U.K. Mom Reveals When You Need to Ask Yourself, "Am I an Alcoholic?"

Sophie wants others to know that "alcoholics come in all shapes and sizes and levels of severity."

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Sophie, 29, is a mom who lives outside of London. She also runs an Instagram page called @sober_and_happy, where she writes about quitting drinking and motherhood. Like anyone else who's done it, Sophie's journey to sobriety wasn't an easy one. But she says it's important that if alcohol has any negative hold on you, "it's worth taking a hard look at your drinking" and asking yourself, "Am I an alcoholic?" That's what she did about two and a half years ago—and it completely changed her life.

Sophie knows her longstanding vision of an "alcoholic"—"the old man with the brown paper bag"—is something she couldn't be further from. But now, she knows that doesn't mean she didn't have a serious problem. "Alcoholics come in all shapes and sizes and levels of severity. It's all about how you use it," she told Best Life. "I didn't realize how attached I'd gotten."

She had grown up in a house of moderate drinkers, and had her first drink when she was 15 years old at Christmas. "I drank an entire bottle of wine and woke up covered in Christmas dinner," she said.

Things got worse once she started university, where the intense drinking culture made her feel pressured to liquor up in order to seem fun. "When I went to my first house party, I heard a few girls say, 'Make the geek drink and smoke,' referring to me," she said. "Drinking made me feel cool and popular, and I started to believe that I must not be fun without booze.'"

 

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Throwback Thursday. . I wrote an article for @lovewhatmatters mainly the response has been positive. . The picture above was me most weekends. . I never even realised my drinking was a problem. . Everyone does it, everyone gets blackouts, everyone feels hungover. . But if you don't want to feel those things, if you're getting more negative experiences from drinking than positive then it's time to change. . I went my whole of my teens and 20s believing booze was absolutely needed to make something fun. . If you didn't imbibe and didn't need it to have fun, I couldn't get onboard with you, I didn't physically understand (and still don't) how and why people will have one or two drinks then stop. . I have never been able to pace myself. I have never been able to have just one. I have always wanted 10 and to get as drunk as possible as quickly as possible, all in the name of fun. . This year has been revolutionary for me. Slowly and through baby steps I realised that actually I do not need to drink. . Drinking was causing me harm mentally, financially, physically and I had had enough of being a slave to it. . If I wasn't drinking I was thinking about drinking. . If you're remotely concerned about your drinking, speak to someone, share your story. . Brene Brown said "Shame cannot survive being spoken…and met with empathy". . For those of you struggling with shame and fear after drinking, I'm here for you. You're not alone. . . . #sober #soberme #soberlife #mysoberlife #sobriety #sobrietyrocks #instasober #soberaf #soberuk #soberandfree #soberissexy #soberisbetter #sobernotboring #sobercurious #sobermum #soberwarrior #soberliving #livingsober #youngandsober #teetotal #soberdecember #soberchristmas #soberjourney #sobernow #gosober #partysober #sobercommunity #onedayatatime #odaat #soberstory

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What followed was several years of heavy partying most days of the week and acting recklessly. "I spent all of my student loan on alcohol and didn't even really think about it," she said. "I scraped through my degree. I didn't eat because 'eating's cheating,' as we say here, so I was constantly sick. But I didn't think of it as a problem because every single person around me was doing the same thing."

Once Sophie graduated, she got a job in sales, where the culture was "work hard, play hard." She was going out every "Thirsty Thursday" and onwards through the weekend. Though she was constantly struggling to make ends meet, it never occurred to her to cut back on alcohol. "If I wanted to buy a dress for 40 pounds, I'd think that was too steep," she said. "But I'd drop 200 pounds on a night out like it was a life necessity."

Additionally, Sophie said she was experiencing panic attacks and constant anxiety, which she also didn't link to her drinking habits, even though she knows now that one of the effects of a hangover can be feelings of anxiety.

 

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But everything changed for Sophie when she met her now-fiancé at 25. To her surprise, he didn't enjoy heavy drinking, which soon became a problem in their relationship.

"We went to a champagne afternoon tea once, and he didn't drink the champagne, and I was so angry at him," she said. "I'd say really nasty things to him when I was drunk, or I'd be aggressive, or I'd just throw up all over the floor. It became increasingly apparent he didn't like it when I drank. I told him he was boring and controlling and he didn't understand me, and broke up with him."

For the next eight weeks, she partied harder than ever, but they got back together once Sophie realized how much she missed him.

Then she found out she was pregnant.

 

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Throwback to 1.5 year ago. . I wish this was happening right now. I am so tired today. . Even when this picture was taken I still had no idea I had a drinking problem. I didn't think my behaviours and way of constantly thinking about drinking was abnormal, I thought everyone was like that. . This little boy didn't ask to be born to a mum who could be so drunk she was sick all over the floor, pissed herself, abused his dad, made up lies, made promises she couldn't keep and more. . This little boy didn't ask to be born to mum that ends up so hungover she's barely able to look at him let alone change his nappy and play with him. . This little boy doesn't want a mum who beats herself up so much it makes her depressed, anxious and constantly doubting herself. . This little boy wants a mum who is confident, caring, present, patient, fresh, playful, happy, understanding and all the other traits I've gained from sobriety. . I'm not doing this just for my son. I thought I was in the early days but I'm doing this for me now. For my mental health, for my happiness, my wellbeing, my body… . Alcohol was killing me off bit by bit. Without it I've reached a sense of freedom and happiness that I never knew existed. . #sober #sobermum #sobermummy #soberparent #soberwomen #sobertribe #sobercommunity #odaat #onedayatatime #wedorecover #alcoholfreelife #teetotaler #sobersister #sobriety #sobrietyrocks #soberaf #soberlife #sobersummer #sobermotivation #sobermovement #sobernation #soberliving #nomorehangovers #soberjourney #instasober #sobernotboring #freedom #soberandfree #soberandhappy

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Sophie was elated, until she realized it meant nine whole months of sobriety. "I didn't drink apart from the occasional champagne toast, but it was horrible," she said. "I hated all of my friends for being able to drink. I couldn't enjoy events. I felt like a boring, miserable loser and my brain was screaming for alcohol."

Once her son was born, Sophie moved straight into "wine mom" culture, waiting until 5 p.m. to begin "wine o'clock."

"You'd see cards in shops saying that wine is 'mommy's juice,'" she said. "Then you'd watch shows like The Good Wife where the main character, who's a top lawyer with a family, always has a glass of wine in her hand. So it just made it seem like moms need wine to get through the day."

Sophie also believes that a lot of alcohol marketing in the U.K.—where alcohol abuse has been steadily on the rise for women—is targeted at women.

"We have pink gin now, and lots of my friends use it to make their cocktails with martinis and straws and take boomerangs," she said. "We see the boomerangs at the beginning of the night, but not at the end when you've lost your keys and you're screaming at your husband."

Sophie would still drink heavily at special occasions, and sometimes wake up so hungover, she couldn't change her son's diaper. "I felt like a terrible mom and the worst person in the world," she said. "I would watch him play and cry and think how he deserved a better mother."

In addition to anxiety and depression, Sophie was also getting migraines, her skin was breaking out, and she was the heaviest she'd ever been. So, she decided to stop drinking, just to see what it would feel like. And while she was on and off the wagon for the next 18 months, she has now been sober for eight months, and she couldn't be happier about it.

"I lost weight, my skin cleared up, the migraines went away," she said. "But, most importantly, my mental health improved. I don't have negative thoughts like I used to. I feel lighter and more patient and like a much better person overall."

 

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For others asking themselves if their relationship with alcohol is unhealthy, moms and young women in particular, Sophie says: "I believe that if alcohol is affecting you negatively in any way, it's worth taking a hard look at your drinking. If you think you can't possibly do 30 days without drinking, there might be a problem there."

Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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