You may well have seen (and probably laughed at) the fridge magnet with a picture of a woman saying "I cook with wine.. and sometimes I put it in the food". If it's not that one, slogans such as 'Wine-o-clock', 'Lady Petrol' and 'Mummy's Little Helper' have adorned Mother's Day cards forever.
Mums (and Dads) drinking to cope with the strain of parenting is nothing new, but at what point should we be concerned? This is a subject currently getting a lot more focus, with 'sober' and 'alcohol-free' accounts gaining huge traction on Instagram, celebrities discussing their sobriety more openly and books such as 'Soberful' by Veronica Valli sparking debate.
The fact is that Motherhood can be isolating, demanding and sometimes overwhelming, and rather than joking and normalising Mums reliance on booze as a coping mechanism, we should really be talking about the actual issue - that many Mums need more support.
As Mums ourselves, who are no stranger to a glass of wine to relax of an evening, we've followed this rhetoric closely. Our mission is to support women of all ages and phases of life and so it felt fitting to shine a light on this important conversation as part of our series on Stress Awareness Month.
To really get into this we felt we needed an to bring in an expert. Christy Osborne, a Certified Sobriety Coach (@lovelifesoberwithchristy) shares her story below, and tells us why we need to stop beating ourselves up about using alcohol as a coping mechanism, whilst also finding more positive and sustainable ways to cope when feeling overwhelmed.
Like most mums out there I used wine and cocktails to deal with the stress of everyday life. After school pick-up I would generally get the children home, unpack their school bags, get them started on their homework and soon after open up a bottle of wine. It didn’t seem like a strange or weird thing to do, after all most of my girlfriends were also moms were doing the same thing. If I took a second to look at social media, it was obvious that most Mum's out there were using wine as a coping mechanism for parenting as well.
Then one day, March 9 2020 to be specific, I woke up exhausted with a pounding headache and a churning stomach. I usually felt this way in the mornings after having 3 or 4 glasses of wine, but this morning was different. I decided I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I wanted to sleep better, I wanted more energy, and I wanted my face to de-puff. After years of playing the moderation game, I decided I was going to take a break from alcohol and get really curious about the role it was playing in my life.
I hated the idea of being labelled an “alcoholic”, I could not identify with that term at all. I was still making every single school drop-off and pick-up, the children always made all of their tutors and activities on time. Certainly I didn’t have a “problem.” At the same time I knew alcohol had a hold on me and I was struggling to manage it, and I wanted a change.
I spent a year learning everything that that I could on why I was drinking, what it was doing to my brain and body, and realising how much better I felt without my nightly wine. After a year of living alcohol-free I began my training to become a certified sobriety coach and now have the privilege of coaching Mum's who want to redefine their relationship with alcohol.
If You’re Struggling with Wine, It’s Not Your FaultIf you’ve ever questioned your drinking, and if you’re reading this post you probably have at one point or another, I want you to do one thing before you read anything further.
Alcohol has been sold to us as THE way to celebrate, relax, have fun, cope, grieve, be romantic and connect. Most of us have grown up watching our parents drink, see every major movie and television character drink, surround ourselves with girlfriends who drink, have connected with our partners over a bottle of wine- you name it. Alcohol is everywhere.
It’s also extremely addictive. The reason I say stop beating yourself up is we are conditioned to believe we are supposed to be able “take it or leave it” when it comes to alcohol. But this is extremely hard to do because of the addictive nature of ethanol, the toxic chemical in alcohol.
Ethanol screws with the decision making part of your brain and dulls your memory and senses. This is why it can be extremely difficult to stick to two glasses. It’s not that you have zero willpower, it’s that wine is super addictive. It’s not your fault, it’s alcohol’s fault.
The Lies Are Coming at us from Every Angle“Big Alcohol” (the large alcohol marketing agencies) knows this, and has us moms in their cross-hairs on us moms. They sell us “mummy wine juice” and “Detox to Retox” t-shirts and hydro-flasks with “This is Gin” written on it. During the pandemic there were wine aisles in grocery stores that read “Home School Supplies.” Big alcohol is targeting us as women, keeping us drinking to cope with all of our stress, and ensuring we hear the message loud and clear- the best thing to do when you have had enough of the kids is to “rosé all day.” They know if we start to drink for these reasons, we will get hooked and find it difficult to stop, because alcohol is addictive and we believe we need it to manage our stress.
If we don’t hear it loud and clear from alcohol marketing agencies we hear it from our girlfriends on social media. I am the first to admit that I loved posing with a glass of champagne in a fancy Mayfair restaurant or on a beach in the South of France because heck, “I deserved it!” I helped perpetuate the message that drinking a cold glass of sauvignon blanc was the best remedy when the children were driving me mad. (I was also compounded the belief that we need alcohol to be fancy and have fun!).
It's Time to Start Questioning Everything We Know About AlcoholBut what if we stopped for a second and got really curious about what we believe, and question all of the messaging that is being thrown at us. What if we asked ourselves- is alcohol really helping us cope? Does it help our anxiety? Does it really allow us to connect with friends and have more fun?
We believe we like to drink for a number of reasons, but let’s take the belief that we drink to deal with the stress of our children. Science tells us that we get a 20-30 minute artificial dopamine hit from drinking a glass of wine. Then the brain reacts by releasing a counteracting chemical called dynorphin, I like to think of it as the buzz kill hormone, and it's a sedative that counteracts the endorphins in the artificial dopamine. So you may have a temporary buzz, but then you are hit with chemicals that try to balance you out and bring you down. In addition to the dynorphin (a sedative) you are also hit with adrenaline and cortisol- the stress hormones. On top of all of that, alcohol wreaks total havoc on your sleep. It ensures you don’t get the recommended number of hours of REM sleep that your brain needs to restore itself.
So we drink to deal with the stress of our children, but end up getting a whole heap of depressive chemicals and stress reactions on top of horrible sleep. (Ever heard of hangxiety? That’s why!) It’s not helping us handle the stress, it’s like adding lighter fluid to our stress! It’s why we end up grumpy and snappy with our children (and partners) after a few drinks and the next day.
When I realised that I wasn’t getting the desired result from my evening wine - in fact, I was getting the opposite (more stress, more anxiety, horrible sleep), I decided to kick alcohol to the curb.
Do I Have Your Attention? Then Try This ExerciseIf you’re reading this article now, I urge you to take a few minutes, and do this easy exercise. You can do it right here in the notes on your phone!
Write down the reasons you think that you like to drink. Is it to de-stress? To connect with friends? To have fun? To cope? (I can tell you right now that we as women all drink for pretty much identical reasons.)
Second, get really curious and ask yourself if those reasons are 100% true. Is the wine truly providing the relief, the fun, the memories that you are looking for? Remember to look at the full picture. If you think you drink to have fun- is waking up with a raging hangover fun? Can you have just as much fun without alcohol? As someone who has danced on tables and sang karaoke totally sober- I can tell you that it is possible!! We just have to try!!!
The Benefits of Ditching My Nightly Wine
After I figured out that alcohol was not doing any of the things that society, advertising or social media told me it was supposed to do, I realised that there were HUGE benefits for both my physical and mental health when I stopped drinking wine every night.
My skin de-puffed and the red broken capillaries vanished. Alcohol is a diuretic so it doesn’t matter how many expensive face serums you lather on, your nightly wine will zap the moisture from your beautiful face.
I started sleeping better than I ever have before, and with all of that new found energy I established a morning routine that involves coffee, making a list of things I am grateful for, and moving my body for exercise because I enjoy it.
I’ve seen so many incredible benefits when I put down my nightly wine glass. If you’d like to learn more about these benefits including how a break from alcohol can save you money, enhance your friendship circle, give you more patience with your children, help you get stronger and healthier, and so much more click here to read “15 Benefits of Taking A Booze Break for Busy Moms.”
Christy Osborne is a certified sobriety coach and lives in London with her husband and two children. You can find out more about her and her sobriety coaching on www.lovelifesober.co.uk or on Instagram @lovelifesoberwithchristy.
If stress is getting the better of you, and you regularly feel overwhelmed, depressed and anxious, seek help from your GP, or charities such as Mind and the Samaritans.
Disclaimer: As with all articles on www.equilondon.com, this is no substitution for individual medical or nutritional advice.