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Episode 034. How We Talk About Motherhood, Alcohol & Sobriety with Laura McKowen

Episode 034

I’m so honored to share the incredible Laura McKowen with you today! This conversation is AWESOME and just the start I was hoping for to a very…interesting & challenging topic.

How are we supposed to talk about alcohol as moms? Some of us drink. Some of us don’t. And there’s this weird divide between the two and unhelpful cultural influences that leave us fumbling for how to talk to one another about drinking and sobriety. Which is so weird as moms and friends and sisters to suddenly NOT know how to talk to one another about this “everyday ordinary” topic. It almost feels like it’s talked about for us in memes and wine apparel.

I’ve been thinking about how I wanted to bring up of the conversation of alcohol for a while and having Laura on to breech the subject feels right. She’s so kind and understanding and her journey brings with it important insight that we can all benefit from big time whether you drink or not.

I wish I felt like I could just talk about alcohol and sobriety. Just be open and honest like I would with any topic. And I’m going to be open and honest, but not before I tell you that I was afraid to.

I have a fear that isn’t unfounded. I’m afraid of estranging people once they “find out” that I don’t drink anymore. Or find out my views on the alcohol industry and its relationship to motherhood culture. But I’ve got to be true to myself…and I can’t unlearn what I’ve learned.

So I suppose the best thing I can do before we get into the interview is let you know part of my story. Alcohol has a strange place in my life and marriage that wasn’t there before I got married. And then an issue that had never been an issue suddenly was. This is the point where everyone wants the details. And I’m not going to go into them, sorry not sorry. The details are never the point. But alcohol is a sensitive topic in my house. And with good reason.

So because it’s a sensitive topic (among other things), my husband and I made the decision to stop drinking altogether. And overnight, my relationship with my husband changed for the better. And my relationship to motherhood culture changed for the worse. Not drinking or joking about wine meant I was no longer fun in the eyes of a lot of people. Or not drinking meant I was silently judging others for drinking. And those things just aren’t true…that’s just the cultural script. And we’re not sure how to talk about it. So we dance around it and stick to the script, even if it feels not quite right.

And the flip side of all these assumptions—all these weird rifts & separateness? When I began telling people that we didn’t drink, moms starting coming to me and quietly asking about it. “How did you stop drinking? How are people treating you? Are you still able to hang out with friends? Did people stop inviting you?” and the most heart stopping question of all: “How did you finally get your partner to stop drinking?” They wanted to know details because there is a sensitivity (if you will) in their life that needs changing but our larger culture (and motherhood culture) don’t openly support sobriety or the choice not to drink. We are pressured and bullied (even subtly) into believing that drinking is “the cool thing” to do. The message is: everyone does it. And now the motherhood message is: you can’t mother without wine…there is no way you can get through a day of your life without drinking alcohol and altering yourself.

And I’m going to say a very unpopular thing. That attitude is destroying families.

It’s hard to hear, but it’s the truth. I’m not saying if you drink you’re destroying your family. I want to be clear about that because of the assumptions I mentioned above. I’m saying that our culture’s attitude about it is destructive. I don’t want moms to feel like they have to hide when they come to me and whisper “How? How did you get him to stop drinking? How did you stop? Do your friends still want to hang out with you?” I don’t want them to worry about losing moms friends—something we all know is a life line in certain mothering seasons—simply because they choose not to drink anymore or stop finding memes about drinking funny or cute.

It’s such a polarized topic when it doesn’t need to be. If it truly was “no big deal,” we wouldn’t be whispering about it. If it truly was “no big deal,” we wouldn’t have to feel like we might lose our friends if we choose not to drink. But these are real concerns for moms. And it feels like there’s not a lot of mom-specific support out there to help us navigate this topic. No guidelines for how to talk about alcohol and motherhood. So we live in this weird culture that’s polarized: either you’re in or you’re out. And if you’re out, you’re no fun. And you know what? That’s just not true. And it’s not helpful.

So what is helpful? Amazing women like today’s guest, author and speaker Laura McKowen.

Laura is going to share with us her story, her insights, suggestions for how to talk about alcohol and motherhood, and how to be supportive of friends who choose sobriety. Her message is very, very powerful. Laura is the author of We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life. She is a former public relations executive who has become recognized as a fresh voice in the recovery movement. Beloved for her soulful and irreverent writing, she now leads sold-out yoga-based retreats and courses that teach people how to say yes to a bigger life. She hosted the iTunes Top 100 podcast HOME, with over 1.5 million downloads. and has been featured on the TODAY show, in The Guardian, WebMD, New York Post, and more. She shows up as such a light and friend for this conversation and finds a way to make us comfortable with the uncomfortable while holding our hands and walking us forward.

I don’t want you to be afraid of this conversation.

It’s not a heavy…it’s full of hope, ideas, and inspiration. And gives us new perspective on how we can talk about it with each other, with our sisters, and be supportive of one another. We’re breaking through the “not knowing” and diving into it so we can come out the other side with more understanding, compassion, and resources to move forward with clarity and connection.

More About Today’s Guest:
Laura McKowen’s Website
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & Pinterest

Tips for getting alcohol help mentioned in the show:
Following Hashtags (i.e. #sober #sobermama #sobermom)
Following Authors (i.e. Glennon Doyle, Brene Brown)
Seek Out Programs (i.e. Tempest Sobriety School, Alcoholics Anonymous, She Recovers, Women for Sobriety)

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