I attended my first AA meeting a few weeks back. I am in graduate school to become a counselor, and one of my class assignments required me to sit in on three different 12-step meetings. The experience had way more impact than I’d anticipated, and I am so grateful for how each group welcomed me as I listened and learned to be a better advocate for those in recovery.
One of the things that stood out to me in each of the three meetings I attended was the number of women my age in the room. Wives and mothers shared about what it’s like to navigate sobriety amid kids, jobs, and having friends who don’t get why they can’t have “just one” drink. I listened to many stories of recovery and struggle in those meetings, but it’s the stories of the moms that continue to replay in my brain.
These past few weeks I’ve noticed how much of my social media feed is filled with products promoting the use of alcohol. I don’t have to scroll for long before I find a screenshot of a woman holding a glass with “Mommy-Juice” printed on it and link to an Etsy shop where I can buy one for myself and a mom-friend. I’m constantly sent ads from clothing boutiques boasting tanks and tees with phrases like, “I wine because they whine,” and “This mom runs of caffeine, wine, and Amazon Prime.” Some products don’t even try to be cute and just go straight for the point. Google, “Mama needs wine shirt” and see how many options pop up. It will blow your mind.
Another theme I’ve noticed seems to dominate conversations and articles shared within my mom circles on social media: Loneliness. There are regularly blog posts and group threads centered around moms sharing feelings of isolation and wishing they could find their “tribe.” Interestingly enough, the theme of loneliness came up often in the AA meetings as well. I worry that the idea of needing alcohol to get through motherhood has become trendy, and when paired with the obvious lack of community so many moms feel, this trend could have serious ramifications.
Prior to this school assignment, I hadn’t ever given much thought to the idea I might have mom-friends struggling with an addiction to alcohol or who might be quietly navigating recovery. When I host a party and put out wine bottles or champagne, I rarely stop to reflect on what it might be like to be in recovery and be surrounded by friends who are drinking. When my husband comes home and asks me how my day was and I lift my glass of pinot in response, I hadn’t really considered the message I was sending to my kids.
But I am thinking about it now. A lot.
I’m thinking about the friends who always had a “scheduling conflict” when we tried to put a girl’s night together. I’m thinking about the family member who always gets a “headache” and leaves after dinner when the cousins break out the wine. I’m thinking about the times I’ve used “#sendwine” after posting some kind of parenting struggle and what that communicates to my young mom friends who are looking to me for guidance and encouragement.
I keep going back to the fellow moms in the AA meetings: brave women fighting hard against a disease which has robbed them of so much. They are our neighbors and teachers and doctors and PTO members and sisters and friends. They deserve our consideration as we put out the wine for book club. They deserve our support as we choose whether to meet up at a bar or coffee shop for girl’s night. These brave moms shouldn’t have to choose between sobriety and community. Let’s make space for their recovery and be honest about our own “needs” as well.