didn’t want to hand it over to others to deal with. Binge drinking became more common, and I would go a couple of weeks without drinking before going through the same cycle of overdoing and having to clean up my mess.

Eventually, I reached a place where I had what I thought should make me happy but felt really empty and hurting. I couldn’t be the perfect Pinterest mother that I felt pressure to be, and I never felt like I could reach the high expectations that I set for myself. I had two beautiful children, a successful career, but I didn’t want to leave my house. I remember being in my bathrobe, having just vomited, depressed and anxious. Losing my mother, and not having her to turn to for advice on being a mom and going through the grief of her passing, didn’t help. I woke up one day with a blood alcohol level of .43 after drinking three bottles of wine, and Child Protective Services showed up at my house.

Sharing My Secrets

After dealing with this developing addiction for about five years, Alcoholics Anonymous became an important part of my recovery process. The secrets that I held were killing me: the loss of my parents, the postpartum depression, the pressure I felt but couldn’t communicate. Being able to share them openly with people who wouldn’t judge me was major in my healing process. I realized that I didn’t have to be the perfect mom, but that I could be a good mom for my kids, and that’s what they needed. I also dove into therapy and other personal development because I realized that I could take responsibility for my choices and become the best wife and mother I could be. Throughout this process, I had to learn to say “no” to things in order to be able to simply sit with and love myself — just as I am.

Learning how to de-stress in healthy ways has been a major part of my recovery process. I learned how to incorporate new activities, like yoga or listening to a podcast, into my routine instead of needing to drink. I’ve also changed my habits. My work-life balance is different so that I can take better care of myself. Alcohol is glamorized throughout our culture — for example, you can’t go to Target without it being advertised via some silly message. So I adopted a “one-day-at-a-time” approach. And now, several years in, my life remains completely manageable without alcohol. I have learned how to deal with triggers, holidays, and awkward questions from others, and I’m so thankful for the support systems around me.

 Social drinking became an unhealthy dependence on alcohol for Michelle, but she's now sitting at her desk as a successful working mom after recovery.

Pursuing My Passions

Recovery has changed my approach to life. I’ve decided to pursue my passions and conquer fears in new ways. I no longer sit on the sidelines. I’ve traveled to Disneyland, gone zip-lining, swam with dolphins and taken on other things that I haven’t done before. A big focus for me has been creating family experiences and memories that were missed because of my drinking, and not having money to spend on my family.  A recovery-focused group I started, “Recovery Is the New Black”, has grown to more than 13,000 people on Instagram and 3,000 in my private women-only Facebook group. I’ve gone back to work and still work for my county, now as a mental health and drug and alcohol therapist for the county. The people I serve deal with addiction and other mental health behaviors. It’s not always easy, but it’s rewarding. I have recently begun working with women virtually to extend the reach of the women requesting my services.

If you’re out there and struggling with alcohol or other substances, especially if you’re a mother, know that you’re not alone. There is no shame: many people deal with this condition. Talk to a doctor or someone you trust. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. You get to find your own recovery pathway. Don’t focus on the long-term future or labels, just take it one day at a time. We may have places where we’ve made poor decisions, but we can take responsibility, get help, move forward, and rediscover life.



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