I came from a family and culture where alcohol was a part of my everyday life. My parents drank as soon as they got home from work. When we ate at restaurants as a kid, the running joke was that the bar bill for two adults always cost more than the food bill for our family of four. At social events like soccer parties, and life events like birthdays, baptisms and funerals, alcohol flowed freely. It was just always there. Growing up, I knew that alcohol was only for adults so, when I turned 21, I was thrilled to finally be part of this world that allured me most of my life.

Throughout my twenties, my motto was that a hangover was “simply a reminder of how awesome you were the night before” and I kept reminding myself of my “awesomeness” despite the feelings of guilt and remorse in the mornings after a night of drinking.

I would like to say that my alcohol consumption declined when I became a mom, but it did not. According to society, movies and TV shows, social media and other moms, kids WERE my reason to drink! Fussy baby, growth spurts, sleep regressions, toddler meltdowns, Paw Patrol theme song stuck in my head on a permanent loop. These were all valid reasons why I deserved AND needed a glass or two or three of wine at night. But then, the nightly ritual started to occur earlier and earlier. During the week, I would open a bottle of wine as soon as my husband walked in the door from work. (I never drank when I was home by myself with the boys.) And on the weekends, it was mimosas and Bloody Mary’s in the mornings and the drinking just went on from there.

What also made this all okay for me was that I NEVER heard that it wasn’t all okay. My husband was drinking with me. Countless Instagram accounts with “Mommy” or “Wine” as part of their handle had said that this lifestyle was okay. Even t-shirts sold at Target said this “mommy wine culture” was acceptable. I remember buying and proudly wearing a shirt that said, “Motherhood: Powered by love. Fueled by coffee. Sustained by wine.” Insert face slap emoji here.

Moms, we pour so much of ourselves into our children, our husbands, our friends and family, and our obligations, it’s no surprise that we find ourselves empty. And it’s also not a surprise that we self-medicate and fill our cup (or wine glass) with alcohol.

As a mom I had a new motto, “Kids don’t care if you have a hangover.” It was hard, if not impossible, to parent and be present for my boys when I felt utterly terrible in the mornings. As soon as the kids woke up, my patience was already razor-thin, and it always made for a rough day for everyone. But did I change, quit, or cut down? NO. Because, again, everything around me said that this was normal…just part of mom life.

That was until COVID. The first few months of the pandemic seemed like a novelty. Everyone was home, we weren’t going anywhere, so let’s drink up, bake bread and do puzzles! Handles of vodka, cases of beer, bottles of wine were all part of our weekly grocery deliveries. Cocktail hour got pushed up earlier and earlier in the day. Restless nights and waking up and feeling groggy and gross became the norm. And yet the cycle continued, day after day.

With this unabashed attitude towards the “Quaran-tini,” the feelings of shame and guilt were growing greater and greater. How can I call myself a Jesus follower, a ministry leader and devote myself to Him when I’m hungover or constantly thinking about when I’m going to have my next glass of wine? I felt like a phony and an imposter…living in two worlds, torn between the spiritual life that I knew I was created for and the ways of this world.

After newness of quarantine life began to dull, my husband and I would occasionally talk about our alcohol consumption but not really do anything about it. We knew we had a drinking problem but we didn’t stop or want to stop. This all came to a head in July when I got home from a night out with friends to find my husband asleep on the floor and two empty bottles of wine in the trash. The next morning, he finally accepted that he had a problem and decided to quit drinking then and there. And, praise God, through counseling, his doctors, medication and copious amounts of sparkling water, my husband has been eight months sober.

For me, I continued to drink but it just wasn’t the same. Without my husband as my drinking buddy, I started to drink less and less. After a few months of this reduced alcohol consumption, I started to feel better and better. The hold that alcohol had over me began to lift and solid and restful nights of sleep were starting to become the norm. Waking up with a full-tank of patience and presence for my boys made the days go smoother. The pangs of guilt and shame had started to fall away, too. On December 31, 2020, as people were clinking champagne flutes and ringing in the new year, I was pouring a bottle of champagne down the drain.

Something good was happening in my life. Yet I had an identity crisis. Alcohol had been such a big part of my life; how could I live and function in society without it? Everything around was saying that alcohol is normal so why “go against the grain” and stop? Who was I without alcohol?

Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

I am a child of God. Fearfully and wonderfully made. And with God’s grace, I can stand firm in the truth that my identity is rooted in Christ, that He loved and died for me despite my sins and many shortcomings so that I can live an abundant life with and through Him. If I decide to drink again or not, I know that God loves me. And any future feelings of shame or guilt are not from Him.

Reflecting on this past year, I thank God for seeing me through my struggles and internal conflict and for giving me the strength to not look back with regret and shame but with gratitude. I know that there is a long road ahead for me, to unlearn a lifetime of what has been deemed normal. But, I’m learning to be strong, to do the work and to take small daily steps to choose joy. True joy that is found in Christ, not a glass of wine.

Mama, I encourage you to take some time to reflect and examine the relationships in your life. Whether that is with alcohol, people, food, technology, or something else. Which ones are helping you and which ones do you need to re-evaluate and release from your life? Lean on Christ for His guidance and strength as you take these brave steps, embrace the life that God has for you. Because it’s when we see ourselves as God sees us, that’s when we can live the life that He has called us to.

Kristen Jones is a busy mom to two young boys, wife to her husband of 13 years, and MOPS Coordinator at Fullerton MOPS in Orange County, CA. She loves long runs, camping adventures with her family, enjoying a good, strong cup of coffee (no sugar or creamer for this girl), and encouraging her fellow MOPS mamas through honesty, humor and a whole lotta Jesus.

Tune into our new podcast, Moms Unscripted, for more intentional conversations about what’s going on for moms in real life.