As I am doing a lot of research these days on women and alcohol, I learn more and more about this topic and as I go along, it scares the hell out of me. I wonder if all of this silent judging, shock, and worry is adding to the solution or to the overarching problem.
I was looking for a list of the ten most controversial topics and much to my surprise, I found several lists and this topic was not even in the top 10! According to The Quad, gun control, abortion, religious freedom, animal rights, vaccines, privacy rights, free market capitalism, global climate changes, evolution, marijuana legalization, capital punishment, and marriage rights are the top 10 controversial topics. This probably applies to the USA. Which makes it even more surprising, as research shows that AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder) amongst women is dramatically on the rise in America. As in other parts of the world…
But what does controversial actually mean? A controversial topic provokes emotions because usually people have very strong opposing opinions that conflict with their values and norms. Hence, most of these topics are sensitive. When entering a discussion on a controversial topic, you are challenging yourself to formulate sound opinions and you have to support your ideas with valid evidence. You might find yourself in the position of the devil’s advocate and you become familiar with the arguments of the other side. Which is very useful for your own critical thinking and for understanding all points of view.
And let’s face it…
Women and alcohol is a very controversial topic. Especially these days, when alcohol is totally accepted and available for everyone. Everywhere we look, we are overwhelmed by advertisements of beautiful attractive women, sipping from a cocktail, an elegant glass of champagne, or a ruby red French wine.
And there is nothing wrong with having a drink on occasion with friends or family or at a party. The problem is: there is always an occasion. Every day we can find a valid reason to drink. Luncheons with lady friends, drinks at the tennis club, gym, or golf club after the game or the workout (because it is so important to stay in shape and treat your body right, right?), visiting a vernissage, opening of a new shop, birthday party, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, Valentine’s Day, break during and after shopping, etc. Fun, fun, fun.
One glass becomes two. And then three. If you don’t stop or switch to a non-alcoholic drink, then… you could be a binger. Binge drinking is defined as men consuming five or more drinks within about two hours. For women, it’s defined as consuming four or more drinks within about two hours.
I used to think that this was ridiculous. Sure, we all know the danger of drinking excessively. We KNOW that it is damaging to our brain and our body. The question is: then why do we drink that much? Why can’t we stop after one or two glasses? Why do we start drinking every day? Or several times a week?
When I look back, nothing could scare me enough to stay away from wine. That is my favorite drink. I was never interested in beer, cocktails, or stronger stuff such as whisky or brandy, or mixtures. Wine is my drink of choice. And when there is no wine, I just do not drink alcohol. Simple.
When I knew it was getting out of hand, I took drastic measures and went looking for help and checked myself into a rehabilitation center in Cape Town. Because I knew I could not do it on my own. It was an experience of a life time but it did not stop me from drinking wine. However, I learned how to handle it and to cut back to a “normal” level. I became aware of when, why and how much I drank. And yes… it is absolutely better not to drink alcohol at all… But somehow it became a very big part of our society, worldwide. I really admire people who stopped at some point and never touched a drink again. For some people, this is the only option. Because if they go on a binge, they might drink themselves to death. For these people, alcohol is absolute poison.
And for people who work in addiction care, it is this simple too. Black or white. Once you are an addict, you can never drink again.
But – and here is where the controversy kicks in – I belief that there is a very large grey area between having experienced a period in your life where you were drinking too much and then brought it back to drinking socially, and being an addict. And in some way, shape, or form, everybody who drinks alcohol, is more or less addicted. Why else do we not stop when we realize how damaging it is to our health?
Again, I do agree that not drinking at all is by far the best thing you can do for your health. But banning alcohol completely is close to impossible in our society. And impossible is a word I usually don’t use. The only thing we can do is create as much awareness as possible among people.
Rehab did not really work for me because to me, the cure was worse than the disease. I ordered the book by Gabrielle Glaser which is called: Her Best-Kept Secret. In her book, Gabrielle also says that AA is not the solution for women. In a way I have to agree with her. Because, alcoholism or addiction is like cancer; every case is different. In rehab, we all were treated in the same way. And every day I asked myself… how did I end up here and what am I doing here? Instead of convincing me that I was an addict, they convinced me about the opposite. Another controversial statement, I know. But this is how I really feel after my experiences.
The Solution Lies Within
Luckily for me, I kept looking for solutions and I have found them. I found my happiness and my drive back and I am building a completely new life for myself. My perfect life. And when I write in my journal, describing a perfect day in my perfect life, it includes one (yes, only one) glass of my favorite champagne, that I drink right before going to bed, while writing down my gratitude list.
Let’s be gentle, loving, and kind… always. Especially to ourselves.