Mother’s Day is often a day associated with flowers, chocolates…and booze. We are encouraged in TV advertising to buy our Mum a bottle of Gin in order to show her how much we love her, or little kids can pick out cards in high-street stores which read “Wine makes Mummy happy” or similar. Mums are expected to be pining for giant wine glasses which will hold a whole bottle worth of the stuff, or “Wine O’Clock” shabby-chic plaques to put up in their kitchen so their friends can all have a good LOL when they come round for 4pm post-school run Pinot.
Mums with older children are often thought to be the ones with the good wine rack and the comforting booze cupboard which is only used for special occasions, whereas in reality the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions in people aged 55 to 74 has tripled in the last decade, with particular concern for the women in that age bracket. Some Mums are the drinking partners, some Mums worry about their sons and daughters drinking too much and some sons and daughters worry about their Mum drinking too much. Then there are the people who have lost their Mums and find Mother’s Day incredibly sad, even if they have their own children now and another reason to enjoy Mother’s Day – because it’s never quite the same.
There are lots of Mums who have never had to worry about their kids, or their husband, or themselves with regards to drinking. There are lots of kids who have never had to worry about their Mum or have never had to feel guilty because they turned up drunk or missed another visit because they were too hungover. They can give wine in gift bags and go to the pub for Sunday lunch and have a lovely time and no one does or says anything out of order and everyone has their health. But then there’s the rest of us…
“My Mum was never a big drinker”
I am not a Mother, nor am I sure if I ever will be. At almost 34 years old I’m pretty sure I’d have felt the pang by now. I much prefer puppies. Never say never, though, eh. I do have a Mum though and six years ago I almost lost her to Lymphoma. It was an incredibly aggressive strain of cancer and she was in quarantine for six months having two week-long cycles of chemotherapy. I visited her with an apron on and sanitized hands in her room on Christmas Day and she was there for Mother’s Day, too.
At the time I was a heavy social binge-drinker with no off-switch and the only time I ever showed any emotion about the situation was when I was sh*t-faced – and even then it would come out all strange and not really make any sense or would be laced with aggression and anger. I had numbed myself emotionally with booze since the age of around 15, so it was nothing new to handle this situation in the same way. I’d lost my Grandad three months before Mum was diagnosed and I’d handled that in the same way too. Mum’s cancer did bring us closer together, as many people will say who have been through it and come out the other side, and I am so incredibly lucky that she kicked the living daylights out of it and is still here six years later – hugely sarcastic and funny as ever and with really cool short bleached-blonde pixie hair, because she realised short hair suited her when she lost hers during treatment.
It was my friends’ reactions to my seeming “strength” and the questions from my closest friends along the lines of “are you sure you don’t want to talk about it?” as well as the regular talks from my boyfriend at the time which went something like “look, I know you’re going through a lot right now but you can’t keep getting so drunk and treating me like this”, that had first sparked my awareness that perhaps I needed some therapy because I didn’t process things like ‘normal’ people. It took me another year though before that happened, I was still selfish enough to let my Mum worry about me from 100 miles away in Somerset. My Mum was never a big drinker (I’ve never once seen her drunk or even close) and neither were any of the rest of my family, I was the odd one out. The black sheep. Many-a-time whilst living at home she would wearily drive me to hospital after I’d gotten blackout drunk and fallen off stages or down staircases. Then once I’d moved to London she’d get regular messages to say that she couldn’t contact me on my phone because I’d lost it/broken it. And that time that someone needed to drive from Somerset to London to get me because I’d fallen down the stairs and had a severe concussion. So it was always odd to me when my friends would complain about their parents drinking – to me it was supposed to be the kids that people worried about. My Mum was my always-present protector and I was the f*ck up – surely this could never be the other way around? Now being an adult and fully aware of my surroundings and of society – not to mention working with Club Soda where the stories from the members are so varied, I’ve come to realise that this is not the case at all. Everyone’s story is different.
“I’m totally delighted to have my funny, clever, articulate daughter back”
I asked my Mum for a quote about how she feels about my journey with drinking (I gave up alcohol completely for three years to re-evaluate and have now been moderately drinking for a year and a half) – she said:
“When Jen decided she was giving up alcohol I was over the moon with relief, but I must admit I was sceptical. I was worried she wouldn’t be strong enough to keep it up. Now several years later, I realise my fears were unfounded. She has discovered an inner strength and has totally turned her life around. It hasn’t been easy for her, which makes it even more admirable. Me, I’m totally delighted to have my funny, clever, articulate daughter back.” (I guess we both find each other pretty funny.)
I’m sure some of you reading this will relate to my side of the story, others will relate to my Mum’s side. Others won’t relate to either because they’re the child and their Mum was the one that people worried about, or they won’t relate because they’re a Mum and they’ve decided to change their drinking because of their children, or they want to, or they won’t relate because they lost their Mum at the end of this story. But there will be so many people out there who WILL have a story that you identify with, as yes our stories are all very different and our journeys beyond those stories are different too, but there are also lots of similarities and we can either take comfort in this or use them as inspiration to be the best Mums, daughters, Dads, sons and people that we can be.
Alcohol – stories you can relate to
I pulled together some quotes from Club Soda members and friends below – all of them are from real people, at different stages of their journey, from different angles.
“So I’ve had a lovely afternoon with my mum…we went to the alcohol free shop in Manchester and my mum bought a case of alcohol-free merlot! My mum, who’s drinking has really stressed me out, has decided to moderate her drinking! Omg!”
“I know I have a problem, my mum is an alcoholic and this is my third night consecutively I haven’t had a drink. First time since my last pregnancy I think. I feel really strong and I know it’s going to be difficult but my children are my entire world and I can’t let them grow up and see me the way I see my Mum.”
My 13 year old son : “Mum, I think you should stop drinking, I don’t mind you having the alcohol free stuff….”
Me : “I know, why? Do you not like me when I drink?”
Him : “No, it changes you. You did 12 weeks, you can do it again…”
“Been looking after a poorly 4 year old for the last few days. Very little sleep, lots of vomit and a very sore throat . A lot of time spent trying to coax her to drink. So much easier being a sober mummy and I’ve been able to look after my little one with patience, kindness and lots of love. All the things that being sober gives is great.”
“I lost my Mother a little over a year ago, I miss her every day. She never drank much and was concerned about my drinking habits. I know that she’d be happy with the positive changes I’ve made. When I was a little boy and I’d get hurt, one of her favorite sayings was “It’ll get better before you’re married!”’
“I do want to do this, it’s that getting to 4/5/6 o’clock when I’m cooking tea in the kitchen and want a glass which is always at least a bottle and then now I feel like crap. I will have a pj and eat crap day and have patience for my 3 year old. She deserves the best mum I can be.”
“One of the reasons I am changing my drinking is my mum. She drinks everyday, her life revolves around when she can get a drink and she wouldn’t ever consider going out somewhere where alcohol wasn’t available. I could feel myself becoming the same so am trying to nip it in the bud.”
“When you have a conversation over dinner and your teenagers tell you that all their friends think I’m the coolest, nicest Mum out of their friends… yeah that 😊 (Apparently they have told all their friends that I don’t drink anymore and they think it’s really cool). Over a year of never drinking in the house in front of them and 142 days sober.”
“I’m a mum of two who had to step in as the breadwinner for a few years when my children were babies. The guilt of missing their bedtimes and a big chunk of motherhood was too much to bear and I became a heavily dependent high functioning alcoholic. I scaled back work and set up a new business whose hours revolve around them some years ago but until Christmas had constant guilt, depression and a complete blanket fogging over what should have been joyous times and my perception of my own success as a mother. Fast forward two months and the fog has lifted and there are days where I laugh out loud with happiness and gratitude of what I have and the lovely family household of which I am a part.”
“4.00am, frantic call from daughter. She’s gone out with friends, it’s 4.00am, they’ve been trying to get a taxi for two hours but due to severe weather, no taxis are running. Sober mum to the rescue #JoysOfBeingFullyPresent “
“How many of us used to rush through reading our kids a bedtime story because we knew the wine or beer was waiting for us in the other room? I did. It’s one of my regrets that I can’t do much about.”
“My mom used to be my drinking buddy so for YEARS I truly thought I would have to give up my relationship with my mom in order to quit drinking. Luckily she is very supportive and our relationship has only gotten better without booze. I decided it was a limiting belief that I was using as an excuse not to quit. Now, everything in my life is simply better being AF.”
“My Mum died in November before I stopped drinking. This inspired me to live each day the best I could & not wish the day away until 5pm when I would open my bottle of Pinot!
God I miss my darling Mummy so much.”
“I need to stay alcohol-free for my 2 children. It’s really important for my coping and parenting skills to stay in the moment and not use alcohol as an escape route.”
“Enjoying my family is so important to me. Mother’s Day used to be a “it’s my day and I’ll do want I want”…not going crazy every Mother’s Day, but it was another excuse to have dinner out and drink, then have a nap in the afternoon or carry on drinking. Last year and this year I can enjoy being spoiled and enjoy my family.”
“I love my mother deeply but always feel she’s judging you at every junction/decision point – she’s always been there for us but distant at the same time – drinking was something we had in common. We would speak drunk truths and bond over wine. Now I feel that if she got drunk in front of me sober I’d be mortified – not because she’s drunk but because I would normally be her partner drunk as bad as her. Now I’m a parent that’s the one thing I’m determined not to be. Role models come in all shapes and sizes but I want to be her main one – not her drinking buddy.”
“My mum was an alcoholic for all but the last ten years of her life. She died at the end of March last year, not through alcohol. It was advanced lung cancer. She died seven days after diagnosis. She was a terrible mum when my sister and I were growing up. My sister moved away but I stayed local and bore the brunt of Mum’s awful moods. When she was at her lowest, I visited and left a leaflet for a local aa meeting. A few days later she asked if I’d go with her. It was hard. But she did it. She had awful pains in her feet, something to do with nerve repair? About a year into her recovery I got a letter through the post. The contents are below. I treasure that letter even more so now she isn’t here…”
“To my darling first born, I can’t find the words to let you know how grateful I am for all your help and support. I had hit rock bottom and didn’t want to live. If it hadn’t been for you and Kerry, I doubt I’d have been here today. I love you ver much and hopefully won’t ever give you cause to worry again. With love from Mum”
“Being totally present as a mother for my children is my strongest motivation to stay AF. My mum and I used to drink together but she totally supports me now and has even reduced her alcohol intake.”
“One of the main reasons I’ve quit drinking is to be a better parent to my 2 year old son. I was under the very mistaken impression that alcohol was helping me cope with parenting. It wasn’t, I was just checking out emotionally. I think I’m so much better at being present for my son now.
The other major thing that made this quit attempt stick was that my mum commented on my drinking and I was mortified. She then decided to quit herself, and has a month up on me. We’ve been supporting and motivating each other and it’s really made the difference for me this time.”
“Mother’s Day is a big trigger for me and I find the constant mentions on of mothers on the media very difficult. My mum died 12 years ago.”
“I’ve just tucked up both my boys in bed…my eldest said “Mum I’m really proud of you not drinking and thanks for not showing me up…unlike some other kids mums and dads!” Feeling happy and a tad warm and fuzzy inside.”
In the face of adversity
Could I have succeeded in changing my relationship with alcohol, and myself, without the support of my Mum? Yes, I could. Could I have done it if she’d outright challenged me on my decision, reacted adversely or tried to encourage me away from my journey? Possibly not.
There is already so much social adversity to stepping away from or cutting down your drinking, the last thing we need is to be challenged by those closest to us. If you’ve adjusted your behaviour, have successfully given up drinking, have cut down a bit, are drinking more mindfully or even just starting to evaluate your own relationship with alcohol in spite of opposing forces, or will be grieving on Mother’s Day and still not turning to booze to get you through – this one’s for you.
If someone close to you is trying to do this, then support them. We already know that alcohol is linked to an array of health issues, including cancer, so why should someone feel ostracised for choosing to cut down on their alcohol consumption when you wouldn’t react that way to someone who has quit smoking?
If you’d like some tips on what to buy for a non-drinking or moderate-drinking Mama for Mother’s Day, you can head to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages where we’ve listed our favourite easily-available low and no-alcohol treats – or check out the linked articles below for drink suggestions and related stories.