“Is the moon awake?”
“Is the sun asleep?”
“It’s going to sleep right now … just like you.”
Pepper smiles then, content, smashing the ear of her bunny rabbit lovey into one eyelid while staring at me with the other. I kiss her, whisper goodnight, and leave, walking down the hall to the computer.
As soon as I open the browser and begin working, I hear her socked feet running down the hall. I stop typing. She peeks in.
29 evenings ago, just like every other evening of her life before I took my last drink on February 28, I would have been irritated. I told myself that I drank to cope with the stress of motherhood, that I needed the alcohol to power through rough evenings with three kids on my own without losing my cool. But the truth is, I lost my cool all the time. Alcohol didn’t make me a better mother.
It took nearly a month of detox before I gained the clarity necessary to realize that I’ve cheated my children out of having a sober mother for almost 9 years.
I truly believe that it’s possible to drink like a normal person, it’s just that I’m not able to. Alcoholism is deceitful. It tries to tell me that I’m normal — don’t I seem normal? — and that I can train myself to drink in moderation, if I want to. It tells me that I simply need more willpower. I need to be stronger, and then, I would be okay.
I could win.
Thinking about living the rest of my life sober makes me feel all kinds of feelings that probably aren’t normal or appropriate. I imagine I might feel similarly if I developed a dairy allergy and were facing an uncertain future that did not include real butter, but only if I also held a deep conviction that real butter was the only thing tethering me to sanity.
That’s my relationship with alcohol.
Slowly, as my body heals from years of abuse and my emotions and soul are restored to a normal state, I am realizing that a great deal of the grief I’ve experienced in motherhood was self-inflicted.
Mothers hold the keys to the emotional health of their household. I knew this, which is why I have been trying so damn hard to get it right. I put enormous pressure on myself to parent effectively, to do the right thing, and I kept failing — which made me drink more. And more. And more. The alcohol numbed me and chipped away at me and distorted my perceptions and clouded my judgment.
That’s not what happens to normal drinkers. That’s what happens to people who drink to completely obliterate their sadness.
Pepper waits by the door as I stand up and take her by the hand.
“I forgot to say goodnight to you when you said it to me,” she whispered. “So I came to tell you goodnight, Mommy.”
“The moon’s awake now,” I whispered. And we padded down the hall.