mother and son at sunset

Almost two years have passed since my last drink. The road from addiction to recovery has been a heartbreaking and enlightening journey. And despite the pain, I’m thankful for who I am today.

But what still brings fear is the potential impact on my children.

In a clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (1), the short and long term effects of substance abuse by parents on their children include adverse effects with:

  • mental health
  • emotional stability
  • educational performance
  • addiction

One study reports that children with substance abuse history in their families are eight times more likely to abuse substances in adulthood (2). Coupled with a genetic predisposition for depression that’s had an impact on my family for generations, I pray my children are spared this unfortunate life sentence.

But I’ve learned to thrive in recovery, I must let go of fear. To become a role model to my children, I must not lose myself in worry over the past. Fear inhibits the ability to move forward. So I carry the lessons from my past and leave the rest behind. I focus on new ways to live a life that’s worthy. I tend to the needs of my children and show how I love them. I may not change their destiny, but I can become the best version of myself while trying.

Here are some tools I’ve learned along the way.

1) Be honest about the past.

Being in recovery allows for a dose of humility if you are honest about the past. It doesn’t feel good to peel back layers of vulnerability that comes with admitting failures. Nor is it easy to venture into the painful parts of our past. And I don’t recommend doing this alone. Connecting with a good therapist, support group or online recovery community are a few avenues of support for what can be a challenging phase in recovery. Somehow, through discovering the root of pain, we understand the “why” behind our behaviors. And we can admit mistakes and seek forgiveness from our children.

2) Allow their feelings.

Children may struggle with expressing their feelings about addiction and recovery. Give them a safe platform and offer open-ended questions that encourage them to find their voice. A couple months into my recovery, my son appeared to have something to say but couldn’t find the words. I asked what he was thinking. After some thought, he said he could forgive but he wouldn’t forget. Even though my heart hurt to hear him speak the existence of his pain, it was important for us both.

3) Let time heal.

Early in recovery, I recognized my children were struggling with hurt and anger over my absence when I was at my worst. It came in the form of resistance, and I get it. The value of my opinion paled in comparison to those they relied on in my absence. And this lasted until I regained their trust with patience and understanding that the healing process takes time.

4) Be present in their lives.

To be present in my children’s lives is an amazing gift that continues to give. As my son makes a play on the field, I absorb the joy in his eyes because I was watching. After helping with homework, I embrace his hug because I was there. It’s these simple moments of presence when I feel l make a difference.

5) Cherish the now.

For almost two years, I barely existed as a human. And even less as a contributing parent. I believe motherhood is one of life’s greatest blessings, so this crushes me every time. But if I attach that shame to who I am now, I reduce the chance of loving my children past the pain. So from my heart I suggest, never forget the time lost with your children. But cherish the now. In the blink of an eye, children go on to live their own lives. But there’s so many milestones to reach and memories to create before we kiss them goodbye and watch them fly.

Will all this be enough? Time will only tell.

But maybe, the strength of unconditional love we have for our children becomes enough to mend the pain…and alters the direction of their predestined path.

(1) Pediatrics July 2016 From the American Academy of PediatricsClinical Report
(2) Merikangas, K. R., Stolar, M., Stevens, D. E., Goulet, J., et al., Familial transmission of substance use disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 1998. 55(11): p. 973-9.

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I spent the majority of my life wrestling with alcohol and drug addiction. It took a long time for me to realize I even had a problem. Rehab, support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings showed me ways to deal with spiritual, emotional and even physical aspects of recovery. Yet, what I wasn’t prepared for was the financial side of things.

During the peak of my addiction, money was nothing but a means to an end, the end being bigger and better highs. When I got into recovery the first time, money was a pretty big instrument to my relapse. I had a new job, suddenly had more money in my possession than I ever had before and the stresses of my “9 to 5” coupled with my well-satisfied wallet sent me straight down the dark path once more.

This time, I focused more on how to avoid relapse and manage triggers of all kinds, including financial ones. I learned about why relapse happens, and I learned that money as a trigger for relapse is actually much more common than I thought. No matter how well, or not so well, you managed money during your addiction, recovery will bring on all kinds of added difficulty to the situation. Not having enough money can cause you all kinds of stress and anxiety, while having too much poses an all too welcomed temptation.

In my last near decade of recovery, I have gathered the top tips to managing money as a person recovering from addiction and wanted to share them with all of you:


1. Learn to budget.

To be painfully honest with you, I had never organized money in any way while struggling with addiction. Bills came in and piled up, and I didn’t bat an eye. I didn’t really have a steady job. So my income varied greatly from week to week. I paid what I could, when I could, borrowed a lot and spent the majority of what I had to fuel my addiction. After my relapse, I knew things had to be done differently so that I could stay on the right path. I had a family member teach me how to organize myself financially.

When you’re in recovery, most programs require you to find a job of some sort. When I was in the process of finding one, I made sure to map out a monthly budget according to:

  • How much money I had — the amount of money that was already in my bank or in my possession.
  • How much money I would make — the amount coming in via my paychecks.
  • How much money I owe — any debts that needed settling.
  • How much money I would need to spend — hydro, electric, internet, phone or any other kind of bills, along with money for groceries and other basic necessities.

Believe it or not, having a sense of control over my finances helped me feel accomplished and like I was on the right path. I planned my expenses in a way that I never had too much month at the end of the money.

2. Differentiate between “optional” and “mandatory.”

One thing I struggled with in recovery was differentiating what I absolutely needed from what I craved to help substitute my drug and alcohol dependence. Before my relapse, I spent loads of money on unnecessary things. When I sat down to create my monthly budget, a good friend of mine had me apply Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to ensure I didn’t give myself too much financial wiggle room.

At first, I stuck with factoring in only my basic needs:

  • Physiological needs — costs related to food, drink, shelter, sleep and warmth
  • Safety needs — costs related to security and safety (such as insurance)

When I began to feel more confident and in control of myself in recovery, which took me nearly two years, I allowed a strict amount for psychological needs:

  • Belonging and love — costs related to relationships, intimacy, receiving and giving affection, and so on (this would include gifts, dates, lunches and dinners with friends)
  • Esteem — costs related to mastery of a subject, art or sport, as well as achievement in those areas. (I started taking computer and internet related classes at a local college and got a gym membership.)

This next section, self-actualization, is a more long-term thing. It’s about seeking personal fulfillment and peak experiences. This came five years into recovery. I felt stable, and I could comfortably manage the temptation of being around alcohol or any other substance. I planned a trip with two close friends to Italy and traveled the countryside. It was one of the experiences of my life, and I’m glad I waited to get as far as I did into recovery because I was able to enjoy the trip that much more.

3. Set goals.

When in recovery and you have extra money that is not going toward your necessities, it is difficult to deny the temptation to go out and spend to your heart’s content.

The key is to set short-term and long-term saving goals. Whether the savings go toward paying off debts or buying something important to you, the important thing is to set goals. Write them down, visualize them and always remember them. This will help on those days that you feel as if temptation may just get the best of you.

4. Do not carry credit or debit cards.

This one is key, especially when you are first starting out. Carrying credit or debit cards on you is simply too much temptation. You should only carry as much money as your budget entails and leave the rest out of sight, out of mind. If you carry a card that can easily give you access to more money, then things can too easily get out of hand.

It might be best to keep the cards with someone you trust or just cancel them. Having to go to a bank teller to withdraw money is just an extra step that serves as protection against random impulses. When you feel confident that you no longer feel the itch to buy unnecessary things or use money unnecessarily, experiment by carrying a debit card for a day. The second you feel the itch, get rid of the card.

5. Find financial resources and people to help.

When in doubt, there are tons of resources available to help with budgeting, banking, saving and general money management. Luckily, I have people in my life who have always been responsible with their money and who were able to show me the ropes. If you can find someone close to help you with it, then great. If not, then there are great apps, tools and websites that can also help.

Money management may be mentioned much less than various other tools on the road to recovery, but the feeling of financial freedom was a definite weight off my shoulders. Money is one of the things you can learn to control rather than have it control you. Knowing that you have power over your financial situation will give your recovery the boost that you’re looking for.

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

Image via Thinkstock.

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My life and my family’s lives have collided with addiction. It runs through my family, alcoholics and addicts nested in my family tree, even though much of the family doesn’t like to talk about that elephant in the room.

I remember hearing a story about one of my grandfathers when I was little girl — of how he moved across the United States to start a new life with his young bride and changed the spelling of their last name to shelter her and their someday children from the embarrassment and criminal activity linked to his family of alcoholics in his home state. Addiction is a generational disease. There would have been a time not so long ago where I wouldn’t have talked about this, let alone write it down for the whole world to see. Addiction has attacked and hurt many people I love, but I never really understood the feelings of helplessness until it chose my son to devour. I can’t begin to put into words what that feels like. It is as if your heart is hemorrhaging 24 hours a day, and if someone had told me one of my children would have been in his shoes years ago, I would have dismissed them without another thought. He was a smart boy, we were good parents, don’t be ridiculous!

I have experienced firsthand how addiction takes over a person’s whole life, mind, body and soul and then transplants an individual who will do or say anything for the next fix – the next drink. My boy, a vibrant, kind, funny, healthy, smart, athletic, musically gifted, strong young man, was devoured by this insidious disease. It turned my family upside down, sideways and inside out as it does many families, some who are at this very moment sitting alone in their pain not talking about what they are battling through. It shatters hearts of parents, grandparents, children, siblings, friends and most of all the individual immotile in their battle with addiction.

It tried to devour me as well; I used to spend my days feeling ashamed, guilty and sometimes just numb. I didn’t know what to do, even with my faith, a college degree and years of parenting experience, friends, a supportive husband — I was completely lost. I just wanted to start over to change the story somehow.

I grew up handling what was thrown at me, the oldest child, born to be a problem solver, but couldn’t fix this. I was taught if the horse bucks you off get back on and show that horse who is the boss! Well, I couldn’t get back on this horse, I couldn’t train it, I couldn’t even get a bridle on it and I felt like a failure. “What kind of a mother can’t help their child?” That played in my mind like a broken record over and over. Could have, would have, should have — over and over! 

I had to take care of my own head to help him help himself. I had to take care of me first. I have learned I can’t fix it, and stepping away from my son’s addiction has given him freedom to fight for his own sobriety, because if I don’t let him fight for it he won’t be victorious. I haven’t stopped loving him, thinking about him or supporting him in a healthy manner, he will forever be my child and I his mother. I would be dishonest if I didn’t say this has been extremely difficult, and I still work on it daily. It has pushed me to lean on my Heavenly father rather than try to lean on my own understanding. My son, now 28 years old, sits in a level four prison facing a ridiculously long sentence. It is a broken system, from the insurance companies when someone seeks help, all the way to the legal system locking up people who are addicts, which sometimes makes it worse. And even in this situation I have hope, as he is alive and so many have lost their children.

I now understand addiction is not a moral failing, or a parenting defect, and I will work steadfast to help others gain an understanding. I feel my gift, my calling, is to stand in the gap for any person struggling with this disease and to be emotionally supportive to their family member’s whose voices often go unheard and sit alone in shame. My journey through this has made me grow, and it has not always been a pleasant growing experience I might add. It has built me into a true warrior mom, a volunteer, a strong voice and an advocate for change. I am comfortable sharing our story, knowing that some will turn away from me, and that is OK.

I will not be quiet about something that is killing about 570,000 people annually in the U.S. alone. I will keep talking with hope that it will help pave the way for change within our broken systems and change the way we as a country view addiction. I will continue to speak because I am a voice for those who can’t yet speak for themselves. I pray my voice and our story will help lift the burden of someone else who is feeling isolated and alone.

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Image via Thinkstock.

March 17, 2016 was a very important day for me. There were 365 full days that stood between me and my last drink.

Yep, St. Patrick’s Day. How ironic since I’m Irish-Catholic, am I right? Anyway, 365 is a lot of days for a girl who spent the last 10 years as a professional binge drinker. You rarely realize your last day of drinking will be your last day of drinking. I remember clearly my last weekend of binge drinking – scratch that.  I remember nothing. But it was a bottomless mimosa brunch, and I took bottomless quite literally. And then I switched to bottomless glasses of wine. And the rest is history.  It’s a miracle I had about a half of a glass of wine left in the bottle from that night. After my two-day hangover, I decided to pour the rest of the grape into a glass, polish it off and call it a night. The next day I decided it was going to be a while until I went out drinking again – at least not until the next weekend.

I had therapy that week and recapped the ounces of the weekend I remembered. The guilt and shame tied to that weekend were insurmountable. The emotion evoked by the blackout drinking was something I was very rarely able to share with anyone for fear they’d forcefully pull the bottle of merlot right out of my hands. Plus, who likes a girl who can’t handle her alcohol? But I became comfortable enough to disclose how it was negatively affecting me in those therapy sessions.

That particular session, my therapist quite simply asked if I could just take drinking off the table altogether, at least for now.  That’s a clever thought. Why didn’t I think of that? But how am I supposed to go to weddings? How am I supposed to be sober at my own wedding? How am I supposed to live without wine? Here’s the deal: you’ll never get anywhere with anything if you’re trying to rearrange your schedule because you don’t know what traffic will look like on July 19, 2030. Something clicked that evening. Divine intervention? A spiritual awakening? I won’t ask questions – all I know is certain neurons in my brain woke up. Maybe it was my liver… oh, if only my liver could talk. “No, no, no, no, no, don’t uncork that bottle of — son of a b****, why are you doing this to me?

I won’t sit here and say I’ve stayed alcohol-free all on my own. I’ve had some outside assistance and therapy I am astronomically grateful for. I desperately needed to quit drinking. I wasn’t in trouble with the law, I wasn’t drinking before work, but it was causing way too much distress. Having an eating disorder with a drinking problem is quite the dichotomy… aren’t I supposed to be terrified of calories? Alcohol calories didn’t count to me, apparently. Anyway, trying to be in recovery from an eating disorder while tying one on every weekend (and holiday, and non-holiday, and Tuesday evening) is like having two flat tires on the front of your car, replacing one, but not the other and expecting the car to drive just fine. Having issues with my alcohol intake is something I have been ashamed of, hence why I didn’t come to the realization sooner: there’s definitely a stigma out there. People with addiction aren’t always accepted – because a lot of times (I’m guilty of this too), it may be seen as simply a choice.

OK, yes. It is a choice for you to say yes or no to the drink or the drug or the compulsive exercise or what ever it may be. But it’s the thought behind that yes or no that is not always a “choice.” Why would anyone ask to be plagued with addiction?I’ve certainly never heard of anyone who has said to himself or herself, “Hmm this vice of mine, do it in copious amounts? Sign me up!” A poignant quote in the mental illness world is, “Genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger.” It seems that some people are more susceptible than others depending on genes that run in the family. Throw that person into a destructive environment, and you may have yourself a perfect recipe for addiction. A friend once used this analogy, “Normal” drinkers, while drinking, have this little, red flag in their brains (I imagine it looks like the end of those Super Mario levels), that says, “Hey, dude! You’re crossing the line here. Time to chug an ice water and call it a night on the ole’ booze.” People with addiction? Well, somewhere along the line, the little, red flag was bent and broken in half. The moral of this story is, I really don’t want to carry around the shame anymore.

I have a problem with drinking. There, I said it.

And I hope in years to come, others don’t have to carry around the shame. We shouldn’t have to hide. We are all human. We all have things in our lives that are ridiculously hard to deal with. Doesn’t matter what it is. Let’s take a step back and try to be a little less critical. Had I not felt riddled with shame over my drinking and the stigma it carries with it, I could very well have admitted I had an issue a lot sooner. I think if we can break down these barriers, it might help people to help themselves. And I have to level with you. Not having to wake up in the morning with a ferocious, remorse-filled hangover? I’ll continue to sign up for that.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, head here for resources. You can also text 741741 from anywhere in the USA to text with a trained Crisis Counselor. 

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Stock photo by poplasen

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” — Khalil Gibran

I was happy as a child. I was a little awkward, a little shy, but I was happy. My parents protected my brother and I from sadness and pain when we were little. They left their country in search of a better life for us in America. We were born in Colombia in the ‘80s and while it was always a beautiful country, civil unrest and drug cartel activities made it one of the most dangerous countries in the world at the time. There were shoot outs in public spaces, abductions and murders almost every day. So we moved to Southern California. My parents worked hard to build a home where we were always safe and loved.

One thing you have to know about Colombians is that we love to have a good time. We throw little parties any chance we get, round up family and friends, listen to music, eat good food and throw back a generous serving of Aguardiente. If you’re not familiar with Aguardiente, or Fire Water, it’s a strong anise flavored alcohol that’s popular in Colombia. 

It was at one of these lighthearted family parties that my life took an unfortunate turn. I was about 9 years old and the world was my oyster. My parents had always encouraged me to go for what I wanted — they told me I could be anyone and do anything. Well, 9-year-old me really wanted to be a grown-up. I was especially interested in Aguardiente. The adults would always have it at our parties and I noticed how much more fun they seemed to have after taking a few swigs of the clear, sweet smelling stuff. I had asked to try it before, after which I got a very stern lecture, but I wasn’t going to give up. That night I snuck a little bit when the adults weren’t watching. I didn’t like it very much, but it made me feel pretty grown-up so I wanted more. I took my chance when the adults were all dancing to drink more and more until I was eventually drunk. Oh yes, little 9-year-old me was drunk. A cousin of mine noticed me and took me back to where the kids were playing. He made me eat food and drink water, told me to never do this again and that he was only covering for me this one time so my parents wouldn’t get upset.

Sadly, that wasn’t the last time it happened. Truth is, I liked the feeling of being drunk. I liked how it seemed to make me feel more free, less awkward, less shy. But a couple of years down the road, alcohol just didn’t do it for me anymore. At 13 I started smoking marijuana and at 19 I got hooked onto meth.

It wasn’t long before all my bad choices caught up to me. Next thing I knew I was sentenced to two years in prison for drug related charges. I look back now and I wonder how on earth I didn’t do something about it sooner. But to be honest, back then I didn’t even think I had a problem to begin with. It was all a good time to me. I was just letting loose, just having fun and everyone else just needed to relax.

I joined Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous while in prison for the sole purpose of spending some time outside of my depressing cell. I didn’t contribute, answer any questions or even speak for the first couple of months.

One day, in one of the AA meetings, all of that changed. An elderly man stood up. He looked rugged and a little bit intimidating, you could tell from the way he carried himself that he’d experienced his fair share of curveballs in life. It was the first time I’d ever heard him share and his story shook me. There was a woman he loved, who loved him back, they were married and had a life of their own. But his marriage was getting a little crowded with him, his wife and his addiction. For years she made excuses for him, put up with him, comforted him and tried to help him. She blamed herself for the fact that he wasn’t getting better. Until one day she left him. She couldn’t take it anymore and she just left. He lost the one person in the world who ever really had his back.

That resonated with me. My parents are my whole world. They risked everything to give my brother and I a better life. To this day they both work hard to make sure they have enough to be comfortable. My relationship with them plummeted at the same time my life did. But they were still there, and the thought of losing them was enough to realize I had to make a change in my life before it was too late. 

When I got out of prison I managed to find a job. At first it wasn’t much, I just sold cheap perfumes and colognes. But when I discovered that I was pretty good at it, I dove right in. I did so well that I got promoted. Soon enough I was in charge of training new people from the comfort of my very own office with my very own desk. I ate, slept and breathed work. I was a workaholic. I had sublimated my addiction to alcohol and drugs for work. Even though the latter is more socially acceptable, it was my new high. And before I knew it, I relapsed.

The relapse hit me hard. This time I knew it was wrong, I hated myself for drinking. I hated myself when I lied. I hated myself when I started using up all the money I had saved. I hated myself for lashing out at my parents. I just couldn’t even bare to face my own reflection anymore. I would get drunk and high, sleep all day and I barely ate. My addiction was battling my conscience as the words of the old man in prison kept echoing in my ears. I didn’t want to lose my parents. I didn’t want to hurt them anymore. I didn’t want to disappoint them anymore. I needed to end it. I needed to end it now.

This next part is still etched into my memory. I’ve never been able to forget it.

The lease on my apartment ended a couple of months before and, since I couldn’t afford a place of my own anymore, I had moved back in with my parents. My parents usually locked up all their prescription medication in their room, but a couple of days before I had seen my dad put the key in one of his old coats in the closet. I waited for them to leave the house as I pretended to be asleep. I was already grabbing the key when the car was pulling out of the driveway. I began chanting to myself, “It will all be over soon, this will all be over soon.”

I didn’t even hear the front door open. I almost didn’t register when she ran into my room, screaming at the top of her lungs, and slapped the pills out of my hand. The next thing I knew, my mother was holding me tight and rocking me. My father was at the door and she said to him, “I told you something was wrong. I knew it, I could feel it.” For the first time, I looked at both of them and said, “Mama, Papa, I need help. Please, help me.” 

They admitted me into a rehabilitation facility in Idaho. That place literally saved my life. One of the best things they did for me was give me a way to work through my guilt, self-hatred, anger — everything. They had me write letters to everyone I care about, including myself. I apologized to everyone, including myself. They helped me see that there were so many people and so many things to live clean for. And I felt the motivation to actually go somewhere in life.

Once out of rehab, I quickly joined AA and NA groups in my area. I wanted to stay as focused as possible. It was at these meetings I met my closest friend, who is also my sponsor. Next to my parents and rehab, he is one of the biggest reasons I have stayed clean. He gave me an ultimatum. It was either I pass a college course of my choice, or I find another sponsor. So I dragged myself to a local college and looked through course lists. You see, aside from my struggle with alcohol and drugs, I’d spent quite a bit of time fiddling with computers. Internet and tech stuff always intrigued me, which led me to choose an http course. That course gave me a future. Suddenly, I had the kind of knowledge and skill to be able to do something worthwhile with my life. My room was filled with books on coding, digital media, http, all of it. The same room I had once chosen to end my life in, was where I began to build a whole new life. A whole new me.

It’s been over eight years since I held those pills in my hand. Eight years since I took my last drink, or my last hit.

I moved back to Colombia, I even co-own a website development agency. I’m doing what I love in the country I was born. I am happy, I am healthy and I am clean.

People ask me all the time if I ever feel the urge to drink, smoke, shoot or anything. This beautiful letter perfectly articulates my feelings. Colombians love to have a good time, so when I go out on a Friday, there are plenty of people enjoying a good drink and sometimes I feel tempted. I feel my addiction trying to pull me back in. But what is stronger than that pull is the pull of my incredibly supportive family, friends and colleagues. There are so many ways to enjoy yourself without alcohol or drugs, and it’s come to a point where I almost don’t think about it anymore.

At the beginning, when I first came back to Colombia, it was much more difficult. I had to take it one day at a time. I would go to meetings almost every day, Skype with my sponsor a few times a week and focus on how far I’d come. I became active. There are a lot of mountains here. I love to hike up and enjoy the view. I soak in how beautiful everything is. I let the beauty around me fill me. I started coaching a boys soccer team. I became invested in not only making progress for myself every day, but also in making other people’s lives a little better. The gratitude is the key. I am so grateful for everyone in my life. So grateful to wake up to a whole new day. So grateful for all the new opportunities.

I focus on all the blessings in my life, rather than the problems. The truth is, if I didn’t go through everything I did I wouldn’t have ended up where I am now. I am not ashamed of my journey. Now that I have come out of the darkness, I can see my scars and smile because I made it. And now, I enjoy every, single day of my life.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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The internet is laden with parenting memes — offering instant comic relief for those of us in the often serious and always challenging trenches of parenthood. Memes are visual “sound bites” on themes in popular culture. Currently, memes of moms drinking copious amounts of wine are rampant on the internet. But what are these memes really expressing? Are they innocuous jokes or a glimpse at the perils of parenthood and addiction?

My husband recently started a 10-week course in London, leaving me to parent our three little kids on my own. Initially I turned to wine at night to alleviate the mounting pressure to perform as both mom and dad. Memes like this and this made me chuckle with relief that I wasn’t alone. But I also couldn’t ignore the niggling fear that my indulgence in wine might not actually be a laughing matter.

I quickly realized the enormity of my responsibility as a single parent. My 6-year-old daughter’s behavior instantly became impulsive and aggressive. My 4-year-old son withdrew and my 3-year-old daughter readily cried for daddy. The change in our family life felt like an abrupt storm — unsettling and destructive.

After nights of drinking one too many glasses of wine, I’d desperately gulp coffee in the morning to jolt me into the parenting mode. I wondered whether memes about imbibing were normalizing a serious issue worth acknowledging beyond the brevity of a giggle.

The Washington Post’s disturbing series “Unnatural Causes: Sick and dying in small-town America” explores rising death rates among white middle-aged women in America. It reports, “Drug and alcohol overdose rates for working-age white women have quadrupled. Suicides are up by as much as 50 percent.” Although addiction doesn’t discriminate, there’s a startling rise in addiction amongst this demographic — and many are mothers; women whose greatest achievement is motherhood and whose most daunting task is rearing their children.

Is it funny that the unparalleled job of motherhood is tainted by alcohol — and that the only escape from motherhood is in a bottle? The truth is that depending on alcohol for support through the toils of parenting is an unhealthy strategy that can have catastrophic consequences.

When occasional drinking turns to dependency the whole family suffers. Our children inherit not only our genes but also our behaviors. Almost one in five adult Americans (18 percent) lived with an alcoholic while growing up. Living with an alcoholic can be devastating for a child and can affect them into adulthood: Children of alcoholics are four times more likely than non-children of alcoholics to develop alcoholism.

For the children of alcoholics, their moms’ drinking is not a laughing matter.

The effects on children may not be obvious until adulthood if they too develop addictions; and the effect on mothers is even more deeply shrouded. Mothers often care for everyone around them, which creates the illusion they themselves are doing OK. But this smoke and mirrors act is tenuous. Popular Momastery blogger and recovering alcoholic Glennon Doyle Melton writes, “People who need help sometimes look a lot like people who don’t need help.” Mothers’ cries for help are being muffled by wine glasses and satirized in the form of memes. For many, drinking wine is the preferred method of self-care.

Memes about motherhood and wine embody the unhappiness many moms feel and make light of a grave situation. Normalizing wine as a justified coping strategy is perpetuating the problem.

As a temporarily single parent, I can only rely on myself to be there for my kids. If I’m not feeling 100 percent — everyone suffers. This spurred my decision to not drink during my husband’s absence. If my children get injured, I am the one to drive them to the hospital. If they can’t fall asleep at night, I’m the only one there to sing a lullaby and tuck them back into bed. I have to be unabashedly present. Perhaps my brush with sobriety will be the gateway to a more permanently conscious approach to parenting.

When it comes to managing the stress of parenthood — wine doesn’t work. What does work, however, is creating a sense of community and acquiring knowledge from books like “The Conscious Parent” by Dr. Shefali and “Rising Strong” by Brené Brown on parenting and self-discovery. With education, the right tools and supportive networks temperance efforts can start, or, for some, wine can return to its former role as the tasty, full-bodied accompaniment to a juicy steak, or the occasional tipple with friends. Wine as a tool to self-medicate can evaporate entirely.

They say laughter is the best medicine, but should that laughter come from the silly jokes our children tell or the absurdity of them spilling the milk — yet again; or from a meme making light of a mother’s reliance on alcohol? Now that’s a sobering thought.

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