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  • Writer's picturePenni

Life as a Sober Autism Mama

Let's get real. Life can be a total shit-storm, but we don't have to drink to get through it!


Self-medicating with alcohol from 5 pm (it got earlier!) was my go to for many years. In the early Mama days I would down many a gin and tonic to alleviate the exhaustion of little sleep and my baby's screaming which could not be soothed by carrying, rocking or feeding. I felt like a failure as a Mum, unable to cope with the new and unfamiliar demands of motherhood, newly married, living in a new city, and with a husband who was constantly working. I felt alone and miserable, and like many, fell into a post-natal depression that was not diagnosed until after my second child was born. Surely this is not what motherhood was supposed to be about!

Three gorgeous children, and some years later I was surviving motherhood "one glass at a time", which quickly became "one bottle at a time". This was significantly influenced by the challenges that came with having child on the Autism Spectrum, along with the rising "Mummy wine culture". It became easy to explain away my penchant for champagne bubbles and red wine every night as a response to motherhood. Why of course I "deserved" it! Parenting is hard right! My life quickly became a rigid list of "have to's" including having to have enough wine in the fridge to get me through the night! I drowned the stress of motherhood, the pain of losing my own mother to Lupus, my feelings of inadequacy and failure. I drank at every feeling I had, the good, the bad and the ugly. Until I didn't.


Today I have nearly 4 years sober, and a collective 10 years sobriety out of the last 13 years. I have learnt that life is messy, beautiful, chaotic, resplendent, exasperating, unexpected and evocative in any given moment. Today I want to feel it all. Why? Because it's better. It makes sense. I am healthier, and I am so much happier. My life as a sober mama is so full of rich meaningful experiences and sacred growth which is what I believe we are here for, and our soul purpose.

My life as a sober mama makes my heart sing and it makes my heart break all at the same time. I cry when I am happy, and I cry when I am sad. I have felt the incredible grief and growth of one child moving on to the next part of their amazing journey, a visceral explosion of the heart, whilst also celebrating the pure joy of seeing another child land the job they were hoping to get. I have felt the daily overwhelm of raising a child on the autism spectrum, but also the triumph of them actually making friends and having a group at school to sit with at lunchtimes. Life as a sober Mama is life full of paradoxes, richness and meaning. It can feel like when you stick your head out of a fast moving car and the force of the wind takes your breath away. It can feel like your heart is being ripped out of your chest. It can feel like the comfort of sitting in a chair in front of the warmth of an open fireplace whilst reading your favourite book. It is everything, and it is nothing. It is certainty and it is uncertainty.

We are a motley crew of souls in our family learning to navigate life through our individual experiences, beliefs, perceptions and values. Some the same, some worlds a part, I cherish them all, with all their creativity, possibility, and growth. We exist in communion and somethings that communion falls a part and sometimes it doesn't, We are not given a manual for this voyage and we will get lost, but at the end of the day we can always come back to each other.

There are times when the cracks have become chasms that have brought me to my knees, but still... I choose not to drink.

I feel the pain, grief and trauma of mothering the sacred souls in my care, and sometimes feel like I am failing them, but still... I choose not to drink.

So, what have I learned? I have learned...

I can stare a long and torturous Autism tantrum in the eye, and meet it with patience.

I can experience waves of the most excruciating grief that takes my breath away, and meet myself with deep compassion.

I can cry and sob with tears and snot all over my face, and not giving a shit who can see it or what I look like, and meet myself with love.

I can feel discomfort with the shape, curves and size of my body changing as I have given up ideas, beliefs and behaviours that no longer serve me, and meet my new body with radical acceptance.

I can experience the uncontrollable madness and unkindness of people and respond by keeping them in prayer.

I can experience tiredness and exhaustion from long days that never seem to end, and meet this with self-care.

I can experience immobilising fear and self-doubt that threaten to sabotage my dreams and my now, and meet this with grounding breath.

I can experience loneliness and moments of despair, and meet this by reaching out and asking for help.

I can experience the good, the bad and the ugly of life, and choose to meet life on life’s terms.

I no longer need any substance to deal.

I can do hard things... and so can you.

This is the gift of recovery.

Drinking is not a reward for showing up in life and mothering. It is a numbing agent that deprives you of joy, connection, presence and meaning. There is no excuse good enough for me to self-medicate my way through life anymore. There is no growth in that.

Today I choose to live a life that brings me vitality, embracing it all, including all of my own divine imperfections. Yes, life a a sober autism Mama is hard and messy at times, but it is also joyous and full. I wouldn't give THIS up for anything.

I love you.


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