Back To School (Sober)

My big kids started school yesterday, entering 1st and 4th grade without new sneakers. This happens every year; I tell myself we will be better prepared next time, and before I know it, it’s August again.

I’ve historically blamed my lack of back-to-school planning on external factors beyond my control, like finances, but the truth is, I obsess over things that don’t matter (dirty dishes in the sink, the emotional state of the family pet, the clarity of my skin) and ignore the things that do.

The truth is, we have — well, had — the money for new shoes, but I spent it on something that didn’t matter. It mattered in the moment, certainly. That’s what always happens. I don’t drink or take pills anymore, but I still make terrible decisions. Some people call this irresponsibility, but I think it’s more like misplaced responsibility. I have no idea why I do this, but I have high hopes that working a recovery program will help me sort it out.


This is my first back-to-school experience as a sober mother. I don’t know if my family can see a difference since I got sober almost 6 months ago, but I certainly feel different. Yesterday, I stood at the end of our driveway with my sons, holding a cup of coffee, waiting for the school bus to arrive.

After about 20 minutes, when it became clear that the bus wasn’t coming, I announced that I would drive them to school. My littlest was awake and had already dressed herself in a pair of inside-out pants, so all I had to do was unlock the van and tell them to load up.


First day of school, August 2017.


Maverick is almost 9. He, more than anyone, knows what life used to be like, before therapy and diagnoses and I quit drinking. If anyone is going to notice changes, it’s him. He’s my barometer.

As we sat in the carpool line, I commented, “This isn’t that bad of a wait — if y’all would rather not ride the bus this year, I could drive you to school.”

“Wait — what?” Maverick’s eyes were wide.

“I don’t mind driving you. Unless you want to ride the bus. Just think about it, and let me know! It’s no big deal either way.”

I looked into the rear view mirror. My big boy, all arms and legs and overgrown, shaggy hair — another back-to-school task that didn’t get accomplished on time — was looking at me quietly.

“I thought you didn’t want to drive us,” he said, lowering his voice.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean … you always seemed like you couldn’t do it.”

I turned around and put my hand on his knee. I knew what he meant. It’s not that I couldn’t physically drive them in the mornings — there was nothing I couldn’t do without the help of an extra-strong cup of coffee and a pair of sunglasses — but I lived in such a constant state of stress that any unforeseen circumstance or extra task would send me over the edge. I was always one event away from a nervous breakdown, and my kids could sense that. I mean, obviously.

I looked at him, dead in the eyes, and studied his face for a long time. A car honked behind us. I continued to look at him.

“I can.”

And he smiled.

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12 thoughts on “Back To School (Sober)

  1. Sitting in the parking garage of my office building, thinking of all the things I have to do but not wanting to any of them (picking up garlic bread because my 4 year old won’t eat his speghetti without it. Fair refusal but still). Then I read your post via Facebook whist procrastinating leaving. Now I sit in a parking garage at 4pm Atlantic time bawling my f’ing eyes out reading this post. People walking by are literally thinking my husband must have left me and told me via text. You are such an inspiration – reducing literal strangers to tears is powerful. Congrats to your kiddos on their first day back and congratulations to you sweet lady for being fucking awesome.


  2. I LOVE everything about this post and it resonates, deeply in so many ways. I will be coming up on four months sober when my boys go back to school in September and I feel transformed in many ways – but it is a solid bet that new shoes and/or haircuts will have to wait until the second week of term. “Misplaced responsibility.” 🙌 #howweroll xx


  3. I don’t know what it is, that I started reading your before sobriety or that your stories are so compelling, but probably because of both, but I love reading your updates. They show up in my email and I always save them read when I get a moment to enjoy it in peace and quiet. This just makes me wonder what my 10 year old notices about me that I’m not realizing…. Guess I should start talking to him more about this thing called life.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: Sunday Share | All In A Dad's Work

  5. I don’t know if you read old comments, but someone pointed me toward your blog and I have read every word from the very beginning over the last week and a half. (My employer thanks you for my lack of productivity, BTW.)

    This. This is the entry that made me cry big ugly tears.

    I’m not an alcoholic, but my husband is. He used vodka to cope for ten (or maybe 30?) years, resulting in a total breakdown of his health, the loss of a good job and probably (maybe?) our 25 year marriage. I am reading in an attempt to … I don’t know what, understand him? Try to give myself some hope that things might get better? He is sober now (I think — how will I EVER know again??) but has had several relapses. There is so much in your description of “before” that feels familiar — he couldn’t cope with anything, he was so angry and cynical all the time, he never wanted to do anything with the kids that wasn’t absolutely essential (and sometimes not even that). I want to believe that he is redeemable, whether or not we can ever have a functional relationship again.

    Anyway, thank you for putting your story out there. I know you’re making a difference in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Jan. I wish I could hug you! It’s a disease and it’s awful for everyone involved. There IS hope for your husband, if he truly wants to get better. Every day is a battle for me.


      • I know it’s a disease, and I’m trying so hard to offer him grace, but a part of me was all out fucks to give about being fair to him about 5 years ago, you know? I am so so tired of experiencing the consequences of someone else’s choices every single day. I work full-time and do all the emotional care for 3 kids (because let’s face it, in early recovery, especially after years and years of bottling it all up — HAHAHA, see what I did there? “bottle” hahahahahaSOB — plus the whole “being a man” nonsense doesn’t exactly make him Stop #1 on the ‘I need emotional support’ train for them) and also try to take care of the house and bills because he has big fat physical health problems as a result of the drinking and he has never learned to do any of it because the PLAN was that I would do home stuff and he would earn pay.

        Anyway, thank you for the virtual hug. You keep on keepin’ on, and I’m enjoying your Insta and Facebook posts just like a REAL LIVE STALKER.


  6. This is me! My kids don’t say it, but I recognize myself in your words. Thank you. Because of you, I may get straightened out. ❤️


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