A few months ago I wrote a blog called “Moms, Let’s Talk About the Drinking.” I hoped it would start a conversation among those of us who’d decided – or realized – we were drinking too much.
Hundreds of comments and one radio interview later, it’s mission accomplished. Among my circle of friends and readers, we are talking more openly about our drinking and being more mindful of our habits.
This is a subject that is close to my heart (also my liver).
In January of this year, as a series of events and realizations started stacking up, I came to the conclusion that I had a problem. I was drinking too much and even worse, I was oblivious to the culture of consumption I’d created in my home and in front of my young children.
When talking about problem drinking I shared several stories about how careless both my husband and I were about what we were saying and modeling in front of our kids. And yet in writing what I did, I wanted to make one thing emphatically clear: this was my own personal experience and not intended to be a “YOU MUST STOP DRINKING IN FRONT OF YOUR CHILDREN” public service announcement delivered from atop my soapbox. I still enjoy several glasses of wine each week and don’t intend to stop drinking altogether because while my consumption is down, my mindfulness is up. I’m thinking about what I’m doing, I’m actually enjoying it, and I’m modeling what I believe is responsible behavior. I’m not laughing about booze or glorifying the cute comments my kids make about “mommy’s favourite drink.”
Despite the fact that I’ve been a legal adult for twenty-five years, actually acting like one in this area of my life has not been easy. I’m changing my mindset around what it means to drink too much, what it means to make jokes about drinking in front of your kids and what it means make wine a part of your persona. It’s been a real culture shift within my house, and while I don’t miss drinking three or four glasses of wine per night as much as I thought I would, I do miss being able to check out mentally and not think so much about it. I also miss the sense of entitlement I had around wine, the right to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Sure I’ve already had two but it’s only 8:30. It was a long day and I’ve earned this. I’m an adult and I’m not hiding my drinking from anyone. I’m not getting drunk in front of my kids. It’s just wine, not straight vodka. What’s the harm? Pour. Drink. Repeat, that was my habit.
I wish I could tell you this has been easy, that seeing my words on paper and talking about them publicly horrified and embarrassed me so much that cutting my consumption was a piece of cake, especially in the face of the alternative: being labeled as a mom who drinks too much and doesn’t know she has a problem. But telling you it’s been easy would be telling you a lie. My taste buds checked out when I switched to boxed wine, and my brain was never invited to the party. Now I think about when I want to enjoy the one glass I’m going to allow myself. I try to trick myself with sparkling water in a wine glass, or mocktails. I try working out in the evening instead of the morning because I rarely feel like eight ounces of merlot when I’m still sweating and out of breath. It’s getting easier, but it’s still exhausting.
Now, I have to think about what I’m doing. I have to think about having one glass only, which means deciding when I want that glass. If I have it at 5:00, I spend the rest of the night going “Hmmmm …. maybe just one more..” If I have it at 7:00, I don’t enjoy it as much because my kids are still up and I’m not in relaxation mode. 9:00 seems to be the sweet spot, and since I’m a total rock star who falls asleep between 10:00 and 10:30 (usually with her book on her face), that really only leaves time for one glass.
I look ahead at my week, too. If I’m going out or if there’s a night I know I’ll likely be having more than one glass, I don’t have anything the night before. This past week I actually went wine-free for two nights. Not two nights consecutively, but still. This is big for me.
And of course I wonder: is it normal to have to plan your drinking with such precision? Are there people who have one drink and don’t think a second one? Where are those people and why aren’t they writing books and putting on seminars? My brain is now fully involved in operation Slow It Down and while I appreciate her concern, she’s a real buzz kill in more ways than one.
When I wrote the original post, most of the responses and comments I got were positive. If it’s a lack of self-awareness that contributed to my over-consumption it’s likely that very same thing that enabled me to share so freely without really considering what I was admitting to. People have since told me they were surprised I wasn’t raked over the coals for any one of the embarrassing habits I revealed with those words.
But the backlash didn’t come, and that has given me the confidence to keep the conversation going. If you have any strategies for minimizing your drinking and being more mindful, I would love to know them and share them. Comment below or Tweet me at …. ahem …. @wineandsmarties.
Author: Jen Millard
Jen Millard is a proud wife and mother of two living in Markham, Ontario. After adopting both her girls at age four, Jen and her husband Daren became passionate advocates for older child adoption, foster care reform and LCBO gift cards. An avid traveller, Jen counts Hawaii, Edinburgh, Greece and Canada’s east and west coasts among her favourite destinations. Jen is happiest when she’s got her nose in a book, a glass of wine at her side and a nap on the horizon. Jen is at her unhappiest when she is talking to her husband about her credit card bill or contemplating working out. When she’s not blogging, Jen is busy cleaning up after three badly-behaved pets and working as a part-time College instructor and Stella & Dot Stylist. Jen and her family spend their summers on Prince Edward Island.