When I was growing up, my parents didn’t drink, so when I became a parent myself, I wondered how consuming alcohol looked to my children. It wasn’t until my daughter told me about a peer who was going to live with another family member because the mom was “mean when she drinks” that it made me stop and reconsider what messages my own nightly routine was sending to my kids.
Each night, without fail, my partner and I would come home and talk about our day, and I’d pour myself a “well-earned” glass of wine before the shuffle of homework, dinner, and getting our toddler ready for bed. Drinking had become my default stress reliever, each evening beginning with a glass of wine. Which typically meant at least one more. It was as much of a habit as brushing my teeth or making dinner.
So at the start of 2019, I declared, No more alcohol! with all the conviction most New Year’s resolutions carry before we actually try to stick to them. I thought it would be relatively easy—it’s become just as common to see sober-curious women powering through their most stressful days with a mocktail as it is memes about moms drinking wine—a healthy decision that would help me be the kind of mom who modeled yoga, reading, or board games as a healthy coping mechanism for her budding tween instead of substance use.
In the habit of my evening wine, I’d lost sight of what my relationship with alcohol was, whether or not it was healthy, and what it was really doing for me. If I was completely honest, it was making me bloated, equipping me with 10 extra pounds, and disrupting my sleep in the middle of the night. When I awoke after more than a glass of wine (which was most days of the week), my eyes would be heavy, and my face felt puffy and dull. I often looked in the mirror and thought, Who is that? I looked at pictures of myself and always sighed at how tired and swollen I appeared. I wanted to blame #MomLife and the cruel effects of time, but at 36, I knew it was more about the lifestyle choices I was making. If my nightly wine was zapping this much from my reflection, how much was it draining from my abilities as a parent? My kids are like sponges, and I was soaking them in a routine that tied quality family time to happy hour.
It was settled—I was done with alcohol.
Except I wasn’t. Cutting out alcohol completely was more difficult than I’d anticipated, and I felt sick with guilt every time I broke my pledge. Compared with all the #sober women I followed on Instagram with their dewy-skin selfies, I felt like a failure. I didn’t know how to navigate the gray area of an occasional glass of wine—I felt pressured to be a sparkling-water cheerleader for life or a wine connoisseur in the making. Was it okay to open a bottle of wine at dinner in front of my kids as long as it wasn’t a nightly occurrence? Did I feel okay with having a glass of Champagne upon arriving at a hotel?
Knowing I’ve never been good at extremes, I’m reevaluating my resolution this year, getting comfortable with the fact that I love the taste of good wine and sharing a kombucha with my kids at dinner. There’s room for both of these things in my life, so I made a new plan: getting back to alcohol as a means of celebration, not a habit. If there’s a special occasion, I’ll toast to that. If I’m traveling, I’ll indulge. I won’t feel guilty for not entirely hopping aboard team “I quit.” I’ll proudly say I’m sober…ish.
To help me keep the impulse for a familiar glass of “mommy wine” in check, I follow a small army of sober influencers on Instagram—partly because you don’t find many people talking about a soberish journey but mostly because I find the more extreme choice inspiring. Ultimately, the most helpful tactic has been keeping my personal, professional, and parenting goals front and center and reminding myself what will positively impact these areas of my life—and what will not.
Alcohol most definitely will not, but rather than cutting it out of my life entirely, our relationship has simply been renegotiated. Coming to this conclusion feels like a weight lifted. I know what my relationship is with alcohol because I took the time to design the terms.
Erinne Magee is a writer in Portland, Maine, covering parenting, travel, and wellness. Follow her @erinnemagee or visit www.erinnemagee.com for more.