parent opinion

“I drove drunk to pick up my kids from school. That afternoon, I hit rock bottom.”

Content note: The following deals with addiction, eating disorders and suicide. For 24-hour mental health crisis support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

As told to Nama Winston.

Hi, I’m Kim*, and I’m an alcoholic.

I’m grateful for a lot of things in life, but not killing anyone is a big one.

I’ve driven while over the limit so many times, it’s a miracle it hasn’t happened. Of course, it almost has.

I’m a 39-year-old mum of three kids who I love so much. And I have put them in danger too often.

This is how your body changes if you go a year without alcohol. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

I’ll start with telling you what I’ve done, rather than explain why, so you don’t think I’m making excuses. I’m not. But I do want mums to know how close to disaster you can come if you don’t look after yourself.

And I will tell you why I used to drink, later. You may be able to relate.

One day last year, I had a lunch with girlfriends at my house. I’m a stay-at-home mum, and felt a lot of pressure to look like I’m capable of  ‘doing it all’ – so there was no way I’d admit I was too drunk to get my kids from school.

After all, I’d done it at least five or six times before.

But this time, on my way to school, I smashed into four parked cars. I didn’t just hit their side mirrors – I sideswiped all of them because I kept accelerating. I was so drunk, I thought I could keep driving.

The neighbours came out and had to pull me from the car. I was furious because I needed to get my kids and get to back home to my friends.

One of the women on the street was a mum from school, so naturally the news of the accident, and the condition I was in, spread quickly. She not only told everyone about it, but she took and sent photos to many, too.

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You’d think that would be enough to make me change. It wasn’t.

The police were called and I was charged with drink driving. But while I awaited trial, my lawyer managed to get me to keep my license for the purposes of looking after my kids.

But of course, I wasn’t looking after my kids; I was messing them up for life.

Not long after that, some parents overheard me greet my daughter at the school gate, and I guess I sounded slurred. They came over and offered to drive us home.

I was mortified, because again, I wanted to look like I could do it all.

I told them, what kind of mother is so drunk at 3pm that she can’t even get her kids from school?

Me. I was that kind of mother.

But still, my pride got in the way and I refused to let anyone take us home. One of the mums positioned her car behind mine, blocking me, and called the police.

“I can’t let you drive your kids,” she told me quietly. She looked so sad when she said it, and I knew in that moment she was right.

I was breathalysed in the school car park, as my kids were crying in the back seat.

It was rock bottom.

problem with alcohol
"I was breathalysed in the school car park, as my kids were crying in the back seat. It was rock bottom." Image: Getty.

My license has since been taken away for a year, and I’ve attended court-ordered rehab.

I’m due to get my license back in a month, and this time, I’m going to handle things much better.

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I haven’t had a drink for 10 months. Counselling really showed me what was going on – why I could be this horrible person who thought she could do what other people couldn’t – drive with due care while drunk.

So, how did I end up an alcoholic? I’m a terrible cliché; I’m a bored and lonely housewife.

But of course it was more than that.

Being a SAHM, I always felt like I had to do everything at home and with the kids perfectly.

I didn’t have a job outside of the house, so that was my job – and I expected myself to do it well.

But everyone else expects you to do it, too. Your husband. Your friends.

I hated drinking when I was younger. I hated feeling out of control and I didn’t need alcohol to have a good time. My husband, who I married when I was 23, isn’t much of a drinker.

Things changed after I had our second child. I’m well enough to admit it now, but I turned to drinking because I couldn’t handle the pressure.

It had been okay with one kid, but after two, there was no pretending the house didn’t get messier, and the days didn’t get longer, and I didn’t get more exhausted.

So, I started drinking – one glass – to take the edge off, at night. And I noticed it worked; I felt calmer and more relaxed.

Then I would have a small drink before the after-school chaos hit… and it was a slippery slope from there. On most days, I would drink a bottle of wine before 3pm.

I never, ever asked for help, even though I clearly had issues and needed support. I thought I had things under control. I could throw a glamourous lunch for my friends in my beautiful home, and get my kids from school, and cook dinner, supervise homework, without losing it.

As long as I had a glass of wine in one hand.

I see now I was so busy looking after my kids, and trying to make my life look perfect, I didn't look after myself. Now I know I was hurting them as much as I was hurting myself.

If you’re a mum reading this and feel anything like I’ve described, seek help now. Don’t let the pressure escalate.

You’re not alone. Look after yourself. Before you become a drunk driver like me.

*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.

If you are struggling with your mental health, crisis support is available 24 hours a day via Lifeline. Please call 13 11 14.

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