After a long day, pouring yourself a glass of wine or enjoying a few cocktails over dinner with friends may not seem like a big deal, but for some moms, a casual drinking habit can turn into a full-blown addiction.
Take 46-year-old Dana Bowman, of Lindsborg, Kansas. A self-professed perfectionist, Bowman was always a social drinker, but after she got married and had children, she turned to alcohol to cope with postpartum depression, anxiety and stress.
“When my kids came along, and my control was blown out of the water … I found myself in a situation where every night, I started leaning more and more heavily on the 5 o’clock reward,” Bowman, the author of “Bottled: A Mom's Guide to Early Recovery,” told Fox News.
Despite an eye-opening realization that she wouldn’t be able to drive to the emergency room should her kids get hurt while she was drinking, she continued to throw back the glasses.
Then one day, she finally decided she’d quit — but only after one last binge.
“I took one sip, and I fell to the floor,” she said. “I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t talk. I was so drunk that the room started spinning, and I could hear my boys in the other room.”
The next day, she started Alcoholics Anonymous and was on the road to sobriety.
For 45-year-old mom of two Laura Ward, drinking became a way to deal with sadness, decompress after a long day, or celebrate a happy event. Sometimes she even started drinking right after her kids went to school in the morning.
“My version of self-care was a bottle of wine or two,” Ward, of Avon, Connecticut, told Fox News.
After three years of hitting the bottle, Ward realized what she needed was to work through why she was drinking in the first place. With the help of a wellness coach, she was able to get to the bottom of her feelings and find ways to deal with her feelings instead — a process that took about 6 weeks until she was finally sober.
Drink too much? You're not alone.
According to the National Institutes of Health, 5.3 million women in the United States are diagnosed with alcohol use disorder (AUD), or problem drinking that worsens over time. Women with AUD are more likely to also have depression, anxiety disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Even more concerning is that of those who need help for their addiction, only about 11 percent seek treatment, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Here, experts weigh in with the signs that your drinking habit isn’t as harmless as you may think:
1. Drinking is your only way to cope.
Motherhood can be tough, but if you’re also dealing with work stress, health issues and financial problems, your emotions can seem overwhelming. But if drinking has become your only coping mechanism, it could mean the habit is out of control.
Seventy-four percent of women who were diagnosed with AUD have two or more children, and say that stress or anxiety, romantic relationships, pressure from family or friends, a traumatic experience and boredom were contributing factors for their addiction, a survey by Caron Treatment Centers found.
“What we want to look at in women is: Are they self-medicating an underlying depression or anxiety or resentments that have not been dealt with?” Dr. Stacy Seikel, the clinical medical officer of Integrated Recovery Programs at RiverMend Health Center in Atlanta, told Fox News.
One way to tell whether you have a drinking problem is to try to stop drinking for a month. If you can give it up and replace your habit with healthier ways to cope, it’s not likely a problem, Siekel said.
2. You can’t remember anything.
If you already have “mommy brain” but it’s been hard to keep track of things, you have trouble concentrating or staying focused, and you easily make mistakes, your drinking might be behind it.
“Alcohol is amnesic, so it interferes with memory circuitry,” Dr. Joseph Garbely, medical director and vice president of medical services at Caron Treatment Centers in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, told Fox News.
3. You’re drinking more or earlier in the day.
Three drinks at one time or up to 7 drinks a week is considered a low-risk drinking limit. Yet nearly 30 percent of women have two drinks a day, and almost 22 percent have three drinks a day, according to data from the National Institutes of Health.
When one glass leads to two or three, you start drinking more every day, you pop open the bottle earlier and earlier, or you need more alcohol to feel the same effect, it’s a possible sign that your habit is out of control.
5. You are drinking and driving.
Between 1998 and 2007, the percentage of women arrested for DUI was up 28 percent, according to an FBI report. And in 2015, 14 percent of women with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 g/dL or higher were involved in fatal crashes.
Of course you should never get behind the wheel when you’ve been drinking, but when drinking interferes with your ability to take care of your kids or you’re always hungover, it’s a sign your drinking behavior has become a problem.
6. You can’t stop thinking about it.
If you have strong cravings for alcohol, spend your day counting down the hours until you can have a drink, or re-arrange your schedule to do so, you are likely addicted to alcohol.
7. People in your life are worried.
Between paint and sip parties, school fundraisers or get-togethers with friends, drinking has become socially acceptable, especially among moms.
But when your spouse or others in your life have become worried about your drinking, you should pay attention too.
“When people who love you are concerned about you, typically that is a telltale sign that there needs to be at least an evaluation,” Garbely said.
If you have any of these signs, it’s a good idea to get evaluated by a mental health professional who specializes in addiction, or seek out a treatment program or a group like AA.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.