We know in South Asian culture so many topics are taboo. Two that I’ve experienced are addiction and postpartum depression. When both occurred in my life simultaneously, I lost my way and needed help.
A little less than a year ago, right at the onset of the pandemic, I gave birth to my second son, Dev. It was not the year I had planned. Dev was born, and soon after, the world shut down. Then, slowly…I did too..the postpartum depression kicked in.
I’m a public school teacher and when I returned from maternity leave in August, I felt like I was starting from scratch. Twelve years of teaching under my belt, and none of my experience seemed to provide me with the confidence I needed to do my job in an entirely new way. I was overwhelmed and had placed an obscene amount of pressure on myself to be supermom. Leaving the house at 7am to get in early, pumping milk at work between classes, working out and dieting to lose baby weight. My once blissfully romantic marriage was struggling – we could handle 1 kid, but 2 created friction. It was all “divide and concur.” We couldn’t seem get back on track. I missed us. “Us” was a shadow of a priority.
And this is where my 15 year struggle with alcohol addiction came to it’s peak. When I was 22, I knew deep down I had an alcohol dependency; it was just masked with acceptance of the alcohol obsessed culture I surrounded myself with. Booze was always too high a priority on my list. It dictated who I spent time with and how I perceived the idea of “fun.” Never having held myself accountable, this behavior continued through my 20s, into marriage and motherhood – the toxic “mommy wine culture” certainly got the best of me. Alcohol dictated most of my friendships and the gatherings I chose to attend, even including family occasions (for real though, Desi families can party). It was a shield I used to protect my insecurities in social situations; I often joked about my 1-2 glass buffer before I broke out of my shell.
The hardest realization was how much I felt the substance defined even my marriage. Hiren and I met at a bar 10 years ago. We dated long distance for some time, and our visits were made up of happy hours and brunches with bottomless mimosas. After marriage, relaxation, or dealing with stress, or celebrating anything at all always equated to cracking open bottles of wine. My mind often wandered to what we would do for fun if we didn’t drink together.
After Dev was born in March 2020, my alcoholism collided with a magnitude of stress and feelings of inadequacy. I’d had a “pandemic baby,” my 4-year-old couldn’t go back to school, and to keep everyone safe, my parents and siblings across the country could not meet him…and they still haven’t. Eventually and unsurprisingly, I erupted.
I read a quote,
“I’ve never seen a transformation that didn’t begin with a person finally getting tired of their own bullshit.”
I felt this, but I knew I needed help. Thank God I have been blessed with a loving husband and two sisters who paid attention to the signs to intuitively sense my struggle. They encouraged me to seek out therapy after I presented with feelings and actions all too common of postpartum depression. It wasn’t long before my therapist uncovered my addiction, and I had no choice but to admit to it. Sometimes, a turning point comes down to a singular moment. For me it was when I said it out loud – admitting to something I knew to be true all along.
I’d been lucky to not allow alcohol to cause me more pain and regret than it already had in my life. I was even luckier to come to this realization engulfed by love, strength, and support from a tribe that stood behind me. I learned initial change may come from a decision you make, but to sustain that change, you have to be vulnerable and honest with the people who stand behind you. You have to let them hold you up after you fall.
I’m now living an alcohol free life. I am mindful, attentive, aware, genuinely happy, and more willing to see the good in people and situations. I’m focused on my career goals knowing nothing is standing in my way. My boys, Carter and Dev, are my daily reminder to stay on my path. My marriage is much healthier, and I’m proud of the mother I am.
My struggle may not be your struggle. My pain may not be your pain. But, I am here to tell you, from one fierce momma to another, YOU get to make choices every single day to be a better version of yourself. YOU have the power to claim the life you are living, and make it your own. What are you waiting for?
Guest Post by Payal Desai @lechicmom