Last night I woke up around midnight to give the baby a kiss on her fat cheek because she was stirring from a bad dream. She’s not really a baby, but she still has fat cheeks like a baby and when I lean in to kiss them and tuck her spider-man blanket in just so, her hair smells sweet like a baby’s. These small comforts settled her down so that I was able to sink back into the delicious comfort of my own bed and realize what a gift sobriety has been to me as a mother.
It’s not that I was terrible mom before, any more than I am a perfect mom now. I still feel the urge to hurl myself out of a moving car over incessant snack-related whining. I still love bedtime (theirs) as much as I did when I was drinking, though I like to think I use it more wisely now (reading books/crap tv) than before (reading twitter/crap tv). Last night when I went to my older daughter’s parent-teacher conference, I did not have to chew gum to hide the fact that I’d had pre-conference drinks. The changes are subtle until they bubble up in unexpected ways that show just how much spirits were really a spirit blocker for me.
I’m not trying to shortchange the real work behind recovery, though what that looks like varies by person anyway. I’m just saying that I stopped drinking and many months later realize I’m a better parent and person than I knew I could be. This realization is like the best Valentines’ present ever, even better than the set of pots and pans my husband and I agreed would be our gift to each other this year. I dragged my youngest to Macy’s on a Sunday afternoon and stared at pots and pans for so long she laid on the floor until I asked her to move so people wouldn’t step on her or think she was dead. Like I said, I’m no perfect parent. But in the quiet moments when I am fully present to them because I can be now, well, the rewards are overpowering and awesome.