Mothers Who Drink Too Much
Rachael Brownell, author of "Mommy Doesn't Drink Here Anymore" writes about her battle with alcoholism and how she used drinking to cope with the loneliness and anger she felt as a new Mom.
Rachael Brownell, author of Mommy Doesn't Drink Here Anymore: Getting Through the First Year of Sobriety talks with Commitment about how trapped and angry she felt as a new Mom, and how she has found a way to cope with the stresses of motherhood.
Commitment: The introduction in your book is titled "Mommy Needs Many Drinks." Why and how did your drinking begin?
Rachael Brownell: Like many folks, I experimented with drinking in my teens and twenties. I began drinking as a lark and a dare, and as something to give me courage to be more outgoing.
Commitment: On page 42, you bravely wrote about some of the loneliness and angry feelings that can accompany motherhood. You wrote, "I have never ever been this angry to be a woman. Angry to the core. I am unable to articulate or communicate to anyone how trapped I feel by this new biological life. I'm mushy and soft, and drippy and gooey, and everything clicks when I walk around. I used to be free to roam the woods, and rope swing over a huge gully, to run 3 miles a day, to go wherever I want whenever I want. To be free." Did alcohol help you cope with this anger?
Rachael: Yes it did…Not in a healthy way though.
Commitment: Looking back, what do you think would have helped you feel less trapped and angry during those early days of motherhood?
Rachael: I think if I had discovered more online/virtual communities earlier it would have helpted. If I’d had a network of friends who had similar stories/less traditional relationships, perhaps I’d not have been as frustrated. On the other hand, I had undiagnosed post-partum depression, so good drugs earlier would have helped as well.
Commitment: What besides alcohol might have helped you with the new responsibilities you faced?
Rachael: Friends, laughter, free childcare and healthcare..
Commitment: Do you think many women feel this anger when they first become mothers?
Rachael: I’m not really sure. As Gen-Xers we were raised to believe we could do anything and yet not particularly well-trained to understand that women do face a certain amount of biological determinism. Judith XXX’s book, Perfect Madness, sums up all of my feelings brilliantly.
Commitment: If so, why is it so rarely talked about?
Rachael: Oh I think it’s talked about much more frequently now…there are lots of ‘momoirs’ that are excellent including Rebecca Woolf’s Rockabye: From Wild to Child Adrienne Martini’s Hillbilly Gothic and a lot of good writing on-line including Imperfectparent.com and Babble.com.
Commitment: What words of advice do you have for new mothers who might feel as angry, trapped and lonely as you once felt?
Rachael: Several things: please talk to someone you trust. Talk to your doctor, call friends and fess up. Any shame and embarrassment you might feel at needing help and support will more than be assuaged should you receive the assistance you need.
Commitment: You write a lot about losing your identity when you became a mother. You wrote, "Since becoming a mother five years before, I've longed to hang on to a part of myself that isn't smeared in Mommy goo....I want to be the anti-June Cleaver, the un-wife, the un-mother, loving and present, but not invisible or brainless. And while it is gravely oversimplifying to say this is why I drink, drinking does begin as a bulwark against the onslaught of mama drones, an enjoyable evening
ritual, a life raft--cheaper and easier to do with young children than yoga or running." What role did drinking play in your desire to hold on to your identity, and have you found healthy ways to be the anti-June Cleaver that doesn't involve drinking?
Rachael: Well it was twofold: an escape nad something I could do at home while watching my kids. I wasn’t someone who wanted to leave them at home with a babysitter so I could hit the bars. As such, drinking at home seemed like a good alternative. Something fun to do while I could still be with my kids.
And yes quite a few healthy ways to be anti-June Cleaver (though in the end, that was not a totally accurate description of what I became…) I attend 12-step meetings almost daily and have a regular group of sober girlfriends that I see several times a week. I have more time, energy , and joy now than I ever did while drinking.
Commitment: Do you think part of your drinking was a reaction to the intense pressure on mothers nowadays?
Rachael: Simply put, I drank because I am an alcoholic. Beyodn that, I do think we live in a particularly high pressure time and that certainly didn’t help in my case.
Commitment: You wrote "I live at the intersection of postmodern Supermom and gypsy spirit...For me and other mothers like me, the Supermom fantasy has morphed from bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan into something far more dangerous, destructive, and dark: successful career, soul mate marriage, well-adjusted children who also incidentally speak a second language and are advanced in math and science. Who wouldn't drink with this kind of pressure? Who wouldn't want to die?" What advice do you have for other mothers who sometimes feel this intense pressure?
Rachael: Oh I’d say ignore those critical voices in and outside your head…and the best antidote to perfectionism is laughter.
Commitment: What has changed within you that enables you now to cope with the pressures of motherhood without relying on alcohol to get you through?
Rachael: Most practicing a spiritual program and having real true deep friends I can be myself with.
Commitment: When did you realize your drinking had gone out-of-control? What steps did you take to stop the drinking, and what was the most challenging aspect of getting your drinking under control?
Rachael: I realized my drinking was out of control gradually…but it really hit me when I was hung-over for a school event for my daughters. I tried to stop drinking several times but really didn’t join a gropu and ask for help until it got bad enough for me.
I never got my drinking under control. I had to give it up totally.
Commitment: Now when you are stressed, bored or tired, what do you do to relax and cope instead of drinking? What have you replaced alcohol with? You wrote, "So much of new sobriety is developing replacement activities and rituals..."
Rachael: Instead of drinking, I call girlfriends, go to a meeting, spend fun time with my girls, read a book…I’ve replaced alcohol with love and support, and in practical terms, with the daily things parenting requires…cooking, cleaning, laundry…except now I think those things are more acceptable to me (but I haven’t become a drone).
Commitment: What advice do you have for mothers in recovery, who sometimes feel angry and overwhelmed by all the demands on them?
Rachael: I don’t really have advice per se, just the thought that getting sober and recovering from addiction is incredibly difficult. The more support and love they can line up for themselves the better.
Commitment: You wrote in Chapter 1 about your parent's divorce and how this impacted your life. Later on, after having twins, you left their father and eventually married another man and had a child with him. What are your thoughts on forming a blended family successfully?
Rachael: I have nothing really to add here. I don’t have any wisdom to dispense about blended families. Mine wasn’t ultimately successful.
Commitment: Now that you are sober, how have you changed as a mother? What boundaries have you set and what has enabled you to enjoy your children more?
Rachael: Yes, I’ve changed. I’m probably more strict and conistent about rules and manners but I hope I’m also more fun.
Commitment: Finally, what advice do you have for mothers who may be drinking too much as a way to cope with the stresses in their life?
Rachael: My only advice is listen to your innermost heart. If you think you have a problem with alcohol, you might need to ask for help.
To Purchase Mommy Doesn't Drink Here Anymore click here.
About the Author: Rachael Brownell is a writer, mother, recoverer, and dreamer. Mommy Doesn't Drink Here Anymore is Ms. Brownell's first book. She has a monthly column, Rugrat Reprieve, at Imperfect Parent. Visit Rachael's website at www.rachaelbrownell.com.