Alcohol addiction counselors say they're seeing more and more moms seeking treatment.Annie Wermiel
Lucy Rorech was like a lot of Park Slope mothers. She made organic baby food for her children and shuttled them to Mandarin lessons after school.
On Thursdays and Fridays, she’d invite other moms and kids in the neighborhood over for playdates in her brownstone. Rorech was known for making great cocktails.
“I was like this hip mixologist, making a basil-and-kaffir-lime syrup to mix with vodka,” says the 42-year-old married mother of three. “We’d be drinking, having dance parties to Madonna and ordering pizza while our kids were treading Play-Doh into the carpet.
But for Rorech, such afternoons went beyond innocent, tipsy enjoyment. She was lonely, bored and, usually, quite drunk.
‘We’d be drinking, having dance parties to Madonna and ordering pizza while our kids were treading Play-Doh into the carpet.’- Lucy Rorech
“[My] drinking had turned into something quite dark and joyless,” says Rorech, who quit her Wall Street job to have more time with her children and now has a small art consultation business.
Addiction experts say they’re seeing more and more people like Rorech come in for treatment, as women turn to the bottle to cope with the stress of raising children, having a career and taking care of the household. Between 2002 and 2013, the number of women who consumed more than four drinks a day rose almost 60 percent, while those meeting the criteria for alcohol use disorders — indicative of problem drinking — increased by 84 percent, according to the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.
Carrie Wilkens, co-founder and clinical director of the Center for Motivation and Changein Midtown, says many of these women have children.
Modal TriggerLucy Rorech says drinking became “dark and joyless.”Brian Zak
“Lots of people drink in response to stress, and mothers are not immune to feeling like an extra glass of wine will help them unwind at the end of the day,” she says. “If you’re getting together to drink, odds are, seven of those women will be fine but there will be someone in the group [who’s] struggling.”
The rise is fueled in part by messages in pop culture championing mommy boozing. Earlier this month, singer Kelly Clarkson told People magazine that, as someone raising four children, “wine is necessary.” “Bad Moms” and “Bad Moms 2” have been box-office hits with their portrayal of rogue, chardonnay-swilling mamas. Etsy is filled with crafts emblazoned with cute, sassy messages about how raising children requires you to pour yourself a glass or three. The Facebook group “Moms Who Need Wine” has nearly 728,000 members.
“If you take a look at how much media, how many movies [and] books [have been] written about alcohol [for] mothers, it’s huge,” says Cindy Feinberg, who leads a recovery coaching business in New York City. She struggled with alcoholism when she was raising children and now sees a growing number of clients in similar circumstances.
Modal TriggerIn “Bad Moms,” mothers played by Kristen Bell (from left), Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn hit the bars in rebellion.STX Productions, LLC.
“You maybe have a glass or two with your mommy friends, but then you’re usually polishing that bottle off by yourself,” says one mother from Long Island, now sober for a year-and-a-half, who asked to remain anonymous to maintain her family’s privacy. “It was okay for mothers to drink because it was always reinforced that ‘you deserve it.’ But that’s what kept me drinking three years more than I should have.”
Laura McKowen, a 40-year-old single mother from Boston who gave up drinking in 2014, agrees.
“It’s almost this feminist thing, like ‘F - - k your role’ — like it’s a little rebellious,” she says. “But it’s a joke that’s not funny.”
Wilkens says she’s seeing 30- and 40-something female patients with alcohol-related health issues, such as heart problems, osteoporosis, and liver damage, which are usually more common in much older people.
“You would expect to see these conditions in women who are in their 60s and 70s,” Wilkens says.
‘Lots of people drink in response to stress, and mothers are not immune to feeling like an extra glass of wine will help them unwind at the end of the day.’- Carrie Wilkens
Like Rorech, McKowen says she was the mom at the boozy playdate whose drinking became problematic. One night in 2013, she got blackout drunk at a wedding, and family members had to swoop in to get her 4-year-old daughter home. It was a turning point for McKowen. She quit drinking and joined an alcohol support group. She shares her recovery on Instagram (@laura_mckowen) and now has 23,500 followers.
“My inbox has hundreds of messages from women who are really scared and alone, and yet all we see are ads for carrying a bottle of wine in your purse,” she says, referring to insulated beverage totes for drinking on the go.
Among moms, she says, alcoholism can wrongly feel like the only permissible addiction, even though the substance is responsible for more deaths than all illegal drugs combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Excessive drinking puts women at a higher risk for breast cancer, liver disease, heart disease, memory loss and shrinkage of the brain, the CDC warns — even more so than men.
“We would never laugh at moms sitting around shooting up heroin,” McKowen says. “But because [drinking is] legal, we think it’s okay.”
Modal TriggerThere’s no shortage of tacky gifts catering to boozy moms.Courtesy of Aspen Lane
Sober moms such as Rorech say there’s a long way to go before moms who need help won’t have to worry about being stigmatized. Rorech says many moms get caught up in being the perfect parent, and think that being an alcoholic might tarnish that perception.
But she’s hopeful about the growing contingent of support for busy moms seeking help. For example, Hip Sobriety School, an eight-week online course and group coaching for alcoholics designed to work around busy schedules, is one resource that moms in sobriety say has been especially useful.
Rorech says being sober has given her the energy to pay more attention to her kids and be more present with her family — “The best gift I could possibly give them.
“At first I worried I wouldn’t be fun — I wouldn’t be sexy,” says Rorech. “But now, for me, sober is where the party is at.”