I'm A Mom Who Self-Medicates, And It's Complicated
Do you self-medicate? I do.
After a long day at home or a stressful day at work, I definitely feel like I earned that glass of wine at dinner. Sometimes when I’ve gone a few nights with little sleep, I’ll pop a Tylenol PM to move things along. Is this terrible? Am I well on the path to AA?
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here. You can’t scroll Facebook or Twitter without at least one joke tying mothers to wine-drinking, stressed-out women on the verge of a breakdown. They pretty much promise that wine is the answer to all their problems. I love these memes and funny tweets, too, because I can surely relate. Sometimes the only thing I’ve got going for me after a particularly horrific day is the assurance of that delicious glass of wine waiting for me after the kids’ bedtime.
I read an enlightening article in The Atlantic about how moms self-medicating with booze has become so common and so ingrained in our society that we don’t even realize how unhealthy a habit it is and what it inevitably leads to. The article says that in the ’70s and ’80s, pop culture promoted pill popping more than booze. But since they discovered that pills like Vicodin are ridiculously addictive and dangerous, society has moved to the ever-present wino momma.
The article delves deeper into why we need to self-medicate in the first place. The pressure we are putting on ourselves to be all things is so overbearing, so unsustainable, that we need that release just to survive. I believe it. Some days, I’m so wound up by the end of the day, I get nauseous to the point where I think I’ll throw up. Other days, I’ll get headaches the size of boulders crushing my skull.
Last night, I lost my mind around 7:18 p.m., just as I was giving my son a bath and getting him ready for bed. I felt myself physically shut down. When my husband saw the look on my face, he promptly took over bedtime duties and told me to go lie down. He’s seen that look before. It’s not pretty.
What’s a mom to do? Last night, I went to bed at 7:30 p.m. because I could. But I can’t do that every night. Normally nighttime is prime time for getting the kids’ lunches ready for school the next day, washing the dinner dishes, moving the clothes from the washer to dryer so they aren’t all mildewy by morning, and paying bills — because even after my mommy duties end each night, my responsibilities as an adult remain.
So, on the days when going to bed at 7:30 isn’t an option, sometimes I break out a wine glass instead. The best part is I can enjoy the wine and feel like I’m treating myself, while still getting my obligations done at the same time. Self-medicating? Boo. But multitasking? Hooray! It feels even better because I’m not being completely selfish and directing all my time and attention on me and relaxation. It feels like something a responsible mom who wants to wind down would do.
But as if moms don’t feel guilty enough, now we need to feel guilty about this luxury too. I understand the reasons, but I still feel myself scream inside, “No, people! Don’t take this from us too!”
I cannot deny that I let that guilt chip away at me. Addiction is a strong force in my family history. I remind myself that with every sip. Can I still enjoy this pleasure while that truth tugs at me? Am I playing with fire every time I pop open a cork?
And if I do put the wine glass down, do I need to find a different, healthier way to self-medicate? Perhaps. Or do I need to find a less stressful way of living all together? Kick the root cause out the door. But seriously, I don’t know how realistic that is. In this world where parents are superhuman caretakers, breadwinners, Pinterest fiends, and PTA members, we are expected to do it all while sporting six-pack abs. No excuses — unless you want to be “that” mom: the mom who other people whisper about, who can’t get her act together, doesn’t seem that engaged in her children’s passions, or never seems to have her priorities in order. Now that’s a stigma I never want to have.
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