It’s an unpopular topic, but it needs to be said. We have a toxic culture around wine and motherhood. Alcohol is being marketed to moms at an unprecedented rate. Not only alcohol, but products touting alcohol usage specifically by young mothers. You don’t have to look very far to see what I mean.
These images were collected from Etsy, Pinterest and other places. I took the picture of the “Mama needs some wine” shirt myself at my local Target. Wine is being shoved down our throats as a remedy to all the stresses of parenting. It’s so pervasive at this point that you may be shocked once you start to notice how prevalent it is. It’s all treated as a big joke, but the dependency behind it is not at all funny.
I started drinking by myself at home in 2014. There were a myriad of stresses in my life at the time. My marriage wasn’t going great. My husband had started training for a marathon and between work and running, he was damn near always gone. I was going on a year of being a stay at home mom at the time. I had quit a job I really liked to stay home with my kids, and as much as I loved being able to stay with them, I also still felt like I had something to prove to the world.
I am one of those people who never lived up to the potential my teachers and parents always told me I had. I was very smart and coasted through school, partied through college and skated out with a degree by the skin of my teeth. It took me a year post college to finally land a job (granted it was 2008 so the recession was a part of that) but then I lost that job within 2 years. I finally got hired again after 13 months of unemployment, and quitting that job had not ever been in my plans. I wanted to stay with my kids but I also wanted to succeed in the professional world and that just wasn’t in the cards.
So by 2014 I was starting to face the realities of being a stay at home mom, and it was taking its toll.
I can already hear the working moms laughing at me.
Human nature is so fascinating to me because we are literally never, ever satisfied. I can speak to the pros and cons of being a working mom because I did that for four years, and I can speak to the pros and cons of being a stay at home mom because I have now done that for seven years, and it really doesn’t matter which one you choose, they’re both hard.
As a working mom I spent all my time worrying about if my children were okay in daycare, and feeling guilty because I wasn’t there for all their firsts. I remember all the remorse I had every morning when I had to leave my screaming baby in the arms of a daycare worker. I remember the resentment I felt for stay at home moms who just wanted to get away from their kids when all I wanted was to have time with them. I thought if I could only be a stay at home mom I would rock at it. The house would be so clean, all the meals would be made, the grocery shopping done, the children well-adjusted and happy, and my life would be perfect!
Now I can hear the stay at home moms laughing at me.
For a while at least, my expectations were marginally met. The house was pretty clean, the meals were pretty good, and my babies were pretty happy, but then reality started to set in. The truth of being a stay at home mom is that you’re never off work. Being a mom is your job and it literally never stops. It’s hard to convey what that means to working moms because they are off duty from work and immediately on duty as mom, but when all you do is stay home, there’s no sense of being off work, there is no relief from duty, ever. 2 AM night terrors? You’re up, because the hubby has to get up at 6 :30 to make it to work on time. You change every diaper, you wipe every snotty nose, you clean up all the barf. You arbitrate all the arguments. You find every lost toy. You get every snack. You make every meal, you wash every dish, you fold every stitch of clothing. 24/7. It doesn’t stop.
Beyond that, you begin to lose your sense of self outside your role as a mom. When you eat, sleep, and breathe motherhood it begins to dissolve the other aspects of your personality. Your non-family/related hopes, dreams and aspirations take a remote backseat to everyone else’s life. You are the familial facilitator, putting priority on caretaking, potty training, and extracurricular scheduling. You exist to make everyone else’s life easier.
When I first started staying home, I remember people asking me “won’t you be bored?”. No. I am never bored because the work never stops. I am exhausted. I am depleted. I am overwhelmed. I am never bored.
The laundry was my kryptonite.
I used to enjoy doing the laundry because I could just turn on whatever I wanted to watch and just veg out while mindlessly folding clothes. But when you spend 80% of your time with only children and almost no adult interaction, vegging out is not what you want. I wanted brain work. I wanted interaction. I wanted to feel useful as a human being who contributes to the world beyond my duties as a butt wiper. I wanted to have an intellectual conversation with another adult. I wanted to think about something that wasn’t primary colors or nursery rhymes. I wanted to feel like I hadn’t disappointed my parents and teachers who all seemed to see something useful in me that never manifested.
If I couldn’t be successful, at least I could be a damn adult. So I learned that I could get through the laundry by allowing myself an adult indulgence. It was just a little reminder that I still had some agency. I would have a glass of wine, and that was my treat for doing laundry. I waited until nap time, at 2:00, and then I would have myself a little chore-related happy hour. I started to joke about it with my friends, “It’s 2:00 somewhere!”. I thought, this is harmless, the kids aren’t even awake for it, and it makes me hate the laundry less.
But it didn’t stop there. Wine was my escape in a job that literally never ended. So I started to feel like I wasn’t beholden to standard drinking mores. I thought, I can drink during the day, I can drink on a week night, I can drink alone, and I can finish a whole bottle by myself because I have a difficult job and I am literally never off work.
Bella started to notice. At the grocery store once Bella told Eric “Let’s get mommy some wine, she likes wine.” At a candy store with our friends, Bella tried a champagne flavored gummy bear (with no alcohol in it) and then pretended to be drunk for the next hour. That was truly sobering for me, because I realized she was mimicking my behavior after I’ve had a few glasses.
I knew it was an issue pretty quick, but I thought it wasn’t that big of an issue.
After all, I reasoned, I was always able to stop drinking when I was pregnant, so quitting should be fairly easy.
But it wasn’t.
Then I realized it was a pretty big issue, but I thought, I can handle this.
But I couldn’t.
I tried to stop on my own.
When my Dad died I started to scare myself with my consumption. I wasn’t sipping the wine and enjoying it, I was pouring a glass and chugging it, taking big gulps like water. I knew I needed to stop, but there was always an excuse.
I’m just sad right now, it will pass.
I’ll quit after this big event, or that fun weekend.
I’ll quit after this bottle is out.
I’ll quit after date night.
But there was always a reason to drink.
I never asked anyone for help. I tried to shoulder the burden alone.
The last time I tried to be sober, I told my two best friends that I wanted to quit drinking. I wanted some accountability, so I told them that I thought it was becoming an issue and I wanted to stop. They were supportive, but they didn’t mention it the next time they saw me with a wine glass in my hand either. Old habits die really hard, and we were all going through a lot of misery regarding Michelle’s worsening cancer. Sobriety while watching my best friend die was really just not feasible. For any of us.
When Michelle passed away, I was really afraid of the alcohol aspect. I already knew that it was an issue, and I knew that I had used it as a major crutch when my Dad died, but this death was different. I loved my Dad so much, and we were very close, but your parents are supposed to die before you, that follows the natural sequence of life. It’s expected.
No one is supposed to die at 35.
After Michelle’s funeral, I came home and continued the process of grieving. When she was here I still had hope, I could pray and encourage her, I could do something with my nervous energy, but when she died all I could do for the first month or so was lay in bed and watch movies. I would get up to take care of the kids, and then back into bed I went. I would get up if I had an obligation, and so I made for myself a plethora of obligations, I accepted every invitation and actually showed up. I pretended I was okay because that was all I knew how to do. But the drinking was starting to scare me. We couldn’t keep wine in the house, I was going through one or two bottles every couple of days. I would start drinking as soon as Eric texted me that he was headed home. When I ran out, I would text him to bring a bottle home. If I ran out before I was buzzed I would drink whatever else we had in the house to obtain that buzz, even stuff I can’t stand like bourbon.
I was still leading a table of women at MOPS at this time. My table and the MOPS leadership team had all been there for me throughout the whole process of losing Michelle. They had prayed for Michelle and her family and her doctors. They had sent me roses and cookies when she died, they had stepped in to cover my absences when I was with her during hospice and the funeral. I felt – I feel – truly loved by those women.
So on April 26th my friend Danielle stood up to give her testimony during the annual Tea and Treasures event (it was not related to alcohol) but after speaking about how Jesus had changed literally every aspect of her life, she invited us each to accept Christ at that time. As we sat in silence I thought to myself, well, I know I am already saved, but maybe Jesus would save me from alcoholism. So I prayed for the holy spirit to protect me from alcohol, from temptation, and from triggers. And though I have been a Christian since the age of 7, I forget to pray about things surprisingly often. I don’t think I had ever asked God’s help to defeat alcoholism.
I won’t say it was easy. I have faced extremely strong temptation A LOT. But God has given me the power to overcome that temptation every time so far. So in 17 days I will have been sober for a year, and I plant the success of that effort wholly at the foot of the cross. I was not able to overcome this addiction of my own accord. It is only through the grace and mercy of God that I have been able to maintain my sobriety, and I know every day that I could fail.
Since we have been stuck in quarantine with social media as our only interaction outside our families, I am struck by how easily someone with a propensity towards addictive behavior could be pushed over the edge by the isolating conditions of this pandemic. If Johann Hari was right when he said “The opposite of addiction is connection,” then the converse must also hold true, the opposite of connection, that is, isolation, could be a contributing factor to addictions for those of us who are already predisposed to addiction. We are all extremely isolated right now, and probably more stressed than we have been in a long time. I am just sitting at home on my phone as much as the rest of you, helplessly watching people I know and care about begin to slide down the same shame-covered, wine-soaked slope I did.
I’m not saying you’re an alcoholic.
I’m not saying you’re alcohol dependent.
But you could be headed there, and you could be posting memes and jokes about your own impending addiction.
I didn’t start out like this. There was a time I could keep a bottle of wine in my fridge for weeks and not even think about it. There was a time I wouldn’t have dreamed of drinking before 5. There was a time when I believed that only losers drink alone. It was really slow. It took me five years. The process may be speeded up for people locked in isolation though, especially anyone trying to work from home, homeschool your children, and also keep house. Some of y’all are literally tasked with doing the impossible, so you’ll handle the stress the best way you know how.
You have to wind down somehow. I’m not telling you to stop drinking. Not everyone has a problem. But let me give you this guideline. Before you pour yourself a glass, ask yourself, why am I drinking? If the answer is “I am celebrating something good!” then I say to you, “Cheers!”. However, if the answer is, “My stress is spiraling out of control and I cannot handle it anymore,” let me encourage you to try a non-alcoholic way to decompress. Take a walk, take a bath, listen to music, do an aerobics class online or a yoga class. Call a friend. Read a book. Put on a moisturizing face mask. Lay in bed with the lights off and the door closed for 10 minutes. Breathe deeply. If you’re a person of faith, pray. When I am losing it I often ask God to show me the joy in the madness. Invariably one of my kids makes me lose it laughing. Laughter is an incredible way to unwind. Save the wine for when you are already happy.
When I look back now at who I was in 2014, at the person who felt so useless, I know that I was listening to the lies of the world and not listening to the truths of the bible. I am precious to God, and so are you. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.” Isaiah 43:4 Moreover, you are not expected to be perfect. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
You will never be enough for the world, and the world will never be enough for you. Human nature is dissatisfaction. There is always another mountain to conquer. The only true fulfillment is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There is not enough money or success in the world to fill the emptiness inside the human heart. Only Christ is big enough.
No matter what you’re going through at home right now I want you to know some truths:
1. You’re not alone.
2. It’s not too late.
3. Jesus loves you.
If you want to talk to me privately about alcohol dependency, my door is always open.