Defending moms who drink (and swear)

Leslie Garrett's article on Salon (read by clicking HERE) makes some great points. The jokes mothers make about drinking because their kids cry or drinking to numb their anxieties and frustrations about parenting most likely conceal something serious in many cases. Not all, but when it is ever the case that one opinion or observation applies to all? That’s right. It doesn't. Unless we are talking about poop being funny, because then it does apply. Poop is always funny. But I digress.

I believe that these jokes have opened up a very important dialogue, inappropriate as it may be, about how stressful and difficult motherhood can be for some, and so, as a psychotherapist who specializes in addiction and trauma, and the author of a book titled, Moms Who Drink And Swear: Loving My Kids While Losing My Mind, I do believe I can speak with some authority on the subject of how overuse of alcohol can negatively affect one’s ability to parent, and how it can be as harmless as losing oneself in a crappy sitcom while chowing down on a bowl of ice cream after a busy and frustrating day.

We are all different.

I have boozed, binged on ice cream, and escaped into the idiot box. I’ve also decompressed by reading a book, re-reading books, (Hello Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Twilight, and any damn thing by Thomas Moore) calling a friend, calling my mom, going for a run, stretching, binging on Netflix, playing the piano, and breaking shit.

I’ve gotten into the car to run a totally random and unnecessary errand for the sole purpose of being alone so I could scream and cry. I’ve put on my p.j.’s and taken myself to a late movie or gone grocery shopping in the wee hours before the sun comes up. You know what else? When nothing else helps take the edge off, and sometimes this is the fucking case, I’ve been known to toss back a Benadryl or a Klonopin – which I have a prescription for - to help check out of my busy mind and chill the fuck out.

Sometimes, after a shit day, I curl up next to one of my kids and just inhale deeply, letting whatever stink is stuck on them, mixed with their sweetness, overcome my senses. I watch their chests rise and fall, and giggle aloud when they mumble in their sleep as I stroke their soft, tangled hair. On really bad days, days when we are all a mess of emotions and have irritated each other half to death, just the simple pleasure of appreciating the fact that they are alive is enough to calm me down and help me cope.

The first time I met a child who had been abused by an alcoholic parent was a whopper. The child’s mother had shaken her so hard that she pulverized important parts of her brain. Is that the technical term for what happened? No. But it does hits much harder than it would if I used all the five dollar medical terms, doesn’t it? Does every child who has an alcoholic parent suffer the way this child did?

No. But sometimes they do. Alcoholism is a destructive and terrible disease. It ruins people, destroys families. It's a goddamn tragedy when a kid has to grow up in such an unsafe and unstable environment. I am not, I repeat NOT, denying this fact or trying to minimize Garrett's experience. But her experience is just that - HER EXPERIENCE.

Garrett makes some great points. I really liked her piece and I’m glad to have read it. It’s a good reminder that I need to keep doing what I’m doing, which is, in part, making jokes about how drinking and swearing helps me cope with momming, but also acknowledging the importance of reaching out in friendship and humor when I’m in need of support. I do not feel guilty about being a perfectly imperfect human being, and I especially do not feel guilty about sharing my life with you all. I don’t think you should feel guilty either.

But I shouldn’t tell you what to do. You have to make your own decisions.

You help me. I help you. We engage in an ongoing, honest, raw, and often difficult conversation on the regular, about the ups and downs of raising children. Some of us are casual drinkers. Others are, in fact, alcoholics. From what I have observed, the majority of many of the women and men who read my stuff are loving parents just blowing off steam, but how much can I really know about a bunch of strangers on the internet? Not much?

That’s right. I can’t learn much at all if I don’t scratch the surface and make an effort to connect. The same goes for you. What you and I can do is stay involved in this ongoing conversation. We can observe, talk, and listen. We can keep this dialogue going in a respectful way, choosing to support each other and seek support from the people in the parenting communities that help us be the best parents we can be.

Leslie is right. Turning to the bottle to cope is not the best way of dealing with the drama of family life. Oh, but sometimes it is. Where would we be if not for laughter? Sometimes a glass of wine with a sister-mom is just the ticket. A glass. Not the entire bottle, and not ever the first line of defense when dealing with the inevitable despair and difficulty that are, have always been, and will always be a part of living a life.

As always, I suggest that we all have to make an effort to pay attention to our stress levels and evaluate our ability to cope, which is really hard to do if we are isolated, overwhelmed, and taking life too seriously. I cannot imagine what shape I would be in right now had I not started blogging, and reaching out to my fellow moms five years ago. Moms who drink and swear are my people. But we MWDAS aren't for everyone, and that is A-fucking-okay too!

I’m glad I read Leslie’s piece today. It spun around in my soul and I felt inclined to write this blog post. I’m a little bummed that she didn’t single me out as a bad example, because then this defending of the drinking and swearing mom would make more sense, but do I really ever make sense?

I’d like to think that Leslie didn’t give MWDAS a shout out because she hasn’t heard of my lush-themed blog, but that she has heard, and like you, she knows that MWDAS isn’t really a blog about drinking and swearing, but a blog about discovering the meaning of life.

And why poop is always funny.

And since my book didn't get a fucking shout out - I'M SHOUTING ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW. BUY IT. It's really not about drinking or swearing. Or poop.

If you think that you or someone you love has a problem with alcohol and would like to get information and help - here's a good place to start.

Helping a person get treatment for alcohol abuse or dependence. Good luck and godsspeed.

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