‘There’s so much glamour to the wine culture. The truth is that wine isn’t so classy when you can’t stop drinking it.’ -MS
Michelle Smith is almost five years sober and has made it her mission to spread awareness and break the stigma around mental illness and substance abuse.
A mental health and addictions counselor in Vancouver, Washington, she can relate easily to those she assists, having struggled with alcohol addiction and depression in her past.
“I started experimenting with alcohol in college. It was very much a take it or leave it relationship. After the birth of my second child, my mother passed away. I was faced with financial hardships and diagnosed with postpartum depression. It was an extremely vulnerable time where I was susceptible to addiction taking power in my life.
Alcohol was a coping tool I began using to deal with the most difficult time in my life. It was a very slow and progressive tool. Once I stopped using my coping skills to manage my feelings and emotions towards the loss, depression, and financial struggles, the alcohol was what took its place.
My relationship with alcohol got really bad when I hid my drinking so I would not be held accountable or nagged due to my increased amount and frequency of alcohol intake. My secrets kept me sick. I truly believed I was all alone and no one could relate.
After a few years of trying to moderate and regulate my drinking I was unsuccessful. After my fourth hospital admission for alcohol poisoning with a .43 blood alcohol level, Child Protective Services were called and I surrendered and accepted help. I went to a women’s residential treatment facility.”
Part of Michelle’s mission includes shedding some light on the increasingly normalized social pairing of wine and parenting. She feels it is time to change the narrative around motherhood and alcohol.
“Wine has practically become the must-have accessory for modern motherhood. The craze seems to be everywhere: ‘Mommy’s juice’ cups, ‘It’s wine o’clock’ rustic farmhouse signs, and ‘Mommy needs a drink’ tee shirts. We’ve all read and probably laughed at memes about needing a drink in order to cope as a parent.
I’m guilty of being on board with the Mommy needs wine culture until I stopped drinking, I saw it for what it is. It’s hugely problematic and dangerous to those genuinely struggling to keep it together and get the help they need. Alcohol seems to be the only drug we need to justify not taking, which is ridiculous! Many mothers aren’t given permission to admit they’re struggling with life.”
Today, Michelle regularly volunteers on the crisis lines and is a motivational speaker at various treatment centers and sober women meet-ups. Due to high demand, she has extended her reach to working with women virtually as a mental health and addictions councillor. Her passion is to provide women with recovery coaching.
“Your secrets will keep you sick. No one is immune and addiction doesn’t discriminate. Don’t give up before the miracle happens. With every relapse is a lesson. Take the lesson and use it to strengthen your recovery moving forward. Mistakes in recovery are inevitable. It’s proof were trying and that there’s another way of doing things. You are not alone. There are so many women struggling and we’re stronger together.”
Michelle has a private Facebook group for women called ‘Recovery is the New Black’. It is a secure, safe, and non-judgmental platform for women who are curious about sobriety, contemplating sobriety, and in active recovery. Michelle provides private 1:1 coaching, self-study programs, and runs a sobriety apparel line.
She does a lot of guest and motivational speaking in her community.
‘It’s been a wild ride, but I did it and I will never stop showing other mamas they can too.’-MS