Feeling stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed, or worried can seem like the dominant theme in parenthood. As a parent, you don’t have the option to call in sick and take a break. You do your best to cope with the challenges your children throw at you in each present moment, but even under the best circumstances, there are ups and downs. Sometimes, you may even be left wondering how you can face it all again tomorrow.
It’s no surprise that more and more parents seem to be turning to alcohol to wind down at the end of a demanding day. While there is nothing wrong with having an ice-cold beer or a glass of wine, neither is going to do anything to improve your mood in the long run.
The Pandemic Increased the Drinking Habit Among Parents While Kids Stayed Home
Navigating a pandemic with kids is no walk in the park. In addition to dealing with their own work or school, many parents also had to home-school their offspring during the last two years.
According to a survey conducted by the Research Triangle Institute International, an average American’s drink consumption increased by 39% as a direct result of the pandemic. The survey also found that binge drinking alcohol increased by 30% during this time. Interestingly, researchers found that respondents with kids in the household had a greater-than-average increase in the frequency, intensity, and quantity of their alcohol cravings.
The challenges of tending to your children’s education, trying to work from home, and having limited outlets for relief all wreaked havoc on parents’ mental health and well-being. This is truer in the case of women, who tend to take on more caregiving and household responsibilities than men, generally speaking.
There’s also the added emotional stress of worrying about parents losing their jobs and the health of their children and elderly loved ones. If you have a child who has a neurodevelopmental disorder, like autism, ADHD, intellectual disability, or vision/hearing impairment, your stress levels are most likely doubled compared to other parents.
Parents who would have a glass or two of wine with dinner on weekends before COVID-19, are now drinking a glass 4–5 times a week. The pandemic has been especially hard for those who are in their recovery journey – being secluded on top of the stresses of parenthood and lack of job security obviously doesn’t help.
How to Know If Your Drinking Is a Problem
Here are a few signs that indicate your habit of drinking alcohol might be turning into a problem:
- You are drinking more over time to get the same results, i.e., your alcohol tolerance has increased.
- Making excuses to drink, like “to manage stress” or “to relax.”
- Showing signs of irritability and extreme mood swings.
- You are distancing yourself from family members and friends.
- Choosing to drink alcohol over your other obligations, such as family or work responsibilities.
- Acting defensive whenever someone brings up drinking in conversation.
- Experiencing short-term memory loss.
- Hiding alcohol and empty liquor bottles throughout the house.
- Being secretive about drinking or prefer drinking alone.
- You are using alcohol as a coping mechanism whenever you feel anxious or depressed.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, anxiety, or tremors whenever you stop drinking alcohol.
- Engaging in risky and potentially dangerous behaviors, like driving while intoxicated.
- Always thinking about drinking or how to stop craving alcohol.
- Consistently setting some rules for yourself about drinking alcohol and then breaking these rules.
- Most of your thought processes involve drinking or how to stop alcohol urges or cravings.
How Drinking Affects Your Family & Overall Well-Being
The first thing alcohol affects is your mood. It basically impacts how serotonin works in your body. For the uninitiated, serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that is found in your central nervous system, blood platelets, and gut. Serotonin is often referred to as the “happy hormone” because it’s largely responsible for your mood. When serotonin levels get low, so does your mood. Reduced levels of serotonin can lead to increased depression, anger, irritability, anxiety, and more.
It’s a well-known fact that as a parent, your mood can take quite a beating throughout the course of a day. There’s no parent out there – no matter how many incredible pictures they post on social media – who hasn’t felt exhausted, irritated, and frustrated due to something their kids did.
Now, when you sit down at the end of a long day with a drink in hand, your goal is to kick back and relax. Of course, there are several other ways to induce those positive feelings without alcohol, too. You could binge-watch something or take a hot bath. But many parents turn to alcohol and even substance use because it can fade away even the most unpleasant of feelings and quickly – for a while at least.
With that said, how does alcohol affect your mood? Well, substances like alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana give you a much-needed boost of serotonin, leading to an elevated mood almost immediately. Unfortunately, this boost is not long-lasting. Once the physical sensations and initial exhilaration fades, serotonin levels dip lower than they were before you had a drink.
Simply put, drinking actually worsens your mood in the long run. It can worsen or develop all kinds of mood disorders like irritability, stress, and anxiety. This is known in medical circles as the bi-phasic effect of increasing blood alcohol levels.
Consider this: You are a parent and you frequently drink to unwind. This means your serotonin is dropping on a regular basis; in fact, your levels are likely way lower than they should be. Low serotonin levels are making you prickly and grouchy or worse. Depending on how frequently and how much you drink, you might be causing the very issue you’re trying to ease.
The lack of patience and resentfulness you think the children are causing might be a result of heavy drinking.
Another thing to note is that domestic abuse & violence have been linked with binge drinking. The link between heavy and binge drinking and the increased risk of violence in domestic relationships is well-documented. This includes abuse of a partner or spouse, child neglect and abuse, and the abuse of elderly family members.
If you think you can’t control your own alcohol cravings and behavior or you are experiencing violent behavior from someone in your household, seeking help from a medical professional, support group, or a trusted person is critical.
Alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder (AUD) are also linked to mental health issues and have a severe effect on people suffering from them. When someone has an AUD, it takes a toll on them as well as their loved ones.
Here are a few ways in which your heavy drinking habit can affect your kids:
It Can Create an Unclear Sense of Normalcy
Kids whose parents rely on alcohol a little too much as a coping mechanism may not experience harmonious or traditional family relationships. Since alcohol use is normalized for them, kids may struggle to differentiate between bad role models and good ones. It’s normal for children to feel confused and conflicted once they realize that drinking is actually not considered normal in other households.
They May Have Low Self-Esteem
Several studies show that children of parents with an alcohol problem have little self-worth and can develop anxiety, depression, and deep-seated feelings of inadequacy. The kids may find themselves thinking that they are different from their friends and peers, and thus, “less than”. As a result, they may isolate themselves and avoid social situations.
They May Develop Trust Issues
If someone has grown up in an environment where lying, denial, and keeping secrets (especially regarding a drinking problem) are prevalent, they can develop trust issues. And if the parent was mean or worse while drunk or having alcohol cravings, children can grow up to be fearful of confrontations and conflict in general.
14 Ways To Help You Moderate or Quit Drinking Alcohol
If you’ve been thinking about cutting back due to any reason, there are steps you can take to successfully moderate your alcohol consumption:
Set a Budget: Set a fixed amount of money aside to spend on alcohol and stick to that budget.
Make a Plan: Before you go grab a drink or attend a party, set a limit on exactly how many drinks you’re going to have. And keep track of your drinking while you’re drinking.
Let Your Family Know: Let your family members and friends know that you are cutting down and ask for their support.
Take It a Day at a Time: Instead of trying to go from five drinks a week to one drink, for example, cut back a little every day. Not putting pressure on yourself is the key.
Try Smaller Drinks: Go for a smaller glass of wine instead of a large one; get a bottled beer instead of a pint. You don’t have to give up your favorite drinks, just go for smaller sizes.
Have a Milder Drink: You can also try swapping stronger alcohol for lower-strength options. For example, instead of rum or vodka, try a beer or a white wine. You can always find the strength of the alcohol on the drink label.
Stay Hydrated: Never drink alcohol when you’re thirsty. First, have a glass of water.
Don’t Go for the Rounds: Drinking in rounds is a surefire way to consume a lot of alcohol in a short amount of time. If you’re offered to partake in a round in a social setting, don’t hesitate to opt-out.
Have Alcohol-Free Days: Assign some days of the week when you don’t have any alcoholic beverages.
Spread Out Your Drinks Throughout the Night: Alternate every alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic option like water, juice, or soda.
Bring Your Own Non-Alcoholic Drink: If you have to go out to a bar, ask for an alcohol-free beer, cider, juice, or soda. If you’re meeting up with friends or family in their home, consider bringing your own alcohol-free drink. Make sure you’re always holding a drink, so people are less likely to offer you one. If you’re with a group of friends ordering drinks, be the first to order a non-alcoholic drink to start.
Find Other Enjoyable Activities: If drinking has become a major part of your life, find other activities to do during times when you would typically drink. If you can involve your kids in these new hobbies, all the better.
Avoid Internal Triggers: Avoid situations in which you’re used to drinking. Certain activities, places, and people can be internal or external triggers that cause you to have alcohol cravings – steer clear of them. We also have a blog post on dealing with urges and cravings.
Learn How to Say ‘No’: Learn how to politely refuse when someone offers you a drink. You could be upfront about why you aren’t drinking, not offer an excuse at all, or you could say you’re taking your kids somewhere for breakfast or you’ve an early work shift or class in the morning.
Looking for a Research-Backed Way to Reduce Cravings or Quit Drinking Altogether? CheckUp & Choices Is the Solution
Managing and addressing cravings takes time and some effort but can be done. While support from trusted loved ones can be critical during your journey to eliminate or moderate alcohol use, having guidance and a clinically-proven approach can significantly improve your chances of success.
CheckUp & Choices is a self-guided program that has shown a 55% reduction in intensity, quantity, and frequency of drinking in heavy drinkers, according to several clinical trials and peer-reviewed studies funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (NIAAA). People who participated in the program, on average, also reported a 50% reduction in alcohol-related problems.
The program is online and confidential – you don’t have to go to any in-person meetings or interventions. All you need is a smartphone or a computer, and a willingness to take a deep-dive into your drinking.
CheckUp & Choices program is made up of two parts:
The CheckUp: A comprehensive self-assessment test that offers personalized feedback to help you better understand your drinking compared to others. It can help you find your own internal motivation to stop or cut back.
Choices Program: A series of guided cognitive and motivational behavioral exercises designed to help you achieve and maintain sobriety or moderation. You’ll find individual modules on alcohol, gambling, marijuana, opioids, and other stimulants. This also includes a personal check-in every three months to measure your progress.
Afraid the program won’t work? Don’t worry, we offer a money-back guarantee. If you find the program is not working for you the way you thought it would just send us an email and we will issue a full refund, no questions asked. Get started on your journey to changing your alcohol consumption today!