I’m an alcoholic. Well, almost. I am immersed waist-deep in the suburban mom wine culture, that’s for sure. More on that in a bit.
Actually, I’m not an alcoholic, but my mom was. So much so that she actually drank herself to death when I was 9 and she was 39. Nice, huh?
So I have a lot, I mean a LOT of baggage when it comes to drinking, parenting, and self-examination. Not wanting history to repeat itself and all that.
An alcoholic Mom.
Despite my less than stellar childhood, for decades I gave her a pass on the drinking. She came from a genetic line of alcoholics and “It was the 1970s,” I’d think to myself, “No one was really talking about alcoholism.”
I mean, after all, the Betty Ford center didn’t open until 1982 (my mom died in 1979). And no one, I mean, no one was talking about women and alcoholism. If my family and neighbors knew, they didn’t talk to each other about it. Or they did in whispers. I figured she was doing the best she could at the time.
Becoming a Suburban Wine Mom.
Then I had kids. And like most parents will tell you, having kids completely changes your emotions, your views on life, everything. When I look at my kids and feel that overwhelming love for them, and you just want everything and nothing all at the same time.
Didn’t she feel that? Wasn’t I good enough? I mean, when I look at my kids, if nothing else, I am constantly reminding myself that I would never subject them to the childhood that I had. Why didn’t my mom want this for me?
So this is why I supermom.
Why I bake cookies and grow a garden and am constantly on the go showing my kids new things and volunteering and being PTO president. (I told you, I have a lot of baggage!)
I am always doing whatever I can to not be my mom. Which was passed out drunk at 3:00 when I got home from school. And usually still passed out in the morning so I had to fend for myself a lot. My dad traveled frequently for business and she usually kept it under control when he was around.
Moms who drink too much.
But in the midst of all that I was doing, I was drinking. Frequently. Not ever driving or while pregnant or breastfeeding. Not falling down, passing out, vomiting drunk (yes, my mom did that too).
But just a glass or two of wine in the evenings. My kids were always fed, clothed and bathed and nurtured. But wine was always a part of my evening routine.
Am I overthinking it?
And given my history, I think about it. Too often. I overthink it. I read books, articles, watch tv shows and documentaries. Any data that I can find to reassure me that I am not an alcoholic.
Several years ago, Elizabeth Vargas came out openly as an alcoholic and has written a book (see link below) about her struggles. I’ve always liked her so I read the book and watched her on 20/20. But hey, she was always trying to hide her wine. In bathroom cabinets, the classic mom alcoholic. I wasn’t doing that, so that must mean I’m not an alcoholic, right?
I will add here, that the main takeaway from Vargas’ book and the story is the link between women with anxiety and alcoholism. I struggle with anxiety issues, as did my mom. I did not realize that about half, yes half, of all female alcoholics struggle with anxiety.
That was a huge red flag to me, as during the past 2-3 years with Kevin’s seizures and the way this country is headed, my anxiety has gotten worse. And what can I say, wine relaxes me. That’s why people drink it.
I mean, I never hide my drinking. For suburban moms, it’s a part of the mom culture. You know it is. We joke about it. All the social media memes about it. Funny t-shirts, funny wall plaques for your kitchen, kitschy wine glasses and coffee mugs with funny wine sayings on them, right?
Suburban Wine Moms
I mean, as my friend Lindsay pointed out today, as she stops drinking, she likely will be the only mom in her suburban neighborhood to not regularly drink.
Lindsay over at The Naughty Mommy, we chat almost daily. Mom stuff, kid stuff, blogging stuff, wine stuff. And during discussions about how we sleep better without wine and such…we decided that we want to stop. Over the years, we have stopped for weeks or months at a time.
This time felt different. It started with Chrissy Teigen and her decision to quit drinking. When I read a few of the articles and saw her on TV, her thoughts just really resonated with me. Elizabeth Vargas’ situation did not resonate with me, but Chrissy did. I could identify with her and thought, “Hmm, maybe I’m not an alcoholic, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t stop drinking.”
Then Lindsay suggested I read the book “Almost Alcoholic” which she was reading (link below). That book sealed the deal for me.
Basically, the premise is this. Just because you’re not a full-blown, physically dependent on alcohol alcoholic, doesn’t mean that you don’t have a problem. How bad is my problem? I don’t know, I’m still self-examining. But the self-tests and questionnaires in the book are enough to give me some red flags.
I have a strong family history of both anxiety and alcoholism. I remember my grandfather, who was an alcoholic–and his wife, my grandmother used to say, “Oh how I wish that just once he would wake up with a hangover, that might stop him from drinking.” Like him, I infrequently get headaches from wine, and it is socially acceptable for moms like me to drink wine, frequently and lots of it. That’s a dangerous combination for me.
So I’m stopping. It’s scary. Fact is, I don’t really know how to “mom” without wine. It’s been a part of our household, our holidays, for as long as I can remember.
But it’s expensive. I’ve gained weight as I am barreling towards age 50 and my metabolism slows down. I need a good sleep. I need to regain and retain patience, extra patience that is required when raising a medically complex child. I want to do better for my children. I want to accomplish more–because when I have wine in the evening, nothing gets done after dinner. What a waste of precious time!
Mom Wine Marketing.
Ladies, we are being marketed to! According to the Chicago Tribune, 60% of wine customers are women. And, the alcohol industry has sat up and taken notice of this. So many things are put in place to encourage us to drink more wine.
- Wine sellers advertising during the Super Bowl (50% of Super Bowl watchers are female)
- Wine becoming more accessible, easier to purchase because moms are busy and want convenience.
- In stores, you now often will see suggested pairings, so that buying wine at the grocery store will be as natural as buying food.
- All sorts of glasses, mugs, aprons, framed art, t-shirts, hats, key rings, note pads, refrigerator magnets and other tchotckes all that reinforce the message of, “hey, drinking wine is part of being a mom.”
What’s worse, is that as marketing efforts have increased and women are drinking more, bad statistics followed. As reported by the CDC, women and drinking is a growing health concern. Is it a coincidence that these statistics happened when the wine industry started to actively target their campaigns toward women? No.
This is why I want Moms to reevaluate their wine habits:
- Alcohol-related deaths are twice the amount as any and all other drugs, combined.
- One recent study found women are now drinking almost as much as men, closing a historically wide gap.
- Another study found rates of binge drinking increased by 17.5 percent among women between 2005 and 2012, but rose just 4.9 percent among men for that same period.
- The rate of alcohol-related visits to U.S. emergency rooms spiked by almost 50 percent between 2006 and 2014, especially among women, the government announced in January.
- From 2000 to 2015, death rates for chronic liver disease and cirrhosis — often associated with alcohol abuse — increased 57 percent for women 45 to 64 years old, and 18 percent for women ages 25-44, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Our “giving up alcohol” stories.
Lindsay is into week 3 of her 30-day sobriety challenge. For me, I think if I look back at the past 20-22 days, I’ve had two glasses of wine in that time.
My head feels clearer. I’m sleeping better. I’m not feeling overwhelmed with morning tasks because I am getting more stuff done in the evenings. I have more patience. I’m reading more, finishing books at a much quicker pace. My skin is clearer.
It’s back to school time and I have a big social event on Saturday. I likely wouldn’t drink anyway because I’ll have to drive. But still, it’s on my mind as other friends are already talking about how much they plan on drinking.
But as Lindsay has said, once it’s off the table as an option, it’s not that hard. Sure, some evenings I get the feeling of “I could really go for a glass of wine right now” but then I think of my kids, and all these thoughts in this blog post that are swirling in my head, and the money, and it’s a no-brainer. I kinda regret all the money that my household has spent on wine in the past few years.
I wanted to get these thoughts out of my head, so here they are. If you are having doubts or concerns or wondering about your own situation, I strongly recommend that you check out the books I’ve recommended.
Almost Alcoholic points out, just because you don’t meet the DSM 5 criteria for an alcoholic, does not mean that change isn’t needed.
I needed change, and I’ve found it. I have another friend who also gave up drinking in the past couple of years, and to quote her, “No, I wasn’t an alcoholic, I just decided that I don’t want alcohol to be a part of my life anymore.”
That pretty much sums it up for me too.
Author’s note: Now that I have been sober for the better part of two years, I can’t tell you how much better life is. My health is better. I’ve lost weight and I have more energy, more patience. And, the more I read about the poison that is alcohol, the more I am confident I will spend the rest of my time not drinking it. And, I’ve heard from so many of you who are also on this same journey and feel so much better for doing it.
This was originally published in 2017 and recently updated to fix links and grammar.
To my family: If you are reading this and are disturbed or hurt that I am “airing dirty laundry,” well, too bad. We need to be able to talk about alcoholism. If we could talk about it and not hide it, she might still be alive today. Nothing that I’ve said is untrue, and many families are struggling with it. Doesn’t mean they/we are bad people…and we need to stop treating it that way.