Moms Who Drink: When It Becomes a Problem
Two women share their stories
-Julie Ryan Evans
While moms everywhere seem to be toasting as their tots run about, for some mothers the stress of the day-to-day duties can result in problem drinking. Here are the stories of two of them.
Miss Mouthy (who prefers to keep her real identity anonymous) is a 35-year-old mother of two girls. She lives in Washington.
Miss Mouthy always had issues with alcohol and drinking too much, but when she got pregnant, she stopped immediately … until the baby arrived.
After two miscarriages, we finally had a sweet baby girl. I had been blessed with the opportunity to stay home with her, and I loved it. It was a struggle, and I often thought, “Why didn’t anyone tell me it would be this hard?” But it was great. I spent lots of time researching drinking and breastfeeding. Once my daughter was sleeping through the night, I started having a drink once she was down. Again, I went right back to my max in no time. I was always able to get up when she needed me. I knew the alcohol was out of my system by the time she woke up each morning. I remember waiting for her to go to sleep so I could start drinking, even getting frustrated when she wouldn’t go down.
On her first birthday, I found out I was expecting again. Nine months later, we had our second sweet baby girl. Two under 2. Oh my. This was hard. This was really hard. I was in over my head. I sunk into depression and kept on drinking.
She says she felt in control over her drinking because she had boundaries.
I never drank when my girls were awake. Even though I breastfed both girls for a year each, I ensured they didn’t get any alcohol. However, there was that one time I decided to have a little gin and tonic while I made dinner. I knew I wouldn’t nurse my daughter until bedtime, three hours later, so the alcohol would be out of my system. Then there were the times, few and far between, that my daughter awoke during the night and I nursed her. How were my boundaries looking now?
I continued to have nagging feelings about this, but I rationalized. My life is so stressful that I need a few drinks to wind down. Lots of moms drink. Hey, wine play dates were all over the news around this time! My kids never saw me drink.
So what alerted her that she had a problem?
A couple of things shook me up. Once I took an internet test about drinking habits. You know how reliable internet tests can be! I answered questions truthfully, and the results were shocking. I drank more than 96 percent of the women who took this poll. I sort of knew it was bad but not that bad.
The last straw. I suppose everyone has one. We were camping with my family for 10 days. We had our tent trailer, our girls in their little sleeping bags and pack-n-plays. The first night I drank. And drank. And drank. Sometime during the night I threw up all over our sleeping bags, our pillows and our trailer. I didn’t even know I had thrown up. The next morning my husband spent the first day of our vacation at the laundromat washing all our things. I couldn’t get up. My family took care of my girls and I lay on the ground all day. That day, I knew I was an alcoholic. I said it over and over in my head all day. I didn’t drink the rest of that camping trip, the rest of that summer, and I haven’t had a drop since then. I know that I can’t because I’ll be at nine shots a night before I can blink an eye.
She never attended any AA meetings or went into rehab.
I know I can’t. There are times when this is hard, especially in social situations. I was more fun when I was drinking and events were more fun when I was drinking.
I also thought my depression would disappear when I stopped drinking. It hasn’t. I continue to take medication and my doctor recently mentioned I might need to be on medication for the rest of my life. Did my drinking cause this chemical imbalance? I don’t know. I’ll never know.
I feel so blessed that I was able to stop drinking before consequences started catching up with me. I hope my children will never see me drink and that the lessons I’ve learned will help them make better choices than I’ve made.
Rachael Brownell, 40, mother of three young children in the Pacific Northwest
Rachael Brownell believes her alcoholism was latent for years.
I was a relatively “normal” drinker throughout my 20s and into my early 30s. I’d drink once or twice a week and only a few glasses of wine. It was a supplement to my social life rather than the central force it became.
Then came motherhood and all that came with it …
Motherhood certainly didn’t “drive me to drink,” but the stressers around my particular situation – twins, the breakup of my relationship with their father – certainly created a setting in which my addiction “woke up.”
I began using wine as my reward for a long day with the twins… as a way to unwind without having to leave the house.
One becomes very homebound with a new baby (or in my case, babies); as a result, I was more isolated from my friends, and from the ways I used to identify myself as an adult woman (going out, having coffee with friends, going to bookstores, etc.). Additionally, I had (undiagnosed) postpartum depression, and really had massive issues with baby weight.
You could say that motherhood created the circumstances around which my addiction flourished: low self-esteem, sleep deprivation, depression, a highly conflicted partner relationship (not caused by the kids but exacerbated by them).
Rachael suspected she had a problem for a few years before she got help.
I noticed I had more hangovers, that I required more wine each night to get through, and that my drinking was starting to be the thing I looked forward to most each day.
One particularly hung-over morning, I called and asked for help. I went to my first meeting that day.
It has been 18 months since she last had a drink.
In the beginning I avoided alcohol and drinking occasions. It was just too difficult to maintain my sobriety in those settings. Now, I’m happy with my Perrier and lime.
For me, sobriety has brought great happiness and self-discovery… and that even though I thought by giving up alcohol, I’d never have fun again, I was completely mistaken.
Please share your thoughts about and relationship with alcohol. Send your stories to Julie@BettyConfidential.com.
Read more in our special series: Moms Who Drink: