As a therapist, when you talk I really listen. And sometimes your words have an impact on me, too. Over the past couple of years, I started paying more attention to conversations about alcohol for both “social” use and as a coping strategy, especially for us women and mothers.
Did you know that women’s consumption of alcohol has steadily increased while men’s use has remained the same and even declined slightly over the last couple of decades?
Take a moment and scroll through your newsfeed. How many references did you see to the need for wine to survive parenting and general stress? I used to find them quite funny until I started thinking that maybe mom-wine culture is something we should examine more closely rather than claim as a badge of honour.
I reflected on my own drinking habits. I recognized a pattern of alcohol use that looked something like this:
In times of stress, I would come home from work and open a bottle of wine while I “decompressed” from the day. Wine would often be my companion as I got through the dread of making supper, clean up, homework and any other responsibilities that needed tending throughout the evening.
I would never go past two glasses of wine in one sitting and there were many days and even weeks when I would not feel the need to consume alcohol. Maybe just on Friday night to celebrate the end of another challenging week! Doesn’t sound so bad, right?
But there were a few things that bothered me about my alcohol use. Maybe they bother you, too.
1. I was spending too much money on nice bottles of merlot and craft beer.
2. I noticed that in times of stress, my alcohol use increased, as did my waistline. At the same time, my other more positive coping strategies like going to the gym or for a long walk lessened as my thoughts shifted more towards “why bother?” Wine was a much easier solution to take the edge off.
3. As I aged, I also started thinking more about my health, including my own family history of breast cancer. I started wondering why I would continue to put a known carcinogen into my body on a fairly regular basis.
4. I also started thinking about the social impacts of alcohol and why it felt so prevalent around me – in advertising, social media and neatly attached to so many social occasions (weddings, dinners out, celebrations, not to mention commiserations).
So two months ago, I conducted a social experiment with myself. I stopped drinking altogether so I could examine this situation more closely. Rather than just using sheer will to guide me, I decided to use cognitive behaviour strategies as I would with a client (more on that in a future blog post). I wanted to get to the bottom of the cognitive processes that continued to influence my mood and behaviour, as I knew I had some pretty compelling arguments to not drink yet continued to.
This lead me on an interesting journey of research, self-exploration and contemplation. I knew I was not alone in feeling the way I did – a quick Google search turned up a lot of resources related to the whole “sober curious” movement!
Does this sound like something you are interested in exploring further with me? If you would like to take this journey with others who are interested in an alcohol-free lifestyle, follow us on Facebook where you will find resources, conversation and support.