Busy mom? Have a glass a wine. Stressed out? There’s a red for that. It seems like everywhere we turn on social media, wine is the recommended and accepted coping mechanism for whatever life throws your way.
“I do see an increase in the acceptance of this practice as normal behavior. Even though many times people are joking when they say they need a glass of wine to cope, that’s how it starts for many alcoholics,” says psychologist Sal Raichbach of Ambrosia Treatment Center.
You see, romanticizing wine, like it’s somehow different from other alcohol, got me into trouble a few years ago.
One night, I was stirred from my sleep with intense eye pain. But upon going to the eye doctor, everything checked out. My vision was not fading. I passed all tests and "aced" my follow-up. The doctor suggested I keep the lights dim at work and take many breaks from staring at my computer screen. The problem persisted and other symptoms arose. I went to a regular doctor. "Maybe a sinus infection?" she wondered.
Something wasn’t right. My intuition has always kept me pretty aware — and what it was telling me was that it was time to get really honest with myself.
I never got sick. But after quite some time and research, I diagnosed myself: I drank too much wine, and it was catching up with me. I was a single, full-time working mom, and each night ended with a glass of wine... or more accurately, the whole bottle.
“As far as mystery illnesses, I believe the sulfite are the culprit. Many women become more and more sensitive as they age, and the constant consumption of wine creates inflammation,” says Elizabeth Trattner, AP, LAc, a physician of integrative medicine in Miami.
My Relationship With Wine
I was in the midst of one hell of a year, so I did what all the Facebook memes suggested: I uncorked the "mommy juice." But it only intensified my problems. In fact, it downright caused anxiety, something I’d previously never experienced.
After coming to this realization, I cut way back on my consumption and continued to evaluate my relationship with wine.
I never thought my habit to be a problem, but a routine. A routine that was normalized by my social media feeds and women I associated with. After all, it’s just wine.
“Wine seems to be the ‘safe’ alcohol and is, except from drinking too much because of the well-founded health claims that are taken to extremes,” says Trattner. “Just because there are some health benefits, wine should still only be consumed in moderation.”
While wine and other alcohol often make people feel like they can open up, it actually did the opposite for me at least in the long-term. I was once someone who traveled alone, struck up conversations with strangers at a party in total confidence, and said yes to all new adventures. I didn’t really have a comfort zone, so to speak.
But after a divorce and leaping straight into the world of single parenthood, my self-assurance wasn’t as vibrant. I used comparisons altogether too much. Was my parenting as good as so-and-so, who was married and making X amount of money in her fabulous career? Will my daughter be as happy as her peers with just a mom at home?
Around this time is when wine and motherhood began to go hand-in-hand. I’d always enjoyed having drinks socially, but now, it seemed acceptable to end each day with a glass of wine. We deserve it, right? At least, that’s the message that became plastered all over social media. No plans were made without wine being mentioned.
In fact, keeping in touch has come to sending a text here and there or a message over social media. We don’t call one another anymore. So, when we some someone in person, it’s almost like we forget how to be social beings. A part of me wonders, is wine a part of all gatherings because the art of conversation has been lost so we feel the need for alcohol to “loosen up”?
Businesses capitalized on this: Paint and sip, shop and sip, plant and sip. Why did the focus shift from connecting with friends, family and spouses to adding alcohol to every possible event imaginable?
I followed the trend until it made me sick. I want to be clear that I am not blaming the glorification of booze for my risky routine. Wine memes didn’t pop a top and pour rosè down my throat. But there’s this phase of motherhood I think we all experience that is sort of like that awkward phase as a kid when you just want to do what everyone else is doing, no matter how you were raised, where you live, how many friends you have or what your interests are. Standing out can be scary.
More recently, this routine made it back into my life. I kept blaming weight gain and exhaustion and mood swings on having another baby last year, but that was only part of it. As someone who was always “thin” and valued a healthy diet and exercise, I was ignoring the massive caloric intake from wine o’clock. And it makes sense when you consider this: Let’s say you have two glasses of wine, four times a week; at 150 calories per 6-ounce glass, that equates to 1,200 calories a week, or 62,400 calories a year... which equals 17.8 new pounds added to your body.
After considering these numbers, I took pictures of myself in a bikini. What a wake-up call. It’s not the extra pounds that necessarily shocked me as much as it was that I’ve neglected to put my health first for so many months. For me, taking on the mindset of treating my body with respect is what really helped shift my end-of-the-day wine habit.
“You see, alcohol energy can’t be used for physical energy or metabolic function; it all converts to sugar and is stored as fat, especially as we age,” says Trattner.
To “replace” the wine, I started drinking various flavored sparkling water and also made my own infused water. Keeping the focus on health, I researched the benefits of each fruit, veggie, or herb I was using to keep me on track. I’ve also found it beneficial to have an activity planned for the time that I usually pour my first glass of wine, like a walk around the neighborhood with my family or a yoga class. I also trained myself to not think about the evenings as chaos (homework check, dinner, calculating carbs for my type 1 diabetic, helping with insulin administration, getting baby ready for bed, and so on), but as a celebration of another day.
Dinners have become more elaborate — not because I have the time and energy for it, but because I have learned to appreciate every single thing that goes into my body.
This post was written by Erinne Magee, a freelance writer in Maine. Her work has been published by The Washington Post, Playboy, Boston Globe, Prevention Magazine, New York Magazine, Men's Journal,Teen Vogue, and more.