I USED TO BE A WINE MOM
I had completely bought into wine mom culture and the idea that moms need to drink to relax and cope with the demands of motherhood.
I felt like opening a bottle of wine helped me transition from work to home and made me feel the way I used to before I had kids.
I saw wine as my well deserved reward for getting through the day.
Plus, I love being efficient. I felt like “drinking while momming” was a brilliant way to multitask.
I could come home from work, cook dinner, hang out with the kids, manage homework, bedtime and respond to work emails, while at the same time get buzzed and check out from life.
But when you take a closer look, the wine mom culture is toxic and dangerous.
It normalizes, rationalizes and encourages women to drink a highly addictive substance in large quantities on a regular basis.
It convinces women that wine is required for every playdate, girls night, date night and after work gathering.
And if women get to the point that they realize alcohol is making them tired, irritable and depressed, the “mommy needs wine” messages make it really hard to stop drinking.
So, I wanted to talk about the dark side of mom wine culture, how to look at it objectively and ways to shift your mindset so that you no longer believe that alcohol is required to enjoy life.
In today’s podcast episode, I dive into:
- My life as a wine mom and the cringeworthy moments I tried to laugh off and ignore
- How mommy wine culture has hijacked our social lives, coping techniques and perceptions of what is normal
- How “Big Alcohol” has targeted women, and moms in particular, to rely on alcohol as a poor substitute for support, connection, enjoyment, relaxation and release
- The alarming statistics documenting the rise of drinking among women, both in the last three decades and especially in the last year with the pandemic
- The way in which marketing agencies and retailers have preyed upon women’s emotions to sell a toxic substance and normalize, rationalize and amplify heavy drinking among women
- How to get out of the wine mom culture and ways to break away from the mentality that alcohol is required
To learn more about the dark side of Wine Mom Culture, statistics on women drinking more than ever, the Etsy wine mom retail products, Big Alcohol targeting women and how to stop drinking, keep reading below.
Support and resources to break away from drinking alcohol
You can Drink Less + Live More today with The Sobriety Starter Kit.
It’s the private, on-demand coaching course you need to break out of the drinking cycle – without white-knuckling it or hating the process.
Grab the Free Sober Girls Guide To Quitting Drinking, 30 Tips For Your First 30 Days
Download the Guide To My Favorite Secret Facebook Groups for Women Quitting Drinking
Want to read the full transcript of this podcast episode? Scroll down on this page.
THE DARK SIDE OF WINE MOM CULTURE
Let’s talk about the ‘Wine Mom’ Culture and the messages that surround us that say that women need to drink to be empowered and cope with life.
I want to talk about why it’s bullshit, why the wine mom culture is dangerous and toxic and why the messages and jokes and memes about ‘mom needs wine’ or ‘wine helps me adult’ make it incredibly hard to quit drinking.
It’s something I’m really passionate about talking about – because it’s a huge issue. It’s something that stopped me from quitting drinking for a really long time.
Advertising, social media and popular culture have been encouraging women to drink for years, telling us that we should drink more and more often.
And in this podcast I want to dig into why moms drink, the mommy needs wine culture and the messages that for women in general drinking is sophisticated, empowering, fun, badass and required – so that you have the information you need to recognize it for what it is and say to yourself “I’m not falling for that crap anymore”.
Look, we live in a culture that tells women that drinking alcohol is their treat for getting through the day. It’s our reward for working so hard and taking care of our kids.
We’re told that drinking wine, kicking back with a cocktail or opening a beer at the end of the day equals self care, empowerment. That we need it to cope with our lives.
And it’s not just moms…Women in general and working women are surrounded by messages and endless opportunities to drink alcohol.
There’s Rosé All Day, Hot Yoga and Happy Hour + Beer at the end of 10Ks
It’s actually incredibly hard to find any place to go where alcohol isn’t served.
Even at my daughter’s soccer lessons, a place filled with 2, 4 and 7 year old’s, beer on tap and wine is available for parents who want a drink during a 50 minute lesson.
We’re told alcohol is what we should consume to be ‘cool’ and ‘relaxed’ and ‘fun’.
We’re taught that drinking wine or beer or cocktails at the end of the day will make us less frustrated, less angry, less tired, less bored with the monotony of adulting.
Women are bombarded with messages that we should drink.
Actually we’re taught that we need a drink…
- To cope with our busy lives
- To relax from our stressful jobs
- To tolerate the demands of our children
- To bond with our girlfriends
- To connect with our partners.
We are conditioned since birth that alcohol is special and celebrated and that it occupies a privileged place in society.
And it’s addictive. And it’s really bad for your health. And it surrounds you everywhere.
And then we blame ourselves for not being able to ‘moderate’ or ‘cut back’ or ‘drink less’ of an addictive substance.
But here’s the thing – we’re told that alcohol helps us – but the reality of our experiences does not match the lies we’re being fed.
- When you wake up sweaty and queasy, thirsty and tired, and are running out the door to work, drinking doesn’t feel like self care.
- When you’re anxious about what you said or forgot to do the night before, drinking doesn’t feel empowering.
- When your partner is upset about whatever you said or did last night, it doesn’t feel like drinking helped bring you closer.
- When you have a hangover in the morning, drinking doesn’t feel like it’s helping you cope with the demands of our children.
And trust me, I’m not judging anyone here…
Back in the day, I was the queen of hosting brunch with mimosas, play dates with adult beverages, having wine and beer at my son’s 4 year old birthday party, and even making sure that the group get togethers for the Parent Education and Support Group I joined, when my first child was an infant, was held at my house with a fully stocked bar so that the adults could drink with our 12 week old babies while we chatted about the joys and challenges of becoming a parent.
The first meeting – with the group of newborn parents of 3 month old’s – was hosted at the home of the woman who had volunteered to lead the group. She had diet coke, apple juice and sparkling water on hand for all of us.
It was 6pm and I was surprised and kind of appalled.
Oh my god. No “adult beverages”? And we were here for 2 hours? At night? Just “talking”? With strangers?
It was the longest 2 hours of my life.
At the end of that first gathering the host asked for volunteers to sign up to host the next meetings at their houses – and I put my name at the very top of the list.
Did I volunteer because I was such a nice person? A lovely host?
Not really. I wanted to host because I wanted to serve wine and beer at our next gathering – to set the tone of ‘what should be served’ at the parents of infants support group meeting – so that we didn’t go through an endless round robin of 2 hour gatherings in the evenings each week with no alcohol.
I wanted to make the gatherings a party. Hell – I wanted to have fun and make friends.
Regardless of the fact there would be 6 infants there – and none of us were sleeping and half of us were breastfeeding and all the rest.
That was me.
About a month before that group started – I went to a good friend’s wedding when my son was 2 months old. I was SO excited for the wedding – it was at a beautiful mountain resort – with a big resort pool and views and golfing (not for me, I don’t golf, but it was that kind of a place).
It was 2 nights away with all my girlfriends and their spouses. It was a party. I counted down to that night. I picked out the dress I was going to be wearing. I curled my hair and did my makeup and we hired a babysitter for my little Hank. And I drank around the pool with my girlfriends before the wedding. And of course I drank at the wedding. And I blacked out. I don’t remember most of the night.
Flashes of it came back. My husband walked me home. I was sitting on the asphalt of the driveway on the way to our hotel room. Sitting on it. Not wanting to get up. I don’t remember why. I was too drunk to pay the babysitter (my husband did).
I passed out and didn’t wake up to give my son a bottle (my husband did). I was brutally hung over the next day and went between not wanting to see anyone and subtly asking questions to find out what happened, how bad it was, and if anyone else drank too much or had funny stories – to kind of mitigate my situation.
My husband was mad at me – no shit – of course he was. Parenting my 8 week old was hard and exhausting. We had to drive 3 hours home and I was so sick in the car and pretty much spent the whole time trying not to throw up.
Yeah – that’s how my wonderful weekend away with friends went. Because I drank too much.
I have so many of those stories. I do.
They didn’t all go that way. Maybe 90% of them were me, drinking after work, playing with my kid, out on a date night with nothing out of the ordinary happening.
Sure – I woke up at 3am and was exhausted the next morning – but I was also a mom of a toddler.
But sometimes it went that way.
The nights when it was a “girl’s night” with the kids. When I went over on a Friday afternoon to my friend’s house on Memorial Day weekend for a playdate with the kids. And we opened the wine bottles and kept them flowing. We ended up sleeping over with the kids (see- we’re responsible moms! No drinking and driving here!) and the next day, driving my son home in his car seat, I had to pull over 10 blocks from my house. To throw up in an empty parking lot. While he was strapped safely into the car seat in back.
And as I’m saying this, if I’m honest, I’m thinking that maybe I shouldn’t be sharing all of these stories with you. Someone listening is probably judging me.
Shit, what if years in the future someone listens to this and it comes back to bite me in the ass.
What if someone thinks I’m a bad person? Or worse, that I’m a bad mom.
I really wasn’t a bad person. And I really wasn’t a bad mom. I’m an awesome mom. I love my son. And I love my daughter. I was honestly, 95% of the time, really safe. And when I drank too much and I wasn’t safe or able to care for my kids – I had backup. I had other loving people who were responsible there and could take care of my kids.
When I think about these things I cringe over it. I regret it.
And I’m sharing it now – even though I’m not sure I should – because if you’re listening to this and you are where I was – I want you to know that you’re not alone. You’re not the only one. You are just sucked into the bullshit marketing and messages we all bought into.
And then drinking became a habit. And then you surround yourself with other drinkers (and they’re not bad people either), and guess what – alcohol is addictive, and it’s designed to make you consume more of it and more often, and going down the road I went down and the road you might be going down is what fucking happens. It’s predictable, it’s often inevitable, and it’s what thousands of women who look like they have it all together AND are having an awesome time are going through.
AND, here’s the message of this podcast, you can get out of it. You can stop drinking.
Drinking is not required as a mom. Or as a modern empowered woman. It’s not required to have fun or let loose or rebel from your responsibilities or cope with your responsibilities.
You will still be a badass. You will still have fun. Your identity will still be more than a mother, or a wife, or an employee or a manager or whatever.
And, here’s the good news, you’ll be happier. Your life will be better. Parenting will be easier. Your anxiety will be less. You’ll feel less overwhelmed. You’ll be better able to cope with your schedule and responsibilities. You’ll actually be a better friend. Anda better employee and manager and leader.
All by walking away from the booze.
And you’ll be glad that you ditched the wine (I know you might not believe me – but you will).
You don’t need it.
You know how else I know you’re not alone?
They were right up my alley. In fact Naptime Is the New Happy Hour was published exactly one month before my son was born on March 25, 2008.
Here’s what Publishers Weekly wrote about Stefanie’s motherhood books –
When Los Angeles comedian and television writer and producer Wilder-Taylor got pregnant, she feared undergoing this process: “a perfectly sane woman who swigs Jack Daniel’s, never goes to sleep before eight a.m., and has had at least one STD gives birth and suddenly becomes a different person… [who] subscribes to three dozen parenting magazines, thinks a wild night is tossing back two O’Doul’s, and never hits the hay after eight p.m.”
Those were the books that spoke to me.
And here’s the thing – 16 months after my son was born – and 17 months after Naptime Is the New Happy Hour was published – I saw an article in The New York Times about Stephanie titled A Heroine of Cocktail Moms Sobers Up.
That article came out 3 years after “Sippy Cups are not for Chardonnay” was published, a year and a half after Naptime Is the New Happy Hour was published and 6 weeks before her new book was about to be released – which covered many of the same mommy wine culture themes.
Here’s how the article starts (I’ll link to it in the show notes)
ANOTHER pro forma play date. Toddlers plied with juice boxes, Goldfish crackers, Play-Doh. Then host-mommy turns to guest-mommy: “Something to drink? I have coffee, tea or …”
The two mommies lock gazes. “…white wine?”
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, a writer, always chose the wine.
“It was a taboo moment,” said Ms. Wilder-Taylor, 43, who has three girls younger than 5 and lives in Encino, Calif. “It was a way to express that we’re still fun people. Just because we have babies doesn’t mean we can’t have an adult side.”
Ms. Wilder-Taylor, a former stand-up comic, has made a career from championing cocktail play-date attitude. With books like “Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay” and “Naptime Is the New Happy Hour” and her scabrously funny Web column, “Make Mine a Double: Tales of Twins and Tequila,” she has been the toast of the anti perfection mom-lit world.
But in late May, six weeks before the publication of her latest book, a memoir in which alcohol is a merry companion, Ms. Wilder-Taylor put up a post on her blog, Babyonbored, that has reverberated throughout mommy blogdom:
“I drink too much,” she wrote. “I quit on Friday.”
She later wrote, “It’s embarrassing to be all ‘Rah Rah Rah! Gooooo BOOZE!’ only to zip off with my tail between my legs saying, ‘never mind, I’ve joined the other team,’ but it’s what I had to do.”
You know what the name of her new book was that was published 6 weeks after her blog post?
I saw that article while I was waiting in line for coffee before heading up to my office.
My son was a year old. I read the title. I knew who Stefanie Wilder-Taylor was. Of course I did. I had her books. I probably had gifted them to other moms for their baby showers.
I bought the paper and hid it away. I found the article online and copied the words and saved it in a word document – titling it something innocuous so no one would find it – to read it over and over again.
If you do the math I saw that article in line at the coffee shop of my office building when Hank was 16 months old.
I quit drinking for the first time when my son was 5. I quit drinking for the last time when he was 8. This shit is hard.
If you’re worried about your drinking and know you should stop – and are listening and have known for a while but keep going back to the wine – I get it. This shit is hard. It took me a lot of tries to stop drinking and figure out that life is better without it.
By the way – I don’t blame Stefanie at all. Honestly I thank her. I thank her for being brave. I thank her for her honesty. I thank her for stopping drinking and telling the world about it.
I was drinking plenty way before I bought and read sippy cups for chardonnay – or nap time is the new happy hour.
Getting those books didn’t push me over the edge. I was driving that way, really fast, all on my own.
And I saw that article – about the blog she wrote the FUCKING WEEK she stopped drinking after all the publicity and books she had published and followers she had who celebrated mommy wine culture and damn- that is so brave.
I wouldn’t have been that brave. No way. It must have been truly so incredibly hard for her to post that blog. And then be approached by the New York Times and share her story.
She’s a hero.
And I saw that article, after buying all her books, and it spoke to me. It helped me.
And years later- when I was ready – I read on her website a blog series called “Don’t get drunk Friday” stories of other women like her and like me who quit drinking. Stefanie’s blog actually led me to my absolutely favorite secret not drinking Facebook group The BFB or the BOOZE FREE BRIGADE – which she founded – and helped me quit drinking. (guide to finding it in the show notes).
So if you’re listening to this, and as you start your path to quitting drinking, it’s REALLY helpful to wrap your head around WHY and HOW we’ve been fed these ideas that drinking alcohol is a necessary part of life as an adult.
We’ve essentially been brainwashed. When you’re drinking, and have the inkling that the way you’re drinking isn’t healthy or helping you or sustainable, if you’re like me you’re also justifying and rationalizing your drinking (which for me was a bottle of wine a night habit).
And when you look around, thinking that drinking isn’t working anymore, or when you try to cut back or stop, you’re told not to bother.
You’re told that the way you feel – stressed, anxious, tired, sleeping terribly, and desperate for your nightly wine – is just part of being a modern woman.
And that despite how you feel, that drinking is HELPING you. Drinking is what’s holding you together.
And then you’ll think, “Well maybe my drinking isn’t that bad, it’s probably not a problem, there’s nothing to see here. Let’s just move along. Sure I feel like shit after drinking too much last night – but I need my wine to relax. It will make me feel better. It will help me feel less tired and more relaxed. Besides, that’s what everyone else is doing.”
And it’s true. It’s not just you. Lots of other women, and probably many of the women around you are drinking too much. And behind closed doors they may be wondering if their drinking has gotten out of hand as well.
I could quote you all the stats about how women in America are drinking more, and more often than their mothers or grandmothers. About how alcohol consumption is killing women in record numbers. I could tell you the rate of alcohol-related deaths for white women ages 35 to 54 has more than doubled between 1999 + 2015, and that the share of binge drinking is up 40 percent since 1997….
An article came out just this week in Parents Magazine titled “what’s really driving moms to drink more than ever?”.
The article shares that historically, rates of alcohol use disorders (AUD) have been found to be disproportionately higher for men than women, but in recent years, this gap has been closing. The “trend” in mothers drinking to cope with stress is not a new one. Of course, the pandemic only made a bad thing much worse. A study published in JAMA Network Open found that during 2020 there was a 41 percent increase in the number of days on which women drank heavily-“heavily” defined as having four or more drinks in a couple of hours. Another study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that the rate of adults who reported drinking more to manage pandemic stress was more than twice as high for parents with children between the ages of 5 and 7.
Statistically, females tend to tilt toward enjoying the reduction of discomfort effects instead of the pleasure effects of alcohol,” says Aaron White, PhD
But you just have to look around to see what’s happening.
There’s a constant feedback loop between advertising, popular culture,what our family and our friends are doing telling us we need to drink, we should drink, and the way we drink is normal and OK and actually fucking awesome.
So how are advertisers doing it?
In it, the writer points to research by Carol Emslie, a professor of substance use and misuse [at the School of Health and Life Sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University], shows how alcohol companies harness the fact that women want to retain their identities as they go through various life changes.
When Emslie and her colleagues talked to women in their 30s and 40s, they found that many viewed drinking as a way to “show their identity beyond the responsibilities associated with being a woman in midlife”, such as navigating career or childcare pressures.
Getting together for a few drinks after work to laugh and relax was especially important for them, she says. “Women also felt that they were transformed back to carefree youth, away from their responsibilities.”
It’s these desires that marketers zero in on to get women to buy alcohol.
“We’ve seen a move away from sexualising women to sell alcohol to men towards alcohol brands trying to align their products with sophistication, women’s empowerment and with female friendship,” she says.
This is really straight out of the tobacco industry playbook, with slogans such as ‘you’ve come a long way, baby’ in the ‘60s.” The famous Virginia Slims cigarette campaign attempted to cash in on the ‘women’s lib’ movement of the time, trying to attract female consumers who identified with the movement.
The article points out the trend towards female-focused marketing is unsurprising given the rise in women’s socioeconomic power.
That’s led, she says, to the emergence of multiple new alcohol products targeting female customers, from fruit-flavoured beers to low-calorie beverages. “We see a focus on slimness, weight, pink packaging, glitter, messages of sisterhood, all-female friendships, motherhood, and also the all-time favourite, sexiness,” she says. “Messages of empowerment have increased, [as well as] of a celebration of women – for example, in association with International Women’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and even Mother’s Day.”
And then the advertisers shifted to targeting mothers.
Here’s more from the parents magazine article…
As women spend more money on alcohol, they’ve shifted their campaigns to target those of us in our reproductive years. Their messages communicate to women that they “deserve” a drink, or that they “need” wine in order to parent. This so-called “pinking” of the alcohol market is something that’s been happening for over two decades.
Did you see that Saturday Night Live skit that was going around a few months ago – It was focused on the heavy-handed marketing that breeds “mommy wine culture.” It was a sketch starring Aidy Bryant as a mom receiving some not-so-subtle birthday gifts from her friends (kitschy wooden signs that read, “I like you better when I’m effed up,” and “Hey Barkeep, I wanna die tonight.”)
In the BBC story My friend Kate Baily- who was on Episode 48 of this podcast talking about self care for moms going alcohol free, is the cohost of the Love Sover podcast and the co-author of the book Love Yourself Sober: A Self-Care Guide to Alcohol-Free Living for Busy Mothers was quoted in the article. She highlights the impact of alcohol marketing on mothers as a big area of concern. Kate sees feminised marketing popularised concepts like ‘mummy juice’ and ‘wine o’clock’ linked to how busy women navigate anxiety. Kate says that “women are using alcohol [as] an acceptable face of self-medication and stress release. We’re sold it as a kind of reward at the end of the day.”
Not only that…but that Parent’s magazine article I mentioned earlier noted that
Statistically, females tend to tilt toward enjoying the reduction of discomfort effects instead of the pleasure effects of alcohol,” says Aaron White, PhD
The article talked about three factors that are driving moms to drink more than ever.
- Normalization of Drinking Among Mothers
- Role Overload
- Societal Expectations Around Motherhood
Cynthia D. Mohr, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Portland State University explains how the pressure to be a “good mom” and the feeling of not living up to that ideal can create guilt and shame among moms.
Not only is shame a powerful motivator to drink, females are known to lean on alcohol for its dampening effects on negative emotions. “Statistically, females tend to tilt toward enjoying the reduction of discomfort effects instead of the pleasure effects of alcohol.”
And so here’s what happens – even when our drinking has escalated to the point where it’s not good, even when we KNOW that drinking isn’t serving us, and even when we KNOW it’s making us feel like crap, we look around and are told it’s normal.
When we’re told drinking equals empowerment, sophistication, self care and a well-earned reward for our hard work.
The truth is that we’re being mollified, pacified, patronized. And we don’t even see it sometimes.
There is a particular chart or meme that I’ve seen floating around that I really, really hate.
It’s called “The Hormone Guide To Talking To Women”.
The idea presented is that “This handy guide should be carried like a driver’s license in the wallet of every husband, boyfriend, co-worker or significant other who deals with women”. I’ll put an image of it below.
Here’s what it outlines…
It helpfully outlines for men what to say to women in categories of what is dangerous, safer, safest and ultra safe…
So asking a woman what’s for dinner is “dangerous”,
So is asking a woman “what are you so worked up about” or “what did you do all day?” And the punchline is that the ultra safe thing to say to women, at all times, to any woman, is “here, have some wine “.
And I think sometimes it HELPS to get pissed off about it.
I think you should look at this crap and it should piss you off.
When you see the t-shirts and the socks and the kitchen towels and the wines named Mommy’s Time Out you should get mad.
Just take a look at Etsy and you can see all this stuff in one place.
- There are the T-Shirts say “Rose all Day” and socks say “if you can read this, bring mommy wine”,
- And the signs that say “Wine helps me adult”
- There are onesies that say “My mommy drinks because I cry” and kitchen towels that say “Corks are for quitters”… and “I’m not slurring I’m speaking cursive”.
- There are wine glasses etched with “Mommy’s sippy cup” and “Surviving motherhood one glass at a time”.
- There are signs for your kitchen that say “It’s not drinking alone if your dog is home”
- And they’re even selling decals that say “Shut up Liver, You’re Fine” and “drunk wives matter”.
- Did you know that there is a Facebook group called Mommy Needs Wine that had 5 million followers? 5 fucking million!
- There is wine called “Mad Housewife Chardonnay” that says…
It’s bullshit. It’s insulting. It’s stupid and and it’s not fucking funny.
This is the crap that’s being sold to keep us sick so that we’ll keep drinking. This is the crap we’re buying each other as a joke and it’s normalizing drinking a bottle of wine a night (like I did) which is really dangerous.
This is the crap that encourages us to keep consuming an addictive substance that makes us sick.
- The people making these products want us to look at these messages and think… “This is fine. There’s nothing to see here. You’re totally normal…
- Slurring at night is normal. Drinking to tolerate my kids is normal. Not remembering the shows I watch is normal. Waking up with a hangover is normal. Drinking a bottle of wine by myself is normal… (because corks are for quitters- right?)
- We look at these messages and start to believe that everyone drinks like this, that this is what Adults DO, that it’s empowering and sophisticated and keeps us coo, despite the fact that our latest hangover has us lying in bed with a queasy stomach and a splitting headache when we’re late for work and have a big meeting, or while our 2 year old is crying or our 11 year old needs us to drive him to soccer.
- This is how we’ve been convinced to drink more, and more often. We drink at brunch and at soccer games on the sidelines. We drink at the office happy hours and on date nights. We drink when we walk in the door after a long day at the office, and while cooking dinner, when we’re helping our kids with their homework and on the couch at night after they’ve gone to bed.
- And when you’re trying to quit drinking, to flip the script, to take care of yourself and your life and your health, these messages make it really hard to quit drinking – because everyone around you has bought into this shit too.
Look – the people who make the wine, and beer and hard alcohol have done an amazing job.
I worked in marketing for more than 20 years. They are fucking good at what they do. And they have spent a hell of a lot of money doing it.
They want us to drink more because when we drink more they make more money.
And they don’t care what it does to our bodies, or our minds, our relationships or our confidence.
So as you’re stepping away from the wine bottle, and you start to think that maybe this is too hard, maybe by quitting you’re denying yourself something that helps you bond with your girlfriends, make it through the day with your children, or as reward for the crap you put up with at work…remember: you’re being lied to.
These messages were created, deliberately, to reinforce the idea that drinking is what helps us cope with life.
The marketing and targeting of women by Big Alcohol, social media and wine mom popular culture has dangerous real world consequences.
Here’s what was written about women and alcohol use in the HARVARD HEALTH BLOG – Women, alcohol, and COVID-19 in April 2021.
The pandemic has further increased rates of alcohol use in women. According to a RAND Corporation study, during the pandemic women have increased their heavy drinking days by 41% compared to before the pandemic.
Women drink alcohol when we’re happy and when we’re sad. We drink when we’re bored and stressed.
We drink because alcohol is the first thing that’s offered to you when you go out to dinner and moms drink wine because Trader Joe’s hangs a giant sign from the ceiling above the wine display right when you enter the store that says “Get your back to school supplies right here”.
We drink because alcohol is addictive – so if you drink often, and enough (and who the fuck doesn’t when it is pushed on us 24×7) you inevitably want and then need to drink more and more often.
And then when times get tough you drink more – because you’re told it’s the one thing that will make you better- and if you’re being honest you want to numb out and – essentially- knock yourself unconscious at the end of the day.
It talks about how, during the pandemic, any glance at social media would reinforce the message that the “cure” for pandemic-related stress: alcohol.
Social media were rife with memes of moms drinking to relieve their stress.
And during the pandemic alcohol was easier than ever to obtain through delivery sites and apps.
There was a huge disproportionate effect of the pandemic on women’s alcohol use.
Rates of alcohol use, heavy drinking (defined as four or more drinks on one occasion), and related disorders in women were rising even before the pandemic.
Between 2001–02 and 2012–13, there was a 16% increase in the proportion of women who drink alcohol, a 58% increase in women’s heavy drinking (versus 16% in men), and an 84% increase in women’s one-year prevalence of an alcohol use disorder (versus 35% in men).
But lately, the pandemic has further increased rates of alcohol use in women. According to a RAND Corporation study, during the pandemic women have increased their heavy drinking days by 41% compared to before the pandemic. Forty-fucking- one.
Additional research has shown that the psychological stress related to COVID-19 was associated with greater drinking for women, but not men.
So we’re drinking more and more – and yet the discussion that you see out there about women’s health seems to be trending that we should look at gluten, and sugar and maybe our gut health.
Ignoring the elephant in the room.
That the substance we’re consuming more than anything else can actually kill you.
Also, in what should clearly be categorized in the “too little, too late” column. The American Cancer Society finally, just last year, updated it’s guidelines to say that no amount of alcohol is “good for you”.
For YEARS we’ve been told – through flawed medical studies that have been held up as truth – that drinking in some small and controlled amount is actually HEALTHIER than not drinking at all. That red wine in particular is actually good for your heart – and it was never true.
The medical research and guidelines on the impact of alcohol increasing the risk of developing cancer finally came clean in June 2020
The American Cancer Society (ACS) – for the first time in 8 years- made a major change to its guidelines on cancer reduction and prevention, now saying it’s best to cut alcohol completely out of one’s diet.
“It is best not to drink alcohol,” said the ACS in the new guidelines.
Previously, the society recommended limiting alcohol consumption to one drink a day for women and no more than two a day for men. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.
“Alcohol use is one of the most important preventable risk factors for cancer, along with tobacco use and excess body weight,” according to the ACS.
Excessive drinking both in the form of heavy drinking or binge drinking, is associated with numerous health problems, including chronic diseases such as liver cirrhosis (damage to liver cells); pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas); various cancers, including liver, mouth, throat, larynx (the voice box), and esophagus; high blood pressure; and psychological disorders.
But that’s not what’s being passed around. Because no one wants to take too close of a look at their drug of choice.
So instead what’s shared is the wine memes and the etsy signs and that chart I mentioned earlier – the one about The Hormone Guide To Talking to Women.
And you know what’s crazy about that stuff – yes it’s insulting and patronizing – and it’s sadly true.
We’ve been taught and conditioned to be pacified with wine.
We’re pissed and irritated and overwhelmed – and in order to push down those emotions we pour ourselves a big glass of wine.
We drink and we accept and tolerate things that aren’t acceptable. So we can take on too much and over schedule ourselves and do things we don’t want to do and then drink to tolerate it all. Instead of changing things. We give up our power.
Kristi Coulter talks about this and so much more in her book Nothing Good Can Come From This and her viral essay Enjoli.
Kristi is a friend of mine. She lives in Seattle and I reached out to her when I was in my first few months of sobriety.
Kristi writes about being newly sober and dog-paddling through the booze all around her.
And she describes what she sees around her as why women drink, and what it has come to MEAN.
That’s the summer I realize that everyone around me is tanked. But it also dawns on me that a lot of the women are super double tanked — that to be a modern, urbane woman means to be a serious drinker. This isn’t a new idea — just ask the Sex and the City girls (or the flappers). A woman with a single malt scotch is bold and discerning and might fire you from her life if you fuck with her. A woman with a PBR is a Cool Girl who will not be shamed for belching. A woman drinking Mommy Juice wine is saying she’s more than the unpaid labor she gave birth to.
The things women drink are signifiers for free time and self-care and conversation — you know, luxuries we can’t afford. How did you not see this before? I ask myself. You were too hammered, I answer back. That summer I see, though. I see that booze is the oil in our motors, the thing that keeps us purring when we could be making other kinds of noise.
What I heard when reading Kristi’s writing is that we’re stressed out, we’re overworked and tired or frustrated or pissed off or overwhelmed – and instead of asking for help or changing our schedules or having a hard conversation with our partners or our boss or our coworkers (or our children) – we’re drinking to numb us out to make it all go away.
Listen to this line:
Booze is the oil in our motors, the thing that keeps us purring when we could (and in my mind SHOULD) be making other kinds of noise.
Here’s the thing – in the moment, in the short term, it’s EASIER to drink. It’s EASIER to drink than to rock the boat and make other noise about what’s starting to become intolerable in our lives.
Until drinking gets to a point when that, too, is hard.
And Kristi writes about how other women have bought into the idea that drinking is a solution to any and every problem or annoyance as well. The messages reinforcing that we SHOULD drink to cope with everyday, small problems and frustrations that surround us are there constantly. Often delivered by the people closest to us.
“One day that summer I’m wearing unwise (but cute, so cute) shoes and trip at the farmer’s market, cracking my phone, blood-staining the knees of my favorite jeans, and scraping both my palms. Naturally, I post about it on Facebook as soon as I’ve dusted myself off. Three women who don’t know I’m sober comment quickly:
“Wine. Immediately.” “Do they sell wine there?” “Definitely wine. And maybe new shoes.”
She says : Have I mentioned that it’s morning when this happens? On a weekday? This isn’t one of those nightclub farmer’s markets. And the women aren’t the kind of beleaguered, downtrodden creatures you imagine drinking to get through the day. They’re pretty cool chicks, the kind people ridicule for having First World Problems. Why do they need to drink?”
So yeah- Kristi’s right. why do women think we need to drink?
So where do we go from here?
If you’re drinking too much – if you feel like shit – if you suspect – or know that alcohol is the issue – if you’ve tried to stop and said fuck it on day 2 or day 4 or day 7 –as you’re trying – you’re trying to step away from the wine bottle, and then you start to think that maybe this is too hard, maybe by quitting you’re denying yourself something that helps you bond with your girlfriends, tolerate your children, a reward for the crap you put up with at work.
Remember. You’re being lied to.
These messages were created, deliberately, to reinforce the idea that drinking is an essential part of the oil that keeps our engine running and keeps us able to cope with all of our first world problems.
And it’s not true. So don’t believe the hype.
Here are some ways to escape the “women need alcohol to cope” messages and stop drinking.
- Don’t buy into fear or scare tactics that you won’t be fun or that you won’t fit in if you don’t drink alcohol.
- Watch for the agenda and look out for the subliminal messages behind the drinking mom memes and the kitchen towels and the wine glasses that will hold an entire bottle of wine?
- Start to recognize and question the pressure being put on you by your friends and family and colleagues to drink. Why do they care? Why is drinking the only drug that you have to justify not taking? Why have we all bought into the fact that it’s perfectly OK to say you don’t smoke but if you say you don’t want to drink everyone will try to convince you to have just one…
- Follow your own path.
- Do your own research into the ways in which Big Alcohol is targeting women to drink heavily and the health impacts of alcohol on a woman’s body.
- Listen to your own intuition.
- Know that you’re not alone. There are THOUSANDS, millions of other women who have fallen into the same trap and are struggling too.
You know those women you look at and you want to be like? The ones that you think ‘drink normally’ – for whom drinking is ‘fun’. The ones who you think can take it or leave it?
If you look at the stats and studies and articles above- many, many, many of them aren’t really having fun. Or at least not anymore.
But they’re scared to stop drinking and they’re scared to keep going. They want it and they don’t.
They’re holding on really fucking tight to control their drinking because it’s hard.
And then they post the memes and take pictures of their drinks and post them on social media and wake up feeling like garbage.
And we’re not talking about it. Not to each other.
And the best thing you can do is to get support – make it easier on yourself. You don’t have to try again and again and make all the mistakes yourself. Take the short cuts from those of us who have gone before you. This doesn’t have to be this hard
3 ways to get away from the Wine Mom culture and stop drinking.
- Download my Free Sober Girl’s Guide to Quitting Drinking with 30 tips for your first 30 days without alcohol.
- Join one of my favorite Private Facebook groups with really cool women just like you. Here’s the link to download my free guide to the best sober Facebook groups for busy women.
- Join my Sobriety Starter Kit Course. The online course literally covers every step you need to walk away from the wine mom culture and get out of the drinking cycle. It will help you stop feeling like shit and start feeling better.
To learn about all the details and what you get in the course go to www.sobrietystarterkit.com.
I created it based off my years of sober coaching with busy, successful women just like you.
The course will help you change your relationship with alcohol. And you don’t have to just take my word for it.
Here’s what Tanya said about the course:
I’m on Day 29 with the Sobriety Started Kit and already I’m getting so much from this program!
I totally fit the profile of the “highly successful, busy mom who is keeping all the balls in the air” (who also drinks a bottle of wine a night).
Now for the first time I’m seeing that a life, completely alcohol free, is not only possible but perhaps my preferred path forward. And I don’t feel like I’m giving something up or depriving myself of something. Thank you so much Casey! – Tanya
And here’s what Morgan wrote:
“This course is awesome and worth every penny! I wish I’d found Casey’s program earlier because it’s 100x easier to stop drinking with her resources, guidance, prompts and information. I knew that I wanted to stop drinking so I could be the best wife and mother I could be. But Casey’s course helped me dig deeper into my triggers and behaviors so my choice to not drink isn’t coming from a place where I feel like I’m missing out or depriving myself. It’s well organized and easy to follow – but the best part is that Casey is laugh-out-loud funny and made the whole process of walking away from alcohol something I actually enjoyed!”
And Marta – a mom of three girls – said
I love this course. It’s essential for every woman who wants to stop drinking because it’s a step-by-step approach full of the most important, basic, and fundamental elements you need to step away from alcohol. I love Casey’s approach. It’s upbeat, inspiring, practical and has let me take my power back.
I promise you, as you get further away from your last day 1, you will be AMAZED at how much better, stronger, more capable and more optimistic you feel.
You will no longer feel like you need to drink to cope with your life.
How do I know that your life will be better without alcohol?
Here’s how day 1 vs. day 100 looked for me.
What I wrote to myself before I quit drinking…5 years ago
Can I have a life of peace and optimism and happiness? I don’t know.
I’m stuck in a place of fear & anxiety. I wake up at 3 am almost tingling all over my body with anxiety and sadness.
I am so tired every morning and day.
I feel deeply unhappy. I’m insecure about work projects and big life and my future security.
I have no emotional reserves or good will to handle changes.
It feels like every new request will break me.
I wake up with a dull ache behind my eyes. I spend all day recovering. I sleep terribly.
I feel defensive, guilty, paranoid, anxious, annoyed, wanting to hide, resentful and angry.
Why am I angry?
And I always want “more”. More wine. It is never enough.
I’m putting my life, my plans, and all forward progress on hold.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?
And here’s how I felt at 100 days alcohol-free. Just over 3 months later.
When I compare the way I feel now, to how awful I felt when I had my last drink, I’m amazed at how much BETTER I feel.
I’m proud of myself. I feel moments of contentment and peace and gratitude on a fairly regular basis.
I’m HAPPY with my life.
I walk into work on random Tuesdays thinking “I want the life I have”—how crazy is that?
I make plans and follow through on them.
I’ve lost 25 pounds since the start of the year. I’ve run a 10K. I go for walks in the middle of the day at work to reset myself.
I’m more calm and present with my kids. They don’t set me on edge the way they used to.
I feel less anxious and more competent at work. It takes so much less effort to keep track of everything now that I’ve stopped drinking.
Life actually feels somewhat manageable. Busy but not overwhelming.
I don’t feel so anxious about the future. I actually feel optimistic. I haven’t woken up hating or berating myself in a long time.
It has not been easy, but it also hasn’t been quite as hard as I thought it would be.
I know how hard this is, but nothing is wrong with you.
Drinking really messes with your mind. It messes with your emotions. It messes with your nerves. It makes you feel the way you do.
Once you get SOME SPACE away from your last drink you’ll start to see that your kids aren’t so hard. Parenting isn’t so hard. Life isn’t so hard. It’s the alcohol.
Drinking, especially drinking a lot on a regular basis is not good for your health or your life.
Quitting drinking and putting down the bottle of wine is the ultimate act of self care.
It will improve the quality of your life, your physical health, your mental health, your looks, your confidence and your ability to move forward and achieve your dreams and goals.
You can do this. It’s worth it. And you deserve to know how good you can feel without headaches and hangovers.
I believe in you.
WINE MOM CULTURE RESEARCH AND ARTICLES
New York Times: Should We Be Drinking Less?
New York Times: A Heroine of Cocktail Moms Sobers Up
Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay, Naptime Is the New Happy Hour and It’s Not Me, It’s You: Subjective Recollections from a Terminally Optimistic, Chronically Sarcastic and Occasionally Inebriated Woman by Stefanie Wilder- Taylor.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor Blog Series Don’t get drunk Friday
ABOUT THE HELLO SOMEDAY PODCAST
The Hello Someday Podcast helps busy and successful women build a life they love without alcohol. Host Casey McGuire Davidson, a certified life coach and creator of The Sober Girl’s Guide to Quitting Drinking, brings together her experience of quitting drinking while navigating work and motherhood, along with the voices of experts in personal development, self-care, addiction and recovery and self-improvement.
Whether you know you want to stop drinking and live an alcohol free life, are sober curious, or are in recovery this podcast is for you.
In each episode Casey will share the tried and true secrets of how to drink less and live more.
Learn how to let go of alcohol as a coping mechanism, how to shift your mindset about sobriety and change your drinking habits, how to create healthy routines to cope with anxiety, people pleasing and perfectionism, the importance of self-care in early sobriety, and why you don’t need to be an alcoholic to live an alcohol free life.
Be sure to grab the Free Sober Girl’s Guide To Quitting Drinking right here.
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