Last week Jessica Simpson posted a nearly unrecognizable picture of herself in honor of her milestone marking four years sober. People commented on her physical appearance, but what struck me immediately was her eyes. I know that look in her eyes . . . I’ve seen it before. In my own mirror.
Jessica’s eyes conveyed the heartbreak of addiction. It’s the feeling of hopelessness, the feeling of disappointment.
Addiction is the feeling of powerlessness unlike anything else because you are at war with yourself and there are no winners.
You start to disappear—you lose track of what matters and instead focus on what doesn’t.
“I needed to stop drinking alcohol because it kept my mind and heart circling in the same direction and quite honestly, I was exhausted,” Simpson said in her Instagram post. She knew the only way to take her power back was to put down the bottle and learn how to stop getting in her own way.
Simpson started her sober journey four years ago, but for many people—especially women—the daunting realization that their alcohol consumption has reached disturbing, if not dangerous, proportions has only begun.
The challenges of motherhood, the stress of the pandemic, and the glamorization of alcohol have created the perfect storm. According to a RAND Corporation study, during the pandemic, women have increased their heavy drinking days by 41 percent as compared to before the pandemic.
Recent studies conclude that no amount of alcohol is safe, and yet it’s one of the most popular forms of self-medicating in the world. And it might be one thing if it actually worked, but alcohol is considered a depressant and is proven to increase anxiety, only making things worse.
Motherhood is consuming enough. It’s so easy to lose ourselves in our role as a mother, and sometimes asking for help feels shameful and a burden to others.
Turning to alcohol or drugs to cope isn’t just unsurprising, it’s par for the course in a world where mothers are touted as superheroes but otherwise seemingly unsupported.
We start to drink to relax but feel worse over time, so we drink more . . . perpetuating the addiction cycle.
I would know. I, too, self-medicated with alcohol to get through the challenges of motherhood. I played the game, thinking I could outsmart addiction by following self-imposed rules. Drink a glass of water between drinks. Don’t drink before 5 p.m. No hard alcohol. These fool’s rules kept me feeling in control enough to overshadow the obvious—I was constantly thinking about alcohol.
About a month and a half after Jessica Simpson declared “enough” and started her sobriety journey, I also decided it was time to get out of my own way. I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I knew alcohol was holding me back from a truly satisfying, rich life.
Simpson wisely concluded in her Instagram post, “The real work that needed to be done in my life was the actually accept failure, pain, brokenness, and self-sabotage. The drinking wasn’t the issue. I was.”
When you look at the star’s unrecognizable picture, the transformation is shocking.
But what the image does not show you, and what her caption only scratches the surface of, is that the greatest transformation comes from within.
That emptiness in her eyes? That haunting pain you see in her expression? That’s what addiction can do to us. It affects our friends and family, and yet so many of us hide because of stigma and shame. I’m grateful Jessica Simpson opened her heart and shared this message of hope for the thousands who follow in her footsteps—me included.
I’ll be four years sober in a few weeks and it’s an honor to be on this sober journey with Simpson, someone willing to show the messy, scary side of addiction to help others break the cycle. May she continue to shine her light so others can see the path forward.