That Time I Created A Hashtag On National Rosé Day And It Hid My Pain

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Today is National Rosé Day. But I don’t need to tell you that, because there are plenty of photos of people holding up their wine glasses and smiling and #roseallday. There are T-shirts and memes and stories and headlines like “10 Ways To Live Your Best Life on National Rosé Day,” It’s all so lovely-friends-languishing-over-a-hared table and summer-is-really-here pretty and pink. Rosé, a pleasure and a prop. 

Three years ago on National Rosé Day, I was one of the legions hashtagging it up too. Frequent trips to World Market yielded beautiful pink bottles, which I would drink on my patio. It was a white girl’s routine and release, and it’s what I did that season of change. That April, I’d left my job at a magazine for the promises of an ad agency. That May my mother, who had been struggling with health issues, underwent a knee replacement that resulted in infection, re-hospitalization and long-term physical rehab.

For me, National Rosé Day was becoming every day.  

Mom would be in the rehab facility on her birthday, which also happened to fall on National Rosé Day. Now, let me stop here and say: my parents are not drinkers, and I didn’t learn to drink from them. I learned to drink from the world, which lit a fire in something that perhaps was buried deep within me all along. Rosé, as beautiful as it was, calmed that fire, the anxiety, fear, and sadness. And then it doused that fire (yes, I know that anxiety is a medical condition).

Do you see the markers of danger here? Because in retrospect, it’s glaring.

But back then, if you saw me, unless you knew me well (and even then), you wouldn’t have known.

So my mother is in a rehab facility learning how to walk again, and I’m in a new job trying to find my place, and also I’m trying to bury episodes of binge drinking from the past few years. I tell my psychiatrist, who prescribes more Xanax and says I’m just going through normal life stress for a woman in her 30s going through so many changes. I take my son to see mom at the facility, and my heart breaks.

I put on a face the next day to go to an office and make ads. We do what we have to do, right? 

As a lifestyle writer and editor, I know that National Rosé Day is coming up and it’s on my mom’s birthday and her name is Rosemary. Even though she’s not a drinker and the farthest thing from her mind is a made-up food holiday for something she doesn’t even drink, I decide it would be a good idea to ask friends and family to take a photo of themselves holding up a glass of rosé and post it to social media using the hashtag #RoseforRosemary.

God, I cringe reading it now. 

In this time where everyone is talking about mental health and “tell somebody,” I think about the story I  was telling my family and friends when I was starting, or continuing, my slip into the darkest time of my life. One that started out with pretty glasses of wine and ended up in dependence, depression, and a spiritual death. Raise a glass. 

Instead of saying, “My heart is breaking, and I don’t know how to deal with the pain of seeing my mother up against life and death, and this job change that has left me isolated and unsure, and I’m reckoning with my deepest and darkest secrets” I said,

Mom is one of the most beautiful people I know. Let's lift a glass to her. Tag your photos #roseforrosemary, and please tell a friend. I'd like nothing more than to sit by her bed on Saturday and show her many smiling faces from around the world.”

Actually, I wrote a whole blog post about it. And people did it. My family and friends, my co-workers, even one famous person who is friends with my family. I brought the photos to her so she could see that she was loved. And she is loved, and she did leave that rehabilitation center.

Three months later, I was walking through the doors of my first 12th Step meeting.

Six months later I was done for good. 

Now I write about this narrative that we create around alcohol and why it's particularly troubling with rising rates of alcohol use, dependence, and binge drinking among women. My story is not an isolated incident, but one of many.

I write about what’s behind the images that we post, behind the hashtags and the memes and t-shirts and coffee cups. It's the the normalization and trivialization of something that can kill you. Or not. It's complicated. 

This is the part in which I say: I know not everyone has a problem with alcohol. If you enjoy a class of wine with dinner, good for you. What I write about isn’t really the alcohol — it’s the messages around it, at every corner in which we turn. It’s about how we can internalize these messages.

Maybe you’re smart enough to not internalize them. I just know that I didn’t. I didn’t just internalize the message that alcohol was a harmless liquid to be celebrated, I spread that message myself. I didn’t talk about the other side, which is why I do now. 

I’m not fighting against alcohol — I’m fighting for the women like me, who have access to wine at every turn, but for whom help, community, and connection seems more elusive. 

Those women: they are at the pool today too. They are at the barbecue. They are at the festival. They are in your newsfeed. How do I know this? They write to me every single day. Because of what I write through Tell Better Stories and elsewhere, they send me notes saying, "I thought I was the only one." Or "This is another day one for me. I feel so ashamed and alone." Or "I am 14 years sober and need to hear that I'm not the odd man out." 

They are here -- we are here -- a lot of us. Sober, questioning, or maybe years from questioning. They may not be ready to speak, but I am. And I do. And my call today is: we can do a better job at the stories we tell each other. Every single day.