Women, wine and shame.
I have lots of friends right now trying sobriety. Some, because they talked to me and wanted to give it a go, some, because they know it's really the best way forward for them and I am utterly in AWE of these people. I'm so damn proud of them. I know how HARD it is to stay sober in this society. Why? Because of the sheer amount of hassle we get. In what warped world is it something we should get hassle for? If we were injecting heroin into our eyeballs or doing something equally unhealthy there would be an uproar and numerous interventions. So why are there interventions when we get sober?
It happened to me a lot - a shot of vodka placed in front of me, or a 'go on just have one' was something I fought with on the regular.
So, I feel the need to lay bare some of what we know about women and drinking and perhaps, some facts you don't know. I'm trying hard not to make this sound like I'm pushing my own agenda (because I'm not, I love my drinking friends) I'm just trying to write a fact based piece that empowers people (women especially) to make their own decisions about their drinking. Like I said earlier on in the week, whatever you feel you need to do about it is your OWN decision. Problematic drinking, is a SELF-DIAGNOSIS. So do with the rest of the article what you will. I have a platform where I can speak, so I'll lay it out on the table and let you make your own mind up about whether it is good or bad. I don't care either way but please, if you know someone trying sobriety - be curious, embrace it, and them. They'll do the same back, that I can promise you.
We know that women are more vulnerable than men to the effects of drinking right? We know that for a fact because of our biological make up. Heavy drinking can lead to increased risk of health problems such as liver disease, brain damage, and breast cancer, this is true. It just is. Through my research this isn't an older women issue either, it's happening in the younger generations as we speak. Did you know that more young women are being treated for advanced liver disease caused by steady and dangerous drinking starting in teenage years, than ever before? Young, professional women are causing rising hospitalisation rates for people aged 20 to 29 with alcoholic cirrhosis.
''We are used to alcoholic liver disease in middle-aged men but scarily we are seeing a significant number of women in their 20s and 30s in this situation,'' Simone Strasser, a liver specialist and spokeswoman for the Gastroenterological Society of Australia, said.
''These are young professional women aged 25 to 35 who are functioning in other areas of their lives but are drinking at consistently risky levels,'' Associate Professor Strasser said. ''They have busy lifestyles and think it's not doing them any harm.''
Right? We're all busy and we're more stressed out than ever, because there are just not. enough. hours. in the day. So how are we coping? WINE. And who's benefitting? The alcohol industry - they increasingly are viewing women as an untapped market. We've all seen the 'wine o'clock' memes right? But, have you seen the handbag where you can hide alcohol?
Or, the bangle you can fill full of wine and then wear it to work?
So cute right? Then it goes viral, and everyone tags their friend in it and then it's the best Christmas gift. Guaranteed there will be women who receive this on Christmas day and feel a burning sense of shame because - 'that's the gift everyone thought I wanted? What's wrong with me?' I once got a massive wine glass that supposed fit an entire bottle of wine in it for Christmas. Trust me, I smiled said thanks, but inside I was horrified. HORRIFIED (I now use it as a candle holder).
Some people might love it, but they'll either forget about it, use it once or use it responsibly (although I can't see how this is possible, just drink it from a glass goddamit). Then there's the pink champagne, the sickly sweet vodka mixers, the cute little mini bottles and the gorgeous long stemmed crystal 'bowls' we all love our Chardy in. Being a marketer, I can somewhat appreciate the success, it was an easy market to suck dry. Just cover everything with pink and glitter and they'll drink it all...and we are, we're drinking it all.
Lots of people can drink responsibly but it's worth noting that alcohol use does pose unique risks to all women. Women tend to develop alcohol-related diseases of drinking sooner than men, and after drinking smaller cumulative amounts of alcohol. Women are also more likely to abuse alcohol and other substances in order to self-medicate problems such as depression, anxiety, and stress, or to cope with emotional difficulties. Make sense? We're all expected to be 'superwomen' these days - career, kids, perfect house, perfect life, perfect body, young skin - Jesus Christ it's no wonder we're stressed out (btw alcohol ages you something chronic too, that's a no-brainer).
Women who drink more than light to moderate amounts of alcohol (more than about 7 drinks a week) are at increased risk of car accidents and other traumatic injuries, cancer, hypertension, stroke, and suicide. In addition, drinking at an elevated rate increases the likelihood that a woman will go on to abuse or become dependent on alcohol. This is due to it being progressive. You show me one person who in their entire life only has one glass of wine in one drinking session and who has only EVER had one glass at anyone time and I'll eat my words. It's addictive and addiction is progressive. It starts off as an innocent bottle or two during the week and it could take years but - you'll never stay on the same 'dose' you either make the change or you need more and more. It's just it's nature, and our make up as humans. We get tolerant.
Not only are women less able to tolerate the effects of alcohol than men, they are also less likely to seek specific help to overcome any drinking problems they develop. Men who abuse alcohol are more likely to enter alcohol-treatment programs, whereas women are more inclined to seek help from primary care practitioners and mental health counsellors. Why? Because we're ashamed. We're ashamed because it's a hideous thing to admit, even now, today. How can I ever let my trusty wine go AND WHAT WILL THE NEIGHBOURS THINK???
So what's my point? I hope that this post is used to educate those who 'don't see the point' in sobriety or are threatened by it. It's so, so hard to do. As a woman, as someone (relatively) young, as someone who lives and comes from a heavy drinking culture I had to fight many, many battles with myself and with others to be able to walk into a pub and to be offered a soda water rather than a wine. There was blood, sweat and tears for me to be able to go out to company events, birthday celebrations, parties, clubs where the champagne followed freely and to not be hassled, and trust me, I was hassled, all the time, it was horrible and I'm so glad I'm on the other side of that now. I had to do a hell of a lot of work to get where I am today, and it was exhausting, but so, so worth it. It's full of hurdles, it's full of temptation and it's full of shame on both sides. I'm hopeful though that with more and more people giving it a go, we can work together to allow everyone to make their own choices and be proud of them.
I love, love, love you all.
At ease xxx