On the eve of one of the biggest drinking holidays of the year, I find myself once again mulling over my relationship with alcohol. The other day I watched a National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism HBO documentary called Risky Drinking.
To qualify as a risky drinker, a woman has to drink more than three drinks in one day, or more than seven drinks in a week. A man must have more than four drinks in one day, or more than 14 in a week.
That may sound like a lot, but by their definition, one glass of wine a night and a woman finds herself borderline ‘at risk’. A couple beers after work along with a weekend out and a man may find themselves there too. We’re conditioned to excuse our drinking habits as ‘normal’ when in fact they may not be. Also worth noting: 70 percent of Americans drink alcohol. That number is astounding. If there are 100 people at a party most of them are going to be drinking. Granted, most people who partake in ‘social’ drinking are at least able to keep it together in public, but there are always the ones who don’t. Or worse, who can’t.
Coming up on a solid decade of drinking (it sounds pretty gross when you put it like that, huh?) has made me examine my own habits and how they’ve affected the last ten years of my life. I have always been lucky in that I do not have a chemical dependence on alcohol, but I’ve realized that escaping alcoholism does not mean that you are rid of issues with alcohol. Sure, most of the people in our lives aren’t the falling down drunks we see depicted under bridges on television. The ones who don’t have jobs and don’t dress in pretty outfits. Not those people!
When I would meet friends in college for brunch we would often sit outside, 32 oz. mason jar full of bloody mary and zero judgement at the table. We did this most weekends. We all graduated and maintained semi healthy lifestyles, but we all drank. A lot. For some reason (it seems) when we drink together its ok…Had any of us four women filled up a mason jar an inch and a half thick with vodka and v8 whilst standing in our own kitchens and instagrammed it… it would have been met with different reaction. But is that logical?
When you’re in college, its ‘ok’ to drink a lot but rarely did we call it binge drinking. I say this because even though its the norm to drink to excess in college for many, when we start using phrases like ‘binge drinking’ people begin to get uncomfortable. If you announce you’re hungover on a Tuesday in class most would laugh. If you announce you’re hungover on Tuesday at work that is where the line begins to blur. People may begin to feel uncomfortable.
For most Americans, they’ve grown up with the idea that enjoying booze is perfectly acceptable. Drinking is what we do when we want to have a good time. Its sexy. Its social. Its even ok with coworkers. With grandparents. Drinking is universal! Until it isn’t.
What begins to be a problem in college for some quickly bleeds into their adult life. While most are still able to save face, many of the 70% of us who drink harbor issues with alcohol. In pop culture, every other song that charts blatantly depicts bad decisions, jail time, divorce, infidelity, depression, all revolving around the ever loving art of drinking. One of the biggest films of the last few years, Trainwreck opened with Amy Schumer admitting that she had no recollection of the man she went home with the night before. I don’t say this to shame her nor any of the millions of women who talked about how ‘relatable’ the film was. I say this because we really shouldn’t excuse this behavior as normal.
I apologize for the Carrie Bradshaw sentiment, but lately I’ve been thinking: why does our country have such a jaded, romanticized, rose colored view of alcohol? Why do we ignore the fact that so many of us struggle with managing our relationship with booze? Dating wise. Financially. Socially. Why do we denounce alcoholism and addicts but if we’re drinking at 11AM on am instagram-able rooftop we’re just having a good time? Why do so many of us laugh at the stories we or our friends tell instead of call a spade a spade? In fact, now that I brought her up, Carrie is a perfect example of our warped relationship with alcohol. Though Sex and the City broke down some incredible boundaries and remains one of my favorite shows, they hardly touched the issue of alcoholism. All of the martinis on that show and not one of the women had an issue with booze? Alcoholism seems to be too real even for the realest of shows. It is hidden deeply in our culture despite being nearly everywhere we look. We just don’t talk about that.
Worth mentioning: One of the four female leads on Sex and the City, Kristin Davis, is a recovering alcoholic in real life.
70 percent of Americans use alcohol. 30 Percent of Americans have had an Alcohol-Use Disorder. When we sit at a table of four, one of us is that statistic. On the eve of the 4th, and the soon to be eve of my 30th year, I want to encourage those I know to become more comfortable talking about alcohol. Being ashamed to talk about our vices only proves to be beneficial in keeping up a facade. If 70 percent of us drink then we fall on many ends of the spectrum. Some of us are ok. Some of us aren’t. Check in more. Offer to listen. Offer to go on a walk. Don’t be afraid to ask if someone is ok.
For many, our love affair with booze pales in comparison to those we love. But its also important to understand that for some, that sentiment is no longer true. For those people, there is help. As friends, and as a society, we need to do better. When someone tells you they’re sober congratulate them instead of cracking a joke. Don’t be an asshole if your friend tells you they’re not drinking, whether it be for the night or forever. You just never know.
Take care of yourself and take care of those around you. Don’t let the fact that others are drinking distract from the reasons in which you are drinking. Don’t forget that you don’t need to. And finally, may we stop equating _______with drinking to excess. Like Bukowski said,
“That’s the problem with drinking, I thought, as I poured myself a drink. If something bad happens you drink in an attempt to forget; if something good happens you drink in order to celebrate; and if nothing happens you drink to make something happen.”
― Charles Bukowski
I am always here for anyone who needs to talk. ♥