by Dr. Paul Hokemeyer
The pressure surrounding motherhood in the 21st Century is extraordinary. Everywhere we turn there’s an expert (yes, including me) telling mothers how to do it “right” and “better.” And while this wealth of information is incredibly valuable, it also sets an impossible standard for the person in charge: mothers. In addition, lofty standards mothers feed the cancer of destructive coping mechanisms, the most common of which is drug and alcohol abuse.
Although we’ve made great strides in the field of addiction by de-stigmatizing substance abuse, society continues to maintain stereotypes and myths regarding what an alcoholic/addict looks and acts like. High on that list is the perception that people who abuse substances live substandard lives. In my experience working as a marriage and family therapist with high functioning and successful families at the Caron Treatment Centers in Manhattan, I’ve found nothing could be further from the truth.
The truth is addicts are lawyers and doctors, teachers and government officials. Substance abusers exist among people who have money in the bank, well-mannered children in good schools, prestigious addresses and successful careers. And yes, addicts are working and stay-at-home moms.
The reason we don’t think of these people as substance abusers is because the trappings of success enable them to hide it. The pressure for perfection, particularly among moms, can become too much to bear. Without healthy coping mechanisms, many moms become “silent sufferers.” They put up a façade of perfection to mask the anxiety, fear and overwhelming pressures they feel, self-medicating with alcohol.
Although these “high functioning alcoholics” may not drink or use every day, they become psychologically dependent on the substances they abuse, obsessing about their next opportunity to drink or needing to drink in certain settings.
Among the signs of high–functioning alcoholism:
• People who have trouble controlling their intake after they start using or swear off using again.
• People who think obsessively about their next drink or using opportunity.
• People whose personality changes after they start using.
• People who experience “blackouts.”
To learn more, click the “play” button and listen to my interview with Susan Viebrock.
Dr. Hokemeyer is a nationally recognized expert on Eastern philosophies, relationships, and emotional healing. A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, he holds a PhD in psychology, as well as a doctorate in the law. A part-time Telluride resident, Dr. Hokemeyer is based in the New York City office of the Caron Treatment Centers. He is also a weekly contributor to “The Dr. Oz Show,” CNN’s “Headline News,” and other media outlets, including “Good Morning America,” “truTV,” and “Oprah Radio.” His new column, Shrink Rap, is scheduled to appear at least bi-monthly on Thursdays on Telluride Inside… and Out.