I was a gray area drinker. A wine mom who sought comfort and validation in kitsch and memes that enshrined alcohol as a Swiss Army knife to survive the wilderness of motherhood: easy to use, and appropriate for any and every situation that may arise. I drank in good times and in bad, in celebration and stress and sadness. Sometimes I got drunk, but mostly I didn't—except on Friday nights, when an entire bottle of sauvignon blanc was my "treat" for "surviving" the week. Because that's what motherhood felt like, especially in those early years after my two kids were born 26 months apart: pure, raw survival. I didn't have the energy to exercise or the patience to meditate. I couldn't take a bath or go for a walk by myself, at least not without advance planning and asserting my need for "me time" to my also-exhausted husband. If I did manage to take time for myself, away from my baby and toddler, any sense of relief or relaxation I was able to muster was instantly overwhelmed by guilt.
Wine, though, I could enjoy while parenting. "It's not drinking alone if the kids are home," the wine mom memes assured me. And so, like clockwork, I welcomed almost every nightly witching hour with my wing woman, sauvignon blanc. My routine became so ingrained in our family life that if my daughter saw me take the bottle out of the fridge she would declare, "Mama needs her wine!" She was four. It was a verbal gut punch every time. I laughed it off, but inside I felt increasingly crippling shame. I was ashamed because I felt like I really did need it. The wine witch wore the pants in this relationship, not I. And as time passed, the buzz I sought to "take the edge off" another grueling day of motherhood was found deeper and deeper down the bottle. Slowly but surely I became more reliant on wine and less in control of my consumption. Thinking about drinking took up more and more time and space in my day and in my brain. Wine mom life was exhausting in all the wrong ways. So much time and energy and money, all to feed a habit from which I received no benefit beyond a hit of dopamine as I poured my first crisp, cold glass. It was all downhill from there. Giddy mama morphed into cranky mama, night after night. Manageable anxiety skyrocketed, night after night. Sleep was fitful, night after night. Almost every day I'd wake up groggy but determined to not drink; only to have my resolve crumble by 5pm. This was my gray area: a sour, inescapable fog that I thought was the price to pay for the fun and privilege of drinking. Eventually, I realized that I had stopped having fun and drinking now felt more like a burden, not a privilege. I had fallen to what was, for me, soft rock bottom. Michael Bolton, not Ozzy Osborne. I was addicted but not completely powerless. I did not need professional help but I needed to boss up and help myself. I am so grateful that I did not ignore my instincts. I listened to the voice inside that told me, "Enough. Enough now." She may have just been quoting Love Actually, but I heard her and I trusted her. I never intended to stop drinking completely, but the more time I spent off the sauce the more I realized that forgoing alcohol made me feel clear-headed, energized and present. My rolling boil of anxiety decreased to a barely noticeable simmer. My skin glowed, my eyes were noticeably brighter, my wine belly was gone. Alcohol-free life just felt too good to relinquish, and over two years later, it remains the right choice for me. I will never know how many drinks away from rock bottom I was. But even though my life was not in imminent danger, I saved it anyway. Now, nearly 900 days after my last glass of sauvignon blanc, I can look back at my wine mom days and say, "You were doing the best you could with the tools that you had. And then you got some new tools and now you are a better, more content version of yourself." If you are struggling with drinking, you are not alone. I see you. I was right there with you. If your inner voice pipes up and demands change, please listen. You don't have to know how to do it. And it doesn't have to happen overnight. But listen. Trust that you will figure it out. You are capable of change. And you are worth it.