If you think alcohol abuse is primarily a men’s health issue and directly correlates with lower socioeconomic status, you might want to reconsider. Recent statistics are sobering, and the number of professional women with alcohol use disorders-- as well as the number of alcohol-related deaths and alcohol-related illnesses among white-collar women-- are rising swiftly. A 2014 poll by trade magazine, The Grocer, found that 16 percent of women admit to often finishing a whole bottle of wine themselves at home. According to Gallup, the more educated and economically well off a woman is, the more likely she is to drink; white women are particularly prone. According to author Gabrielle Glaser, in the US, the rate of women being hospitalized due to alcohol is five times that of men. In Singapore, excess alcohol consumption is rising swiftly; young women are the fastest growing group of binge drinkers.
While statistics are helpful in understanding a quickly evolving story about women, stress and excess, I’ve had a front row seat to its unfolding for nearly half my life. My own show began with alcohol-fueled hospitalizations and mandatory 12-Step meetings in my teens, a few years after discovering the magic powers of Kahlua and Goldschlager. This snowballed into something a bit more sophisticated when I had the opportunity to work at some of New York’s toniest nightclubs and bars for almost a decade, often finding myself in situations that even Carrie Bradshaw would be envious of. Champagne with Mary J. Blige in the back of her limo? Check. Shots with Diddy? Check. Partying with Kevin Spacey in the VIP lounge? Check. But, like all great parties, this one had to come to a close, and it faded out in the saddest possible way, like when the DJ accidentally cues Barry Manilow and everyone in the club forgets how to dance, dead stop. I ended up- hold your breath- in the daily grind, working the 9-to-5 professional gig in Manhattan while going to grad school, sporting button-downs and pleated trousers from Banana Republic and volunteering at non-profits in my spare time. It was a dignified, respectable life… Except that I kept drinking, and my depression persisted, and both my appetite and tolerance for booze and pills grew.
This may sound like an obscenely unique example, but the average addiction recovery meeting proves otherwise, quite usually an even mixture of women and men from all walks of life, many of who have seen quite colorful days and who have their own stories- or drunkalogues- to tell. In my nearly six years of sobriety, what I’ve also been able to spot outside of the protective recovery bubble are increasing numbers of women living just as I had been- a bottle of “fine” wine after a stressful day at work (and everyday is stressful…), regular martini lunches with friends, Facebook and Instagram posts of yet another night out, another exclamation about Happy Hour and need and how amazing it feels. Don’t get me a wrong, there’s nothing the matter with a woman enjoying a drink from time to time… until it becomes day in and day out, until the booze begins scooping up her dreams, until her life undulates in those telltale waves and she finds the whole of her being tipping over, sinking, engulfed.
So, here begins a conversation about women and drinking, one that will probably be quite unique, controversial and, at times, heated. Each week on the blog, I’ll be covering one aspect in this massively complicated puzzle, and I’ll propose ideas, sources and questions to help move us along to something that’s so desperately lacking: Answers. Solutions. Alternatives.
One thing to note- I am not a medical doctor, and I’m not an expert on the subject of alcohol use disorders by the traditional, academic version of the word (not yet at least. Those who know me well know that I have an addiction to school…). I’m not a counselor, a psychologist or an epidemiologist either. I’m simply someone who has been up, down and all around this issue and who has decided to dedicate part of my career to helping other women who are presently enmeshed. I don’t propose to have or to offer all the answers, and I do think that what works for one person may not work for another. Let’s make this a respectful and solutions-oriented conversation. If you disagree with me on a point or would like clarity on a topic, say so. If you’d like to share your perspective or story, please do! If you think I’ve overlooked something or have made an error, politely call me out on it- I’m here to learn and if I want to make a real impact in this area, I have a hell of a lot more to do in that respect!
I’ll be sharing “The Conversation” blog posts both on the site and via the newsletter, so if you’re not signed up yet, please do so! So, first things first, if you have a particular aspect of drinking that you’d like me to write about, leave a comment or contact me. If you’d like to contribute a blog post as an expert or as someone who has been on this journey, the same applies.
Thank you for reading, and I look so forward to having a fruitful conversation with you!