Mom Kept Drinking Secret From Loved Ones

Leaving demanding career in politics, stay-at-home mom's drinking picks up pace.

April 30, 2010— -- Tina, a stay-at-home mom from Washington, D.C., has admitted what many women all over the country are realizing about their own lives -- her drinking has become unmanageable.

Last year, on any typical morning, Tina, 43, could be found going through the same routine as so many mothers, getting her kids ready for the day. But she had a secret. Her coffee mug was filled with wine.

For Tina, the everyday stresses and worries of modern day motherhood masked the painful and dangerous secret of alcoholism. After leaving a demanding career in politics to spend more time with her children, Tina began to miss the frenetic pace of her professional life and her drinking increased.

"I didn't realize how much I would miss it, and how much your self-esteem and your self-worth comes from your job," Tina told "20/20's" Elizabeth Vargas. "Nobody pats you on the back and says, 'Wow, that laundry looks great.'"

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Soon, a few glasses of wine at night became a bottle or more and then drinking spilled into other parts of the day. Tina said that when her kids' school let out, some of the moms gathered for drinks.

"It was mommy social happy hour while the kids played," said Tina, who asked only her first name be used for privacy reasons. "It was kids running around screaming, so it takes the edge off the screaming."

But Tina took things one step further, surprising even herself with cravings for wine in the morning.

"It happens so quickly that you don't see it coming. You just wake up one morning and you're like, 'Oh my God, you know, why are my hands shaky,' or 'Why do I have this strong urge to have a glass of wine? It's 9:30 in the morning, are you kidding me?'" Tina said.

Tina continued to find ways to rationalize her drinking.

"I tend to justify things, like, 'Oh, it's been a really long day, It's been a really hard day, I'm really stressed out, that's why I'm going to have a drink.' Or, so-and-so upset me today, so I started to drink at things," Tina said.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, one third of the alcoholics in this country are women. Overwhelmingly, the women "20/20" spoke to preferred wine to liquor as their drink of choice.

Monotony of Life at Home Exacerbates Drinking Habit

The monotony of her days at home and her crumbling marriage exacerbated her drinking habit. She kept her secret from all those closest to her, including her husband.

"I would have a bottle of wine, and I could finish up before he got home, and I would not want to put it in the recycling bin, because I didn't want him to know," Tina said. "I'm not normally a secretive person, so for me to hide something like that was a big deal."

Eventually Tina's secret drinking became unmanageable and friends took notice. "There was a time at a friend's birthday party where she'd been drinking earlier in the day and pretty much had been drinking most of the day. Everyone was uncomfortable, you know, people pulling me aside saying, 'We have to do something,'" Tina's friend Rhonda said.

Mom Enters Rehab

Rhonda, along with five other friends, staged an intervention with the help of a recovery counselor in January. The friends say it was the toughest thing they ever had to do, but they knew they didn't have a choice.

"I think it was a relief. I knew that I needed to go, but I just kept putting it off, you know and I'm very grateful to them," Tina said.

Just an hour after the intervention, with her bags already packed by her friends, Tina was on an airplane headed to Florida for 30 days of intensive rehab at The Orchid Recovery Center.

The hardest part of rehab, as so many who have attempted it say, is returning home. A stable support system, experts tell us, can often mean the difference between staying sober and falling off the wagon. Tina found her support system -- those same friends who had sent her off to rehab -- waiting at the airport to welcome her back.

"She sounded great, kind of the old Tina. Her head was clearer and she just sounded ready to take back her life and take back control," Rhonda said.

Everyday Poses Challenges for Recovering Alcoholic

Now home, the challenges facing Tina are daunting. Experts report that as many as 90 percent of people who leave rehab will relapse at least once. As Tina begins taking back her life without the crutch she once felt she so desperately needed, she realizes that even the most mundane of errands can be a minefield.

A recent trip to the supermarket demonstrates how easy it could be for Tina to fall back into old habits. With her young daughter running down the aisles and her nerves wearing thin, Tina is tested.

"This is about when I get frustrated and head straight for the wine aisle which is just around the corner," she said.

But when her daughter tries to put wine in her cart Tina stands her ground. "No we're not going to buy any today because mommy doesn't need it."

Tina continues to fight her addiction everyday because she knows the people she cares for most are counting on her to beat it.

"I want my kids to be proud of me. My son's super cute. You know, I'll tell him, I'm going to go to a meeting and he's like, Mommy, is that the meeting that makes you feel better? And I say, yeah, it is. He's like, okay, don't be late."