One Woman Talks About Drinking, and Drinking’s Effect on All Women
An essay appeared on the Salon website in October about a woman’s drinking. If you know the website Salon, you know the articles can push the envelope. The title was “Counting my Drinks, but the website seemed to give it a different title: “Am I an Alcoholic?” Alcohol is the most socially acceptable drug (although pot seems to be running a close second), and it’s probably a question many women are wondering if they haven’t yet admitted to a problem.
The author has a responsible position at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She writes unabashedly about days of drinking to excess, the occasions when she does so, and how she even thinks about the drinks she’s going to have during the week. She talks about falling after drinking and having to assure her child that she’s all right.
Truly, she puts it all out there and doesn’t seem afraid that she’ll lose her job or be judged harshly by her colleagues. That’s something. Women often feel so much shame about their drinking that they try to hide it. This woman seems to know she may have a problem (she minimizes the true extent of her drinking, as you’ll see in a bit), but reading the essay, you wonder if she’s in denial.
It hit me that her article may come from a literary motive more than anything else. She knows that to attract the editor at a top-notch website (or a literary agent, for example), you have to shock readers when it comes to addiction. You can’t talk about a run-of-the-mill experience. “I had too much to drink last night” doesn’t cut it. So a creative writer expands upon the facts.
But also, she vividly describes what it’s really like when alcohol plays a big role in your life, whether she’s exaggerating or not. You’re obsessed with it. You think you’re not so bad, but you’re counting your drinks! You admit you’ve fallen, then try to cover it up for your daughter. Further on in the essay, she writes about her sister, now in recovery, and her mother who drank. (Ah, there’s that possible [probable?] genetic link.) Their stories are sad, as so many are. Her sister ended up on welfare. But then she says that she’s determined not to follow in their footsteps and that she watches her drinking. She doesn’t drink alone, and she really only gets blitzed, to use a euphemism, about four times a year. She asks if those four times make her an alcoholic.
Alcohol plays such a big role in her life, however, whether she wants to admit it or not, which leads me to an important question: How exactly does alcohol affect women differently than it does men?
Here are the facts, straight from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:
Women face higher risks than men because:
· Women typically start to have alcohol-related problems at lower drinking levels than men
· Women typically weigh less than men
· Pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men do, and alcohol dissolves in body water
These health risks can include:
Liver Damage – Women who drink are more likely to develop liver inflammation than men.
Heart Disease – Women are more susceptible to alcohol-related heart disease than men.
Breast Cancer – Women who have about one drink per day also have an increased chance of developing breast cancer compared to women who do not drink at all.
Pregnancy – Any drinking during pregnancy is risky. Heavy drinking can put a fetus at increased risk for learning, behavioral, and other problems.
For people who prefer videos to reading, here’s a good You Tube video with expert commentary, and featuring women in recovery. I love what one woman says: “Don’t leave before the miracle happens.” Her message is that treatment can work.