Australian working mums are asking for help to cut back on booze, doctors say
Leonie Moekette never thought of herself as a heavy drinker.
“What I was drinking was no different to what my friends were drinking,” she said.
She wasn’t out at bars and clubs. Instead, the mother of two from regional Victoria would start drinking beer around 5:00pm at home as a way to wind down.
But having up to five drinks while at home with the kids began catching up with her.
“There was a time when it was happening every day and I would fall asleep or pass out on the couch and my husband would have to catch my drink,” Ms Moekette said.
Something her young sons said to her was the wakeup call she needed to quit.
“The boys said I’m looking forward to being older so I can drink like you,” she said.
“I realised it was the pressure of being a working mum. I felt like life was out of control, and alcohol was what I was reaching for.”
Ms Moekette is not alone.
In the past, alcohol abuse has been largely viewed as a male phenomenon, but health experts say the gap between men and women’s drinking habits is narrowing.
A study by Tim Slade from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre confirmed women were drinking more than they used to, putting their intake closer to that of men.
For many women, the problem remains largely hidden.
Ms Moekette admitted those around her had no idea how much she was drinking.
“It was secretive. it was misused to self-medicate,” she said.
“Many friends, when I made mention of my drinking, had no idea it had gotten so bad.”
She said the thought of having some drinks at the end of her day helped her to hold everything and everyone together.
“I felt the pressure of feeling like I needed to please people my whole life,” Ms Moekette said.
“I was using that as opposed to other tools to cope, to get by, and to numb the pressures that I felt in my head.”
For Ms Moekette, alcohol was helping her get through the day, but it soon led to “mental decline”.
“I wasn’t living my truth,” she said.
Ms Moekette decided she wanted to get help, but she lives in a small town and wasn’t comfortable doing it in a public way, such as attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Instead, she turned to friends overseas and the online community Hello Sunday Morning.
They helped her focus on the benefits of an alcohol-free life.
Rather than feeling like she was missing out by quitting, she learned to focus on what someone can achieve with a clear head.
Ms Moekette did stop drinking. She stopped waiting for the end of the day when she could reach for a beer.
“The boys know Mum is available and isn’t as irritable as she used to be.”
There are people called sobriety coaches who can help
The internet connects women to each other and to communities built around the idea of reducing alcohol consumption from the privacy of home.
It is also the place where women are often exposed to messages about how drinking can help a busy mother get through the day.
Mags Sheridan has seen the impact of that culture.
She is a sobriety coach and helps women reduce their alcohol intake or cut it out altogether.
These coaches are popular in the US and are now springing up around Australia.
“Most of the women I see are 35 to 50 years old. Some of them are dealing with issues such as an eating disorder, a major loss such as grieving a partner, parent or child,” Ms Sheridan said.
She said she helped women see an alternative path to the “wine o’clock” rhetoric and “mommy juice” memes, where alcohol was the reward at the end of a busy day.
“The assumption is that if you are dealing with a child at home, you couldn’t possibly get through the stress without having a ‘mummy juice’,” Ms Sheridan said.
“There is a stigma about asking for help, but once someone is starting to question their drinking, then getting help is enormously productive.”
If you don’t know where to start, ask your GP
Sydney GP Dr Chris Davis sees at least one or two mums a week desperate to reduce how much alcohol they are consuming at home.
Where to go:
“It’s common with the mums I see. They will have a glass of wine when they come home from work to deal with the children and to help them relax,” he said.
“But it can lead to one or two bottles over an evening. They wake up feeling anxious, so they snap at the kids, which makes them feel guilty, and then to turn to wine again to relax, and the cycle continues.”
He has assembled a team of experts to help women quit.
“I enlist an exercise physiologist, a dietician, alcohol counsellor, and a psychologist to really make sure all aspects of a person’s life are being looked after, and that’s very important.”
His approach, known as home detox, is commonly used in countries such as the UK. The concept and others like it have the backing of the Australian Medical Association.
With thousands of Australians drinking at risky levels, doctors would like to see more resources put into alternative approaches to giving up, such as GP-guided detox.
Alcohol and breast cancer: do you know the link?
As well as the emotional impact on women, experts said heavy drinking could mask the serious damage booze did to their physical health, including increasing the risk of cancer.
Trish Hepworth from the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education said too many Australian women were dying from alcohol-related breast cancer.
“It’s estimated that 6 per cent of breast cancers in Australian women are attributable to alcohol,” she said.
“That adds up to 830 cases a year,” she said.
She said the risk went up for each additional drink a woman had.
“For women who have seven drinks a day, the absolute risk is double that of someone who does [not] drink at all,” Ms Hepworth said.
“Like most people my age, my Facebook feed is quite cheerfully full of wine memes, and we are sold this image that after a day coping with children and coping with work, and coping with those incessant demands, that we deserve a drink of alcohol. But no women deserves to get breast cancer.”
Dr Davis said for many women, alcohol became the crutch and the reward.
“While it might make you feel better in the short term, it’s not rewarding your body. It’s increasing your blood pressure, ruining your sleep, and giving you empty calories,” he said.
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National guidelines recommend that women have no more than two standard drinks on any given day.
Generally, women will become more intoxicated on less alcohol than men.
Dr Davis said there was really no system in the body that could avoid the negative effects of alcohol.
That is good news for Ms Moekette, who is relishing life without booze.
“I have so much more energy and drive, and I would love others to feel what I am feeling,” she said.
“The best part is just waking up and feeling fresh in the morning.”
This content was originally published here.