I’m not usually one for writing about a quandary that I’m in the midst of. My ego much prefers talking about how I have valiantly conquered a demon as opposed to addressing one that I am still dancing with. But alas, here I am, sitting at a bar with a glass of wine, about to write a post about how I’ve grown to abhor alcohol.
I have, over the past few months, found myself unusually wrestling with the moral dilemma that is alcohol. I mean… why on earth do I literally poison myself every weekend? What does my life look like if I’m sober? Am I even capable of being sober? What will I do for fun? Will I still have friends?
When I was 18, two years after my parents divorce, I quickly grew an affinity for binge drinking. After all, getting wasted with my fair-weather friends was much more fun than dealing with the emotional wreckage that I was stockpiling underneath the rug.
If I was sad, I drank.
If I was bored, I drank.
If I was with friends, I was drinking.
Alcohol had become a near constant in my life for 6 years. I learned to earn “love” and surface-level social acceptance with mini skirts and one-too-many martinis. And it’s not until this year that I have taken a very serious look at my habits and asked myself if alcohol was pushing me closer to or further away from the woman I want to be. The answer, for me, is clear. But the fear is unexplainable. Why am I so afraid to stop drinking? Perhaps it’s simply because it’s a commonly used coping mechanism to numb out the feelings that someone’s been subconsciously avoiding.
Doesn’t anyone else think that it’s quite odd that we as a society encourage the consumption of alcohol, which is a highly addictive and destructive drug? Doesn’t anyone else think it’s weird that we poison ourselves in the name of fun?
Below are some stats from Kelly Fitzgerald’s Huffington Post article titled “15 Shocking Alcohol Awareness Statistics for Alcohol Awareness Month”:
1. 88,000 deaths are annually attributed to excessive alcohol use. (CDC)
2. Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 51 minutes. (CDC)
3. Long-term alcohol use can cause serious health complications affecting every organ in your body, including your brain. Additionally, it can damage your emotional stability, finances, career, impact your family, friends and the people you work with. (NCAAD)
4. Women who binge drink are more likely to have unprotected sex and multiple sex partners. These activities increase the risks of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. (CDC)
5. 100,000 persons die each year from alcohol-related causes: drinking and driving crashes, other accidents, falls, fires, alcohol-related homicides and suicides. (NCAAD)
6. Excessive alcohol consumption increases aggression and, as a result, can increase the risk of physically assaulting another person. (CDC)
7. Of the 3.9 million Americans who received treatment for a substance abuse problem in 2005, 2.5 million of them were treated for alcohol use. (Drug Free World)
8. Approximately 17 percent of men and 8 percent of women will be dependent on alcohol in their lifetime. (NIAAA)
9. Because of the astounding 80,000 deaths that are related to alcohol abuse every year, alcohol abuse is the third highest cause of death in the U.S. (CDC)
10. 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. (NIAAA)
11. Approximately 7,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 16 take their first drink every day, which is a major problem because those who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin at age 21. (Rehabs.com)
12. Excessive alcohol consumption cost the United States $223.5 billion in 2006. This amounts to about $1.90 per drink, or about $746 per person. (CDC)
13. Alcoholism includes the following four symptoms: craving, loss of control, physical dependence, and tolerance. (NCADD)
14. Teen alcohol use kills 4,700 people each year — that’s more than all illegal drugs combined. (MADD)
15. 5.3 million adults −- 36 percent of those under correctional supervision at the time -− were drinking at the time of their conviction offense. (NCADD)
This is an epidemic. And what’s even more disturbing is the fact that if someone chooses sobriety, we assume they’re the one with a problem because they couldn’t find a way to manage their drug use in a socially acceptable fashion.
“When promoting alcohol, marketers sell a better human experience, relief from the human condition. And in doing so, we promise the opposite of what alcohol really provides.” – Annie Grace
Holly, the creator of Hip Sobriety, said it perfectly in this Instagram post:
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Hi friends; i think it’s always interesting when we see an article like this, that isn’t sensationalized but really just the truth—that something we are doing is killing us collectively, that our societal relationship to alcohol blinds us to the toll it takes. An example: at a breakfast with the CEO of weight watchers, Mindy is asked her 3 biggest concerns for women’s health or healthcare in general; she mentions the opiate epidemic, fails to mention the alcohol epidemic; also she tells us she just bought her own winery. If we wonder why we are so quick to say opiate epidemic, and nod heads and be all “yes that must stop now!” and watch as the death toll rises with our hands to our face as we think about Big Pharma and (rightfully) scream about Purdue; and why we can’t say words like Big Alcohol (a trillion dollar industry led by a handful of mostly white men; it’s Big Alcohol) or Alcohol Epidemic, it’s because we have normalized alcohol as good, and necessary; and something only a few people can’t hang with (who have alcoholism); and we’ve collectively condemned heroin and opiate use. We are SUPPOSED to make alcohol work and there is something wrong with the individual; THEY are diseased. We aren’t supposed to make heroin or fentanyl or cocaine or meth work and there is something wrong with the drug being available and used, with society; an epidemic. We can stand and point at what we’ve all agreed is bad; we can distance ourselves to see what’s going wrong; but don’t fuck with the thing that Whole Foods sells next to the kale chips, that 2/3rds of us do. This is just another article that most ppl will find as a shock if they read it at all; that will lay buried in broad daylight, until we reach a tipping point that finally acknowledges how alcohol has been murdering us on the sly while we make Rosè jokes and incorporate it in as an accessory to life; until we as a whole to reject the fucking narrative, not just those of us who know firsthand how it ruins.
My intention in this post isn’t to talk anyone out of cocktails with friends or having a glass of wine tonight. But I do think it’s imperative to question why we do the things we do.
“No one ‘gets’ to drink and it’s not some kind of privilege to be able to tolerate ingesting ethanol. It’s a privilege to have discovered that you cannot.” – Holly Whitaker
I only speak for myself when I say that I know alcohol has more negatives than positives. And while I still drink socially – for now – I can say that this is something I will be sitting with to find out when and how and why I may stop drinking all together.
I’m curious, are your drinking habits something you’ve ever thought about? Would you ever consider giving up alcohol entirely?