Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Mommies Who Drink Too Much This past summer, Diane Schuler sped drunkenly down the Taconic Parkway - the wrong way - tragically killing her daughter, six other people, and herself. The ensuing outrage, even bewilderment, over mothers who drink far too much, detonated for weeks. Mothers have sought relief and solace in alcohol for a very long time; Diane Schuler just put a very public face onto the excess of drinking. "My kids are driving me to drink!" exclaim many moms at times, followed by a laugh. It is not uncommon for mothers of young children - infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers - to get together for play groups and, while the kids busy themselves with one another, the mommies sip a glass of wine. Or two. And on occasion, a mom may make it a chardonnay hat-trick. She then tucks her child into his or her car seat, and drives. Full disclosure: I am not judging or nor being holier-than-thou. Because I have been there. Not there-there watching this happen to others, but there-there as in participating, by being the one mom who enjoyed the alcohol a little bit too much. By also being the mom who would eventually pick up her preschooler and kindergartner (her third and fourth children, respectively) at after-school care at five in the afternoon, with a Diet Coke can full of white wine, or beer. And get behind the wheel of her car, mercifully - and amazingly - never driving the wrong way down a one-way street. Or into a pole or a tree or a ditch. I am the mom who very shortly after a number of these trips with her wine roadie - my "mommy juice" I called it -put down the drink for good. This was over 10 years ago. The strongest thing I drink now is pure, unadulterated Diet Coke. I am far and away not the only mommy who drank too much. If you visit a local 12-step meeting you might be surprised to observe the number of mothers of young children. And they aren't the bedraggled, low income or perhaps uneducated people that society often stereotypes alcoholics to be. They are your neighbors, your small and large business owners, the ones with the Masters degrees, the multi-volunteering moms... even your friends. I am also describing the still actively drinking mothers, the ones you notice imbibe a tad too much socially, and those who fly under-the-radar; the women who couldn't possibly abuse alcohol because they - what? - seem too perfect, too together, too nice? Let me tell you, although I am far from perfect and my have-it-all-together days don't necessarily equal the headless-chicken days, I was and still am, well, nice. I didn't look as though my body and my mind had begun to crave alcohol. I lived in a decent-sized house, I had the ubiquitous Suburban, I had just sold the magazine I had founded. My drinking hadn't destroyed my marriage, hadn't made me lose my house, my job, nor my children. What it had made me lose was Julie. I had lost Julie and thought perhaps I could find her in a bottle, that maybe, too, that drink would help me feel less overwhelmed and stressed about suddenly being a stay-at-home mom to four kids under age 15. That being a little bit buzzed would make the kids' fighting, screaming and needing me less intense. The drink did none of those things. The drink just made me drunk. A drunk mommy, not a better mommy. I wasn't a daily drinker. One doesn't need to drink every day or evening to be an alcoholic. It's a disease that is cunning and baffling; insidious. And it begets denial. Which is why many people who probably should stop, simply don't. My younger two kids have never seen me drunk (that they remember). I was able to be present-and-accounted for during my older sons' teen years, and of course for the present ones. Getting sober was the best thing I could have ever done for my family. If someone reading this perhaps recognizes a little of themselves in me, please do not feel ashamed to admit to a problem. And to seek help. I know I felt more ashamed to keep on drinking; it took courage and love to stop.