We are almost two months into the new year which means Dry January is officially over. Or is it? Does it have to be? As I navigated these first couple months of 2021, it really got me to thinking about my relationship with alcohol, the good and the bad. I wanted to share with you my journey and where drinking fits into my life today.
I want to share an interaction that made a big impression on me in my relationship with alcohol. Last fall, I had taken my son and his friend to a local pumpkin patch. This one serves wine slushies and other drinks, (because we apparently can’t do anything without a drink).
As we were sitting at a table having some cider donuts, I witnessed an interaction between two moms.
The first mom arrived with her two small kids and her friend arrived after her with her three very young kids. As she was paying to get in and juggling her kids, her friend asked if she would want a wine slushy as they walk around, “it is Friday, after all”. She replied, that no, she is good and has to be able to drive home.
Her friend then piled on a little guilt, that being a mom is hard and they deserve it and to not make her drink alone.
It felt like I was back in high school, being peer pressured to drink. But these are grown women, way past high school and that peer pressure. This was classic Mom Shaming with alcohol as the object.
why are we doing this to each other?
I am guessing that you have been the subject of or witnessed someone pressuring another to drink, all in “good fun”. Or maybe you have been the pressurer-er, wanting a buddy to drink with. Admittedly, I have been both. How often do we offer wine or beer first when friends come to dinner? Or fill up someone’s wine glass without first asking if they would even want more? The silent pressure to drink today is overwhelming and, all at once, accepted and applauded.
Have you heard the term “mommy wine culture”? (Case in point, I remember a seeing a baby onesie that says “mommy drinks because I cry”.) I know am guilty of using motherhood as an excuse to pour a glass at the end of the day (read an excellent article about this here). My husband and I would have a drink, or two, almost every night when the boys were little. We were exhausted. The slowing down and relaxation you get from a glass of wine just seemed to make everything better.
Until it didn’t.
Usually that glass of wine would turn into 2 or 3. Sleep would be crappy, you would be even more tired the next day, running on caffeine and fumes, trying to outrun the slight hangover and then start over again that night.
my relationship with alcohol has changed
I have had times in my adult life when I didn’t drink as much and times when I drank more. If I cut back, it was always from a “calorie cutting” or vanity perspective, not because alcohol is poison and does nothing good for you, health-wise. As I have gotten older and have been healing my gut, thyroid and pretty much everything else my body has thrown me, I have cut back on drinking from a health perspective. That’s not to say I don’t have a few cocktails here and there. I do, but I definitely am more mindful and conscious about my choices when I do. And sometimes, I might imbibe a little more but it’s a conscious choice rather than one from needing to take the edge off.
then the pandemic came
The past year with quarantine and the world turning upside down, I have for sure leaned on alcohol to deal with my feelings of anxiety, boredom, stress and worry. And society was making it seem okay and accepted to drink more during a pandemic.
What I know and plainly ignore, is that alcohol is the worst thing you can put in your body to combat any of those feelings. It actually magnifies anxious feelings the next day, along with an increase in depression symptoms. That is me anytime I have more than one or two drinks. If this is you too, ask yourself, why are you purposefully putting something in your body it does not love?
why do we do this to ourselves?
That’s really the question I have been pondering for quite a long time. I know something is not great for me and yet do it anyway. There are a few reasons for me personally. See if one resonates with you:
Societal pressure and normalization of drinking- There is such a pressure to drink today. It doesn’t go away as we get older. In fact, when my husband became sober 2 years ago, watching how people navigated his lack of drinking was eye opening. I know one of my worries is that, if I don’t drink, that maybe I will not be seen as fun or get invited anywhere. Silly, but true. Additionally, I know that in the past, I have looked at others who weren’t drinking and wonder why. And not in a good way. I am thankfully way past that. Seeing my husbands journey with sobriety has majorly helped me see the errors of my ways.
Ignoring my feelings rather than dealing with them- If it’s not food, then it is drink. Over the last decade, I have done a lot of introspective work, some with a therapist, some on my own. Through that I have realized that I like to have my feelings, tuck them away and find something to help me forget I have those feelings until I can process them later. Can you relate? But guess what? The feelings just get numbed, they don’t go away. Eventually you will have to deal with them. Sit with them, be uncomfortable, and feel them. They are temporary. And drinking always causes more problems than it solves.
It’s a Habit- At times, it feels like Pavlov’s dog…..clock hits 5pm on Friday, pop open the wine. Clockwork. Is that you? I know it has been me. Also, summer weekends at the lake just mean cold drinks. But it is time to redefine the moments through the week and year. Habits can be hard to break but just taking them one day at a time is key. Having a substitute “mocktail” is also key. My favorite one is lime Bubly in a wine glass with a large squeeze of fresh lime, lemon or orange and a splash of juice.
my relationship with alcohol is changing
Do I still drink? Yes.
Am I more aware than ever why I am drinking when I do? Yes.
This is my relationship with alcohol and what works for me. You may be on a different path. I encourage you to be curious about your underlying motives behind popping that cork. And to support other women who choose sobriety at times. That’s all.