Overcoming Alcoholism & Anxiety

How to live life intentionally

Welcome to February. This month we will be exploring the intersection of Mental Health + Motherhood.

I spoke with Kim Singleton, a clean living enthusiast based in Colorado, on intentional living. Her story on overcoming alcoholism is inspiring to say the least, and her perspective on mental health is one to be admired.

Here is our convo on mommy wine culture, anxiety, and starting a business.

Mommy Wine Culture is a real (potentially dangerous) trend that's been going on for a while now. Tell me about your experience with it, and why you decided to give up alcohol altogether.

Over the past few years, society has done an exceptional job of amplifying a connection between motherhood and drinking, almost glamorizing it. From memes to clothing to drink-ware to social media statuses — it’s everywhere, and not only is it justifying the “need” to drink in order to parent, it’s also validating habits that some may be seriously questioning. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not anti-alcohol, but it’s become normalized to use alcohol as a form of self-care and as a stress-reliever when in reality, it can actually exacerbate anxiety and depression.  

I never fell victim to “mommy wine culture” in the sense of wanting to mask the pressures of motherhood. I don’t know if it’s because we “only” have one child or that we’ve struggled with infertility so I may be more hypersensitive in my role as a parent, but my drinking created so much guilt and shame. I wasn’t the mommy cracking open a bottle of wine when my daughter was having a rough day and it was getting to me; I was the woman taking swigs of vodka that were hidden high up in her closet while fighting back the tears because she didn’t know why she still needed to escape. Escape what? Herself. 

My struggle with alcohol began in my teens. Blacking out was a normal occurrence in the early days when I didn’t know any better. My teenage years were difficult; there was a lot of turmoil within my family and I never really felt a sense of belonging, even amongst my friends. I was directionless and floundering and unknowingly started using drinking on the weekends as an escape, although it seemed pretty innocent at the time. However, this way of coping with pain, discomfort, insecurity, lack of self-worth, and anxiety would carry with me through adulthood. 

I had a few other bouts of sobriety over the years, but these stints were always a means to an end, and during these periods I couldn’t fathom the idea of never drinking again. Despite knowing deep down that my relationship with alcohol was far from normal, giving it up for good sounded so lame, so awful. Things started getting progressively worse in late 2018 when it became much more frequent, and it got to the point where I was drinking almost every day. If I wasn’t, it was because I was too hungover. While much more goes into it, I knew this had to stop. I could no longer go on living this way and finally accepted that I just couldn’t moderate my drinking — plain and simple. 

What has changed the most for you, living alcohol-free?

Since going alcohol-free, my perception of myself has changed the most. I wish I could say my life automatically became so much better, but quitting drinking was incredibly difficult. I was dependent on alcohol towards the end, but once I got past the shakes, utter exhaustion, and mood swings, I was left with having to start facing the real problem — myself, and this is where the real healing began.

You see, when we take away the thing we used to help “deal” with our emotions whether it was sadness, nervousness, anxiety, stress, happiness, excitement, celebration — literally anything — we’re left with having to actually feel & truly deal with things. I could no longer escape with booze, and I had to find other ways to cope and sit with discomfort. This may sound awful, but as I started peeling back the layers, I found I was truly starting to feel so much better — more content and secure with myself, and my self-confidence started growing. This has made such a difference not only with the relationship I have with myself but also with others. 

Another profound change is the mental clarity that started surfacing as time went on. It’s like the brain fog started lifting and I could not only focus better but just see things/people in my life so much more clearly.

In addition to sharing your struggles with alcohol, you also share your struggles with anxiety. How do you manage your symptoms? Is there anything you do to prevent feelings of stress and worry?

Removing alcohol from my life definitely lessened my anxiety, but it also increased it to some degree. For example, I no longer wonder what I did or said the night before, nor do I have to waste mental energy trying to piece things together which has definitely alleviated anxiety (or “hangxiety,” anxiety induced by a hangover). 

But I’ve had to learn different coping mechanisms to manage my anxiety and triggers (things that remind us of drinking that create feelings of distress). I read about sobriety “toolkits” before I stopped drinking and loved the concept. It’s basically different techniques and activities that can help calm, inspire, and comfort during moments of stress.

Exercising, being outside, eating nutritious meals, a good skincare routine, essential oils, online meetings + a sober community, reading, writing, podcasts, herbal tea & sparkling water, healing crystals, and CBD are a few things that help keep me grounded. Coloring with my daughter is so simple, yet it’s fun and relaxing so it’s also become part of my toolkit! 

The interesting part is that these are all things that not only help with my anxiety, but some are also new interests and hobbies that I discovered only after I got sober. I didn’t seek out more hobbies when I was drinking because I convinced myself that I didn’t have the time or energy. If I’m having anxiety about a social situation, I force myself to “get out of my head,” meaning I no longer overthink it or allow negative talk. I also take the focus off myself by actively engaging with others. Most people love talking about themselves, so this has helped me feel less anxious while also learning more about them!

Tell me about your business, Kim Singleton Solutions. What sparked the idea to launch it, and why are you passionate about it?

I started my website, Kim Singleton Solutions, shortly after getting sober after a 15-year struggle of trying to have a “normal” relationship with alcohol (sobriety date is September 17, 2019). It was actually the name of my former professional organizing business which I closed in December 2019, but I kept the name.

Earlier that summer, I had decided to start making the switch to safer personal care & household products after discovering how many of the harmful ingredients in conventional products have a negative impact on our fertility. You see, my husband and I had been struggling with secondary infertility for a couple of years at that point, and I was astonished (and disgusted) when I learned this.

At the same time, I was also in the midst of battling a severe alcohol problem. I was what you call a “closet drinker” — no one was aware of my drinking habits except those closest to me, and even they didn’t know the extent to it as I was incredibly secretive about it. Drinking in secret, hiding alcohol, isolation, black-outs, mood swings/irritability, scheduling events/appointments around my drinking days — these were all the norm to me, especially towards the end.

The crazy part is that I was so concerned about reducing my exposure to toxins, yet I was literally ingesting a known carcinogen daily. After a few months of knowing I truly had to change my life while simultaneously reading “quit lit” books, listening to podcasts, finding the online sober community via Instagram & Facebook, and finally becoming honest with myself, I was able to cut ties with alcohol for good, thus beginning my journey towards clean, less-toxic, sober living.

I should also mention that I’m not anti-alcohol; I’m simply pro-sobriety. Removing alcohol from my life has brought me so much clarity, confidence, and happiness, and it’s truly motivated me to do better in all aspects of my life. And because of that Kim Singleton Solutions was born. Here is what you can find in this little corner of mine:

  • Clean living- avoiding toxins & embracing safer beauty, skincare, and household products; fueling our bodies with wholesome and minimally processed foods, staying active, and maintaining an alcohol-free lifestyle.

  • Intentional Living- freeing yourself from bad habits or addictions, removing unnecessary clutter & distraction, cultivating a life aligned with your goals & purpose, and supporting your emotional and mental health.

  • Sustainable Living- becoming more aware of resource consumption, learning about zero waste, and embracing conscious consumerism.

I believe that healthy living is all-encompassing, and I now have a more holistic approach. Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health are equally important and interconnected — they all need to be attended to in order to maintain a balanced lifestyle.

You are an advocate for infertility. Can you tell us about your journey with it? What advice do you have for women who are struggling with infertility? 

I turned 35 last month, and we started our infertility journey when I was 27/28. After experiencing a missed miscarriage in 2013 (I was 27 at the time), we had trouble getting pregnant again.

We tried for nine cycles before my husband unexpectedly deployed in July 2014, but during that time, I was on fertility medication (Clomid and Femara) and we were going through testing.

He returned home in April 2015 and we started trying again right away with the same protocol. After seeing a Reproductive Endocrinologist in August 2014, we decided to move forward with IVF and were scheduled to start in October. I got pregnant naturally (albeit taking supplements) in September and our daughter was born the following May. It was a true miracle.

We started trying for baby #2 a month before our daughter’s first birthday. So many people told us it was easier to get pregnant the second time around, so I was expecting it to happen right away. Months passed, and after about eight months of trying using OPKs and supplements, I was referred to a fertility specialist.

We went through the same routine as before — tons of lab work and procedures and were diagnosed with unexplained infertility once again. I did not try Clomid this time around as it thinned my lining and caused cysts, but I did so many rounds of Femara. We eventually moved on to Gonal-F in conjunction with natural conception since our insurance (Tricare) does not cover anything beyond timed intercourse.

My body responded beautifully, but we were unsuccessful in the five rounds we did. After many heart-to-heart talks, we decided not to move forward with IUI or IVF. The chances of conceiving were way too low to try IUI and seeing that it’s between $1-2k a cycle, we didn’t want to risk it.

And because we already have an amazing little girl, we did not want to put ourselves in debt by trying IVF. It was an extremely difficult and emotional decision, but I had already been through three years of heartache (almost four and a half counting the time before our daughter), and enough was enough.

Additionally, military life adds another obstacle when battling infertility with separations that civilian families typically do not have to deal with. Lastly, while I’m grateful for the medical care we receive, I truly hope that Tricare covers more advanced infertility treatment one day. No one should have to go into so much debt trying to have a baby.

I know it sounds so cliche, but if you’re struggling to conceive, try as hard as you can to not get overwhelmed. You will be introduced to a TON of information and new lingo, and it will be daunting if you try to process all of this right away.

I suggest not Googling everything. Everyone has different diagnoses and reacts differently to medication and procedures, and what works for one couple may not work for another, even if the situation seems similar. I experienced a lot of disappointment Googling too much and comparing our journey to other couples.

Also, ask a lot of questions. Ask about anything you’re unsure of or confused about, and if something doesn’t sit right with you, get a second opinion. Lastly, take care of yourself. Do things that bring you joy and that help keep you connected and communication open with your partner. Infertility can totally deplete intimacy and seriously strain relationships, and being mindful of this can help reduce all of the added stress. 

What about advice for women struggling with alcohol?

Know you are NOT alone and that struggling with alcohol is not a black and white issue. Get sober curious by taking a good hard look at your relationship with alcohol and ask yourself if it is serving you and how. Start reading “quit lit” (books about drinking/quitting/living alcohol-free) and listening to podcasts centered around drinking. These will help show different perspectives about the issue and provide inspiration.

Also, there are a plethora of online groups and sober communities that can help connect with others who can relate. Following alcohol-free folks and hashtags on Instagram has been instrumental in my recovery, as well as the Sober Mom Squad, an online community of sober + sober curious mothers, and 1000 Hours Dry, an Instagram community for people from all paths of life.

Therapy and/or AA are other wonderful options; I just found that these resources were more suitable for me. Regardless, do not sit alone with your thoughts and feelings. There is another way, a better way, even if it seems unattainable right now. 

Any personal info you want to share?

My husband, daughter, and I currently live in Colorado Springs, but my husband is active duty military so have been all over the country! Because we move every few years, each place we go is totally different so we enjoy exploring and doing weekend trips around the area (pre-covid). I like home organization, movies, 90s music, and wildflowers. I’m from the Midwest so I’m looking forward to visiting more post-covid, but in the meantime, I’m eagerly awaiting Spring weather — I’m not a fan of winter!

This is Kim. Follow her on Instagram here.

Thank you for reading today! Please check out Kim’s website, and reach out to her with any questions you have about sustainable, intentional living.

PS. If you or someone you know has a mental health success story to share (on anything), you know where to find me. See you next week.

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