Courtesy of Dragana Gordic/Fotolia

I'm Pregnant. I'm Also An Alcoholic.

By
Share
Ad failed to load

The last time I was offered a drink was at a staff luncheon. My colleague knew I was well into my second trimester — in fact, she’d given me two bags of hand-me-down maternity clothes the day before. But she offered me a glass of white wine nonetheless. “Oh, come on,” she said when I demurred. "My OGBYN always said I could have just one.”

I waved it away, but not before I noticed that the condensation on the glass looked like liquid diamonds. My tongue swelled. Pregnant or not, I thought, I have never known what it’s like to have just one.

You see, I’m six months pregnant, but I’m also a recovering alcoholic. I have two years of sobriety under my belt. You would think that being sober would make abstaining from alcohol during these nine months easy, especially since another person's life is at stake, but it doesn’t. In fact, in some ways, it makes it a lot harder.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Fotolia

I am not judging other women who have a few glasses during pregnancy. A 2015 CDC report says that only 10% of pregnant women have one alcoholic drink per month, indicating that total abstinence is still the prevailing trend in pregnancy. But if a doctor tells my healthy, non-alcoholic coworker that she can have just one drink, I say that is her choice.

But for me, having “just one” drink will lead me to craving another, then another, then another. I will drink myself mean, ugly, and sick in a matter of a few hours.

Ad failed to load
I can’t have a drink because I’m an alcoholic, and one drink leads to another, leads to who-knows-what with who-knows-who, and there’s no telling where I end up or what I lose.

I discovered this about myself a few years ago, though it took me a while to actually quit drinking. While I have my war stories (like getting kicked out of my own building because I passed out in front of the daycare before I made it to my apartment), most of my life as an alcoholic was small and boring. I spent most of my time at work, at home, or at the neighborhood bar, where my brother, a bartender, would serve me drinks for free. But in the final months of my drinking, even that bar seemed too public a place for me to drink the way I wanted to, and I spent days either seeking oblivion or recovering from it, all while trying to put on an angel’s face at work. This left very little space for anything like hobbies or friends, much less building a family.

I figured that if I could simply cut out drinking, I’d be free to go after the things I really wanted in life, instead of just blacking out while playing Skyrim. It took me a few relapses to fully accept that there was no way I could drink alcohol safely in any amount. I haven’t had a drink since May 30, 2015.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of nokkaew/Fotolia

Now that I’m sober, my life is big and exciting. In the past few years, I’ve started new programs at work, fallen in love, moved into my own apartment, wrote a novel, and moved in with my partner. Now, I’m having my first child.

For me, recovery has been a gift. But I have to work hard to maintain it. That work is not just about waving drinks away — it also involves attending regular 12-step meetings, volunteering to help out and speak at detoxes, reaching out to other women with the same problem, and undergoing weekly psychoanalytic therapy. And that work didn't get easier when I became pregnant.

Ad failed to load
When you are an alcoholic, sound reasoning and selfless motivations (like, you know, being a decent mother) are not enough to keep you from drinking.

Not too long ago, I told my mother that I had to get off the phone because I was on my way to a meeting. “Why bother?” she asked. “It’s not like you’re going to drink for the next nine months, right?”

What she and many others don't realize is that when you are an alcoholic, sound reasoning and selfless motivations (like, you know, being a decent mother) are not enough to keep you from drinking. If I am to stay sober, it cannot be for this fetus, or for my partner, or for anyone but myself. Because if I can’t take care of myself, how can I presume to take care of anybody else?

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Fotolia/Wavebreakmediamicro

My disease is still alive and lurking. Recently, after another agent turned down my novel manuscript, I found myself in the grocery store looking for a decent tomato. I was softly squeezing tomatoes, feeling a dull ache in my bosom, when a voice from out of nowhere said, A drink would probably make you stop feeling like a reject.

I jerked up, bruised the poor tomato in my grip. No, I argued with that not-too-unfamiliar voice, I can’t have a drink because I’m an alcoholic, and one drink leads to another, leads to who-knows-what with who-knows-who, and there’s no telling where I end up or what I lose. And that was that. The voice was silenced, and the feeling passed.

Ad failed to load
I have loved my unborn son since he was the size of a lentil. But he’s not what’s standing between me and a drink.

That urge only lasted a few seconds. But at no point during that conversation with myself did I think, I shouldn’t drink because I’m 25 weeks pregnant. To other people who do not struggle with alcoholism, that might sound selfish. It certainly goes against everything I’ve heard about motherhood. But it’s what I know I need to do to protect my sobriety.

I have loved my unborn son since he was the size of a lentil (in fact, that’s his nickname). But he’s not what’s standing between me and a drink. Because when the typical anxieties of impending motherhood come up — Will I be patient and kind? Will I have enough money? Will my boobs ever be the same again? — I will always feel compelled to reach for a substance as a way to deal with those feelings. When that impulse strikes, medical guidelines or social pressures or even Lentil’s unbelievably strong kicks aren’t enough to help me fight it. I need a whole program of recovery to keep me sober.

Ad failed to load

Non-alcoholic women who abstain from alcohol during pregnancy can think of it as a temporary state with a specific end date. The irony is that, as an alcoholic, I never get to think of my abstinence as permanent — I think of it as a day-at-a-time practice. It has no end date, and there are no guarantees. But I know I need to keep going — because now, the stakes are higher than ever.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

15 Baby Names With Unique Nicknames, So Your Family Has Options

I love a good diminutive name, also known as a nickname. I believe I’m partial to them because of my own name, Abigale, but I go by Abi. And since they’re both uniquely spelled, everyone thinks my name is pronounced Ah-bee for some reason — but even …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}