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.
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 70s,” 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 did in whispers. I figured she was doing the best she could at the time.
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–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.
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/are always fed, clothed and bathed and nurtured. But wine was always a part of my evening routine.
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 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. There are tons of 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?
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 it, 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 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!
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.
As Almost Alcoholic points out, just because you don’t meet the DSM 5 criteria for 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.
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.