Still Talking about the Drinking

A young woman pouring some red wine

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.

Jen Millard

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.

14 thoughts

  1. I do a couple of things: each year, I quit cold turkey for at least a month. I do it with a friend. Usually November/December so I feel abstemious come Christmas. I make deals: no booze until kids are asleep because it demotivates me – I don’t cook well after a martini.

    My pattern over many years was to be dry Mon-Wed and Thurs-Sun to have one martini in the evening. That segued into one every evening until recently when consumption went up as a direct response to some pretty traumatic family events.
    My eating like a cow went up, too.

    That triggers the desire for a program diet – supervised. That means that I have all food and drink monitored through a diet program and it gets me dry and thin pretty quick. I stick to that for 6 months or more before going on maintenance and so the only drinking is a special night out, Birthday or celebration until by body is back under my control.

    That’s how I cope, rightly or wrongly.

  2. It seems to be a never-ending struggle for so many of us. I just try to “make healthy choices” most of the time, like they taught us in kindergarten.

  3. It does take effort and self-discipline, but all truly good things do. Congrats on recognizing it, facing up to it, and devising strategies to improve!
    My parents both came from abusive alcoholic families, so in their early years of marriage (first 15) they didn’t bring alcohol into the house (living in a dry county helped). Later, they began to have a glass of wine around the holidays or brandy during cold weather months. My dad’s job as an ER physician was extremely stressful and he had a rule: no alcohol 24 hours before or after a shift. That left very little opportunity for indulging.
    My husband lost his grandmother to a drunk driver. He grew up in a home with nightly drinks, but always capped at one. His parents modeled moderation well.
    As a married couple with four kids and on a budget, we have found alcohol usually doesn’t fit financially. Our spendthrift ways combined with the moderation modeled by our parents have been a blessing. You are well on your way to blessing your kids with a similar gift! Hang in there!

  4. Thanks for your openness about this critical issue that affects some many families. I think Sandi’s comment is spot-on. The AA community is larger and stronger than you possibly imagine (it’s prohibited from doing any advertising, promotion or advocacy of any kind) and all that’s needed is a will to stop drinking. I myself is someone who enjoys wine a lot but I find it easy to choose to abstain for days or weeks. For folks who find that really difficult or even impossible, and who find they are putting a great deal of time and energy into decisions around each and every encounter with alcohol, AA really offers a way to set that all aside. It’s free, confidential and life-saving for many. Worth checking out to see if it offers something useful. Kindest regards and good luck.

    1. AA is a great suggestion even if you are doing better or are mindful. Throughout your post I was thinking about my last few years drinking. I did the same thing. I thought a lot about it.
      I would be ashamed about overdoing it and would stay dry for weeks or even months when I was pregnant. I could be a dry alcoholic but I was still an alcoholic. I would make rules for myself “nothing except on weekends” not until my daughter was asleep” One time my daughter got up and just stood there. That was when I realized that I was resentful that I had to put her before the glass of wine. That was my last. I had grown up with an abusive alcoholic father and I was not going to do that to my children. I asked my husband’s forgiveness and for his support. I went to AA. That was 29 years ago. I don’t miss it and I am so grateful to my father for saving me from an insidious disease.

  5. I found you original post and this one very well written and very reflective of my own experiences. Except my drinking goes in binges and I’m off it for right now…although camping season opened May 1 so I feel it will be on again soon. I too refrain from drinking in front of my kids…except at the campground…all rules are set aside at the campground…but for the kids too so they don’t mind if mommy drinks with her friends on Saturdays at the campground…and day drinking is a personal favourite of mine.

    I do triathlons in the summer…I usually finish dead last…but I still do them and the training helps me curb my wine consumption. You do not sound like a bumbling alcoholic to me and a glass of red wine a day is supposed to be good for you (some would debate this premise). You seem like a person of discipline and a citizen in good standing so if you want to drink less…you merely just need to do so.

  6. Thank you for your thoughtful posts on this topic. I’d like to point out that attitudes about drinking are directly transposed to attitudes about casual drug use. Now with drugs like fentanyl circulating among the casual weekend party-goer, it really is worth thinking about our attitudes toward drugs of all kinds. Hundreds of deaths occur annually from recreational alcohol and drug use How can we expect our own children to abstain from drug use if we are casually consuming?

  7. What honest and courageous words you chose to write regarding your personal experience with alcohol. I could have written the same words 8 years ago. Thinking about alcohol took up ALOT of brain space. Example of my thoughts… I’ll have only one glass of wine tonight (but I’d kept thinking about that second glass even if I didn’t drink it). I’ll only drink on the weekend. I’ll only drink while I’m cooking dinner. If it snows…do I have enough wine?
    It went on and one…..even when I abstained…I’d still be thinking about it.
    Normal drinkers do not have these constant, unhealthy thoughts nor do they play games with alcohol consumption….one glass tonight/no drinking after 8:30…. They don’t have constant guilt/shame about drinking the way alcoholics do.
    Fast forward to today, I am a grateful recovering alocoholic mother to three beautiful children and happily married. I owe this all to my daily decision to remain sober…one day at a time.
    I was 35 years old and was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I lived in a beautiful house, had the fancy double stroller, a master’s degree..I was not a bum with a paper bag. I was a woman with a box of white wine. I blacked out. My husband started to question my drinking. I got drunk on my youngest son’s 1st birthday and decided to go to AA the next day. I felt so much guilt and shame. I continued to go to AA and cut back on my drinking. Then, after a year…I had an awakening and decided to I wanted to live a sober life. I am an alcoholic. I can’t drink like other people. I don’t want to black out. I don’t want to live in shame.
    I could go on and on and on but I now know a new freedom and a new happiness. I live a life beyond my wildest dreams.
    I am so glad your shared your experience and I wish you the best of luck. I was smiling as I was reading your post because I could relate to you so much. And jeez! I was just on your website to order labels for camp 🙂
    I suggest meditation and an AA meeting with an open mind. Good luck and thanks for sharing!
    Also…some of the BEST writers are in recovery…Brene Brown, Glennon Doyle, Anne Lamont, Caroline Knapp who wrote “Drinking:A love story”.

  8. PS…getting and staying sober was a very hard for me in the beginning. It was scary. I could not “check out” of life anymore. I didn’t know alternative ways to “relax”. I had childhood issues that I had to confront. I was able to recover and grow with the help of other people in recovery (12 step group). If you think you have a problem, there are wonderful people who can help you bc they have walked in your shoes. Ox

  9. I decided it was easier to quit than abide by a complicated and frustrating moderation schedule. Plus the fact that when you keep your drinking in check for a long time you usually decide at some point to “cut loose” because you’ve been “so good” and end up in a binge (and all the lovely things that go with.) So that’s what I did. They act like the box wine is for parties but I think we know what it’s really for, right?? (I liked the Trader Joe’s red) Anyway, if you start to find moderation painful please consider trying sobriety, at least for a bit.

  10. I think almost everybody can identify with your situation. As easy as it is to armchair quarterback, I think you need to give yourself some credit.
    The house didn’t burn down, the kids are fine, Child Services or the police haven’t shown up yet, and you recognized something about yourself without requiring a full on intervention. And then – you did something about it and went public – causing a flurry of extra work and scheduling hassles. In fact, without negating your challenges, it sounds like you are successfully managing a complex and difficult situation. How many moms truly believe they can do that, every single day?

    In times of Pinterperfect and
    Face-momofthecentury-book, I think mothers have unrealistic expectations to live up to. Being a parent is a full time, lifetime job with ridiculous hours but fabulous bonuses. You can’t just quit if you ‘need a change’ or seek ‘professional development or promotion’. Plus, women are expected to accomplish all that goes with raising a family in their ‘spare time’ because they are supposed to have an additional full time job taxing their considerable resources.
    You, my friend, need a hug and a high five. Everybody has days when they feel they could write a chapter for Barbara Colorosa, but truthfully, many days are also spent hoping the neighbours don’t report us.

    Give yourself the credit you deserve.

    E 🚑🎶

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