Alcoholic moms do not set out to drink as a way of harming themselves or their child. Their addiction is not caused by their children. Alcoholism is a disease that can affect people from any age groups and all cultural, social or religious backgrounds. It can affect moms as easily as any other person in society. The list of causes, factors and contributors is seemingly endless, but the fact remains that alcoholic moms are often considered the worst kind of substance abusers.
Some people believe that alcoholic moms deserve the worst punishment, should be scorned and do not deserve children. They think that a woman has the ability to control her drinking if she really wants to. This is not the case. Alcoholism is an insidious disease that is chronic, progressive and harmful. It is characterized by spates of relapse, heavy drinking and harm. To overcome alcoholism a mom needs a strong support network to help her through the ups and downs of recovery. Cognitive behavior therapy, psychotherapy, 12 Step programs and medication may be treatments along with immense dedication and commitment. Recovery is a difficult and challenging road, but one that a mother will come out from with better skills and a healthier outlook on life.
Some women do not cope well with their new found role of being a mom. They fear that they may be doing things wrong, that they are not a good mother and that others are judging them. They often have low confidence in their ability to be a good mother to their children. Some may suffer from post-natal depression that goes on undiagnosed. When someone becomes a mom, they undergo massive changes in not just their hormones, but their emotional state, finances and relationships with others. They can also grieve for the life they had before children where they had little responsibility, no one being dependent on them and independence to make their own decisions when they wanted. It can be a struggle for many women to cope with their new life, especially if they weren’t prepared for the changes they will undergo.
Some women were alcoholics before they had children, and the stresses involved with being a mom is too difficult for them to deal with. They begin to rely on alcohol and drink to excess. Mothers may rationalize their drinking and deny the problem as easily as they did before, trying to hide what is really going on. But being an alcoholic woman and an alcoholic mom are not the same thing. A mom has to take care of children, provide for them and protect them from harm. A mom is responsible for the safety and health of their dependent. Furthermore, an alcoholic mom may need to protect their child from themselves, from their own anger, tears, abuse and sadness.
Moms who are alcoholics often deny their drinking to the point of hiding their bottles of alcohol – in their bedroom, at work, in the car. They may vocalize that there is nothing wrong with a drink at the end of a hard day, insisting that they are an adult and adults can drink alcohol. This is true and many women do deserve a drink and relax, especially if they have had a particularly troublesome day with a child. However, some moms begin to depend on alcohol too much to relax and need more and more alcohol to calm their nerves. A glass of wine becomes a bottle of wine, which can soon become a bottle of hard spirits. Their dependence on alcohol is hidden, or so they believe, and they drink when alone, hide the bottles and the empties and drink to excess. Some new moms go as far as to control their drinking to times when they are not going to be breastfeeding or use formula to ensure that they do not harm their child. It is at this point that a serious and harmful problem has developed.
Moms who drink are vulnerable, scared, lonely and bored. They drink to hide their fears, silence their concerns, abate stresses and deal with worries. They drink to be happy, relaxed and less anxious. They believe that their drinking allows them to be better moms, better wives and better friends. Being a mom is the most rewarding and the most difficult life challenges that a woman will face in her lifetime. It is scary, exciting, loveless, important and amazing. Moms want to be the best they can be, and this includes being the best mom to their children and appearing controlled and relaxed to others. They don’t want to feel scared and they don’t want others to think they are not coping.
Using alcohol to quell these emotional responses is something that alcoholic moms lose control of. They begin to use too much booze, too often. And they feel guilty, ashamed and scared of admitting to their faults. Many are afraid of what might happen to their relationships with others or their children if they admit to needing help so they continue to hide their drinking, often until something significant happens. They may begin to black out and become abusive to their children or partners. They may come up against family members who beg and plead with them to get help. An alcoholic mom may even unintentionally put their own life and their children’s lives at risk by drink driving
Enjoyment of alcohol is nothing that a woman or a mom should be ashamed of if it is consumed in moderation. It is a legal intoxicant that can be enjoyed with friends, good food and at the end of a hard day. Many people consume alcohol as a way to bond with friends and to ease into social settings. There are many mom’s who like to get together and gossip, discuss their fears and relax over a bottle of wine, but some do not know how to do this without alcohol. Some moms start to depend on alcohol to fit in with other mothers and quell their fears about being in a social setting. They feel pressured to drink alcohol even if they do not want to. Barbeques, get-togethers, dinners, afternoon tea and even mothers’ groups will often have alcohol served, and it can be difficult to resist.
Mothers may also drink alcohol to feel like the other mothers they know. It can be lonely being a mom who has come from a life where no one else is a mom. A woman may have had a job before, friends to go out and socialize with. But motherhood reduces time for socializing and leads to more time spent alone or with moms who have little in common besides being moms. This can be daunting for some people, introducing feelings of fear, anxiety and isolation that alcohol assuages. When drunk, a mom can deal with talking about diapers, breastfeeding and nappy changing. When intoxicated, it is easier to laugh and feign interest in stories of a new baby.
Mom’s who acknowledge their problem and want to get over their addiction to alcohol can find support in those closest to them. Friends, family members, work colleges, social networks and even religious organizations are available to help moms who are willing to seek it. Facing the disease and the demons behind it will be hard and challenging, but moms have so much to look forward to, namely a healthy, sober and happy family. Alcoholic moms should remember that they always have the love of their children, and help is available to get them clean.