Editor's note: I want to personally thank Regina for sharing this story of grace, faith and courage. If you are a reader who struggles with an addiction, please know that you are in our prayers and please seek immediate help. For a full listing of Catholic Recovery websites, please visit Regina's website. LMH
I’m a Catholic mother who loves our Faith, my husband and my children more than anything else in the world. I pray the Rosary every day. I visit Christ in Adoration. My children attend a wonderful Catholic school. I volunteer, play tennis, help with school parties, and drive carpool.
Oh, and by the way, I’m an alcoholic.
I never would have admitted that when I was still drinking. But now that I have been sober for a while and am in recovery I have found that admitting I’m an alcoholic helps me hit back at the shame that can cripple me if I let it.
And if I’m lucky, being somewhat public about my problem might help another woman face hers.
Shame goes hand-in-hand with being an alcoholic mother. Shame is awful, sneaky. And it’s not of God.
The stigma of being an alcoholic can keep some moms from getting help earlier, says Ann-Marie Loose, LSW, a clinical supervisor at Caron Treatment Centers based in Wernersville, PA. “You try to have the perfect home, be the perfect mom and wife,” said Loose. “And you look completely under control to the outside world, but alcohol is slowing destroying your life.”
And, Sarah Allen Benton, M.S., L.M.H.C. author of, Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic, said “It is as though the image of the "mother" and that of the "alcoholic" seem contradictory." However, alcoholism does not discriminate and there are definitely good mothers who are also alcoholic.
My "problem" affected my marriage and my children, and it separated me from God. It wasn’t just about me anymore. As a Catholic mom it was imperative I tackle this truthfully, and in light of my Faith—without saddling myself with shame.
To be honest, I always knew there was something different about my drinking. I seemed to really love it. Everyone else could take it or leave it. Where other people had a couple of drinks to loosen up or wind down, I had a couple of drinks to “get going.” I eventually crossed the line from being a social drinker to being an alcoholic.
How did I know? For me, I came to accept that I had a problem because of two things: God and my children. I came to recognize my dependence on alcohol was affecting my relationship as a daughter of Christ and as a mother to my children. So I became committed to seeking help.
The desire to mature in my relationship with God and the desire to be the mother I knew I could be were finally enough to get me to admit my problem and seek help. This was a very humbling endeavor, one I am so grateful to God for walking me through.
I think for each of us facing the facts about our drinking is a process, sometimes a long process. Sometimes that process is helped along a little bit by a DUI or an embarrassing episode. But for the most part, it’s something we come to accept through our relationship with God and with our families.
Experts offer these signs that our drinking might be out of control:
- We start making mistakes, forgetting our child’s sporting event, missing appointments.
- We start drinking before a social activity.
- We begin to avoid situations where alcohol will be present because we have difficulty controlling how much we drink—we wanted to protect our reputations.
- Once we start drinking we have trouble stopping.
- The time between drinking binges gets less and less.
- We might experience “blackouts,” which are simply periods of time we are unable to remember what took place when we were drinking.
- We behave in ways that are uncharacteristic of our sober selves. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?
If you think you might have a drinking problem, or you love someone who does, I encourage you to talk it over with your Confessor. I found great strength and courage from admitting my problem first in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
A few Lents ago, in the homily at Mass Father Frank challenged us to determine that “one thing” in our lives that was separating us from having an more intimate relationship with God. For me, I knew right away what that one thing was. I thought about this a lot. And then, finally, I gave up the alcohol. And in doing so, my whole family benefited.
Copyright 2013 Regina Gulick
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