Mothers Day is quickly approaching. With the rise of the mommy-wine culture, there are a disturbing amount of cards “joking” about how moms need alcohol or drugs to deal with the stress of parenting or how children are the reason moms need to turn to substances. Just take a look at the images above for a sampling (thank you to my Hip Sobriety group-mates for posting these)! This messaging is so dangerous but has really taken off. You can’t go a day without finding a meme justifying substance use in the name of stress.
I would have been the first in line to buy the socks that said “if you can read this, get me more wine” or the sign that said “its 5 o clock somewhere” – so I get it. But the thing is, I related to these messages because I had a problem. I related to them because I did not know how to face struggles in life, and alcohol (at first) helped me forget about them. Then later, I still didn’t know how to face them, AND there were even more of them, AND alcohol wasn’t really doing a good job at helping me forget them -so I had to drink a little more of it to forget them. Then later, I still had all these damn problems, and I had to drink even more alcohol to forget them, and I was starting to feel worse and worse about them. Then later…you get the point, right? I had a bad relationship with alcohol, and it was damaging my life and soul, but damn those socks are cute – am I right? Because if I can act like the funny little socks and the funny little memes are just jokes – and not actually signs of my big scary ass problem – well then, I can carry on drinking and harming myself right in plain sight with no one stopping me.
What’s frightening to me is how much of this message is out there! How women and moms are being targeted and marketed to. It’s like the booze industry is screaming “Life is hard! Don’t waste time facing adversity and learning to be present! Instead, avoid life and check out with this cup of potentially addictive poison! While you’re at it, teach your kids that this is what they get to do when they grow up too! Go ahead and start our marketing job for us, Moms”!
It seems like the booze industry use to target the occasional and social drinker. They’d tell them that booze made that occasional good time, a great time! But now it’s like -Why stop there? Why not go big or go home? What’s something everyone has? How can we make booze related to THAT? I GOT IT – Let’s teach society that PROBLEMS are better and easier with alcohol! What a bigger target audience THAT would be! Oh!! And what if we target women specifically too – they literally shape and mold the thoughts of our future customer base, after all. And just like that – we’ve got alcoholic memes all over the internet, wine yoga, pink spirits, an ever-growing nation of women facing alcohol related issues, and a generation of children believing THEY are the reason mommy lost her shoes and fell asleep before the bedtime story was over.
This is a big deal, ladies and gents. Nobody starts out drinking to end up addicted, and most people still believe that you don’t have a problem as long as you aren’t drinking liquor out of a paper bag and fighting your buddy over using the grocery cart for the day. So while the majority of people are sipping away their day-to-day stresses and keeping their shit together (for now), we are all facing a rise in addiction and don’t have the first clue how to even spot it let alone address it. Meanwhile, the booze industry is raking in the cash at our own expense.
There are different types of drinkers and most people believe there’s “us” and “them” – those who can’t control alcohol and those who can. In reality, you can be in any of these categories and still be struggling or on your way to struggling. That’s because alcohol is an addictive substance. Bottom line – the more often you drink it, the more likely you are to face problems related to it. And guess what? Our culture begins drinking in our teens, and we drink most of our lives! Addiction and alcohol related problems can creep up. It happens so slowly that by the time most people realize they are facing negative impacts from alcohol – they are way further along in or toward addiction than they would have ever guessed. And the stigma related to alcohol – no doubt fueled by all the marketing we are fed our entire lives – makes it nearly impossible to catch it in time or fess up about what we’re experiencing. Chances are, no matter how you drink and no matter how your friends drink, you probably know someone who is having an issue with alcohol. Just think about these types of drinkers and the people you know. Think about the friends you have that wear the shirts, buy the cards, make the jokes. Could any of them be having a harder time than you think? Could you be?
Occasional drinker – These drinkers drink every once in a while. They drink during special occasions, holidays, or just once in a blue moon. Most people would never question if this person is struggling or having problems related to alcohol, but just because you only drink once a year, doesn’t mean you can’t black out and spend 3 days nursing a hangover! Maybe the reason some of these drinkers are occasional drinkers is because they have such a hard time when they DO drink! Also, you have no idea how often someone really drinks. I used to be known as an occasional drinker to some people!
Social drinkers – These drinkers drink when they are out with friends, at networking events, or having people over for a barbecue. They may only drink a couple times a month or they might literally socialize every day and drink. This group is that misleading group where many people in it are struggling to deal with their alcohol consumption but everyone around them touts “You can’t possibly have a problem! You’re just a social drinker”! Meanwhile some of these folks are starting to socialize every chance they get just to have a reason to drink.
“Because of” drinkers – These are the “woo, its Friday, pour me a martini”, “ugh Mondays are hard – let’s have some wine to unwind”, and the “it’s a baseball game – gotta have beer at a baseball game”! This group wears the wine socks and buys the mom cards. This group has started to believe that alcohol makes things better. At first, there are all these great things in their life and then they add alcohol to make them even better. Over time, though, something can flip, and the brain will start to think alcohol is the common denominator…the thing you NEED for the good times. Once that happens – it’s more about the drink and less about the Friday or the Monday or the baseball game. You’ve basically graduated to the…
“I drink because I drink” Club – THIS is where the booze advertisers want you, and they start by getting you into that last group. The more reasons and occasions you can tie to a boozey beverage, the more likely you are to end up in this group. The group of frequent buyers. The group of recurring customers. And sure, you’re also more likely to end up with an addiction or at least a harmful problem – but ya know, that’s the cost of doing business. Plus – most people who quit have a hard time quitting – so they won’t lose too many customers to sobriety anyways. It seems obvious when describing it in writing, but many people in this group are seeing negative impacts from alcohol in their life and surprisingly, most people still will say they don’t have a problem.
These are just a few “types” of drinkers, and I can think of a time when I fell into each of these groups. I always had my shit together. I had good jobs, great homes, kept my obligations, and drank like a fish. I bought the marketing hook, line, and sinker and drank my way through the boozey-matrix of life. For years, I suspected I was better off without alcohol. For years, I questioned if I should maybe cut back or give it up. For years, I secretly tried to cut back with no luck. I’d occasionally bring it up to friends or family just to be told there was nothing wrong with me and that everyone feels the way I do sometimes. I’d be reminded of all the great things I had going on and how an alcoholic couldn’t possibly have that. My friends would buy me magnets with cute little drinking phrases on them or share embarrassing drunk stories about me on Facebook… but I didn’t have a problem, right? Why does everyone want you to wait until you’ve fucked it all up before you stop? Why does everyone think it’s a good idea to wait until you’re so far gone that it’s nearly impossible to quit? I know some people believe you have to hit a “rock bottom” or that no one but you can influence your choice to quit… but that’s sort of bullshit, folks. Life changes are not usually about singular moments. Usually it’s a combination of experiences that lead us to the path.
Three people, over a few different periods in my life, told me they were worried about my drinking. No, I didn’t quit right then and there, BUT their concerns and words did stick with me. Their words would come to mind when I was nursing a hangover or waking up in the middle of the night with the room spinning. Their words would come to mind when it mattered, and ultimately their words were part of the reason I chose to make a change in my life. So when you’re with the people you care and love – think about this stuff. Be the one who cared enough to bring up the “reality” behind the funny memes. Be the one who plants the seed that will someday help steer a friend in need. We live in a time where we post all the good about our lives, where we create “social brands” and people believe only the story we make up about ourselves. It’s even easier now to hide our problems and pretend they aren’t there. Take a look around. Really look at those you care about. Do you have any loved ones that might be struggling? Is it really funny that they are having such a hard time that they need wine to raise their kids? Is it really funny that their life feels so overwhelming that they can’t get by without a little something to take the pressure off?