When Mom Has A Drinking Problem
Excerpt from my Upcoming Book: It's Not About the Wine
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I am so excited to share with you this sneak peak at my upcoming book! If it speaks to you or someone you love, I hope you will consider preordering it. The book is available for preorder everywhere books are sold.
I started writing about motherhood when I was pregnant with Ben*, my second born. Early in the pregnancy, I had so much anxiety and fear, following a miscarriage earlier that year. But I also felt excited—elated really. This second child would complete our family. I wanted to shout my pregnancy from the rooftops. I had a miracle growing inside me!
Culturally we have an unspoken rule not to announce pregnancy until after the first trimester. God forbid we tell everyone, only to lose the baby later. HoW eMbArRaSsInG. (Is the sarcasm bleeding through the page? I hope so.) What are mothers expected to do when we experience early miscarriage? Wipe the tears, apparently, and move on. Keep our emotions in check, hold our chin up, and keep everyone around us blissfully unaware that a piece of our heart just died.
Our society’s ambivalence toward a mother-to-be’s preterm loss is perhaps the very first of many messages we send to mothers that their struggles are best remained hidden. No one wants to hear about it, so don’t make things weird. And like any dutiful “good mom,” I played my part. I stayed in my lane for family and friends. But privately? I had things to say.
I started an anonymous blog I named “And What A Mom” to share this early pregnancy experience, my heartbreak after my miscarriage, and my dreams for my growing family—a virtual diary sent out to the world in the hopes that my words would resonate with a few women who may stumble across my posts.
Over time, my blog’s readership slowly grew. I created corresponding Facebook and Instagram pages and those grew as well. The things I wrote about evolved as my family and motherhood experience changed. I stopped posting anonymously and started using a pen name, Celeste Yvonne, to maintain some privacy as I shared my story and delved into the good and bad and all-around messy challenges of motherhood, which I referred to as “The Ultimate Mom Challenge.” A post called “Dear Husband” about my grievances with the mental load of motherhood (the invisible work women do to keep a household running) went viral to millions.
The post was written in the form of a letter to my husband, but I hadn’t actually left it on his pillowcase one morning after a bleary-eyed night of caring for our newborn. The “letter” was inspired by a conversation my husband and I’d had and was meant as a metaphor for those mothers who, like me, were struggling with the enormity of this new role of mom, even when our existing household duties and other responsibilities remained unchanged.
I wrote about returning to work but feeling undersupported both at home and in the workplace. I wanted to understand why women pushed so hard for equality and liberation, yet when our husbands watch the children, we called it “babysitting.” I argued for a more even split of responsibilities and child-rearing on the home front. Mostly, I asked for more help, because if something didn’t change, and fast, I would break.
Many women praised my honesty and candor. I received private messages of support, but they also expressed frustration with the mental load of motherhood. They wondered: “What brought us here? Why aren’t more of us speaking up? And how do we go forward?”
But not all the feedback was positive. I received hundreds of vile messages from men and women. Some hoped my husband would divorce me; others went so far as to wish me dead. Clearly, I’d touched a nerve. Maybe the world wasn’t ready for this conversation yet, and besides, who was I to lead this charge? I retreated. I was too far out of my comfort zone, and I decided to return to writing in the “safe” zone: motherhood, children, and other socially acceptable topics.
The mental load of motherhood sat with me though. I knew there was more to this topic, and I started thinking about where it bled into other aspects of our culture: this expectation to compartmentalize our work and family life, to “bounce back” after pregnancy loss and childbirth, and to make it all look so easy. The BS premise that just being a mother should be all the fulfillment we need.
The burden mothers have been holding for generations had been stuffed down our collective throats, and I could feel it suffocating us all.
Eventually, I did indeed break. The glass of wine I usually drank after the kids went to bed turned into two, three, sometimes the whole bottle. My drinking reached a tipping point where the line between want and need began to overlap. I saw a side of me that wasn’t pretty and a behavior that wasn’t sustainable. Clearly, numbing myself was not the solution I was seeking.
I reluctantly quit drinking and started to focus on my family. As soon as I stopped leaning on alcohol and started to process my emotions, a feeling came over me that was so strong, I couldn’t hold it in anymore. Rage.
I was pissed off. I started thinking about the toxic narrative of our “Mommy Wine Culture”—the pervasive message that alcohol helps mothers survive motherhood—and how destructive this message is. I saw how we conditioned ourselves and each other to believe that our grievances about parenting weren’t anything some rosé or a good cabernet couldn’t fix.
Mommy Wine Culture was and is a symptom of the larger issue: the mental load of motherhood, a burden born from outdated family norms, traditional roles, and a systematic lack of support for moms.
Drinking was my way of coping with the seemingly insurmountable weight of modern motherhood—a weight that causes countless other mothers to seek solace in pills, weed, and other escapes. But the “mother” of all drugs remains alcohol.
I’ll begin the book by asking the two most pressing questions about the mental load of motherhood, Mommy Wine Culture, and the significant rise in female drinking: what and why. What are we doing to ourselves, and why are we doing it? The rest of the book answers the question how. How do we break free from the clutches of alcohol and addiction? How do we find balance, community, and friendship without alcohol? And how do we create a life we don’t need to escape from?
Each chapter in the how section will start with one or two stories about mothers who are in recovery from alcohol use disorder. Their stories encapsulate the unique challenges of motherhood and the hope in sobriety.
I will also share my own story, including excerpts from blog posts I wrote while I was still actively drinking or in early recovery as I started to question various aspects of motherhood and our drinking culture. Most authors in recovery only tell their stories after years of recovery and reflection. These blog posts give that real, raw sense of frustration, desperation, and a little bit of self-victimization that I think is normal in many people’s early days of sobriety. I look back on a few of these pieces and cringe at my tone or relive the sadness and struggle I now know was part of my healing process. This writing reminds me how far I’ve come, and it offers you a closer glimpse at a mom starting to question her relationship to alcohol, making the decision to quit drinking, and the flood of emotion that comes when someone starts to redefine and take back their life.
Lastly, each chapter will end with tips on how to lighten your mental load. The tips are tangible things you can start doing right away, suggestions I wish I’d been offered in my own early sobriety.
When I was chatting with my agent about hopes for this book, she asked me if the goal was to encourage people to quit drinking.
I said no. And even now as I put the finishing touches on these pages, I stand by that answer.
The goal of this book is to look at why we mothers turn to alcohol as a solution in the first place and to help us all find ways to fix the underlying problems we face. While many women may end up making the same choice I did, I’m not writing this book to convince anyone to quit drinking. But I do hope readers learn enough that if you do choose to drink, you do so with informed consent. I hope every time you see a wine meme or an alcohol ad you can look at it with a critical eye and see just who benefits from such a narrative—and at whose expense. I hope every time you meet someone who says “I don’t drink” you don’t feel shocked or even ask why but instead simply smile and offer them a nonalcoholic alternative (tap water doesn’t count).
I hope if you do continue to drink you do so with a healthy awareness of how this substance is affecting your body, your mental health, and your children. And yes, I hope if you choose to try sobriety you can come away from this book understanding that you’re choosing an opportunity to live your best life. That abstaining from alcohol is not the end, it’s just the beginning.
Once we understand the root of what got us here and why Mommy Wine Culture is selling all of us short, that is where healing and true change begins.
Let me show you how.
My book, It’s Not About the Wine: The Loaded Truth Behind Mommy Wine Culture, is now available for pre-order here.
*I’ve changed the names of my husband and children in the book for privacy.
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