I made the decision to stop drinking about six weeks ago.
I did this for a number of reasons.
One is that I have a hard time drinking in moderation.
I either drink no alcohol, or I drink all the alcohol.
Another reason is that while my body has never really tolerated alcohol very well, the older I get, it’s really becoming a problem.
A mom’s night out turns into a mom’s two days out, because that’s how long it takes me to recover from a night where I have more than two drinks (which was pretty much every time I went out).
But there is a third reason. And it’s a pretty big one.
One of the things I noticed about myself, especially since becoming a parent, is how often I would joke to other people that it had been a really long or tiring or especially shitty day, and how I couldn’t wait to have a glass (or a whole bottle) of wine later that night.
That’s the thing so many of us moms do. We joke about how exhausting/exasperating/annoying/frustrating our kids or our days have been and about how we can’t wait to have a drink. Or nine.
Because we earned it.
We deserve it.
I’d often say this in front of my kids. Like really often.
On a side note, I come from a long line of addictive personalities on both sides of my family.
I also have a long history of depression.
If I’m going to be honest with myself, alcohol is pretty much the last thing I should be putting into my body.
I am only able to acknowledge this now, at almost 48 years old. It’s taken me 30+ years of drinking to be completely honest with myself.
So that third reason I quit drinking…
Coming from a long line of addicts and having a history of depression puts my kids at a much higher risk for becoming addicts.
I’ve known this.
But then I recently read a blog post from Scientific American entitled Opioid Addiction Is a Huge Problem, but Pain Prescriptions Are Not the Cause.
In a nutshell, the majority of opioid addictions do not stem from medical use. Meaning if you hurt yourself and get a prescription for percoset, chances are, you will not become addicted.
According to this article, “90 percent of all addictions—no matter what the drug—start in the adolescent and young adult years… The vast majority of people who are prescribed opioids use them responsibly.”
“If we want to reduce opioid addiction, we have to target the real risk factors for it: child trauma, mental illness and unemployment. Two thirds of people with opioid addictions have had at least one severely traumatic childhood experience, and the greater your exposure to different types of trauma, the higher the risk becomes. We need to help abused, neglected and otherwise traumatized children before they turn to drugs for self-medication when they hit their teens.”
“At least half of people with opioid addictions also have a mental illness or personality disorder. The precursors to these problems are often evident in childhood, too. For example, children who are extremely impulsive are at high risk—but on the opposite end of the scale, so, too are children who are highly cautious and anxious.”
So I read this.
And then I thought to myself, What if one of the kids had a really bad day at school. If their friends were jerks to them. If they did bad on a test. If they were just feeling down… and they came home from school and said to me, “I am going to get so wasted tonight. I totally deserve it.”
I’d be crushed, honestly.
But I’ve said that same thing in front of my children probably hundreds of times.
(It may not be opioid usage, but the drug doesn’t really matter).
I have modeled for them that getting drunk, (even if I was only joking), is an acceptable way to deal with stress and disappointment and worry and anxiety and depression.
And that is the third reason I’m done drinking.
I’m not okay with that. Because while I am grateful my kids haven’t had any major childhood trauma to put them at an increased risk for addiction, thanks to genes and heredity, they are all candidates for mental illness. (Although really, at one point or another, aren’t we all?)
And we’ve got anxiety and impulsivity issues here at home already.
I’m not saying that alcohol is poison for everyone. There are plenty of (lucky) people who can enjoy it in moderation.
But joking about how you’ve had a bad day and can’t wait to have a drink (or five) in front of your kids?
Now that I’ve got six weeks of sobriety under my belt, I don’t think that’s such a great thing.
In fact, I think it’s pretty bad.
I am not trying to tell you or convince you to stop drinking.
But I am throwing out there that maybe you are sending messages to your kids that you don’t mean to send. Or that you don’t realize you are sending.
The next time you have a shitty day? The next time your kids are total assholes?
Maybe don’t joke with your friends about how badly you need a few drinks.
Instead, tell them you need a time out. Some alone time. A walk to clear your head.
Send your kids a different message.
A healthier one.
A message that doesn’t have the potential to put them at a higher risk than they may already be.
Because that’s that’s the message we all really want to send anyway, isn’t it?