Alcohol Addiction and Mothering
A friend of mine who is an accomplished psychologist and mother of two recently confessed something to me: she likes wine, a lot. After working all day with troubled adolescents, picking her girls up from school and making a dinner that loosely resembles a healthy meal, she drinks. Her daily consumption included one glass of wine with dinner, one while cleaning up after dinner, and one once the kids went to bed. Given her slight frame, this amount was enough to make her unsteady, and yet, she continued to drink. Her weekly grocery trip included the purchase of two bottles of red wine–of which she “shared” with her husband. On one such grocery trip, she heard herself half-shout, “watch my wine!” as her five-year old clamored out of the cart nearly stepping on the bottle. The rolling wine bottle and her defensive reaction to it was her wake-up call. My friend, who counsels people with addictive personalities was shocked to find herself modeling the behavior of an alcoholic. Upon her realization, she spoke with her husband about it (he had been noticing her increasing consumption) and simply quit–cold turkey before her addiction could get further out of control.
My friend’s reaction was not typical. For her, quiting was easy, yes she had to change some behaviors and get used to not relying on the wine to calm her down after a particularly stressful day in the mental health profession, but overall she didn’t struggle with the process. For many mothers and fathers who find themselves in the clutches of alcohol addiction, this process isn’t so simple. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon (for the families of alcoholics) can provide resources and support for those who are struggling with the effects of alcoholism. Regardless of whether the alcoholic is functional (can still work and function in society), the effects of alcohol abuse on families are staggering. Data shows that over 7 million children in the U.S. have a parent who is suffering from alcoholism or drug dependency. Children of alcoholics exhibit symptoms of depression, anxiety and codependency more than children of non-alcoholics. Additionally, children of alcoholics are also more likely to score lower in cognitive and verbal skill tests (National Association for Children of Alcoholics nacoa.org).
My friend looks back at that brief period of her life with a sense of thankfulness that her addiction didn’t completely take over. She knows her response of “just quitting” isn’t the norm. Sometimes in the rush of work, bake sales, meetings, carpooling and all of the other 900 tasks mothers must accomplish daily, there can be a tendency to overlook one’s health. She recognized that instead of dealing with her stress in a healthy way like yoga, journaling or talking with a friend, she was self-medicating with alcohol. It took her 5 year-old wrestling out of a shopping cart and almost breaking a wine bottle to make her realize that her nightly ritual had become a compulsion.