Parenting Sober (Guest Post)

Thursday 7 Dec, 2017, 10:36am by Mrs D 16 comments

This guest post comes from our lovely community member Matt (@emjaycee).

Matt

I left my job as a journalist in late October 2010 to look after my then nine-month-old daughter full time when my wife returned to work. It was a six-month trial to see whether it suited me, my daughter and our little family. Seven years later I’m still at home with my girls, aged seven and four. Yes, in 2013 daughter #2 arrived. Now that I have been sober for more than 500 days I can reflect on how both alcohol and sobriety has influenced my parenting.

A multitude of small moments and larger wake-up calls led me to quit alcohol, including some moments with my kids. In the grand scheme of things they’re not major blunders, but muffing up running the music during the pass-the-parcel game at my daughter’s fifth birthday due to too much booze hardly filled me with pride. Closer to the time I gave up, I caught myself on a Saturday afternoon running around with the kids after a few ciders, glass in hand. I was starting to get a bit sloppy and I thought to myself: “What the hell are you doing?” I looked into the future and pictured my 50-year-old self and decided I needed to make a change before my drinking became a larger problem.

I now look back on the many mornings struggling with a hangover (or even the effects of a few late-night glasses of wine after a stressful day) as unnecessary and wasted. One of the biggest joys of sobriety is how awesome most of my mornings are now. Even the mornings after a terrible sleep start better than the hung-over ones from my drinking past. These more productive mornings have a significant flow on to how much more effectively I can look after the needs of the girls when they bound into our room at 6am. There are no more regrets from having too much to drink the night before and no more guilt about how this effected the kids.

Matt 2

Early in my sober journey, I removed the bottles of booze and the wine glasses from the shelves of our 1930s-era built-in bar. Our house has changed from one where alcohol was always visible, and regularly noticed by the kids, to one where it’s rarely seen. My wife has the occasional glass of wine with dinner. I used to regularly start drinking while making dinner, drink more with my wife during dinner and kick on after the kids went in bed. Now my sole sober-headed focus is on their needs; their bath, their meal, and reading to them at bedtime. That’s a powerful and welcome change. They no longer ask if we are drinking Pinot Noir or Rosé (you certainly question whether you are drinking too much when your nearly 3-year-old takes this level of interest).

Giving up alcohol was the best thing I’ve ever done. It did precipitate a plunge into depression, anxiety and panic attacks, but that ultimately led me to make the long-overdue meaningful changes to the way I operate day-to-day and the way I view myself as a parent, a husband, a friend, and a man. The last few years before I gave up alcohol I could feel myself slowly slipping into a rut of questioning my purpose in the world and struggling with feeling that my parenting role was not seen as ‘enough’ by others. My drinking increased as I struggled with these feelings of inadequacy. I’m happy to say I no longer dwell on this. When people ask what I do, I tell them I look after my girls without adding unnecessary qualifiers such as: “But I also work part-time as a writer.”

Now I have emerged from the dark tunnel of depression, I am finally able to give my WHOLE self to those around me. Actually, when I was at my lowest point I stripped myself of all the pressure and just focussed on getting better. It was a lovely time because of how I reconnected with the girls. Putting their needs before my own feelings helped me deal with what was happening to me. Now, I’m far more present with the girls and I am loving being with them. It’s not that I didn’t love being with them before, but living in the moment means your mind is not grappling with worries for the future or regrets of the past. It’s a nice headspace.

Early in my sobriety, a friend questioned whom in the family would model normal drinking now I had given up alcohol. There’s such an ingrained mindset in this country that our kids will inevitably drink alcohol, so we must do our bit by bringing them into the fold under our supervision; the odd sip out of mum or dad’s glass, being able to have one at a family party when you reach a certain age, supervising the high-school-aged parties (well if they’re going to drink they might as well be safe under our roof). This is the mentality of a drinker and it certainly used to be mine too. It’s passed down from generation to generation. The girls will certainly have plenty of responsible and irresponsible drinking role models around them as they grow up. I’m really proud that I can model the benefits of non-drinking to them.

Giving up alcohol has improved my life in every way, including the way I parent.

@emjaycee

(Photo of Matt with his girls taken by Joseph Johnston)

 

16 comments

  1. @emjaycee – what a beautiful story! Thank you for being so candid and sharing. I am reading The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle, and most believe it is related to the work world. It is so much more. We are leaders of our family and our child. Modeling for them, and the principle is centered on Servantship. You are being a wonderful, strong leader for your family. The word “servant” has such negative views in our world, but quite the opposite…..a great read. I believe it will resonate well with you. I know it is helping me rethink my parenting with my teens.

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  2. Yes, yes, yes @ emjaycee ! I totally agree, my kids have been a massive part of my recovery too. I can look myself in the eye in the mirror now. Thanks for being so honest in this post, I too looked into the future and didn’t like what I saw and so stopped, before things got worse. Good to see you yesterday x

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  3. I loved your post . I feel the same but it took me till I was in my late 50s to figure this out. Better late than never ! I love my mornings too x

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  4. I love love love this post! Such a great inspiration to stay the sober course, and it’s so true what you say about drinking being ingrained into not only our society, but into our every day life.

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  5. Love, love, love this! Well done and beautifully written emjacee. Throughout my struggles with giving up alcohol, the affect on my kids has always weighed very heavily on my mind. As a single Mum, with fulltime care, I’m their biggest role model and I’m extremely conscious of the image that normalising daily alcohol consumption gave. I look back at some of the states I would end up at night in – if there was an emergency I would’ve been scarcely capable of handling it and certainly not able to drive anywhere if required. And those hungover grumpy mornings when I have yelled at the the kids when they are just being themselves. WOW, Being AF is just so much better for me and my family in every way!

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  6. What a good dad you are! Thanks for sharing all the joys of sobriety. I used to focus on what I thought I was giving up, but it’s nothing compared to the beautiful connections you’re able to make with your family and loved ones when you remove alcohol from your life.

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  7. @emjaycee You sound like an extraordinarily enlightened human being. You’re going to be an awesome dad to those two girls and a fantastic role model not just for them but for other parents too.

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