When my youngest turned two we took a bike ride on the trail near our house together. We went to this trail almost every day- I logged miles and miles running and running and pushing both he and his older brother there in the running stroller. On that day he was behind me in the bike seat. I was very hungover.

“I promise you, for your birthday, I will quit drinking. I will quit for you. I will quit on your birthday so I will always remember. I will quit so you can have a mom better than me.” I said these words reverently, quietly. I meant them. All of them. But it was a promise I only kept until later that day when we opened bottles of wine to celebrate.

I regretted even speaking those words out loud, for even though he wouldn’t know what I meant the universe surely heard and was possibly pissed. But then again the universe knew I was a big fat liar and didn’t believe a word I said anyway.

My youngest turns five on Sunday. He will never know the pain and sadness I feel at how I frittered away his babyhood and toddler days carelessly drinking and drinking. I drank when I was breastfeeding. I drank and drank away his first year so carelessly and sporatically that I don’t really even remember much of it, other than I was marathon training, picked up smoking again, and stayed out all night getting wasted with people from work when I should have been home with my new baby, his brother, and my husband.

Looking back, I can guess that I had some pretty serious postpartum shit going on. Which I probably could have seen if I hadn’t been in such a fog of drunk and hungover and emotional overload. Holy shit. God, I think back on that year and how I hate it. I ran a marathon and was so proud of myself. The accomplishment of that one day should have been what I felt every day about my home, my family. That year I was so so so selfish, and hated it all while I loved it so much I had to turn away. There was so much to lose, and I was trying my best to lose it.

I remembered that bike ride earlier today. Out of the blue it popped up in my head. I didn’t keep that promise for a few more years, but the important part is that I finally kept it.

I am so thankful to my husband for staying even when he should have left. I am thankful to my children for loving me in spite of what they don’t even realize I’ve done. I am so thankful to myself for finally coming to my senses and being brave enough to say help, and no. No more. No. more. Please. And then I can. I can. I am doing it.

It’s unsettling how I can recall that one snippet of declaration from three years ago. And totally understandable since I said those things to myself all the time, but just never out loud, to anyone. And how that one conversation on that one day stuck with me.

I imagine that my sobriety is built on all of these conversations and wishes. I believe that I am so strongly sober because I yearned for it so desperately for so long. I know that one reason I stay sober is because I made a promise to a little boy three years ago and I need to keep it. I will stay sober because I make a promise to myself every day to keep going.

Luckily my husband stayed. My boys love me fiercely with open arms and hearts. Our loves aren’t perfect, but they are ours. I don’t have to break the beauty of them to keep them holy. I keep my promises. I make ones I mean. I’ll stay sober. I’ll love and not be afraid. I’ll go through it instead of around it. I promise.