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Memoir of an Alcoholic Parent

Courtesy of Stefanie Wilder-Taylor

The morning of May 23, 2009, I woke up on my sofa around 6 a.m., fully dressed, severely hungover, and possessing only a hazy recollection of the night before—a night when I'd done nothing special. I rolled off the couch, nausea hitting me full force, and headed for my kids' rooms. Sadie and Matilda, my then 1-year-old twins, thankfully were asleep in their cribs, and my 4-year-old daughter, Elby, was still snuggled under her covers. I had no idea if my husband, Jon, was speaking to me. But before I could more fully assess the situation, I needed to puke. As I shakily stood back up, I caught a glimpse of my puffy face in the bathroom mirror; I was appalled and ashamed. “When had things gotten this bad?” I wondered. And then I leaned over the toilet bowl again.

I'd always been an alcohol enthusiast, using the sweet buzzy veil of booze to get me through countless rites of passage. Fast-forward through my 30s to the birth of my first child and her nerve-racking infancy. During that first year, my drinking ratcheted up to an evening ritual, the thing I looked forward to as a reward for getting through a long day of diaper duty, dishes, and Elmo. To be honest, I still clung to the idea of myself as amusing, cool, and edgy—someone for whom being a mommy was only one aspect of her identity, not the sum of all her parts. Wine helped me do that and, for a while, I didn't feel particularly guilty about it.

One evening when Elby was only a couple months old, fueled by a potent mixture of pinot grigio, sleep deprivation, and desperation to connect with other mothers, I started my blog: Baby On Bored. Motherhood for me wasn't quite living up to my expectations, but I felt embarrassed to admit it. The moms I knew in real life added their offspring's name to their voicemail greeting the second they got home from the hospital, and they constantly told me how “amazing” it was to be a mommy. I could hardly admit to these women that I'd found breastfeeding torturous and had only lasted a month (fine, three weeks), or that I was way too lazy to teach my baby sign language.

But I could say these things on the Internet. To my surprise, the blog brought book deals (Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay and Naptime Is the New Happy Hour), and a support system of like-minded moms—my virtual drinking buddies. I began to feel like a part of something bigger, a worldwide happy hour, if you will. One of my followers, Jane, from Boston, summed it up for all of us: “Many moms I know count down the minutes to cocktail time. Is it five yet? Is four-thirty too early, too desperate, too lushbag? I look forward to my end-of-day couch party, to unplug with wine and TV.”

Meanwhile, my online experience was beginning to play out in headlines: In 2009 Diane Schuler tragically drove her minivan the wrong way on a breathtakingly beautiful Sunday afternoon on New York's Taconic State Parkway, killing herself and seven other people, including her daughter and three nieces. Her blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. Carmen Huertas, also under the influence of alcohol, was sentenced last fall to 4 to 12 years in prison for flipping her car on a highway, killing her friend's daughter and injuring six other children, including her own. The FBI is reporting that DUI arrests among women rose 28.8 percent between 1998 and 2007. And a recent poll by our sister magazine Working Mother found that the number of women ages 30 to 40 who abuse alcohol has doubled in the past decade.

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