When systems and behavioral norms are driving us to drink, it’s time we start fighting for our authentic selves.
Gone are the days of children being seen and not heard. Really? Because it seems to me that the systems and behavioral norms that required kids to shut up, power through, and comply are still very much alive and kicking. And it doesn’t end with our children.
A recent Australian study, published in the Drug and Alcohol Review journal, showed that about 21 percent of women in mid-life (between 40 and 65) are now drinking at “binge-drinking” levels.
Why? Because it feels like the only way to survive the job of being a woman.
Women in mid-life are under more stress than ever before. We grabbed the opportunity to have careers with both hands, then added children. We run a household, juggle a whole family’s relationships, activities, and social lives. We care for ageing parents, try to keep partners happy, and maybe, indulge in a smidge of exercise.
We’re caring for everyone’s mental health, nutrition, well-being, and overall happiness—pouring endlessly from our pitcher with not a drop left for ourselves.
There is no space to “be,” no moment that isn’t counted and assessed for its output. There is no room for us to be anything but what we are, and what we are is everything.
That drink we’re pouring at the end of the day isn’t a reward or a way to wind down. It’s a scream in a bottle.
We are desperately lonely, exhausted by our practical responsibilities, and worn out by the competing demands of our relationships. We feel defined by what we do and don’t achieve and deliver—our contributions overlooked, and our failures indelibly stamped onto our souls.
Through it all, we’re trying to coach children to survive a world that is crushing our very womanhood! Because this transactional ecosystem tells us that our value lies in what we churn out, the boxes we tick as a partner, a mother, a lover, a child, a worker. What it doesn’t tell us is that we are worthy simply because we exist. That being our self is enough.
So, while this world is overrun with women who are trying to be everything to everybody, all at once, there is only one way to keep it all together—and that is to stuff our authentic selves down into the darkest recesses.
It’s a deeply complex experience and it lies at the heart of why so many women drink. But because of how we have been conditioned, we don’t see that a selfish society and a lagging system has failed us. We believe that we have failed.
We are not enough.
We must try harder.
We must do better.
And it breaks my heart.
So many of the women I coach speak of their relationship with alcohol as a weakness, when in fact it is a suppression of our power.
We have buried our authentic selves because it’s the only way we can possibly accept this overwhelming sense of injustice. The pain of that self-suppression and internalized wrongness is our cognitive dissonance. And wine is our medicine.
So, what’s the solution?
It’s simple. Not easy, but definitely simple. We need to stop, look hard at our lives and at ourselves. Listen to our long-ignored inner voice.
Imagine what it would mean to just listen to our bodies. To tune into those emotional nuances that we’ve learned to drink, medicate, exercise, or cry our way through.
What if we sat with the discomfort, instead of steeling ourselves? What if they became our guide, rather than our obstacle?
We were born with instincts that we’ve learned to ignore. And that includes self-preservation. We have trained ourselves to push through and power on, to do “in spite of,” rather than to slow down and look after our precious selves.
In doing so, we have become the authors of our own tragedy. We can blame the world around us, our society, and our internalized norms all we want, but the power to change lies in our hands. We must stop “containing” our emotions, “managing” our stress, and “organizing” our way to insanity.
It’s time that we stopped drowning our precious outrage in booze. We need to work through and reframe our internalized belief that emotions, justice seeking, fairness, giving an ever-loving sh*t about ourselves and the world around us, is a weakness. It is the very definition of power, and it’s time we reclaimed it.
We can start right here, right now, by committing to:
>> Not telling ourselves that we should be “okay” or able to “cope” with what life is throwing at us. We are what we are and where we are, and that is enough. We are enough!
>> Listen to how we’re feeling, what we want and need, and put that first—not on 100th place on a wish list.
>> Give ourselves the space to heal, to be able to actually hear our bodies and tune into our feelings.
>> Stop abusing ourselves for needing that Band-Aid, while also examining the gap alcohol is filling in our lives, and the price we’re paying.
>> Most of all, for the sake of humanity’s future, we need to start speaking our truth with wobbly, emotional, imperfect voices.
The child within us has to be seen and heard, before even more precious souls—including our children’s—are lost to a world that asks too damn much.