Martha Wright was bothered about her drinking for several years.
She was trying to guide her teenager around conversations about alcohol and other substances and worrying she wasn’t setting the best example.
“Motherhood was my role and identity, she says. “But if we were eating dinner, watching a movie or even playing ping pong, my wine glass was there. I started to feel symptoms. I felt mentally foggy and I was forgetting things.”
Drinking constantly can also cause indigestion, anxiety and poor sleep.
“You make resolutions that only last a week, decide you actually don’t have a problem and then resume drinking,” Wright says. “I’ve been there. I was waking up at 3 a.m. every night with anxious thoughts, usually beating myself up. I would make promises to cut back or not drink the next day. But later the next day, I’d feel compelled to pour a glass again.”
And alcohol was more than something to pass the time, it was her livelihood. Wright moved to Oregon 21 years ago, after being raised in New Orleans, a city known for its cocktail culture and bar scene.
“It was permissive,” Wright says. “Let the good times roll.”
She and her husband started a winery in Carlton. “In this industry you are surrounded by wine, tastings, dinners, pourings, visiting restaurants and chefs,” she says. “The food and wine industry, in general, has a high incidence of alcohol and drug use.”
The work includes long, stressful hours and late nights. “You wake up in the morning not feeling right, but the process starts all over again,” Wright says. “I started feeling more dependency on wine than I wanted to.”
She believes there are millions of people like her.
She remembers that a few years before her mother died, the family held an intervention for her mother.
“We were concerned about her drinking’s effect on her mood and health,” Wright says. “And she told me, ‘Every single day of my life for as long as I can remember, I’ve said this would be the last day of drinking.’ This was a wake-up call.”
Wright refers to her past self as a “gray area drinker,” rather than an alcoholic. “We’re not alcoholics. But alcohol is addictive — to all people.”
Sometimes Wright would limit wine drinking for a night, or take a whole week off, but she was surprised at the hold alcohol had on her.
“I didn’t see a remedy to make a change,” she says.
Shortly after the intervention for her mother, Wright met a neighbor for drinks. Her friend ordered a tonic instead of an alcoholic beverage, and Wright was curious about the choice not to drink alcohol.
“She told me she didn’t like to talk about it unless she was asked, but she had stopped drinking almost two years earlier,” Wright says.
The neighbor recommended a book called “The Alcohol Experiment” by Annie Grace, and Wright “ran home and looked it up,” she says.
That book “not only gave me control over alcohol but my life changed,” Wright says. “I have energy and motivation that had been missing.”
After a week without alcohol, she noticed how much better she felt and how much her sleep had improved. “I didn’t know I had gotten that bad,” she says.
With these new life changes, Wright took the next step to become a trained sobriety coach. Now age 52, she has embarked on a new career to help others by conducting workshops and online consultations.
What she has noticed is that many of us tend to use extremes when talking about alcohol use — either you are “normal” or you “have a problem,” when it’s actually a spectrum of dependencies.
Advertising portrays the consumption of alcoholic drinks as being very appealing, Wright says. It implies alcohol enhances romance, that you will have more fun, and be the life of the party. It’s deliberately targeted at the female demographic.
This can happen easily to women whose primary role as a parent becomes “unmoored” when their children grow up and leave home. Wright noticed this, particularly, when her daughter was busy in high school and college and didn’t need her mother as much as she once had.
Life’s transitions also can trigger stress that accelerates dependency, she says, especially at age 50 and older.
“In my view, people who come to my workshops are rock stars,” she says. “It took bravery to come and do something truly counter-culture.”
Wright is a certified sobriety/mindfulness drinking coach. Calls can be scheduled with her at Martha@clearpowercoaching.com.
Here are some of Wright’s recommendations for non-alcoholic drinks:
Buonafide: An Italian red wine, available online and soon to be on the shelves at Whole Foods.
For Bitter For Worse: Made from organic botanicals and comes in three flavors. It can be found at Market of Choice in the wine section.
Monday Gin: “It smells delicious, like a gin and tonic,” Wright says. It can be bought through Amazon.
“Hoppy Refresher”: A drink with no calories or sugar, made by Launitas Brewing and sold at New Seasons in the beer section.