How many posts, ecards, memes, wine bottles, glasses, mugs, etc. have you seen that reiterate how much a MOM NEEDS WINE?!!? Yes, these are funny and all in jest, but – I’m going to be a party pooper here – I have a nagging problem with the overzealous use of these statements. I’m just as guilty of the rhetoric, but I have a pet peeve that’s been growing and growing, turning into a grossly sensitive issue for me:
How parents joke about NEEDING drugs or alcohol to cope and manage life. That a pill or a beverage is the golden ticket to mental well being.
Are we really using this to cope with life’s little messes? Are we teaching our children to use the same coping mechanisms?
It may be harmless fun to many, and maybe is a total non-issue for many people who can simply enjoy a glass of wine or occasional pill to make everything better. It’s nice to unwind with other moms and relax with a beverage or two and let loose a little.
But I grew up in a house with alcoholism. I have clinical depression and anxiety. I’ve lost family members to suicide and addiction. I have drug addicts in my family. There is a line that is much finer than most people may think. And it’s not easy for me to just sit and smile along when moms are talking about needing a few drinks or something stronger to get through a rough day. I am sensitive to people thinking that (a) anxiety, panic and depression are just temporary issues with self-medicating fixes and (b) that it’s okay to use the self-medication as the fix instead of addressing real issues.
The more and more I hear the joking about a little drink turn into the need for one, or two, or three….I feel this pit in my stomach. It’s not just about unwinding anymore, it’s when people joke about NEEDING a drink or a Xanax to handle life with their children or just life in general. It’s just that…..ugh….I understand the urge to “take the edge off” after a long day. It’s so much better to numb than handle pain or calm the voices in our heads rather than addressing them, but…I also fight constant battles to not rely on that, to not depend on the alcohol or the pill to get through life. I spend considerable focus and energy trying to find other ways to stay strong, cope and be better while still living. I occasionally need to spend time with a therapist and managed time on anti-depressants only to get through the roughest patches while trying to focus energy on other methods of coping and living, alternatives like meditation or healthy activities.
The number of articles about a growing epidemic of alcoholism is women is worthy of the attention. My generation of moms grew up in a world where we were educated about alcohol and drugs fairly substantially, but the rules have been relaxed and we’ve forgiven ourselves of more as we try to handle more of life’s stresses. See ABC News: New Women Alcoholics: ‘Looking at Red Wine Like It’s Chocolate’ or Wall Street Journal: Why She Drinks – Women and Alcohol Abuse.
Well…until it doesn’t smooth the edges anymore. It can’t be an escape forever.
I worry about my kids (and friends’ kids) growing up in a house where the message is consistently that “nothing makes life more manageable than [alcohol], [drugs], [etc.]”. That’s how I grew up and I’ve been fighting it my entire life. I want my kids to know how to handle themselves and relax from time to time, but I don’t want them to feel the constant need to use something to escape.
The problem is–and I learned this from the research–that you cannot selectively numb emotion. You can’t say, here’s the bad stuff. Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. I don’t want to feel these… You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. And then we are miserable, and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so then we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle. – Brene Brown (Article)
Aside from the holier than thou/lecturing post here (I’m guilty too), my intended takeaways are really:
(a) Don’t let this message be unnecessarily absorbed in guilt. Joke away with your friends, have a drink when you want one (or two). But I hope we are staying aware of how we really use our “mommy’s little helpers” from time to time. What do our kids see? How are we showing them to really cope? Don’t think they don’t absorb the message. I wasn’t very old when I figured out what abuse and addiction were and how that turned to disgust and disrespect of my parent.
(b) Anxiety and depression are real. Don’t discount what you may really have and how you actually have more options available to you than numbing the pain and fear. Further, if you are one of those people who don’t really have anxiety and depression but feel the occasional need for a break, that’s okay too. But please don’t interpret someone else’s anxiety to be as easily cured as yours was with one little fix.
(c) Parenting is hard. Life is messy. We all need help coping and managing from time to time. Some need more support than others. That’s okay. But seek the right help in the right place. One night getting blitzed with your mom friends may help get over an awful day. But that shouldn’t be your ongoing solution.
Moms (and dads) need to be able to unwind and relax. We shouldn’t allow too much guilt invade our downtime. But I hope more people are able to distinguish between lighthearted fun and a problem. And that we support our fellow moms who may need more real help rather than more booze.
Some additional resources/articles:
The Way to Interrupt Addiction
Xanax makes me a better mom
NIH literature – Women and Alcohol
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence