Hoda and Jenna, during the fourth hour of the Today Show, help me to understand-why the wine?
Or any alcohol for that matter in the morning hour.
Is it to be hip?
A more relaxed morning hour compared to the 7am-9 am hour?
I have got some strong feelings on this one that I need to share and make a request:
Unless you can have a strong argument and persuasive reason to have alcohol in the morning show, I’m going to ask you to get rid of this prop.
As a clinical psychologist with over twenty-five years of experience, seeing wine glasses or any alcohol on the set makes me cringe. I have a strong visceral reaction to it, not because I’ve got a drinking problem or am in recovery. And not because I think no one should drink alcohol.
It’s because every day at work, I’m helping clients-moms, dads, children, and teens, navigate the impact of alcohol abuse and dependence in their lives.
When you have the privilege of supporting people in the most vulnerable parts of their lives, their stories and realities impact you, which has changed the landscape of how I see the world.
I imagine alcohol in the morning hour from your perspective has the intent of being playful or fun.
I mean a glass of wine is just a prop, right?
I don't think so.
For so many people, this prop is something more, so much more than you can ever imagine.
It sends a message: Alcohol, at any time of the day, for whatever reason, and at work for that matter, is acceptable.
Alcohol as a prop on set, contributes to the desensitizing of the seriousness of alcohol abuse and dependence.
Here are some statistics on alcohol abuse and dependence: (All information from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)
- According to a 2012 study, more than 10% of children living in the United States reside with a parent with alcohol problems. And that means the children in our children’s preschools and playgrounds and playgroups, schools, and at soccer practices and dance classes, likely fit in this category.
- Alcohol use during adolescence interferes with adolescent brain development and can contribute to an elevated risk of Alcohol Use Disorders and increases risks of injury, sexual assault, and deaths, including those from car crashes.
- In the United States, Alcohol Use Disorder, which is defined as problem drinking that becomes severe characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and negative emotional state when not using.Sixteen million people in the United States meet the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder, which includes 9.8 million men, 5.3 million women and an estimate in 2015 of 623,000 adolescents age 12-17 years of age met the criteria.
- Less than 10 percent of those who meet the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder receive any treatment.
And in my work, it's less about a statistic and more about the clients I've supported over two decades.
Here’s a small sampling of clients I’ve supported:
- A man forty years sober had his first drink at age three from his father, also alcoholic, continues to struggle with the impact of alcohol dependence on his life
- A teacher who drank too much at a party pulled over for driving under the influence, lost her drivers license and almost her job as a teacher
- A mom who begins drinking vodka at 3 pm before the bus brings her kids home, overwhelmed with mothering, has been hiding this secret from everyone
- A teen struggling to fit in, riddled with social anxiety, sneaks alcohol from his parents to relax before social gatherings
- So many first responders who try to eliminate or reduce alcohol use and build healthy coping skills to manage stress and trauma from work
- A woman struggling to maintain three years of sobriety after learning she miscarried her first child
- Supporting too many kids and teens to count, how to use their voice and not get in a car with a parent who has been drinking and to know the signs of alcohol use and intoxication: vodka poured into soda cans or beer in the car cupholder while driving, slurred speech, drowsiness or wobbly balance. And scripting kids on how to refuse to get in the car or call an adult or 911 if they need help or medical attention. And I am talking kids as young as eight years old up to teenagers.
There isn't one story; instead, there are hundreds of stories.
And I am only one mental health provider, one psychologist.
Here’s what I want you to consider:
Alcohol abuse and dependence is happening everywhere and is all around you, whether you know it or not, or if you see it or don’t.
This prop in the morning hour sends the wrong message, and you’re subtly if not directly saying:
It’s ok to drink at work It’s ok to drink to relax It’s ok to drink to cope It’s ok to drink to numb feelings It’s ok to drink to escape It’s ok to drink to take the edge off It's ok to drink to connect It's ok to drink to join in the fun
What's wrong with this prop is desensitizes us to that fact that alcohol abuse and dependence is prevalent.
And consider this, what message does this send to our children?
Or the adults struggling to stay sober?
Or the child begging their parent to stop drinking?
Alcohol as a prop has been a fixture on the morning program for quite a while. In 2013, when Hoda and Kathie Lee were interviewed about wine on the set, Kathie Lee once said about alcohol, "I always use it as a prop to be funny.” And while the glasses sit for most of the show, she certainly had sips throughout.
And more recently, when Jenna Bush Haggar began as official co-host with Hoda (Jenna took Kathie Lee’s place when she left), Jenna’s mother, former first lady Laura Bush, expressed her disapproval with alcohol on the set. In an interview with People, Jenna shared how her mother, “judged her for having alcohol on the morning program before noon." Jenna also shared, "wine is on set, most days, but not every day, as a "symbolic way, to say, 'come join us,' visit our table."
True, sharing a drink or a meal is a welcome ritual of community, friendship, and connection. I'm not asking Hoda and Jenna to get rid of their warmth or temper their personalities or even welcoming others to join in, I'm just asking them to consider the drink they pour.
Here are some great substitutes that can have the same effect:
- Water with lemon
- Herbal tea
- Matcha tea
- Water with cucumber (spa feeling, right?)
I do appreciate Jenna (pregnant with her third child) filling her wine glass with everything but alcohol during pregnancy. Let’s not make pregnancy the exception to how alcohol is used.
For those of us mental health and medical providers on the front lines confronting the epidemic of alcohol and substance abuse and dependence, removing this prop, is one way to show support not only to us, but to children, teens, women, men and families working through the challenges of working in recovery and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
So many people are suffering in ways many will likely never see. And for those who suffer in silence, but who see you, entering their homes on the television or smartphone, or on social media, such as Instagram (IG), your commitment to replace alcohol with something non-alcoholic would be so appreciated. Did you know that on IG @hodaandjenna, I estimated about 12% of posts contain alcohol? (Approximately 40 days of posts from Memorial Day until Fourth of July 2019).
Maya Angelou has a beautiful saying: Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.
And this is my request: Do better. Please.
© Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2019