Alcoholic. The word is reserved for people who do horrible things. People like Sandra Bullock’s character in 28 Days. Yet, me…who wasn’t a black-out drunk, who didn’t drink and drive, who didn’t stash bottles around the house…listened to the word roll off my counselor’s tongue.
This. Can’t. Be. Right.
“You finished a bottle of flavored whiskey in 10 days…by yourself,” she said.
“Well, I made flavored tea and just sipped it,” I resisted.
“You can drink a bottle of wine in one sitting no problem,” she continued.
“But not all the time…” I fought.
“You light up when you joke about being stressed and needing a drink,” she pressed.
I don’t want to be an alcoholic.
I come from a family where alcoholism ruined lives. I’ve always been extremely careful to not develop a “habit.” In college, I moved the SAME bottle of vodka to three different residences over the course of four years, then into my first grown-up residence where it survived at least another two years.
But looking at my life at the time of that conversation, that bottle of vodka wouldn’t last a month…max.
When I ran out of my drinks of choice (craft beer, wine and margaritas), I had no problem improvising. Out of margarita mix: Hmmmm, I have capri suns and fake lime juice. Out of tequila? I can make a hot chocolate and add fireball.
It’s not like I would get drunk. And it’s not like my drinking was alarming to anyone around me.
In fact, friends and family celebrated my drinking.
We live in this amazing time of mommy freedom…it’s okay for us to be a hot mess and not know what we’re doing. And it’s especially okay to need a drink to offset the torture we endure as parents.
I embraced the “mommy drinking” culture. I laughed about needing a glass to survive the day, would post a pic of an evening margarita with the caption “…because, kids,” and repost meme after meme spotlighting mommy needing booze. And my friends and family would join me in laughter and understanding.
But somewhere along the way…it became a problem.
I would decide to stop drinking, and couldn’t.
Not that I tried all that hard. Good friends I respected assured me I didn’t have a problem. And I feel less socially awkward when I drink. So I would “stop,” then have something, anything, happen in a day and decide “WTH, I’ll stop tomorrow.”
But tomorrow never came. And by the time I had that conversation with my counselor, I’d been “stopping” drinking for at least a year.
I didn’t drink every day, but I drank most days. I definitely drank a lot more than the non-alcoholic 1-3 beverages per week. I definitely looked forward to my drink. My body hated the alcohol – responding with massive headaches and upset stomach – and my tolerance was off the charts.
I longed for my pre-mommy drinking days.
I started cutting back, big time. I did no-drinking challenges with friends, mostly guised as weight-loss strategies. I even confided in a few of them that my mommy drinking was becoming a drinking problem. But I never used the word alcoholic. It was too permanent.
In those conversations, I learned there are all kinds of acceptable reasons not to drink…religion, diets, allergies, but thinking you might have a problem was not one of them. People were immediately defensive of their own “mommy drinking” and seemed to feel judged by my decision.
During one playdate/visit, I repeatedly declined the homemade sangria before being told that it was rude not to at least try it. And I folded. And of course, I didn’t just try it…I craved alcohol, so once it touched my lips, I enjoyed a big, full glass…then another.
And then there was this online post…
A mom posted in a facebook group that she was really struggling with how much she was drinking and having a hard time stopping, and asked for advice.
The very long comment thread was full – FULL – of moms posting pics of their own “Thank God it’s 4 p.m.” drinks, assuring her there’s nothing wrong with it.
I was just over 10 days with no alcohol at the time. It wasn’t easy. I wanted a drink every single day. The littlest things triggered me. And the no-exceptions experiment confirmed for me that my mommy drinking had become a drinking problem.
I stared at that post and decided to be vulnerable. I posted about how I was also concerned and decided to stop and how hard it had been, and how because it was so hard – I wanted to stick with a no-alcohol lifestyle.
People reacted to my comment with laughter. One mom replied to my comment “good for you sweetie,” with a string of laughing emojis. Shamed, I ended up deleting the comment and hoping no one I knew saw it.
They ridiculed me for daring to drop out of the “mommy drinking” culture. And that tells me I’m not the only one with a problem.
If you read this post and get angry, ask yourself: Why are YOU upset about what I’M doing?
I’m not judging you. I’m not saying everyone who mommy drinks is an alcoholic. I still don’t accept that I’m an alcoholic…I officially told my family I’m demonstrating alcoholic tendencies and that I want to nip it in the bud. But I’m worried enough that I’m not drinking. And I wish the mommy drinking culture was more accepting of those of us who don’t participate.
I shouldn’t have to tell mommy friends that drinking is against my religion, or that I’m on Whole 30 or that I’ve developed an allergy to alcohol or even that I’m an alcoholic. All I should need to say is “no thank you.”
If you’re also concerned that your mommy drinking is becoming a drinking problem, know you are not alone.
There are lots of resources to help, if you seek them out.
A good place to start is with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. and their “Am I Alcoholic” Self Test. You can take the test here.
Based on your results (I scored “serious concern”), they have several suggested next steps.
I’m still building my support system, with my counselor as the foundation. And I’m still working through learning I’m on the “alcoholic” spectrum. I still struggle with the idea of zero alcohol and have allowed myself one drink in social settings every once in awhile, but I don’t “mommy drink” any more. I very carefully monitor my alcoholic intake and if I ever find myself looking forward to or craving a beverage, I WILL NOT DRINK.
And if you’re not at all concerned about your mommy drinking…
I hope that after reading this, if you find someone like me at your house saying “no thank you,” you simply accept it and continue to enjoy each other’s company.