Alcohol Consumption Rising Among Mothers
At Voyage, a member of the JourneyPure family of rehabilitation facilities, we understand how differently substance abuse and addiction develops in women versus men. As a woman, you have a multitude of lifestyle factors that may lead you to over consume alcohol or engage in binge drinking. For example, you may experience the unique stressors related to being a woman in the workplace. Or, you may feel pressure to juggle multiples roles of work, home and relationships.
In the life of a mother, this is especially true. You may be managing work and home, juggling housekeeping, driving children to school and activities and keeping up with the demands of the workplace. Meanwhile, you hope to maintain your social friendships and devote time to your marriage or dating relationships.
In the past, men have often been regarded as the heavier drinkers, but with time, we’re starting to see women increase their regular drinking. In some cases, this can be explained by the fact that more women are staying single longer and spending more time socializing after work. Others may be working in male-dominated industries known for their work-related alcohol consumption, such as banking or tech.
However, there is proof to support that one group of women is drinking more than either of the groups mentioned above. This group is married women with children, who seem to be drinking more than ever.
It is hard to determine exactly how much mothers are drinking, especially since underreporting is a fairly common practice among those who regularly consume alcohol. Here is what we do know about alcohol use and mothers: A 2007 report by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed a 30 percent increase in arrests for driving while intoxicated of women ages 18 to 24 since the year 1998.
In addition to this, statistics concerning underreporting have been used to estimate the number of women who may be drinking more than the daily recommended amount of alcohol. With data collected by the European Journal of Public Health on 22,000 adults living in the U.K., it was estimated that as many as 80 percent of women are drinking more each week than is recommended by medical professionals.
It is largely believed that much of the alcohol use among mothers is binge drinking. Binge drinking is known as excessive consumption of alcohol over a limited period of time. This could take the form of drinking three or four glasses of wine after the children have been put to bed or consuming alcohol in excess during a weekly night away from home.
In our experience at Voyage working with women and mothers who struggle with substance abuse or addiction, it has become very clear that this issue is complex. As women, you are affected by a wide range of factors, including environmental circumstances and health factors unique to your gender.
At Voyage, we believe treatment must be uniquely designed to address the stressors and environmental influences experienced by mothers.
In this article, you’ll learn more about mothers and alcohol use including:
- Why more moms are drinking
- What behaviors are associated with binge drinking
- How aware mothers are of the problem
- How alcohol use rising among mothers affects their children
- How treatment should be uniquely designed for mothers
Mothers and Alcohol Abuse: Why Are More Moms Drinking?
As a woman, understanding the contributing factors behind increased substance abuse is helpful for you to learn how to prevent and treat alcohol addiction. As you know, the lives of mothers are unique. You know that many moms are managing both work and young children, as well as the responsibilities of managing their home.
Besides juggling multiple roles, there are many more reasons why mothers like yourself may experience an increased risk of alcohol abuse. These include:
- Mental health challenges
- Lack of time
- Drinking triggers
- Marital challenges
- Desire for escape from increased responsibilities.
Let’s go into more detail about seven common reasons behind the rising number of moms drinking more than recommended.
Circumstances of Motherhood Influence Mental Health: If you’re a mother with one or more young children, you have circumstances that are uniquely exclusive to your lifestyle. For one, you likely do not get enough sleep. These factors can negatively affect your mental health. Additionally, during your postpartum period, you may experience fluctuating hormones, especially if you’re breastfeeding. In addition, if you were prescribed medications during pregnancy, they could influence pre-existing anxiety or depression. Anxiety and depression put you at further risk for alcohol abuse.
1. Lack of Time for Self-Care: Many mothers are responsible for the wellbeing of their children and maintaining their home, and some are juggling jobs outside of their home as well. Because of this, you have less time to care for yourself through healthy coping strategies such as exercise, friendship, hobbies or solitude. Unfortunately, in response to your lack of time for self-care, you may have increased your alcohol intake, turning to alcohol as a substitute for proper self-care or using drinking to unwind at the end of another long day.
2. Less Time for Recovery and Support Programs: Your alcohol abuse might not have begun when you first became a mom. Instead, you may have begun drinking earlier in life and pursued recovery before becoming a mother. However, when you became a mom and had other responsibilities on your plate, you may have neglected your recovery and support programs simply because you no longer had time to get away from home. Finding childcare just for work is difficult, and extra care for additional responsibilities of maintaining recovery may be nearly impossible.
3. Changing Marriage or Relationship After Children: When children are added to a family, the dynamic of the marriage is changed. Some marriages may struggle because of the added responsibility or the attention shift towards the child. Tension within a marriage puts you at a higher risk for alcohol abuse, since conflict and loneliness can trigger increased drinking.
4. Loneliness or Boredom: Stay-at-home moms spend much of their time at home with small children. As you know, the responsibilities of motherhood may be demanding, but they are also quite repetitive. It isn’t uncommon for stay at home moms who were previously accustomed to an exciting life and social calendar to feel burdened by the monotony of their new life as mothers. Boredom and loneliness can become a problem for you, especially if you stay home with children. In some cases, you may turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism for loneliness or as a way to add more excitement to your life.
5. Unavoidable Triggers for Drinking: In recovery, there are many circumstances that you’re instructed to avoid whenever possible in order to avoid triggers for relapse or increased drinking. For instance, the acronym HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired, is used to warn you of the triggers you should avoid if you want to prevent relapse. Unfortunately, with your busy life and the responsibilities of caring for your children, it can be nearly impossible for you to avoid these triggers. When faced with these triggers over and over again, it becomes increasingly difficult to practice self-control and say no to using alcohol to cope.
6. Needing to Escape or Check Out: Motherhood is a 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week occupation. It isn’t uncommon for you to be awake with children off and on throughout the night, only to wake early to care for your children and begin your work day. These day-after-day responsibilities can wear on you. In some cases, you may simply need a way to escape or check out from your responsibilities for even a little while. Although it can be unhealthy and dangerous, binge drinking can provide an avenue for escape.
Mothers and Alcohol Abuse Facts: Binge Drinking Behaviors
One out of every eight women in the United States reports binge drinking at least three times each month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And when they do, they drink an average of six alcoholic beverages. This is well above the recommendation to stick to one drink in a single day as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises.
If you’re a mother and you’re concerned about your alcohol consumption, knowing what to look out for is helpful in identifying if your alcohol consumption has become a problem. Additionally, if you have a loved one who is a mother and you’re concerned about her alcohol consumption, you can watch for signs of the development of an alcohol dependence or binge drinking habit in their life.
Although the symptoms of an alcohol addiction could vary from person to person, there are some telltale behaviors that characterize drinking, which include the following:
- Women often become intoxicated more quickly than men. This means a woman may show symptoms of binge drinking more quickly or may become negatively influenced by their alcohol intake more quickly than a man.
- Women who binge drink will often experience an increase in their mental health symptoms, including depression and anxiety. If your drinking has begun to affect your moods or you have noticed an increase in negative emotions, you may be drinking more than is appropriate.
- Binge drinking is also associated with increased conflict in relationships. If your marriage or close relationships are suffering since your drinking has increased, your alcohol consumption may be partially responsible for the marital or relationship problems you are experiencing.
- A good indicator of whether or not your drinking has become problematic is how you feel about your alcohol consumption. If you feel ashamed or embarrassed or feel the need to underreport how much alcohol you consume, these feelings may indicate you have developed an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
- Blackouts or forgetting the events surrounding your drinking is a symptom of overconsumption or binge drinking.
- If your drinking influences you to partake in risky behavior, such as driving while intoxicated or engaging in unsafe sexual relationships, your drinking has begun to affect your health and wellness as a mother and as a person.
- Relying on alcohol as a way to relax or improve your mood is a sign you are using alcohol to cope with difficult circumstances and may develop a dependence on alcohol. If you find that you become irritable or upset if you’re unable to drink, this is also a sign of dependence on alcohol.
Are Mothers Unaware of Their Alcohol Consumption?
While you may suspect that your use of alcohol is unhealthy, you may remain unaware of how serious your drinking has become. There are many reasons this may happen.
Because motherhood is so consuming and exhausting, your drinking may begin innocently as a way to unwind at the end of the day with a single glass of wine or a beer with dinner. A single glass may gradually increase to more over time or skyrocket when a stressful event takes place.
When alcohol intake slowly increases over time, the symptoms of intoxication may not seem as evident. Additionally, if you choose to partake in occasional binge drinking with a group of friends who are drinking as much as you are, excusing the excessive drinking as a once-in-a-while behavior or comparing your drinking habits to those who are overconsuming around you can become the norm.
There’s also a bit of trivialization of drinking among mothers in the media. For instance, there are social media groups devoted to poking fun at drinking as a coping mechanism for the stressors of mothers, and some of these groups have as many as tens of thousands of fans. These groups are meant to be a joke, but experts believe even jokingly downplaying the seriousness of binge drinking can lead mothers to believe their consumption of alcohol is normal or an appropriate way to cope with the responsibilities of their everyday life.
How Alcohol Use Can Hurt You and Your Children
Although many mothers are able to keep their excessive drinking private or hide the symptoms of their drinking, there are still unfortunate consequences as a result of alcohol use rising among mothers, both for mothers and for their children. Women who struggle with alcohol abuse before becoming mothers may continue to struggle with alcohol abuse once they become pregnant. Drinking during pregnancy introduces the risk of serious harm to unborn children, including fetal alcohol syndrome.
Additionally, mothers who drink more than the recommended amount of alcohol are more likely to neglect to properly care for their children. What’s more, their children have a higher risk of developing an alcohol problem later in life. Mothers who drink excessively are more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as driving while intoxicated. In addition to all of this, excessive alcohol consumption is linked to many chronic health conditions and increases a person’s risk of premature death.
Proper Treatment for You and Other Moms Abusing Alcohol
There is good news: It’s never too late to change the future of your health and the future of your child’s life. With treatment, you can begin to take control of your alcohol abuse and restore wellness to your family life. You are given the tools you need to care for yourself through treatment, which will allow you to better care for your children.
As a mother, you are uniquely affected by alcohol, and alcohol abuse presents differently in your life as a woman and a mom. Because of this, it is crucial you seek out treatment that is uniquely suited to your specific needs. Anyone is capable of change, but you will need strong support and resources if you want to be successful in recovery.
There are many things that you, as a mom, should take into consideration before choosing a treatment plan and recovery center, including the following:
Select a Treatment Center That Meets Your Need for Flexibility
Since you must take into account the lives of your children as well as the responsibilities at work and home when pursuing help, proper treatment for moms abusing alcohol must also take these things into account. Seek out treatment programs that offer flexibility. Consider the demanding schedule you adhere to as a mother when evaluating treatment facilities. This is especially necessary if you’re a mother of young children and must schedule everything in your life around your children.
Choose a Recovery Center That Embraces Your Unique Lifestyle
You have a unique lifestyle as a mom, so your treatment should be directed to address the stressors and triggers you face each day. Seek out therapy that aims to address underlying challenges, whether they are sleeplessness, loneliness or loss of freedom — all of which may be your triggers for excessive drinking.
Seek out Treatment That Includes Workshops and Classes
Treatment that includes classes or workshops surrounding building skills necessary for motherhood, stress management, time management or other relevant topics to parenting can also be especially helpful to you as a mother seeking help for your alcohol dependence.
Learn About Treatment Centers That Offer Support Groups
Support groups can be incredibly helpful in recovering from alcohol addiction. Support groups and therapy that are in conflict with your child’s schedule, though, can become a roadblock to your recovery. Learn about outpatient treatment that offers flexible group support and therapy at various times to create more options for your life as a busy mom.
Additionally, consider looking for outpatient treatment with childcare, as this would be especially helpful for a mother of young children. Find a treatment center that specializes in treatment for women and/or mothers. For example, some centers may even provide childcare or supervised visits to mothers who are in their care.
Choose a Treatment Center With Compassionate, Experienced Specialists
In some cases, you may need to pursue medication as a means of addressing the hormonal changes experienced during postpartum seasons or pregnancy. Ensure that the treatment center you choose is staffed with experienced, compassionate and credentialed specialists.
The most important thing to look for in your treatment of alcohol dependency is that it will enable you to take your first steps towards wellness. Ask friends and family to support you in your recovery by assisting with household responsibilities, including taking care of children, cooking and cleaning. If necessary, ask for monetary assistance if you will be missing work for treatment.
Support for You and Moms Who Drink
As the responsibilities of motherhood become more demanding, more moms are turning to alcohol as a means of coping with the stress in their lives. Additionally, some moms may find they are using alcohol to mask the loneliness, depression or anxiety they are experiencing while at home with small children. If you’re concerned about your alcohol consumption, now is the time to take steps towards recovery. You can change your life, but it will take time and devotion to your treatment.
At Voyage, we understand the unique treatment needs of women, and our holistic treatment approach takes into account the individual needs of each woman in our care. Our center offers a wide range of specialized services, including meditation therapy as well as activities and group support to further support their recovery. When you leave treatment, you will feel empowered to face the responsibilities of motherhood by the many coping skills you will learn during your time with Voyage.
To learn more about the rehabilitation services offered for mothers struggling with alcohol abuse in Tennessee, call 615-939-9294 to speak with a caring and compassionate staff member, or contact us online to begin your treatment journey.