It’s 11:00am and the kids are in school, her husband is at work, her friends are either at the gym or, she imagines, making lunch plans and after school play dates for their children. They chat together and complain about their kid’s teacher and too much homework, or the ridiculous assignment that calls for way too many trips to the craft store.
Emily feels alone.
She is not really sure when it began, this feeling of “alone.” Even the term loneliness doesn’t fit because it seems too much like belonging to a group of people who feel the same way. She feels like she is trapped in an existence that doesn’t fit; yet the cost of making changes is too high. She came from a broken home and doesn’t want the same for her kids; she knows that she loves them but worries that she is not the mother she should be. Emily loves her husband, though they seem more like partners than soul mates. She can’t remember the last time she really had fun with Joe but knows that there was a time. And it really isn’t Joe’s fault, he hasn’t really done anything wrong, he works hard to support her and the kids and she should feel grateful for him, for their life, what with so many people with so much less.
As Emily finishes straightening her last room she starts to make herself lunch and decides that she’ll just add a dash of vodka to her diet soda, figuring it might lighten her thoughts…. Later, as she pours her second drink and begins to contemplate dinner, she adds just a shot more figuring that she will just be going through the car pool line and will not have to talk to anyone. She is feeling a bit better….maybe the kid’s homework will keep them occupied tonight and she can just get dinner over with.
Now it is 5pm….
As the kids do homework in front of the TV she is opening a bottle of wine to have with dinner…she pours herself a glass to sip as she cooks. The kids ask her questions, and as she struggles to put her finger on the answer she curses the new math, certain that she would fail the test herself…she is certainly not smarter than a 5th grader.
Joe gets home, and gives her a quick kiss on the cheek making a quiet comment about pasta again. He talks to the kids for a few minutes and checks the sports scores on the TV.
Emily gets dinner on the table and as they sit down it strikes her that everything on the table looks the same, as colorless and lifeless as she feels. Joe joins her with his own glass of wine but as she cleans off the table she notices that his first and only glass is half empty so she finishes it as she clears…
With the kids in bed and Joe asleep while sitting on the couch watching the news, the feeling of alone comes back full force – only now it is joined by anger at herself.
At the beginning of each day she tells herself that she will not have that shot in her diet soda or that wine with dinner and each day ends with self-loathing because she drank again.
Emily’s story is not only true, but all too real for many women. Some substitute the stay-at-home routine for work outside of the home, but the pattern of drinking is the same. Their drinking has become their way to get through the day and they live in fear, fear of being called out on the drinking, fear of what it would mean if they were found out. What if those outside her family found out about her drinking, and she was whispered about and avoided? Her kids would be left without play dates and would be pitied for having her as their mother.
There is also the fear that each day she will slip further into the abyss and no one will notice until it is too late.
In reality Emily had always felt that she was on the outside looking into a group that she couldn’t relate to. When she shared her feelings with Joe about a lack of belonging with the other moms, his response was always, ”Just be yourself.” The problem for Emily was that she no longer knew who ‘herself’ was. This inevitably led her down the rabbit hole of self-doubt.
It is totally within Emily to be understood, to learn what hurts and how her feelings of fear and loneliness came to be. Emily’s need to self medicate in order to deal with her feelings would be addressed by helping her to understand herself and connect the dots. The dots are Emily’s life story, from birth to today, and include the actual physical events as well as emotional attachments to each event and turning point.
Emily can learn to put her life events in the context of not only her family but also her culture. For example: many women are raised to believe that they can achieve anything, until they realize that the silent cultural expectation is that they put aside personal needs for achievement and expression in favor of their marriage or family.
These expectations can leave women with a fundamental conflict. This fundamental conflict leads to a feeling of disconnect and this disconnect leads to a feeling of alienation. One of the ways that many people, both women and men, deal with a sense of alienation is through self medication = alcohol and/or pills.
The cultural norms about women also include the expectation that they not “need a vice” to cope with stress. There is a stigma attached to women who drink that is not attached to men. In a societal view men drink to deal with their emotions, which is “to be expected,” however for women there is an expectation that they be able to cope with not only their emotions but with those of their mate and even children without turning to a “vice”.
Emily can be helped, she can understand herself and what leads her to feel alone.