Sometimes, really growing up means giving up something that makes you happy. Maybe it’s the cigarettes you used to smoke every morning with a hot cup of coffee. Or maybe it’s a nomadic existence, flitting from place to place without a plan. For Jowita Bydlowska, the thing that she loved was alcohol – and once her son was born, the blackouts and slurred speech of her youthful indiscretions just didn’t seem as fun anymore.
In her provocative (and at-times-unsympathetic) new memoir, Drunk Mom, Bydlowska chronicles 11 months of new-mother drunkenness and the process of getting sober for her child. But while the love of Bydlowska’s life is clearly her son, alcohol seems to come in a close second. So what happens when you have to give up something you love because it’s ruining your life? Here, Bydlowska explains the relationship between drinking and happiness, and how she’s filled the gap created when she quit.
Q: You wrote that you never felt closer to feeling truly happy as when you were drunk. Can you explain?
A: In retrospect, I think that feeling of happiness was an illusion. It was like pressing a button to get the instant jolt of euphoria but, of course, I had to keep pressing the button to make it last…and it never did. There’s an expression, “chasing the high,” that I think explains what some mechanisms of addictions are: trying to stay at that euphoric level or – even better – surpass it. Drinking gave me not only confidence but it also took away stress to the point that I’ve felt that everything was going to be OK no matter what. (I believe you can achieve those sorts of feelings – however short – without drinking but they do take a lot of internal work; there’s no pressing the button.)
Q: Thinking back now, do you think that drinking made you truly happy?
A: It gave me an illusion of happiness. It was an instant-gratification mechanism. But it wasn’t true happiness. (I’m careful to say that there is such thing as everlasting happiness – I do believe that there can be many glimpses of it though, in life.)
Q: In getting sober, did you have to find an activity you love as much as drinking?
A: I didn’t have to look for that activity too hard. I write like I used
to drink. I always wrote, but I stopped when my addiction got too demanding. Also, although it’s not technically an activity (it’s a series of activities), but I love hanging out with my kid, love being present for his life – I know it’s so cheesy to say but he makes me re-discover the world.
Q: What makes you happiest now?
A: My kid. Writing.
Q: Do you still miss drinking, and do you still identify it as a kind of love affair?
A: I don’t miss it. I don’t romanticize it any more. Although, sometimes, when friends talk about their fun, boozy nights out or when I look at movies/TV, where it looks so glamorous, well, I immediately pair that image with the morning after — what my morning-after looked like.
It was cute – and almost expected – to be a tumbling, sexily sloppy drunk in my early 20s. It was badass to wake up with shoes on, a fake eyelash stuck to the inside of my cheek, a new bruise. But you can’t replay the past no matter how hard you try. It always looks a little desperate. I miss my early 20s. But like the boyfriends I had in my early 20s, that affair should definitely stay in the past where it belongs.
I need to add that I never take my sobriety for granted – it is a one-day-at-a-time thing, always.
To read an excerpt from Drunk Mom click here. Have you dealt with addiction and sobered up? Tell us how and if it’s made you happier in the comment section below.