On this episode of Mind Over Motherhood, I talked to Camille Kinzler, Sober Curious Coach for Women to discuss alcohol use in mothers and how we can think beyond the drink to create lives we don’t want to numb.
Prefer to listen rather than read? Head over and listen to Episode 15 of the Mind Over Motherhood Podcast!
Camille Kinzler is a Physician Assistant and Sober Curious Coach who helps grey-area drinkers take a break from alcohol so they can become more intentional about their alcohol intake and create lives that they don’t want to numb.
This conversation is SO important for mothers today as mommy wine culture is not only increasingly prevalent, but can be very damaging as well.
Camille and I discussed how to become more intentional about your alcohol use, how to model a healthy relationship with alcohol for your children and all things mommy wine culture.
This is an episode you are NOT going to want to miss.
“I PUNCTUATED MY LIFE WITH ALCOHOL.”
Like many of us, Camille’s relationship with alcohol began innocently. Celebrations with Prosecco and girls’ night’s with red wine were common occurrences and were not problematic.
Camille’s story turned a corner after she became a mom and found herself integrating alcohol into her life on a more regular basis and she began drinking at home. Although still not a “problem” for her, alcohol more often became a “treat.” She found that more often she was using wine to decompress in the evening, or deal with the stress of being a mother.
As many of us can likely related to, Camille started noticing that more often than not, the bottle of wine she opened at 5pm was finished at 8 or 9pm. She also noticed that she wasn’t feeling well after having a drink or two in the evening. This began happening more often than she would have preferred, and so she embarked on a 100 day break from alcohol.
About 6 weeks into that break, Camille had a revelation. She realized that she had not only been numbing the bad or hard feelings with alcohol (the stress, anxiety or chaos of motherhood), but she had also been numbing the good feelings as well.
Following this realization, Camille began researching the science behind alcohol use, habit formation and addiction. She realized that many other women were also using alcohol in ways to numb their emotions or to “get through” motherhood, and she became committed to supporting other women to create lives that they don’t need to numb with alcohol.
THINK BEYOND THE DRINK: MOMMY WINE CULTURE
We live in a world that glamorizes alcohol use. Over the past 10-15 years, social media has created a strong narrative around mothers and alcohol. How many times have you heard of wine being referred to as “mommy’s juice?”
Whether it is in our own social circles or in popular media, messaging around mothers needing alcohol perpetuates the idea that women cannot be moms without relying on alcohol to smooth everything over.
To further this narrative, mothers carry often unrealistic expectations for themselves. We are perfectionists and expect ourselves to get everything done, be everything to everyone and do it all without feeling frazzled or overwhelmed. When we inevitably fall short of our own expectations, we feel the pain of failure and shame. When we snap at our kids or make a dinner that we don’t feel measures up to our expectations, it is easier to soothe our pain with alcohol than it is to feel our own distress.
The problem with this culture of alcohol in our lives is damaging also in that it actually makes it harder for women who want to limit their alcohol intake to do so without fear of being ostracized or of being considered an alcoholic. Camille shared that the social stigma of choosing to “not drink” is one of the biggest barriers many women find to reducing their alcohol intake.
ALCOHOL NUMBS OUR ABILITY TO LISTEN TO OUR OWN INTUITION
Alcohol limits our ability to listen to our own deep inner knowing and intuition. It also reduces our behavioural inhibition, which causes us to engage in behaviours or activities that we might not have if we hadn’t had any alcohol.
While these are not always bad situations, I’m sure many of us can relate to that night when we had perhaps one to many drinks and said a few things we regret saying.
Frankly, our lives as mothers are often so chaotic and our lives are so busy that it can be a challenge when we’re sober to be able to listen in to our deep intuition, let alone when we’ve had a few. It can be hard to stick with our diet plan or find the motivation to exercise when we are sober, let alone after a few glasses of wine.
While there is nothing wrong with having a glass of wine or a drink when you feel like it, it’s important to be aware of the fact that alcohol can encourage us to behave opposite to what we might prefer. Whether it’s being more open or sharing too much in social situations or binge-eating and ruining our healthy diet after a couple glasses, drinking alcohol reduces our ability to be in control of our own behavour.
THINK BEYOND THE DRINK: HOW TO BECOME A MORE INTENTIONAL DRINKER
THE MAJORITY OF US ARE “GREY-AREA DRINKERS”
One of the most important things Camille shared during this episode is that you don’t have to be a raging alcoholic to consider giving up alcohol.
In fact, the majority of women who consider giving up alcohol voluntarily, or who want to simply become more intentional with their alcohol intake, are not alcoholics. They are simply women who have identified the role alcohol is playing in their life and want to be more intentional about that role.
If alcohol has become habitual for you, or you are just starting to feel like it doesn’t fit in your life anymore, it’s OK to create a new relationship with alcohol.
Grey-area drinkers are those alcohol consumers who may range from one bottle of beer a week to finishing a bottle of wine every other night. These are women who may not consider themselves to have a problem per say with alcohol, but that want to re-evaluate the role that alcohol has played in their life.
WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK IF I GIVE UP DRINKING?
It is common that when we hear of someone deciding to give up or limit their alcohol use, many of us automatically assume that the individual was an alcoholic or had a problem with alcohol.
The social reaction is what often causes the majority of resistance in grey-area drinkers. While they may want to be more intentional with cutting down on their alcohol use, they also fear being viewed as “having a problem” or even worse, “being an alcoholic.”
Camille shares, you don’t have to have a problem with alcohol for alcohol to be a problem for you.
Camille shares that the best way to handle these sorts of situation is to be as honest as possible:
I feel better without alcohol.
When I drink, I don’t get up in the morning and exercise like I want to, so I have decided to cut back on my drinking.
My digestion is terrible when I drink. I felt really bloated and had a lot of abdominal issues when I drank alcohol.
I am more patient with my children when I don’t drink.
By being honest, it opens up a different converation and gets to the core of the reason for the change. It may also give others in your life the courage to challenge their own relationship with alcohol and be brave in defining what alcohol means for them in an intentional way as well.
THINK BEYOND THE DRINK: WHAT IS YOUR ALCOHOL USE TELLING YOU?
What are your triggers to drink?
Do you always grab a glass of wine at 5pm when the kids are all going nuts, just so you can relax while you cook dinner and feel calmer with them?
Are you not giving yourself enough time to rest during the day and find yourself unable to relax in the evening without a nightly drink?
Do you need to perhaps slow your life down in order for you to be able to manage without alcohol?
When we use alcohol, we often use it as a bandaid to numb the painful parts of our lives. We feel sad about a past relationship that we haven’t processed, and forget it with a few glasses of wine. We rush around with hectic schedules trying to be everything to everyone, and then need to decompress and drink that glass of wine that we “deserve” in the evening.
It is important to consider that your alcohol use may be showing you areas of your life that you need to change. If there are repeated times or situations in your life that that you are feeling strong urges to numb your emotions or experience with alcohol, it may be time to look closely if there are changes that need to be made.
This might look like relaxing your perfectionistic expectations on yourself and allowing your kids a bit more screentime so you can take the time to meditate or relax like you need to.
It may mean cancelling some of the obligatory activities that you hate doing (but feel pressured into).
Or it may mean that you go to marriage counselling or have that hard conversation with your mother in law so you don’t feel like you have to numb yourself everytime you’re around her.
Whatever you find as your trigger, it’s telling you something about your life, and it’s time to consider whether changes are necessary.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE A PROBLEM WITH ALCOHOL FOR ALCOHOL TO BE A PROBLEM FOR YOU
You do not have to be a raging alcoholic to decide that you don’t want to drink anymore, or that you want to reduce your alcohol use.
The reality is that whatever your reason is for reducing your alcohol is use is 100% unique and valid for you.
You do not need to prove to anyone or explain to anyone why you want to reduce your alcohol use.
Whatever your reason might be, it is valid for you and enough for you to make this important change. There is no shame in wanting to reduce your alcohol use.
Also, if alcohol is not a problem for you at all, if you don’t find any issues with using alcohol, that is also OK.
HOW TO THINK BEYOND THE DRINK: STEP-BY-STEP
Camille recommends starting your sober curious journey by taking an extended break from alcohol at the outset. Consider a 30-day, 60-day or 100-day break from alcohol to really kickstart your journey. Camille offers a 100 day alcohol free program on her website.
Once you have committed to that journey, it’s important to be mindful of your triggers. Why are you drawn to drink? What can you do instead of drinking?
Alcohol is a habit, just like any other habit. If we don’t change our environment or our routines around alcohol, it will be extremely hard to change the habit. It’s important to identify what the triggers are that cause you to want to drink. If cooking dinner is a trigger for you, perhaps it’s time to be creative for a few weeks and shaking up that routine for a bit so you can avoid those situations that bring up the urge to drink.
- If you find the noise or chaos of the dinner hour is stressful and brings up urges to drink, maybe pop in headphones and dance around your kitchen in a silent disco. Not only will you distract yourself, but your kids will also find it hilarious.
- Be compassionate with yourself. You are going to have strong urges to drink in the first little while, and it’s not the end of the world if you break your commitment once or twice.
- Track how you feel with tons of journalling to explore your relationship with alcohol, review what has been working and what isn’t, what emotions you are having, etc.
If you’re considering taking a break from alcohol, I highly recommend checking out Camille’s work.
ALCOHOL IS A TRIPLE-THREAT
Alcohol is a challenging substance to regulate our use of because in our culture, it has become:
- Habitual – We tend to drink the same time every day or the same people. We tend to drink during the same emotional experience. This is why a sunny summer day often makes us crave a cool drink.
- Ritualistic – Drinking alcohol is a ritual for many people. There is an identity wrapped up in drinking wine as a mom, opening a bottle of wine with friends, the belief that it helps us relax and connect with our children, etc. Alcohol has become a ritual for many of us. It has become a part of our identity.
- Addictive – Alcohol as a substance is addictive and our use of it tends to increase slowly over time. While the increases are often subtle and may not meet the level of “problem drinking,” it still demonstrates that we tend to crave more than one drink after we have one, and this slowly increases over time.
In many ways, alcohol is both the perfect and the worst drug in the world.
MORE OF THE GOODS:
- While it seems like everything is much easier when you’re drinking, Camille challenges us to consider how long alcohol actually makes things easier. Research shows that the positive, feel-good effects of alcohol actually last considerably shorter than we think they do. In fact, studies show we get about 5 minutes of the feel-good neurotransmitters out of a drink before the negative impacts kick in.
- How substituting a non-alcoholic drink in your evening can help you kick your drinking habit.
- Our alcohol use and it’s impact on our children, including how our relationship with alcohol impacts the ability of our children to manage their own emotions.
- The impact of advertising and popular media on women’s consumption of alcohol.
- Exploring the interaction between perfectionism and alcohol use – the importance of creating a relationship with alcohol that is unique and healthy for you. Sobriety doesn’t need to be a black-and-white situation, and it’s important to avoid letting your perfectionism hold you hostage in your journey.
- What Camille’s life is like now that she doesn’t drink.