Self Help

I was a bad, drunk mom: Binge-drinker sobers up and writes self-help book – New York Post

One morning in November 2014, hungover mother-of-two Meredith Atwood stumbled into her kitchen to find two empty bottles of wine, a scooped-out ice cream carton and a stack of overdue credit card bills.

There was also a handwritten note on the counter from her husband, James. It read: “You need to get your s – – t together.”

“It took me another 13 months to totally give up drinking, but the message was a wake-up call,” 40-year-old Atwood tells The Post. “It was my rock bottom.”

The lawyer-turned-motivational writer, podcaster and speaker recalls the shameful episode, in which she was too sick from drinking to get out of bed and usher her kids off to school, in her new book: “The Year of No Nonsense: How to Get Over Yourself and On With Your Life” (Life Long).

In it, she describes how she transformed herself from an over-worked, overweight drunk — she doesn’t believe in the “label” of alcoholic — into a sober, slimmed-down go-getter who is finally “present” for her children.

“Constantly wanting to drink meant I wasn’t paying attention to them as babies,” admits Atwood, who lives in Sudbury, Mass. “It’s one of my biggest regrets.”

Her binge-drinking began at 17, when she rebelled against her strict Christian upbringing in Savannah, Ga. Atwood remembers her first taste of alcohol: a margarita during a high school trip to South Africa.

“I thought: ‘Sweet baby Jesus, what is this amazing thing that I just tasted?” she says.

The teen partied hard, particularly during her college years at the University of Georgia. There, her weight reached 250 pounds and she suffered from low self-esteem and depression. Two weeks before her 21st birthday in November 2000, she attempted suicide. She says she was treated at a psychiatric unit for three days but was offered no follow-up care.

Atwood in 2005.
Atwood in 2005.Meredith Atwood

Later, at law school, she would guzzle vodka while pulling all-nighters to stay on top of her course work.

“It got to the point where I didn’t write a paper unless inebriated,” she recalls in her book. “During that time period and for almost 20 years after, I did not believe that I could pull off any stroke of genius on my own without booze.”

The high-functioning lush excelled in her legal career and married her former classmate James, who runs a scientific laboratory, in October 2001. She was able to abstain during her pregnancies with her son, also named James, 12, and daughter, Stella, 11. “[Drinking] was not an option,” she says.

But she went back to booze after their births, along with other vices such as binge-eating fast food and overspending on credit cards. All the time, she searched for the elusive concept of work/life balance.

“My definition of balance back then was working a job I hated, allowing other people to raise my children, and doing ALL the things for everyone else to look like I had it together,” writes Atwood, who frequently contemplated “driving into a tree” to escape life’s pressures. “The quest for balance was making me tired, miserable, a bad mother and unhealthy.”

Meredith Atwood
Meredith AtwoodMeredith Atwood

In 2010, she had some success controlling her weight by challenging herself to do triathlons — launching the lucrative blog swimbikemom that same year — but her drinking escalated. She couldn’t wait to put James and Stella to bed so she could fix a martini and uncork a couple bottles of wine.

“I sometimes did legal work and writing until 4 a.m.,” she says. “The next morning, I’d inevitably feel awful. I missed out on play dates and mommy and me time. The drinking created a lack of presence and [involved] parenting.”

Atwood’s marriage also inevitably became strained. Because she hated her body, the couple barely had sex. And, as his 2014 note attested, James was dismayed by her downward spiral.

Chastened, Atwood managed to turn things around. She ditched law to become a full-time writer, nixed her 12-piece Chick-fil-A nuggets habit (she now weighs 185 pounds) and got sober Dec. 12, 2015. She says she did it without the help of Alcoholics Anonymous or other traditional forms of recovery.

“I just picked a date and quit,” she says, describing her first 12 months of sobriety as her “year of no nonsense.” “I never allow myself to think I can have just one drink, because it’s not true.

Meredith Atwood and family.
Meredith Atwood and family.Brad De Cecco

“I journaled and wrote down all the crazy thoughts in my head. Now I try to be aware of triggers when I’m really stressed.”

Other fixes: She stopped “people pleasing,” minimized her time on social media, cut out the “toxic” influence of friends who made her feel bad and acknowledged unresolved pain from her childhood.

“The biggest takeaway is to face the truth, no matter how hard and ugly it is, and then you can create a plan on how you want to change,” she advises.

Best of all, Atwood has repaired her relationship with 43-year-old James and their children.

“One of my favorite things is to lay in bed with the kids and read a book with them before they go to sleep,” she says. “It’s really in stark contrast to what getting ready for bed used to be.

“Before, if they were 20 minutes behind on their routine, I’d be freaking out because I would want to drink. Now, my life is a gift.”

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