an alternative opinion to “mommy needs a drink” culture
I’ve struggled with what to say in response to why I no longer drink. When acquaintances or clients ask me, I usually give a brief open ended answer and then bolt to the bathroom, or change the subject. But why do I do that? People start and stop certain habits all the time to make their lives better, and no one acts as if they are doing something completely against the grain (pun.) So here goes my explanation of why not all big girls drink wine, and how I plan to explain that to my 4 year old daughter.
Fourth of July fireworks. My mom is having a glass of Pinot Grigio. My daughter asks to smell her wine. My daughter then excitedly exclaims, “when I’m a big girl, I’m going to drink wine!” My mom responds that “not all big girls drink wine.” Suddenly it became apparent to me that we would be having one of, “the talks” far earlier than I had anticipated. How will I explain to my daughter why some mommies, including her mommy, don’t drink wine? How will I explain to her the dangers that come with using substances? How will I try my hardest to give her the tools to keep herself safe in a society that is constantly glamorizing alcohol and it’s consumption at everything from casual gatherings to big celebrations?
I spent her youngest years drinking far more than I should have. It became apparent that I needed to stop. I had never been the type of person that had just one drink, and I could turn in to a real uninhibited jerk when I pushed the limits. The hangovers got old, my mental and emotional health was anything but stable, and I always worried about the things I did or said while drinking. I’m a super sensitive person and looking back now, I know for a fact that starting at the ripe age of 19, and for a solid decade thereafter I used alcohol as a way to numb my immense capacity to feel. Drinking was without a doubt stealing time from me and my family. Time I could have spent enjoying the little moments that I’ll never get back. The good news is I never have to worry about it stealing time from me again. The last 7+ months alcohol free have been a gift. The beginning was hard. I still have days where I have the internal battle about whether or not I can have “just one.” But my life is so much fuller without alcohol, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m NOT missing anything.
So I have a very clear understanding of why I don’t drink anymore. How do I explain this to an almost 4 year old? Somehow, I feel like the explanation of, “mommy doesn’t drink because she turns into an asshole” will not suffice. At first I thought that since she never sees me drinking (anymore), my excellent behavior would be enough to convince her that life can be enjoyed without alcohol. But then I remembered my parents never drank when I was younger. We barely ever had alcohol in our house. And yet despite that, I still started drinking at 15 and tangoed my way right into years of gray area drinking. So if you’re reading this thinking it won’t happen to your kid, I encourage you to reconsider that thought. I knew people who came from great homes with amazing parents who are now dead from addictive behaviors. I know people who came from terrible homes who are now some of the most successful folks I know. But, I digress…
Here are the things I plan on telling her:
- Mommy doesn’t drink because it makes her sick. Her tummy and head don’t feel good after drinking. Mommy doesn’t like feeling sick, so now she drinks water or juice instead of wine.
- Mommy doesn’t drink because it’s hard for mommy to only have one. She really likes wine, just like you like ice cream. But mommy drinks too much wine. When mommy has more than one, she ends up not feeling well.
- Mommy doesn’t drink because when she does, she can’t get up early to do fun things with you, daddy and the dogs. She doesn’t want to miss those fun things, so she doesn’t drink.
- Mommy doesn’t drink because when she does, she says things that are not always nice.
- Mommy doesn’t drink because she has more fun without it.
How I’ll explain to her the more complex topics of addiction and substance abuse, I haven’t quite figured out yet. I’m hoping to buy a couple years on that, and I’ll update this post or write a new one once I figure that out. In the meantime, I’ve ordered some children’s books suggested by a friend in the psychiatry field. It’s my opinion that it’s better to be open and honest with our kids about the very real world we live in (to an extent, of course.) Let’s end the stigma and stop pretending we aren’t living in a time where addiction is tearing apart families and wiping out an alarming amount of our generation.
The next time you find yourself thinking or saying, “mommy needs a drink,” I encourage you to pause and ask yourself why. Is it really a drink you need? Or is it a walk outside, a tub in silence, a good book, time with friends, or to put your kids in daycare for the day and go to your favorite class or store? (Big proponent of that last one.) If a random lady writing a blog post on the internet suggesting you ask yourself why you need a drink pisses you off, perhaps consider why it’s pissing you off.
This is a judgement free zone. You do you and I’ll do me. But if this story helps someone who needs it, then I’m glad to have shared it.