My Zombie Desires: Modeling Healthy Alcohol Consumption for Our Kids

By Michal Lloyd

There have been a lot of jokes and memes about pandemic drinking by women, but the fact is that in the past two decades, women have often turned to alcohol more than they did in the past.

Yes, the pandemic has compounded the problem. A 2020 study found that the days in which women drank excessively (defined as four or more drinks in a few hours) increased by 41% during lockdown. Another report, from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said that mothers with children under 5 increased their drinking by more than 300% during the pandemic.

– Ericka Andersen, The New York Times

There’s humor and light-heartedness in alcohol, with plenty of payoff and social acceptance. And, why not? Alcohol provides instant relaxation. It is an excellent social lubricant, a central ingredient in a wide range of partying from Halloween to Independence Day. It’s become downright American. And it has been used in religious ceremonies throughout history. The Greeks even had their own handsome, young wine god, Dionysus. His whole career was dedicated to promoting and celebrating wine, drunkenness, dance, and generally raising heck, or, as they would put it, raising Hades for a good cause.

In this age of Instagramable gratification, something is refreshing and even relaxing about sobriety, more simply, not drinking alcohol. There is a time for everything, and for me, right now is an excellent time to be sober. Today, women, especially mothers, turn to alcohol to deal with stress, as noted in a recent New York Times article. We laugh and post silly memes on social media like, “Yoga or wine?” Then, get twenty responses like, “Wine, of course–silly.” Or laugh as a family member jokingly says to her daughter after a long trip, “Go get momma’s wine from the car, Coco.”

But there’s a dark side to this beautiful cure-all, resulting in family abuse, violence, traffic death, and crime.

But there’s a dark side to this beautiful cure-all, resulting in family abuse, violence, traffic death, and crime.

Over the past two years, my family and I spent time in the backyard gathering and drinking. It was a stressful time for many of us, and alcohol was what we thought was necessary to gather and deal with the uncertainty of our lives. Now I’m on month four of Dry January. Call me sober-curious. That doesn’t mean I hit rock bottom. I have in the past drank more. I worked in bars and restaurants where it is common to drink. And I am fortunate that I survived high school in the eighties and young adulthood when heavy drinking wasn’t unusual.

I have my reasons why I am interested in not drinking alcohol. However, I make no promises and offer no judgment to those who choose to drink. First, I like that I am a good role model for my adult child and her fiancé. I want to feel healthy. I don’t make as many bad decisions about late-night fast-food hopping, and I can accomplish things that fill me up, like reading a book or going for a hike.

We portray drinking as sexy and exhilarating. I am familiar with the urge to relax and imbibe at 5:30 on a Friday night. And although I used to get twitchy when gathered in a small crowd of friends without a beer in my hand, it seems to be getting easier. I have noticed that alcohol doesn’t help me connect more with my friends or loved ones. And it does not make me more intelligent or better looking. Slurring is unattractive, even in front of your closest friends.

My question to myself now is how I want to show up to the world and, most importantly, my kids. We learn from each other, and whether it is an inherited problem or one we know, family history plays a significant role. My father, my grandmother, and my uncle fell prey to alcoholism. So I am aware that I could be susceptible to a downward spiral. I have felt the pull before and need to be cautious about drinking.

Not drinking or cutting back shows my kids that I am not a victim of my zombie desires. I don’t have to follow the same old routines around alcohol. It is like putting down salt on an icy sidewalk for them. There are still slippery spots, but not as many.

I’ve also noticed a certain clarity from not drinking these few months. It is difficult to see through beer goggles or a buggy windshield. Now is an excellent time to be sober. Why? What does alcohol do for me? What are my children seeing? No one can tell you what the right thing to do for you is. Colorful days of old when my grandmother passed out in her mashed potatoes, I hope, are over. Let’s be honest, alcohol can create instant ugliness. Just add water— and vodka.

I don’t want to appear cavalier. We all have different obstacles when it comes to quitting alcohol. What works for one person may not work for someone else. There are professionals and organizations like AA to help you in your quest. Most importantly, having a network of support, whether family, a mental health counselor or a church organization, is infinitely valuable. Some of us require all three. And if you fail, remember that failure is the first step toward success. Keep on getting up off the mat.

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