Stefanie: Wine Moms
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor was a cool mom who loved wine. As an author and blogger, she made a name for herself championing mom’s right to booze. What better way to unwind during naptime than with a drink? But despite her jokes, she could never quite quell the nagging internal voice that maybe she was drinking too much. After nearly 30 years of shoving that voice way down, Stefanie crosses an unthinkable line while drunk. She shares with Stephanie how her winding journey to sobriety included upending her public image – and discovering she wasn’t the only mom hearing the nagging voice.
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Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, Stephanie Wittels Wachs
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 00:02
I wrote out this blog post, and I was like, I’ve been drinking too much. And I decided on Friday that I quit. And I don’t drink anymore, and I braced for impact. I just thought, oh gosh, what are these people going to say?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 00:22
For many people, confessing that you’ve been drinking too much takes a lot of courage. Often this kind of admission is celebrated by the people who love you most. But for Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, this represents a full one aid for her life, her image and her career, and it unlocks a whole new level of attention that she never could have imagined.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 00:49
My phone started blowing up. I started getting emails and phone calls, from talk shows, and from Dr. Phil in particular called me they all were like oh, we heard that you quit drinking and you want to come on the show and talk about it and the sippy cups mom and and I was like, What? What is going on? I mean, I was 10 days sober at this point.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 01:28
This is Last Day, a show about the moments that change us. I’m your host Stephanie Wittles Wachs. Today, the story of loving alcohol so much that you make it a core part of your identity. And the moment you know, it’s time to leave it behind.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 01:53
Stephanie Wilder Taylor is a writer, a stand up comedian and a longtime podcast host. And Stefanie spelled with an F is also the author of six books from one author and podcaster, Stefanie with a hyphenated last name to another that is a crazy amazing amount of creative output, especially given that she did all of that with three kids in tow. But the mom thing was actually part of the brand. Stefanie was known for writing candidly about motherhood and notably how a drink or two or three, or the whole bottle can take the edge off of all the hard, monotonous, exhausting things that motherhood demands. But behind the hilarious irreverent writing, Stefanie was secretly wondering if her drinking was normal. She documents all of this in her new book, drunk ish, a memoir of loving and leaving alcohol. And although drinking is literally front and center in the story, that isn’t where the addiction plotline starts.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 02:57
I gotta say that it goes all the way back like my first experience feeling like an addict was sugar. I at a really young age, I got busted stealing my parents, I guess Halloween candy that was supposed to be for the trick or treaters that was, Halloween was a couple days away. And I climbed up into our pantry and stole some chocolate. And I really have a visceral memory of just feeling like I know, this is bad. I know this is wrong, I know I’m gonna get in trouble if I get caught but I have to have some candy now. And I ate the candy. And sure enough, I was busted by my mom. A couple days later, she went to go serve the you know, put it in the bowl for the trick or treaters and she was so mad. And I just felt ashamed. And you know, I think she told me that I was selfish and I was being a pig and how could you do that? And that’s like, that’s my first feeling of addiction of the my want for the candy was stronger than my fear of the consequences.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 04:06
Stefanie grows up this overwhelming feeling sets the stage for other vices.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 04:12
I already had a compulsive nature. And then at 14, I was a freshman in high school and I had this huge crush on a guy who was a senior in high school. And I pined for this guy. And my friend was pining for that guy’s friend. They bought beer. I had never had beer before. I had never kissed a boy, I had, you know, lots of crushes. They were never requited and I had a few beers. And I faced my fear of of kissing a guy for the first time. And I remember the feeling of just that buzzy warm, brave feeling that alcohol gave me and I was like, ah, I want to feel this again and again and again, like, I’m never gonna get tired of this feeling. And then also, we were bored, we were teenagers, the town that I lived in, that’s what people mostly did was drink. So it was hard for me to see that my drinking was any different than anybody else’s way back then except that from probably the first maybe the second time I drank, I was not having memories of the night before there was the blackouts, or just just spotty. But I thought that everybody felt like that. I was like, well, this is must be what drinking does.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 05:38
I mean, that’s such a great description of that. And I love that you started with that same feeling of shame with the sugar. It’s like all the same shit. It’s like, giving you something it’s giving you some kind of superpower or something that’s helping and there’s a cost to that but, you know, it outweighs it, right?
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 05:57
There’s something wrong with the fact that what you’re doing to feel better, that feels good, is bad, you know, somehow wrong, like eating too much candy is bad, you’re bad you’re selfish, you’re doing something wrong, so there’s always that feeling. I hadn’t even really thought about this before but it’s true. I think for anything that made me feel good. I always knew I was doing something wrong. Obviously, when you’re drinking at 14, you’re not supposed to be. I mean, it’s not legal, and if I was caught by my parents, it would be wrong. But that was that same feeling of just like, why does all the things I love? Why do they? Why are they wrong?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 06:36
Once Stefanie hits adulthood, she sets out on a career as a stand up comedian and TV writer in LA. And as a responsible and employed adult, it’s totally fine for her to drink. In fact, drinking helps with the work. It’s how she calms her nerves before standup set, it’s how she gets in the mood to have fun with her funny friends. For 20 somethings Stefanie getting a little too drunk never caused any real harm.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 07:04
My drinking never got in the way of anything. It was just a tool that I had that I couldn’t control. That’s how my drinking was. I never felt like, Oh, I’m an alcoholic, or I’m addicted to alcohol. I never felt that way. I felt like why can’t I control this thing that I like to do that I like to use? That makes me feel good, why? Sometimes when I say I’m only going to have one drink tonight, or I’m only going to have two, why do I have eight? Like what is what’s wrong with me? It was always that what’s wrong with me? Why do I do this? But it wasn’t like, oh, I need help. What I saw alcoholism, I had friends that were alcoholics. One in particular, I was like that friend of mine is an alcoholic. You know, he has a couple of drinks and his whole personality changes, and he’s slurring his words. He’s sloppy, he got arrested one time, you know, he does harder drugs when he’s drinking. Like that’s, that’s a problem. What I have is just a need to control it better. That’s how I saw myself for a really long time. In my 20s, I drove drunk all the time. I just didn’t even think about it. That’s just what we did. I would go out with my friends, and somebody had to drive. So I would drive and I would drink. And then I would drive home. And one time, this would be in my very early 20s. I remember waking up in my apartment, and having the thought of I don’t remember what happened last night. And I not sure my car is going to be parked in my parking space. And I got real scared. And I sat up in bed and I went to the blinds and I had this moment of if my car’s not parked in its parking space. I have no idea where it is. And I don’t know how I would even retrace my steps. And then the car was there. And I was like, okay, I didn’t think about that. I wasn’t like I’m never drinking again. I was like, oh, thank god my cars there, life can go on like normal.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 09:16
And life does go on as normal. In her 30s Stefanie is living it up in Santa Monica as a TV writer with her boyfriend, John. And drinking is a regular part of their nightly routine.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 09:29
There was a store supermarket, right behind the back of our apartment building, so sure we would order takeout late at night we would you know, we’d sometimes eat dinner at 11 we both had jobs on TV. And we stayed up late, we watch TV, we drink our wine and I felt like oh, I can drink as much as I want. As long as I get up in the morning, go to work, which I did. I felt that wine gave me access to my emotions to feel intimate with my boyfriend to enjoy myself.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 10:08
John was with Stefanie during many of these drunken nights where maybe she overdid it. Like, after they had a night and hanging out with friends.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 10:17
And then the next thing I knew, I’m so drunk, I’m sick we’re trying to leave, I’m puking on the sidewalk. John had to stop like, we couldn’t take the freeway home, which, you know, in LA tax on another like, hour to the trip, because I had to stop every so often and get out of the car and puke. Get back to his apartment, I puke in the bathroom, I missed the toilet, it’s all over the mat. I wake up in the morning, of course, I’m full of shame, you know, like, why, why did that happen to me? Why did I feel like was just us hanging out with one other couple of weeks? And I just remember feeling just humiliated, and like, is this guy gonna break up with me? A puked on his bathmat?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 11:03
And did he? How did he contribute to that pattern of behavior or not? I mean, did he say, hey, you threw up on my bath mat? Or was he just like, yeah, that was crazy, and then you moved on.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 11:14
He, you know, he was always, like, you’re too hard on yourself. You’re your own harshest critic, it’s okay, it happens. You know, you had too much to drink, okay? We weren’t having huge fights, I wasn’t hurting anybody, I wasn’t, you know, getting in fights with his friends, it was all fun, and then it wasn’t. Then I was we he used to call me luggage. He’d say your luggage by the end of last night. It was kind of like our joke. It was, so he wasn’t mad at me. He just and he told me later, like looking back, he said, he said, I didn’t think that you were an alcoholic, I thought that you had a didn’t have really an off switch. Because he had the same image of what alcoholism is what true addiction is like, you can’t stop your drinking all day. You’re swilling it from a paper bag, your you know, drinking mouthwash and the shit you’re sneaking around. Like, he’s like, my girlfriend just drinks but when she’s getting her wine report, she loses track. And that’s how I live for a long time.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 12:27
Stefanie and John get married and 2004 shortly after she gets pregnant with her first daughter, and she’s still very career motivated. She’s writing jokes and moving from TV show to TV show.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 12:40
And I remember thinking, God, I just I love my job. Like, I’m so lucky that I get to do this and, you know, get paid to just like think of funny things. This is the life and I thought once I have a baby, I’m gonna go right back to work. I’m gonna be one of those people who like, you know, is cool, really cool. Like not an anxious parent, like, I’m just gonna, like, take the baby everywhere or whatever, I don’t know, I wasn’t I didn’t think that far ahead, you know, put the baby in daycare, you know, whatever.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 13:12
Unfortunately, new motherhood isn’t as easy breezy as Stefanie hopes. After she gives birth, she’s diagnosed with postpartum anxiety. And since she doesn’t have a show to work on, that’s currently in production, she stays home to take care of the baby while John continues to go to work. And managing both her postpartum symptoms and a newborn all alone, all day long, is a lot.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 13:40
I was like home with this baby. And where I used to go out and spend time with people and be creative and you feel validation from outside things. All of a sudden, I’m just at home with this infant in my head. So bored a lot of my friends were TV writers or comedians and they did not have kids. And, you know, try getting your stand up comedian friend to just go for a walk in the park for your time together when they’re used to like going out for drinks, you know? So I was trying, I was looking for stuff to do. I signed up for a mommy and me at a local temple. And I was like, Oh, these people they’re so boring. I don’t relate to them. I don’t I’m not a mommy you know? I just had pictured myself as being like, a cool mom, life going on the way it was before.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 14:37
Just ban it was in tow, yeah.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 14:38
Huge change for me. And also even if I could do that, my daughter wouldn’t she was not a she was also not laid back.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 14:50
Not cool, baby.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 14:51
Not cool, baby, that was the problem. And then I became one of those moms that’s like, can’t go to your barbecue at four o’clock, that’s my child’s naptime. And you don’t know how hard the rest of my day will be, if she doesn’t sleep at that time, so then I became even a little bit more isolated.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 15:11
In her mind, what she needs is a community of moms like her cool moms more specifically, who are honest about how shitty parenting can be. And eventually, she finds it.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 15:26
What I found was a good way to kind of take the edge off and make me feel connected to the world was having some wine and reading blogs. And then I started a blog. And I found real connection. I was like, oh my gosh, there’s a there are other women, other moms out there having their wine, at the end of the day, griping about how much harder this is, than any of us would admit out loud, I don’t want to go shop for diapers, that’s the high point of my day, this is bullshit. I hate this, this is not my life, and I’m blogs, we are all complaining about it, we are all like breastfeeding is horrible. Like who’s with me? I am, and it was fun, and then I got a book deal for my first book, which was sippy cups or not for Chardonnay. And I was like, now is where I can be myself. I can write I can have a book deal. And all of my edgy thoughts had somewhere to go. And then that book got published. And I found real connection. Either people hated the book, and we’re like, you’re a terrible mom, and you sound like an alcoholic, which I was like, whatever you don’t you don’t get it. Or people were like, Oh my God, this, you speak to me. You’re in my head, how do you know other things, I’m thinking thank you for writing this book. You know, this was early before there were a bunch of bad mommy books. This was right, I suppose.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 16:58
Yeah, you were really on the cutting edge here.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 17:00
Yes. So I feel like it kind of reinforced this thing in me that was like, yeah, you’re not doing something wrong. You’re doing something right. And a lot of other people are doing it right along with you. But even so, even though I was drinking safely from my, you know, living room, watching TV, hanging out, taking good care of my kid, I still have the nagging thing of like, I do drink too much though.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 17:32
And but were you drinking? Like what was the.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 17:35
I wasn’t drinking that much, it was more like the need for it, you know, plus, or at that point, I was taking Xanax which I was prescribed for my postpartum anxiety. But I was mixing it, you know, I never told when I was prescribed Xanax, I wouldn’t say also, you should know I drink three glasses of wine every night. So you know what they don’t need to know that. Like, that’s just the thing I need. I also need the Xanax but I also need to drink but then they don’t need to know about each other. And it’s none of their business. You know, I’m fine, and so I’m on Zoloft. I’m taking Xanax and drinking wine every night.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 18:26
We are back. So every night as a new mom, Stefanie unwinds with Xanax and wine. And although she’s found her people in the mommy blogging ecosystem, who also like to drink, she still can’t quell that nagging voice inside her head that tells her maybe it’s too much. And then one Halloween when her daughter is one, she drinks so much that she can’t remember part of the night the next day.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 18:55
I had this incident where I went trick or treating with some other parents and I got drunk. The next day, my husband was like, wow, you really bonded with our friend’s mom, like the grandma of the little kids. Apparently, I made her my best friend. And, you know, we were like, gonna keep in touch. I had no memory of it at all. I felt really ashamed. And I felt like wow, okay, so this behavior from my 20s you know, and 30s is still like, I don’t know if I thought it would just go away when I had a baby or I was just going to drink responsibly, or I’m just having a few glasses of wine at night, and then here I was, again, like, Oh, God, I can’t control this. And now I’m acting in this way. And what if I did that? What if my daughter was older? And I was like, drunk around her. That’s a nightmare, I don’t want that to happen. So I decided I was really going to quit drinking. I’m like she’s too show we’ll never have any memory of me drinking. I’m quitting drinking and I really like asked a friend for help. I went to some like recovery meetings. I really meant business, but I didn’t do anything different. I didn’t get a sponsor. I didn’t, like, do any reading. I was like, listen, I’ll go crazy, you know.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 20:21
Who has that kind of time?
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 20:25
I’m a mom, like, I’m super busy right now, you guys. So very lazy, I was like, that seems like what you guys are doing seems like a lot of work. I think what I’m gonna do is just not drink, and that’s going to be good.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 20:40
So for about six weeks, Stefanie goes without drinking at all, even though she isn’t doing any of the work that might help sobriety stick. And soon after she finds out she’s pregnant again, this time with twins. Now, when she was pregnant the first time her OB told her it was okay to have at most two drinks a week while pregnant. She could also eat sushi. I mean, listen, this was a different time, more loosey goosey. But the pregnancy hormones are making her super nauseous. So any inclination she has to drink is completely obliterated. So after Stefanie gives birth, she’s gone nine months without drinking a drop of alcohol at all. And she’s been totally okay, which solidifies in her mind that she is obviously not an alcoholic. So obviously, it is totally okay for her to drink again. And now with two newborns, two, and a two year old, she feels like she really needs it. And frankly, deserves it.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 21:43
So I talked myself back into I can totally handle this now. I’m going to drink responsibly. And then I would, I was so relieved. Oh, I had a glass of wine and it was so nice, and then I had another glass of wine. And then you know, I I went back to drinking, you know, every couple of nights. And then that pretty soon I was drinking every night again. And pretty soon. I was like, you know what, I can’t take a night off. I had the flu one time and was like, you know what? Alcohol is probably good for me. I’m gonna make like a whiskey in tea. And I’ll you know, somehow that’s I would just the games I would play with my brain of like, oh, you know, it’s healthy.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 22:34
I need to kill the germs to see.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 22:36
Exactly, it’s an antiseptic a lot of people don’t know that, but they’re not into the wellness like I am so yeah, I did that and I would have this, you know, nagging voice of like, this can’t be good for my liver. This can’t be this can’t be good for me but I really, I need it.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 22:56
Eventually, Stefanie starts to listen to that nagging little voice inside her head, and does try to cut back, she starts making bargains with herself, you know, she’ll only have one drink, or she’ll only drink every other night.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 23:12
So I would just try to go, okay, I’m gonna wait till the babies are in bed. And then I’ll have a glass of wine. And then I’d have more. And then I take my Xanax. And then I would be passed out by like, 9pm. And my husband would do the lion’s share of the nighttime, but I told myself, you know, well, hey, he’s at work all day. I’m with these kids all day. He can do the middle of the night feedings. Like, that’s fine, I didn’t feel that, that bad about it. And at a certain point, I was like, you know, moderating is exhausting. It’s making all these rules and then breaking all these rules, and you know what, it’s not that bad. I’m hot, very high functioning. And if this is just how I drink, then this is just how I drink. And I think what I should do is be kinder to myself, and just go, I’m just something I just like to drink. I’m just going to drink every night. And I think it’s the trying to control it. That makes me drink more, so if I don’t try to control it, and I just have as much as I want, then my body will tell me.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 24:22
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 24:24
Yes, practicing mindfulness, that’s right. So that’s how I thought I was like, I’m just going to drink every single night but I will never drive drunk.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 24:36
For Stefanie, this is the definitive line in the sand. She’ll only drink in a safe space, and her husband is around to help keep an eye on the kids. But in May 2009, her friend invites her to a party and she desperately needs to cut loose and have some fun. So she leaves one of the twins at home with her husband and takes the two other kids with her. Which is totally fine because there’s a nanny at the party specifically there to watch the kids while the moms hang out.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 25:07
And I remember thinking, Ah, this is so fun. I’m just when I’m with adults, and she was serving flavored martinis, apricot flavored martinis, and I was having the best time, my girlfriend had brought me and I think her and with her daughter, and we were all just having fun, and I had a martini, and I’m like, it’s early in the evening, I can have a drink. And then, you know, I’ll be able to drive home later. But of course, when drink felt good, having fun enjoying myself, she pours me another drink. I’m like drinking, I’ll be fine and then I do remember, like my girlfriend who was with me saying, Are you going to be okay to drive? And I found that so offensive, obviously, obviously, I’m not leaving for a while like, I would just get so annoyed if anybody was trying to monitor my drinking. I think I know what I’m doing, and then my husband was trying to call me and I was ignoring his calls. Because like, Scott, what is why does he need me he’s home with one baby, he should be feeling good. But he always had questions for me, you know what I mean? And I felt like I’m enjoying myself. I’m having a good time, let me just have a good time. And just stop, everybody leave me alone. I remember that feeling. And then I had another drink. And I probably had one more. And then at some point, my friend was like your John is trying to call you. You need to call him back. And I do remember calling him back and saying, I’m coming home like enough. And I got in the car, and then I drove home. It’s probably like a five minute drive. And then I got out of the car, my husband was in the driveway, and he was super pissed. And he was I just never seen in my husband is very low key, even tempered man, and he was furious. Which made me furious. Because I was like, I just, I just wanted a night to like, enjoy myself, why can’t I just have a night to enjoy myself? And he was like, you’re drunk, you’re drunk, you can barely walk. And I didn’t think I was drunk, I did not feel drunk. And I went in the house, and he put the babies, the kids to bed. And I clearly slept on the couch because that’s where I woke up. And I was like, what the fuck did I do?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 27:42
Memories of the night before start to come back to her in flashes, and Stefanie realizes that she has crossed her own line in the sand. Thankfully, her kids were fine and are still fine. But the realization that she drove drunk with them in the car was earth shattering.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 28:02
I was incredibly hungover, I was going back and forth to the bathroom, I had an insane migraine, I was throwing up. I was so humiliated. I knew, I knew that he’d been right the night before. I was like, oh, I was drunk. And I was trying to piece back together what my thought process was because I’m not somebody who would drive drunk with my kids in the car. Yet I, I did that I did this thing. And I saw it like from, you know, outside of my body like I saw myself. And I thought, who is that? Who is that person who that would do that? I would have so harshly judged another mom for doing that. So what is it about me that I keep making these bad decisions that when I think I’m not going to that even this thing, this line in the sand that I drew that for good reason, I would never cross and then I just crossed it like with no regard not even any forethought no, no like, Oh, I’m about to if I have another drink, I’ll end up being drunk. And then I’m gonna drive, none of that came into my head, and I did that. And I was I just felt such deep shame. And I thought like, what’s, what’s gonna happen is my husband does he want is he gonna want a divorce. Like I thought who would do this? I felt like the worst person on the planet. And who could forgive that?
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 29:38
Stefanie’s mind is racing. The shame she’s been carrying around her entire life has reached a fever pitch. And she finally realizes that from this point on, she only has one option.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 29:56
The only thing I can do is not drink. That’s the only control that I have, you know, because once I drink, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I know I’m unpredictable. So the only thing that is within my control is not doing the thing that makes me go out of control. So I just had a moment of bravery. And I went in and I sat down on the bed, my bed next to my husband, and he was still mad. You know, he opened his eyes, and he just stared at me. And I just started crying. And I was like, I have, I must have a problem, I have a problem. I think I’m an alcoholic, and then he was like, no, you’re not an alcoholic. You didn’t mean to, like, just sometimes, you know, you drink too much, you gotta just not drink that much and you can’t drive when you’ve been drinking. And I said, I know, but I did. I drove I know, I’m not supposed to do that, of course, I’m not supposed to do that, I did it though. Why did I do it? The only explanation I can give you is that I have a drinking problem. It was horrible. It was a horrible morning, I had to convince my husband that I have a drinking problem. And I called my friend and I was crying. And I said, I need help. Because I can’t do this by myself. I just can’t I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do, I’m scared to make this change, but I can’t go on the way I can’t go on like this. I did not want to ever feel this feeling again. This sad, this embarrassed, this ashamed. I was like, I don’t want to feel this feeling anymore, and the only way I can avoid feeling this feeling is to not drink. And I told her what happened. And she said, I’m going to help you.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 31:58
Stefanie’s friend, who was actively in addiction recovery herself at the time, takes her to a Tuesday meeting. There, Stefanie cries and shares her story, and she is welcomed with open arms. But an undercurrent of discomfort remains, she is not 100% sure that this is the place for her. She isn’t even sure she is an alcoholic.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 32:23
It’s so hard to explain but it was like, I’m not what I think of an alcoholic. But I’m also so unpredictable. And I’ve never been able to get back the predictability, ever from the time I was 14 to now I was I’m like I’m 42 years old, it’s never gone in a good direction is only been going in a bad direction. For a long time, I just didn’t want to see myself that way. I didn’t want to be like, you know, the person who got four DUIs, or the person who lost custody their kids, or I was like, but I’m not that, I’m this other thing, I’m a very special case. And I think there should be special meetings for special cases like me, you know? I did, I felt very special. And I used to share about it right in my meetings, and I’d be like, well, I’m very, like, high bottom. You know, I was very high functioning, and one day this woman came up to me and she was like, you’re, you drove drunk with your kids in the car. It’s not that fancy. I was like, Oh, she’s right. I just I set myself apart, you know, I’m like, edgier I’m cooler. I’m not like you, but it’s all comes from this insecurity that like I’m a piece of shit so it was just I had to keep reminding myself that it really doesn’t matter, it really doesn’t matter why I’m here or what it matters that I don’t want to drink. What helped me with hearing other people be brutally honest about themselves, and so I got real honest.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 34:11
We’re back with Stefanie has spent most of her life denying that she has a drinking problem. And now she is getting real honest about the fact that she does. She is in fact, an alcoholic, a pivotal realization for her personally, but potentially kind of fucked for her professionally. Your entire brand was drinking and being a mom. I mean, that’s also part of it. Right, like.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 34:42
There’s that yeah.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 34:43
How do you your career as a writer as a cool mom is sort of sitting on top of this. I drink I blog, I fuckin talk real shit about motherhood.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 34:58
Yes, yeah, and that was a really scary moment so I, a couple days after I made the decision to quit, you know, I was kind of blogging regularly at that point. And like you said, yeah, I was known as that I had bravado and I liked to drink and it was fun, and it was edgy, and I had an edgy sense of humor, and, you know, called everybody bitch. And still do, by the way, but did then do now, but you know, yes, talks about drinking, so all of a sudden, I’m like, oh, no, I want to update my blog but I’m known for being honest and how am I going to not say that I quit drinking. So I decided that I was going to tell my blog readers. But just so you know, even though I had written the book, and it was, it was a pretty big book. My blog was still really small, it wasn’t blogging was not as popular probably at that time. By then, so I was like, I’m just gonna, these are like my core readers. I’m going to tell them my decision, so I wrote, I wrote out this blog post, and I was like, I didn’t say anything about the drinking and driving, but I was like, I you know, I know I talk a lot about I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was, you know, I, I’ve been drinking too much. And I decided on Friday, that I quit. And I don’t drink anymore, and I braced for impact. I just thought, oh, gosh, what are these people going to say? And everybody was really positive. People were like, oh, my gosh, I’ve been worried about my own drinking. Wow, good for you, congratulations. I remember one commenter was like, you know, you think everybody drinks but over here on the other side of the fence. There are a lot of moms who don’t drink or don’t drink to excess that are chaperoning your kids Girl Scout trips that are you know, that and we’re happy to have you over here. And I was like, oh, wow.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 37:15
Oh, God, that sounds like a nightmare.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 37:19
Yeah, I was like, you don’t know me no. So I felt I was like, okay. Okay, this was good, I got it out there. And now I can talk. I can talk about this. And I’ve been open and everybody was really nice and okay, cool. Like, maybe a week after that. My phone started blowing up. I started getting emails and phone calls, from talk shows. And from Dr. Phil in particular called me. They all were like, Oh, we heard that you quit drinking, and you want to come on the show and talk about it and the sippy cups mom and and you stopped drinking? And and I was like, what? What is going on? I mean, I was 10 days sober at this point.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 38:11
What was going on is that a columnist for the New York Times had found Stefanie’s blog post and written about it in her column, essentially outing her to the world. And the world is not as kind to her as her small group of loyal blog readers.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 38:28
People were like, she should have her kids taken away, she’s horrible oh, my God oh, and a lot of them were like, something about like, these stay at home moms and like, oh, they all they do is drink and like, you know, so spoiled, and she should try having a job. And you know, she’s so selfish, it was just it was very jarring and very awful. And of course, I said no, I didn’t want to do any interviews. And I was very freaked out. It was just, like a hard time. And I cried, and I was like, I didn’t ask for this. But I had outed myself on my blog, but still to like a few 100 readers, and this went out to like, you know, a million or more readers.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 39:21
Stefanie continues to refuse the interviews and the buzz eventually dies down. And then four months later, a different writer for the New York Times reaches out for a proper one on one interview, not the kind of sensationalized gotcha segments that you’ll see on Dr. Phil, for example. This is a real interview. Stefanie’s still a little weary, but she figures this is her chance to tell her own story in her own words. So she says yes.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 39:50
I thought it might feel I’d feel very exposed and I did. But it also helped me because I felt like accountable. And also a lot of people started reaching out to me and saying thank you, for your honesty. And I started hearing from a lot of moms saying I relate. And I, I think I might have a drinking problem, too, what should I do? I was like, I don’t know. Here’s what worked for me, I don’t know but like, I’m glad that helped in some way, but then that kind of got me thinking, okay, well, maybe I can help just by telling my story, but I did not want to reveal the drinking and driving part. I was really scared, because I was like, if these people are freaking out, I was basically admitting to drinking too much wine, you know, every night at home.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 40:41
While my kids were safe in bed, and you know.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 40:43
Right, right, these people want my head for that. Imagine when I tell them that I drove drunk in my car. And that’s what caused me to quit drinking. I was like, oh, all I’ll be crucified. So I just kept that part to myself. And I rationalized it I was like, you know, I am telling my story, and it is helping people. So like, can’t I keep part of it private. I don’t owe anybody. Like, that’s my that’s my story and nobody else needs to know that my friends, other sober people in my community, like they all know that but they understand and people other people wouldn’t understand.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 41:24
Four years later, Stefanie is hosting a parenting show for Nickelodeon called Parental discretion with Stefanie Wilder Taylor, it comes on every night between the hours of 10pm to 2am, she still hasn’t publicly shared the drinking and driving part of the story.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 41:41
And I got asked to do Katie Couric, she was going to simultaneously promote my new talk show. And also I was going to be weighing in about the mommy wine culture. So like two nights before, I’m gonna go on the show, one of the producers calls me and says, hey, we found this YouTube video, where you talked about drinking and driving with your kids in the car. Now, I had done this show called listen to your mother, it was a charity show. I didn’t know it was being recorded, I mean, if I if I did know they were videotaping it. I didn’t know they were putting it on YouTube, and I had told this story, because it wasn’t like no one could know about it, it’s just that I hadn’t talked about it on TV. So I said, oh, oh, like, okay. And she was like, well, Katie really wants to talk about it. And I said, no, I don’t want to talk. I’ve never, I’ve never shared that. I don’t want to and I was really scared. And I told I said, I was like, no one will understand that people will be really mad, and I don’t want to do that, and I’m like, I’m hosting a kid, a show for moms about parenting, like a car, like, that’s not going to be a good look. No, and then she was like, okay, well, I just, I really think you could help other people by telling the story and will you think about it? And I said, okay, thought about it, no, I don’t want to, no. And then I said, listen, you have time you can book somebody else like, but if you’re going to ask me about that I’m not coming. So then she was like, no, no, no, don’t worry about it. It’s fine, we won’t ask you that, so I was like, okay. And so I went and did Katie Couric, and sure enough, she immediately she was like, so I heard you got drunk and drove your kids in the car. And it was, it was just an awful, awful moment, I just felt like time stopped. Was like slow motion, you know, where you’re just, I was like, okay, I’m on TV, representing a show. I froze for a minute, so I was like, yeah, I did. And that was, you know, a wake up call for me, I never thought that was something I would ever do, and it was, it’s awful, and I never drink again, that was the last time I drank. And I braced what is going to happen now was another one of those moments like after I blogged about it, and I was really scared and embarrassed. And I cried, you know, after the show, the publicist for the TV show was there and she wasn’t mad, she was like, well, it was fine, it was good. I was like, it was?Like I just said that I drove drunk on TV. She was like, okay, you’re sober now. And then I started getting all these emails. After that show aired and they were all nice. Like, oh my gosh, I’m feel the same. I just started getting seeing more of that, and that I think that’s when I truly felt like, okay, I’m not the worst person on the planet, like many other people have felt the way I do. I just felt so much less alone and so connected to other people. I think that was like that last piece that I still felt secretly like I was some kind of freak, you know, that. Yes, other sober people understand it and sober moms understand it, but nobody else would understand. And I was just, I think I would just carry it around, still shame about it. And I was still so mad at myself, you know, but I do think that even though I didn’t want to do that, and I didn’t want to say that I do think it helped me, it freed me up a little bit, and, like, ever since then, I’ve been pretty open about it. It’s not like I go, like, announcing it everywhere I go, hi, I’m Stefanie, I drove drunk with my kids in the car. So nice to me, what’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? I don’t do that.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 46:10
You know, my brother, his whole brand was like, I do drugs, casually, I’m going to drug guy. And then he and then he died, you know what I mean? Like it like it, I It’s hard, I think when you tether yourself to something like that and, you know, you’ve been able to sort of like get yourself out of it and continue on with with this, you know, with as a writer and evolving and you know, all of that, and I didn’t mean to make you feel bad with that, did I make you feel bad? I’m like, my brother died. But you know what I mean? Like it was yeah, I just that came up when I was reading your book, and.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 46:49
Well, I never set out to be the wine girl. So I do look back and go, I hope I wasn’t encouraging people to drink and, you know, I probably was I probably was like making it okay but you know, you know, better and you do better.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 47:09
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 47:10
I don’t regret writing that book, because the book wasn’t about like, hey, everybody should drink. It was giving people permission to be imperfect parents.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 47:18
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 47:18
You know, so I don’t feel bad about that. But I did blog a lot. And there were a lot of alcohol jokes in the book. So I did feel like I owed it to my, to my audience, that sounds so like my audience but you know, to the people that followed me, I did feel like I owed them if I’m going to be honest about stuff, I owed them the truth that I take it, I take it back. But some of those women, it started a new little trend, I’m a trendsetter, what can I say? You are your we set your Trailblazer, a bunch of these mommy drinker wine people also got sober all of us around the same time, like one after another, like dominoes fell. And I think it’s yes, there is still mommy wine culture, there’s still the Roselle day and that that is still alive and well. But I also think it’s a valid choice, there are other women like me, that are not drinking and talking about that. And so I feel like people can have examples of both things.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 48:26
Whatever the world thinks of Stefanie, at the end of the day, she is still a mom, who’s just trying to figure out how to be a human who is raising three other humans. And those humans have very much been a part of her recovery journey, and they continue to be. How old are your kids now?
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 48:47
My twins are 16. And my older daughter is 19.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 48:51
Wow, and what do they think about all this? How are they like where? What are where are they in a story now? Do they know about all this?
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 48:58
Oh, yeah. I have been open with them since early on. When I first started talking to them about it, I said this is an allergy. Mom has an allergy. I don’t do well with alcohol, I can’t have it. Because I have a reaction where I forget everything I did and drive drunk no, I don’t say I didn’t say all that when they were younger. But then I did, I was very honest with them. I said, you know how I am with sugar. When I have a little sugar I just can’t stop and I want more and more and more. And I have like no control over it. Well, that’s how I was with alcohol, so that’s why I just don’t have it. And then I would take these breaks from sugar. Amman when now I haven’t had sugar in like six months. But I would when it would get bad I would take a break and I would tell my kids like I’m on a sugar break because you know, I was getting a little crazy with it. I couldn’t stop so I’m just not having it at all right now. And so my kids just came to understand it. And they just got used to it but I also don’t go drinking is bad. You know my husband drinks very much in moderation. It’s never been a problem, they’ve never seen them drunk. And they also know my older daughter, I was like, look, you’re gonna experiment with drinking, I did I drink at 14, it wasn’t great for me, but if you drink, like, you need to call me, and my daughter has drank. And guess what it did kind of trigger me. I didn’t tell her that but it ups it upset me it reminded, you know, got scared. But I worked it through with somebody else that I trust. And I talked to my husband about it, and I was like, she’s not me. You know, we’ll see what happens, but like, kids are going to experiment and I can’t freak out about it. And so I didn’t with her, I was very calm, I was like, talk to her through her hangover. And, you know, she’s 19 she’s been really responsible, and who knows? I don’t know, my kids could all end up as addicts, I don’t know, but they’ll be able to talk to me about it.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 51:05
Because I’ve done a show about addiction for so long. Why do you think some people relapse and some people don’t relapse? Like how have you stayed? I just I’m always looking for it.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 51:17
I think people relapse because they have a drinking problem. Like I always, people are always people that are in recovery are always so embarrassed, like if they have a relapse, but like it’s not a weakness of character. It’s not we’re not doing this on willpower. Nobody’s doing anything wrong. People relapse because they’re addicts, you know, because this is a hard thing we’re doing and I don’t know. This, like makes me emotional, I don’t know, I don’t know why. I’ve been able to maybe because I have privilege. And I have a lot of support. And I’ve you know, have don’t have the same hardships that other people do or maybe, I don’t know, maybe it’s just luck. You know, I don’t think it’s because I’m doing anything better than other people are doing. I think that people who have relapses like have to forgive themselves, and then move move forward.
Stephanie Wittels Wachs 52:22
So you no longer think that you’re the special, the special alcoholic. You’re like, Oh, you’ve retired that way.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor 52:28
Oh, yes yeah, I’m just a garden variety. I was a garden variety […]. I’m so glad it’s really exhausting feeling special, trust me.
There’s even more LAST DAY with Apple premium subscribers get exclusive access to content like behind the scenes chats with the producers of the show, diving deeper into episodes. Sign up now on Apple podcasts. LAST DAY is a production of Lemonada Media. The show is produced by Kegan Zema, Aria Bracci, and Tiffany Bui. Our engineer is Brian Castillo. Music is by Hannis Brown. Steve Nelson is our Vice President of weekly content and production and Jackie Danziger is our Vice President of narrative content and production. Executive Producers are Jessica Cordova Kramer and me Stephanie Wittels Wachs. If you’d like what you heard today, we have three other seasons that you can check out. Have a story you’d like to share, head to bit.ly/lastdaystories, or click the link in the show notes to fill out our confidential Google Form. follow and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership. You can find us online at @LemonadaMedia and you can find me at @WittelStephanie. Thank you for listening, we will see you next week.