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August 11th, 2009 by Dr. Phil

Moms Who Drink (While Being Mothers)

drunk drivingSometimes I think common sense just isn’t common enough! This is one of those times. Now I probably should recuse myself from the following discussion, because it is about drinking and I admit that I don’t drink at all, which is pretty extreme and may compromise my objectivity, but I really don’t think it does. It’s just a personal preference, and I don’t really have a problem with those who do drink. I really don’t; so long as they drink responsibly, meaning in moderation, with a designated driver and, most importantly, when they’re not being the caregiver to their children.

You can probably guess that this is on my mind because of the horrifying tragedy that took place on a New York state freeway just recently. The driver of the vehicle, a 36-year-old mother of two, allegedly had a blood-alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit. We still don’t know what happened in that instance, and while what’s being reported may seem extreme compared to chatting and having a drink or two with other mothers in the backyard on a sunny afternoon — what happens when a parent puts the kids in the car to head home?

Even if the trip is only across the neighborhood (which, by the way, may be a reason to think it’s OK to just have one more), they could be putting themselves, as well as their children and all of those who are walking or driving around them, at risk. What do you suppose the driver of that vehicle in New York would give for a second chance: To have had someone grab her by the shoulders and say: “DO NOT GET IN THAT CAR!”? But when it comes to such events, we don’t get second chances. So let me say it to any and all reading this blog now: Do not drink and get behind the wheel and do not stand idly by and watch someone who has been drinking get behind the wheel!

There’s a troubling trend going on now in which young mothers are having “chardonnay and playdates” — a time for moms to have a few drinks and socialize with one another, while at the same time, spending time with their children. There are also restaurants that promote “Mommy Happy Hours,” which provide activities for the kids while mom gets her drink on.

sleeping childThis is about more than enjoying a glass of wine with dinner. And while many may think it sounds avant-garde and glamorous, I just think it sounds stupid and reckless. I also wince at titles at the bookstore, such as Naptime is the New Happy Hour, and while surfing through mommy blogs that extol the virtues of imbibing from a sippy cup filled with alcohol while Junior romps on the playground. What in the world are these people thinking?

I appreciate how hard parenting can be. I remember when Robin was pregnant with Jay: I came home from what I thought was a long day at work, telling her how many clients I’d seen … she just stared back at me and deadpanned, “Oh really, well I made a lung today, so get over it!” Man, that’s perspective. I understand a parent’s need for social interaction, to feel a sense of community with friends and the need to relax from the day’s pressures. But there is a time and place for everything, including having a few drinks, but while you are watching the kids just ain’t that time!

I’m not trying to pick on women here. In fact, most drunk drivers are men. But there are statistics that show that DUIs among women are rising. To understand how you can get out of control before you know it, we need to address how quickly women — especially a woman who doesn’t weigh much — can be affected by alcohol. Even a few glasses of wine can diminish her capacity to think and react quickly.

If you’re wondering what it takes for your judgment to be impaired by alcohol, click here. I think you’ll be very, very surprised.

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119 Responses to “Moms Who Drink (While Being Mothers)”

  1. Janet Blades says:

    I have a few words for the mothers and women who drink: Don’t start drinking!
    I really started drinking a lot when I was with my 3rd husband who drank every day 7 days a week. In 1996 I got picked up for drunk drinking. I was so embarrassed that I had let my family down. Luckily, I didn’t kill anyone and my youngest 2 boys were not with me. I went to jail and nobody would come and bail me out so I stayed there for 12 hours. It was really a wake up call for me!! I don’t want to go back to jail ever again but maybe a lot women wouldn’t keep on drinking and driving if they too would spend time in jail!!
    I’m happy to say I don’t drink anymore and my kids are glad I don’t drink any more also. I feel like I gained back their trust and respect and that is a great feeling that alochol can never give you. So please think twice before you start drinking and driving.

    Sincerely, Jan

  2. Rick Gates says:

    This was a great show that I really connection with due to the fact that I’m an Alcoholic that used to drive my children arround drunk as a shunk and thought every think was ok and I had a handle on it, I now have 1 year clean and sober today but all the damage I did in the past is quite another story, I do AA meetings a=every Monday and Thursday evenings and have found some amazing people that only care about me, all my drinking buddy have disappeared, I also found the ebook that was very helpful to me please take a look http://tinyurl.com/AlcoholicRahulang and get into a support group like AA in your area

  3. Christina says:

    Dr. Phil,

    I was mortified by your show and not in a good way. It took a while for me to even get to the point to where I could comment, and I’ve lived with a prone-to-relapse alcoholic sister for pretty much my whole life, as long as I can consciously remember. I’m just so glad she did not see the show.

    You claim to understand alcoholism and addictive behavior, yet you are SO HARSH . . . in the EXTREME . . . and then later in the show you called your using son’s friends JUNKIES??! Where’s your compassion? Yeah, I’ve been through the ringer myself, and I’m not an idiot. I’m no longer an enabler, either. I take care of myself first and always. But YOU were ignorant on that show.

    Christina in Michigan

  4. Christina,
    Do you really think anyone should call an alcoholic or an addict something besides what they are? I am a recovered alcoholic, work the Steps every day of my life. I am an alcoholic.

    People that tiptoe around the subject of addiction keep the pink elephant in the living room. No-one heals that way, certainly not the alcoholic. That leaves the children with a sick pattern they are doomed to repeat.

    Call it like it is and get on with healing. You aren’t there yet.

    Anonymous 06202010

  5. Dawn Norsby says:

    Dr. Phil I agree that today you were pretty harsh with the mother that was clearly an alcoholic. As well as I’m sure you needed to be. But as much help as you give to others I think there is another massive addiction problem that you have never done a show on. I wish that you would consider doing a show on gambling addiction. I think (know) that it is a HUGE problem in our society today!!!! I myself and a recovering addict. Jan. 11th I will have 3 years clean time in in which I thank god for almost every day. Yesterday I received a phone call from my sister telling me that my 18 year old niece was also addicted to gambling. I didn’t believe her at first until I called my niece and listened to her. So sad. I told Breanna a little about my story in the fact that I embezzled over 40,000 on my dad’s credit cards. i was gambling away everything and hurting everyone that loved me. I then called everyone in our family and told them not to give Breanna any money as that will only enable her. I so wish with all the help you give to others that you would consider doing a show on Gambling addiction. I know with the state of our economy it’s on the rise. Thanks for considering it!!!! Love your show. Dawn Norsby Myrtle Beach SC

  6. Patrice says:

    I too was a mother that drank a lot ..I would drink at a friends house then drive home with my son in the car… I was very lucky to have never been hurt or hurt my son or someone else. I have many regrets of being a mother that drank ..i would pass out while my son was unsupervised… My son has issues due to my drinking .. I was a very depressed single mother which brought on my drinking.. GET HELP !! It’s worth it. Your children need you sober and strong and healthy.
    If you feel you need a night out then get a baby sitter and take a taxi.

  7. Florida Sunshine says:

    OMG….there’s is a God, who answers prayers. I’m a recovering??? (fighting, tooth & NAIL)alcoholic…yea rite.. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. Sober for 2 yrs. Then, all’s well. Stopped my meetings, appx 1 yr ago. I’m strong, I can handle this…..??? A wine here, a martini there….Do I need to say more? Regardless, how strong, confident you think you are???? Or for even that matter, the support that says…your life was different, back then…You have control. Your a beautiful, strong single mom. That takes life by the u know what. BUT???? CONTROL??? I’m an alcoholic. What part of control, plays into that s***?? HELLO……. Alcoholics, will fall back into the same pattern. It’s a given. Thank you Dr. Phil for your show today… Something was different about today for me. The prayers/beg/pleadn??? to GOD my higher power. I never get home in time to see your show. But for what ever reason today, I DID. Turn’d you on….and pour the bottle on wine down the drain. ADIOS AMIGOS, that friend….I don’t need!!!!! THANK U!!! I tried to email Emilyism.com, could not find her.???? Emily!!! I need u!! Please contact me….Florida sunshine :) :):)

  8. Judy says:

    Hi Doc , great show, good work. Just celebrated 21 years sober, what a tremendous life I have now. MUCH EAISIER! Anyway, a nice thing to give all those audience members the Bac machine, but You might suggest that they test themselves BEFORE they get in the car. So keep it in your purse, or somewhere, but don’t get in the car, because I believe once in the car they may just say to heck with it and go without testing. Just an observation, and a suggestion. Keep up the great work. Love the show. Thanks

  9. Lesley says:

    Dr Phil,
    I would like you to know that I myself am a recovering alcoholic. I celebrated 9yrs Sobriety Jan, 2010. I just watched a repeat of your show on Mom’s who drive drunk and frankly I don’t think you did your homework on Mary. I could not be scared into getting sober EVER. I’m sure, if I could remember my husband or my children trying to do that for years with NO success. I had to be ready, and when ready I did it the old time hard way. Went and took a seat in an AA meeting with my hands under my legs so people wouldn’t see them shake and listened. I eventually heard my story, then heard it again and again from men & woman. Thank God I am not alone with this disease. I have not had to “relapse” or have a “slip” …. for me every day is “LIFE OR DEATH” for me and I choose LIFE. I never want to drink again, I’m sure I have another drunk in me but am equally sure I do NOT have another recovery. I sure hope the woman on your show Mary has received the help you offered her although my gut feeling is she has gone back to drinking since the show. See, there was something in her eyes that told me she was NOT ready yet. I pray I am wrong about her and I will pray for her and her family that she does realize what’s really going on with her and she comes out of the bottle (or can) and starts to live life.
    Thanks for listening,

  10. Florida Sunshine says:

    Lesley….your right. Mary’s, not ready, I saw it too. Been too, many AA meetings. She hasn’t crossed that line nor made that choice. I pray for her. Been there, done that! Still struggle daily…………………..I agree with what you’d said… I choose LIFE!! :) :) Florida Sunshine!

  11. tony grazziano says:

    Dr. Phil does his home work well and can read right through someone lying about themselves. I worked as a crime scene investigator for over ten years and saw the destruction that alcohol causes people and property. I have heard the same stories night after night and saw the outcome of myself the destruction and loss of lives. Once a life has been taken everything changes in the alcoholic’s life and the lives of relatives. It also ruins a happy life of the families and friends of the victims. I have seen people who never come out of the shock and depression after losing a loved one.

  12. tony grazziano says:

    I agree

  13. Angie Ridenour says:

    This story just broke my heart. I have grown up with an alcoholic father and I know just how it feels to be this woman’s daughter and wonder what I can do or what didn’t I do to help this. I am now a grown woman with my own children and I still ask myself those same questions. Not only is my father a drunk but he is a paranoid drunk and truly believes everyone is out to get him and reality is he has isolated himself from everyone who ever cared about him. There have been times in my life that I decided it would be best if I just cut all ties with him and let him drink himself into his own grave alone. But he is my father and I can’t help but remember him teaching me how to fish and watching discovery channel programs with him. I don’t know where he went but I know he is still there and sometimes I can still see that part of him and that’s what keeps me hanging on. I am just now starting to realize that there is nothing I can do or nothing I could have done differently to change him. I am now trying to heal myself because I have given up on healing him. I pray for this girl that her mother will get the help she needs before she ends up in my shoes. My dad honestly doesn’t understand why everyone gets so upset about his drinking, he doesn’t realize that his illness has effected all of us and that I still carry it to this day. I have tried to talk to him and he makes up excuse after excuse and I don’t have it in me to make him choose just because I know he will choose his drinking. I guess I would rather have him even when he’s like he is then to not have him at all. I am proud to say I am not a drinker simply because I refuse to pass this burden on to my own children. I don’t ever want them to feel like they have to get out. I ran as soon as I was old enough to do so and I made a lot of mistakes to get there. At the time, I didn’t care, I just wanted out. Show’s like this one really make me stop and realize I’m not the only one who was embarrassed about what was going on in my home, I’m not the only one who lays awake at night wondering what I could have done and I’m not the only one who has watched someone literally drink themselves into a grave. And to the child in all this or any child going through this, remember this is not your fault and if you feel like you are the only one you’re not alone! No matter what happens, you are not alone! God bless!

  14. Tammy Swayze says:

    Dr.Phil; I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and I am an alcoholic. I watched your show today, and unlike Mary, I do not have children. I am 43 years old and have been drinking for 22 years. My mom died of lung cancer in October 2007 and my dad is terminally ill with bone cancer and lung cancer. I quit my job on May 25th and entered detox and was released on May 30th. On July 5th I am going to Henwood Addiction Centre in Edmonton, Alberta for 19 days. The day I am released we leave for holidays for 2 more weeks which means I will away from my dad for 5 weeks. I don’t drink beer like Mary, I drink vodka, never straight vodka. My point is; with my father being soooo sick, I have decided that I have to do this for myself while my dad is still living and he is my biggest supporter. I take him for his appointments whenever he has to go. I have done very well since detox and I just want Mary to know that she can do this also; I never thought I could and I am even between detox and recovery. I hope she does it for herself and her kids but she has to do it for herself first. Good luck to Mary and I really hope she will hang in there.; she has her kids to live for; my dad only has months to live but I am doing this for myself first, and then my dad.

  15. I started drinking eight years ago when I caught my husband going to an escort service. I had a 3 year old and a newborn. Once I started, I couldnt stop. In the last eight years, I have lost my children to CPS, my RN license (I had been a Registered Nurse for 22 years), my home, my dignity and many friends. The only thing I gained from drinking was a felony charge. Now that I have lost my nursing lisence, and have a felony, I cannot get a job. A few years ago I was making $37.00/hr. Now I can’t even get a minimum wage job. The employers that want my education won’t hire me because of the felony, and the employers that hire felons won’t hire me because I’m educated. I have let down my family (none of who are alcoholic)and made my dad cry. I have been living with family and friends but soon I will be homeless and I am terrified. If anyone wants to see what alcoholism can do to your life, look at mine.

  16. North of the 49th says:

    Hi all, I was saddened to see the show and with the fact of drinking and driving being taken so casually by yet another self absorbed drunk.
    I live next door to a housefull of “hard – core” drunks who continually and daily consume a garbage bag worth of beer. They and their parade of drunken friends continue to drink and drive, with luck so far being on their side. This abusive behaviour is merely another of the self entitled feelings that they project.
    Like most alcoholics, they feel sorry for themselves while in reality they are abusive to themselves, and everyone else around them, with no regard for anyone except themselves, and that being only where they will get more booze and attention to the quest for more booze.
    The one thing Dr. Phil said that I disagree with most is the mention of how they are killing themselves with booze. In my experience the only people to actually be hurt or killed by drinking are the innocent on the sidelines. Drunks seem to keep living forever, hurting others and destroying lives.
    I honestly hope that Mary can clean up her life and see, though hard, life is not easy for anyone and the challenge is life itself and how to overcome difficulties.

  17. Elizabeth Albright says:

    This story is sad to see because someone I love & care about is an alcoholic has liver disease and cant stop. I met him years ago in the same hometown we went to the same kindergarten in 1971 ten years later we went to the same high school together. Through Facebook we began talking a little online then he called me four sometimes 5 times a day, but one day he didnt call me for five days and thats when I became concerned and through his mom found out he is an alcoholic and has battled it for years. I know he had a DUI and a suicide attempt then went into to rehab, but he takes nine medications, has liver disease, and will be in need of a new liver and he is only 44 yrs old!!! Iam trying to get him to stop and go back to rehab because it is affecting his life in sooo many ways. He gets tired, and discouraged easily at all the medications and even doctors have said if he doesnt drink for ninety days he can get a liver transplant and a new lease on life. Everyone alcohol takes a toll and it doesnt have to be that way. Dont buy alcohol if its too tempting to abuse, and keep toxic people out of your life if they drink and get drunk. Someone I love and care about has liver disease and continues to drink and sadly is dying. Please everyone think before taking a drink its not worth it!!!!!!! Life can be wonderful sober not passed out and drunk!!

  18. Coyle says:

    I haven’t read everything but alcohol is the pits. I have used my husband as an outlet for drinking,as I have been SO unhappy with him.i never had a drink and drove, but got hammered after the children went to bed. When my daughter was old enough to drive, I got ashamedly pissed and believe that at that moment I lost her and my son’s respect.
    There is I suppose no excuse, but when you’re down, your parents drank seemingly all the time, it”s the crutch to something better.
    I have decided to divorce my husband, his own drinking problems , money issues, previous relationship problems and get it back together. I am 58 now, been married to him for 25 years of those. I went to work in Russia (vodka, hey ) to earn some money. I get confused.I came back, took one look at bed partner, husband And provider and hit the wine. Do you think our children will Ever understand why we did it? It’s the loss of respect from your children that hurts. But now I am there my self I can understand my mother, or should I. This is from France, the price of a bottle of wine is 2. Euros a coffee 3.50. If you don’t have a booze problem, you would just drink the coffee.

  19. Coyle says:

    Just to go back on what I said earlier , when we went to see a family councillor about an incident, both my children said that a sober hug was worth nothing and that if I really loved them I wouldn’t drink again.

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