We are an online community for women who love someone who suffers from addiction, and today I am going to be talking to you about several things. One of which is if you should drink around your alcoholic or substance abuser.
And I’ve gotten this question a lot for years and years. And I thought, “Okay, I’m really going to pick this issue apart.”
I don’t know why, but the last couple of podcasts I have been super bold. I have been on fire this month, so I’m going to be a little bold in this one too.
And I keep promising to calm down, but it’s not happening, so I’m sorry I’m doing that, but I feel super convicted lately that this is something we need to hear. It’s actually been something that’s been bothering me for a while, and I’ve been debating whether to share it with you.
So, a while ago I started practicing yoga. And I found it incredibly therapeutic and very, very nurturing. It didn’t help me with weight loss, but it did help me take a much needed time out from the craziness of the day—really center myself. And I loved the way that my body felt strong and flexible.
It’s a very eclectic group in my yoga studio. I think I’m literally the only one without a tattoo, and that’s fine with me. I love those type of women. They actually have a class for people who go in naked, and they do yoga by candlelight.
They have one for a class for women and one class for men. You guys, do not judge me for this. I’ve never attended, and it makes me giggle like a schoolgirl, but for those of you who are in yoga, this is probably very common. But I have never heard of it.
I go to yoga usually with my girlfriend. We walked in very quietly, and someone whispered to me that class was in session. And I was just giggling to myself thinking of all these people right across the wall completely naked on their mat.
I am such a germaphobe—all of my friends make fun of me because I’m constantly thinking about cleanliness and germs—and all I kept thinking about was, “Is that sanitary? Is your mat clean?”
How do you—I mean, you’re sweaty, and I don’t really want to get into it. I don’t know. I’m not going to venture to say that I would ever be open to doing that class. I am definitely not judging anyone, and I kind of admire people who have that little ambition, but I’ve had 4 C-sections. And I’m not winning any awards at all.
There are certain things that exercise just cannot fix, and I have discovered that no matter what I eat or how much I work out, things just are not moving upwards; they are falling down. Everything is just dropping. Downwards.
And so the idea of being in a room with other women naked almost makes me want to sweat. Particularly in candlelight with a germy mat. No thank you, but no judgment. If you do that, that’s awesome.
I totally digressed. The point of this whole story is that I was coming out of my yoga class, and I saw a T-shirt that said, “namasté and rosé.” And it was this cute little pink tank top. I looked at it, and I’m like, “Hmm, interesting.”
I’m here because I want to cleanse my body.
I do hot yoga, so I want to release all the toxins from my pores. But I know that alcohol is very toxic. So I wouldn’t have put those two together.
This was a while ago that I noticed this shirt. And then I started going on Instagram. I started seeing all of these very funny, very pretty—what do you call them? I’m so technically silly—pins? Do you call them pins on Instagram or posts? I don’t know. But I started seeing all of these pictures, these images, of jokes about moms like this.
I pulled some of them up for you. “Save water, drink wine.” Then I saw one that says, “A banana is 105 calories. A shot of whiskey is 80. You do the math.” And there was another one: “If I ever go missing, I want my picture on a wine bottle instead of a milk carton. That way my friends will know I’m missing.”
I mean these are funny right? They’re good; they’re funny. Here’s one that wasn’t so funny to me, but I had to add it in here. It’s a T-shirt that you can purchase. On the T-shirt in big font is: “I set a good example for my kids and only drink craft beer.”
So as I started seeing more and more and more women using alcohol as a joke, as a way to unwind, I started to get a little bit more concerned.
Now, here’s the deal: I love you, and you love me. And I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer.
My daughter Lauren is obsessed with these Saturday Night Live skits, and in one of them, I think it’s a real character—a Debbie Downer character. If you guys have not seen it, it’s hilarious.
I’m not trying to be that woman who comes to the party and shames everybody. But I am saying that I think there’s a growing trend that we need to be aware of, particularly in our community where alcohol plays a very negative role in our lives. We have a love/hate relationship with alcohol, right?
So I started thinking about this more and more and thinking, “Is this true? Are women using alcohol more now as a dependent to get through the day than they were before? I don’t remember my mother ever having T-shirts or stickers or pads of papers about wine or craft beer.”
I started to do some research, and I found that the fastest growing segment of people who are abusing alcohol is women.
Yep. More than men. And get this: it’s women above the age of 40. Is that not crazy? That’s crazy to me. I would never have thought that. So which women have the highest risk of alcohol abuse and alcoholism? Okay, this is a list I’m going to give you. These are the women who have the highest risk:
- Women who have family histories of alcoholism. I know there are a lot of you out there with that.
- Women who are victims of violence as children or adults. And we just did an episode about violence and physical abuse.
- Women whose partners are alcoholics. I know this to be true. A friend of mine—her mother was an alcoholic I’ve known her since I was 18. I have watched over the years as her father slowly became an alcoholic because he didn’t want to leave his wife. He was very devoted. He was a very loving dad and slowly, alcoholism started taking him over too.
- Women with binge and purge eating disorders.
- Women with dual diagnosis, especially depression.
- Women who are in transition meaning divorce or retirement or children leaving home.
- Older women with grief and loss issues.
Those are the women who are at the highest risk of alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
It makes sense why it is now becoming the fastest growing segment.
So, if you want to drink, and you feel like you don’t have a problem, go for it. Have a drink. And we’re going to talk about how much is too much in a second, but I would encourage you to drink when your loved one is not around.
Think about it this way: I want you to pick your favorite food group. Is your favorite food group carbs? Do you love bread, rice, or pasta? Do you love baked goods? Or is your favorite food group dairy? Do you love cheese and milkshakes and ice cream?
What about sugar? Are you one of those people who crave sugar and get so much joy and satisfaction out of cakes or candy or donuts or chocolate? Pick one of those food groups right now that you love that gives you great joy.
Did you pick one?
I want you to imagine that you can never have that food group again, ever, for the rest of your life.
That entire food group. It was it’s such a serious problem that your life depended on it. If you had anything within that food group, it could literally mean life or death to you. It could mean jail time or financial disaster. It could mean that you lose your entire family.
But you love this food group. And there are signs, posters, and billboards for it everywhere. You open up a magazine or a book or turn on your tv, and you see that food group everywhere. All of your friends love eating this food group.
You can’t escape it. It’s impossible. You would have to live in a cave in the middle of the mountains and never come back in order for you never to be faced with the temptation of this food group again. And for the rest of your life, you will have a visual reminder that you can never, ever choose to have this food group again.
That is how your loved one feels about alcohol whether they want to admit that they have a problem or not.
They know they have an issue. And the reason why they are not admitting that they have that issue is because they know they’re going to have to face what you just pretended you were facing.
So, when someone asks me, “Should I drink in front of my alcoholic partner?” My answer is why? Why would you?
Be that safe person. And when you’re around them, support them. If you’re choosing to love them and stay with them, then be there for them. It can’t hurt. Don’t store it in your fridge or keep it in your pantry.
When you go out to dinner, order anything but alcohol. When you’re out for Thanksgiving or with family members, it doesn’t matter what they do. You are going to order a Diet Coke, a lemonade, a water, milk, whatever.
Not having alcohol around the house when you live with an alcoholic is one of the most loving acts of kindness you can do.
Now I’m not saying you can’t have a drink again if you don’t have a drinking issue. You can go out and have some wine or a drink with your friends. But when your loved one is in your presence, make the loving choice to support them, even if they are drinking, and even if they haven’t committed to stopping yet.
You need to be a good role model. Not only for your loved one, but for your children. You want your kids to see that not all adults needed to drink. Why? Because there’s real proof and evidence that this disease is hereditary.
And the longer your children put off drinking, the smaller their chances of addiction become.
So let’s get back to when you drink. When you have a drink, how much is too much? What is a healthy dose? According to the University of Washington Medical Center and the US Department of Health and Human Services (that was a big mouthful), no more than one drink per day for daily drinkers.
So if you’re drinking every day, seven days per week, no more than one drink is good. No more than two drinks per day for occasional drinkers. Now I’m getting really boring on you. Hang with me. I promise I’ll circle back around to an interesting story.
This got me thinking, “Well, how big is one drink?” That’s debatable, right? You can fill a full wine glass. Is that really considered one drink? One drink is a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 1/2 ounces of hard liquor.
Now, you might be going, “Okay, so I might be borderline having alcohol abuse in my life. I might need to take a closer look at this.” Again, no judgment at all. This is common. Heavy drinking for women is three or more drinks per day.
If you’re drinking three or more drinks per day, you might need to take a look at yourself.
And if you’re like, “Well, Michelle, I don’t drink every day,” okay, then I’d tell you a binge drinker drinks excessively or out of control with periods of abstinence in between them. So a binge for women consists of three or more drinks on one occasion.
So how many times are you having three or more drinks per occasion? If they are pretty close together, you might want to take a look at this.
I’m not again trying to be too in your face. I’m just trying to say that there’s clearly, and scientifically, a growing population of women in the world who are using alcohol as a way to escape, as a numbing, or as a coping mechanism that’s unhealthy and that we might need to take a look at.
And I’m also wrapping up in the fact that if drinking isn’t an issue for you, then it shouldn’t be an issue to stop it around the person you love.
Really, that’s the truth.
For me, I chose not to drink for two reasons: one is that I hate alcohol because it was ruining our family. I never wanted to see it or smell it or look at it ever again. It was killing my husband.
At the time, it was causing my kids to be ripped off of their father. It was robbing us of our money. It was just horrible, and I wanted nothing to do with it. So I chose not to drink for nine years when I was with my husband.
The other reason I didn’t want to drink is because I wanted to be a good role model for my kids. I could see that my husband was falling apart. I knew that they were noticing. They’re not stupid, and even though they were very young, they could tell that that liquid in that glass made daddy act differently after he finished it.
I wanted to be their safe spot.
And I wanted to show them that not every adult has to do this. Therefore you get a choice, and you don’t have to do this when you’re older. So those are the reasons why I chose not to drink for nine years.
I remember the day that I told my dad and my brother that I was leaving, that I had decided to get a divorce. And they said, “Okay, let’s go to lunch and talk about this.” So the kids were in school, and I went to lunch with them, and for the first time in nine years, I ordered a glass of wine. And only because I think one of them ordered it for me.
I had a glass of wine, and I’ve got to tell you, I was on the floor. It just went right to me. It was fun and relaxing. And it helped me laugh during a really stressful time.
But I made sure that I had plenty of time. I wasn’t driving, number one. Thank God. I actually was driving, but I gave my keys to somebody else who wasn’t drinking, and I was completely ready for my kids to come home four hours later.
So, I think what I’m trying to say is that if you don’t have a problem with drinking, drinking in moderation is okay. But I think that it’s important to support the ones we love.
I hope this helps answer your question. I know, for some of you, it’s not the answer you want to hear. And if you disagree with me, that is so fine with me. Disagree with me. It doesn’t mean that you need to unsubscribe or write me an angry email. Don’t. Just disagree with me, and choose to do something different.
I’m telling you what I think is right based on the facts and research and my own personal experience, but you reserve the right to change to form your own opinion. And that’s the beauty of this community, right?
I’m teaching you from a place of love, but we all reserve the right to take ownership of our own lives and our own decisions and our own choices.
I hope this was helpful, and I’m not even going to promise that the next week’s podcast is going to be easy to hear. I’ll try, but I don’t know. I haven’t written it yet. And I haven’t researched it yet. I don’t even know what topic it’s going to be, so hopefully, you are sticking with me. I really appreciate you, and I love each one of you.
Come check us out, and please, I haven’t said this for a while, but we are getting a lot of reviews. I am so grateful. I read every single one of them. It’s so nice to hear that you’re actually out there and that you’re listening because I am just sitting here in my office talking into a microphone right now.
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