health

'I had a secret alcohol addiction. Then I was sick in front of my kids.'

Mim Jenkinson never woke up needing a drink.

It was never the first thing she thought about in the morning. There was so much else to do: Her kids needed to get to school, and her small business was doing well.

But it would be happen each night, around 7pm. She’d worked, picked her kids up from school and now with them safely tucked away in bed, her mind was racing with thoughts she wanted to quell.

To the outside world, Mim’s life looked pretty good. She lived in sunny Newcastle, was the mother of two small kids, ran her own blog and small business and had been given the all clear after having breast cancer in 2015. She was in remission, making money and winning awards.

Here are just some of the effects after one year without drinking alcohol. Post continues below video.

Video via Mamamia

But behind closed doors, and at around 7pm each night, she’d reach for a wine. It was this desire for a drink that was secretly taking its toll. Her alcohol dependence was growing rapidly, as was the frequency and quantity of the drink she was consuming.

But Mim was never what we imagine when we think ‘alcoholic’.

“I don’t want people to think that behind closed doors I was wasted and out of it, because that wasn’t the case,” Mim explained to Mamamia.

“I drank so much, so frequently that I tolerated it and I managed to function very well as a mum, as a businesswoman, as a wife and as a friend. While I was cracking on the inside and definitely had issues with mental health because of the amount I was drinking, and the shame and the anxiety and the guilt that came with it, it just wasn’t apparent to other people.”

She never rolled out of bed and reached for a bottle. She didn’t even feel a physical need to drink. It was, she realised upon reflection, more mental.

Her husband knew exactly how much she was drinking, but did not realise to what extent it had become a problem. She confided in her GP and in a psychologist she was seeing for PTSD, but otherwise, no one knew.

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Tomorrow will mark 7 weeks of Alcohol-freeness – hurrah! . That’s the longest I’ve ever gone apart from pregnancies and chemo I think. . Next goal: forever ???????????? . There are loads of benefits so far but here are the best two: . 1) I sleep – like super deep lovely proper big sleep! I still have issues getting to sleep some nights but once I’m there, I’m gone. It’s a miracle! For years I blamed being a mum for sleeping so lightly – but now I’m pretty sure it was the wine. . 2) no more next-day anxiety. No more guilt of ‘why did I drink again?’ or ‘why did I have that last drink?’. Now I wake up fresh(ish), guilt-free and focused. . Like I said, there are millions of small wins too – but these are the two I’m loving the most. . There’s so much in life that’s out of my hands but this is something major that I CAN control. I can, I needed to and I am ???????? feeling proud ???????? . . . . . #soberaf #sobriety #sobermum #sobermom #sobermommy #soberlife #soberliving #soberissexy #febfast #soberevolution #soberlifestyle #sobermovement #sobernation #sobercommunity #sobersquad #soberwomen #soberwonen #soberwoman #soberity #sobersister #sobersisters #cleanandsober #soberfun #soberjourney #soberbia #sobergirls #sobersaturday #soberisbetter #tiredmumsclub #tiredmum

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She’d always been a drinker: Not to the point of being wasted or sloppy, but alcohol had been a frequent part of her life since she was a teenager.

The mother-of-two was sober throughout both her pregnancies, first with her daughter in 2013 and then with her son in 2015. Not long after his birth, she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer and once again gave up the drink during her chemotherapy and radiation.

But after her treatment finished in 2016, her habit began to creep back into her life, peaking in 2018.

Mim was diagnosed with PTSD following her cancer treatment in 2015-2016. Mim’s mind was full of dread and alcohol took that away – temporarily.

“My mind was constantly filled with thoughts about cancer: The cancer coming back, with dying and leaving my children, all of those things.

“And the only instant thing that would stop those thoughts was opening a bottle of wine and then sitting down to drink it. Even just turning the cap would be like, oh phew, everything’s going to be okay, and I’d move into another blurry world where I would forget about it until I went to bed and felt dreadful because I drank so much again, and I still had issues, and what if something happens to the kids and I can’t take them to the hospital?

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“I’d wake up the next day feeling full of anxiety and with a little bit of a hangover, and desperate to do something about it and not drink that day, but undoubtedly it’d happen again.”

 

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On New Year’s Eve 2018, Mim and her family spent the night at a friends house. They stayed in with their kids, but of course, drank.

She woke up with a hangover, but then they started drinking again.

“I had a massive night on New Year’s Day. When everyone else was setting their great intentions and new year resolutions, I just got wasted.

“The next day I was so, so ill and finally crawled out of bed and got in the car to go home,” Mim explained.

“We had to pull over to the side of the road and I was sick, and my two kids were in the back of the car and we were pulled up because I had alcohol poisoning, I suppose.

“My kids were in the back saying ‘Mummy’s okay, she’s just a bit car sick’, and I just sat there thinking ‘Holy shit, I’m a mess, what kind of a parent am I? What am I showing them about how to look after yourself and how to disrespect your body and your mind?’. I just felt awful, awful, awful.”

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She had already felt the guilt. Mothers feel guilt about everything they do anyway, and Mim’s drinking just added another layer.

She’d known for a while that she needed to do something about it, but being pulled over on the side of the road that January 2, 2019 gave her the final push she needed.

After opening up to her girlfriends about her drinking, Mim searched Audible for a book to help her cut down. Quitting was never the goal.

“I never in my life wanted to quit alcohol or live an alcohol-free life,” she said. “To me that was just boring as f*ck, like why would you do that?”

But she came across a book about quitting and gave it a go. After two weeks of slow reading, Mim had completely quit.

She hasn’t had a drink since.

“It was like overnight: No anxiety. No real cravings. I had the odd feeling of mourning of my old life and my old crutch.

“It took me a while to get to this point, but now I know 100 per cent I will never, ever drink again… I just had this idea that life without alcohol was so limiting, like I’d feeling boring or deprived or in the minority, and now I know I have everything I want, I wanted before and even more,” she said.

Mim said she’s since overcome her PTSD too, which she credits to having “the clarity to see what my real issues were and how to address them, and if I was still drinking I don’t think I would’ve been able to do that.”

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For years Mim has had an online following on Instagram and her blog. She shared her parenting journey and her experience with cancer publicly, but it wasn’t until she’d quit alcohol that she shared information about her dependence on it with her community.

It opened the floodgates.

“From the very first post I shared on my Instagram and blog, I have had hundreds of messages, emails and so on from other mums saying ‘Oh my god, I’m so glad you’re talking about this. How did you quit? How are you finding it?…’ As soon as I realised it wasn’t just me, that instantly took any residual shame I was feeling away because I know how many of us there are now who are struggling, and I want to do something about it.”

On January 23, 2020 Mim was one-year sober.

As well as gaining clarity, kicking anxiety and guilt to the curb and getting a lot more sleep, she has also written a book called Less Wine, More Time about her secret addiction, quitting and her first 100 days without alcohol, and she is running a 30 day challenge for those wanting to cut back or stop drinking themselves.

For her, it’s not about judging others who drink or trying to create an alcohol-free society, but about opening up about a topic that is so regularly swept under the rug and riddled with shame and guilt.

She wants others to know they’re not alone.

“I just felt like it was me. It was the same as when I had cancer: Obviously I know how many millions of people are diagnosed, but you just feel like you’re the only one, it’s only you that this is happening to.

“And so it really helps me and it gave me much more confidence to know there’s others out there going through the same thing, it completely spurred me on to keep sharing.”

Feature Image: Supplied.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you’re based in Australia, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

You can access free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs by calling the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015 or the 24-hour Family Drug Support helpline on 1300 368 186.

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