Last night, I got drunk. (A few too many Blue Moons.) The night before that, I got drunk. (Vodka tonics.) The night before that, I got really drunk and accidentally made out with a dude two degrees skeevier than I would normally go anywhere near. (Shots followed by champagne.) The night before that, I … got drunk. (Blue Moon. Again.)
I bet you’re starting to notice a pattern here. I’m completely ashamed to admit it, but in the last two weeks there have maybe been two or three nights where alcohol did not figure heavily in the proceedings. The more I think about it, the last few months have felt like an all-out assault on my liver. I’ve developed a foolproof plan for how to make sure I can wake up the next morning and go to work without feeling like total crap. Chug two glasses of water before bed. Eat an everything bagel in the morning, and drink an iced coffee an hour after that. Carry Pepto-Bismol chewables with me in case my stomach rebels.
I’m worried about how much I’m drinking. I don’t think I’m an alcoholic or in need of a 12-step program, but I do think it’s disturbing that when I just Googled the term “binge drinking” and saw that the definition for women is four or more drinks in two hours, my first thought was, “That’s not so much.”
I don’t think I’m alone here. I say that because most of the drinking I do is done with female friends who drink just as much, if not more than I do. And the statistics bear this out on a larger scale. The number of women arrested for driving under the influence has increased 28.8 percent since 1998, while the number of men arrested for the same has actually dropped 7.5 percent [AP via ABC News]. I only wish Diane Schuler could have been one of the ones arrested, rather than what ended up happening to her. Of the 15.1 million people in the country who are alcoholics or alcohol-dependent, a full third are now women [About.com]. And on college campuses 55 percent of the people who meet the criteria for alcohol abuse are ladies [NY Mag].
None of this is good. Statistics show that alcohol has some nasty effects for women. Women are more prone to alcohol addiction than men. We develop liver diseases, particularly cirrhosis and hepatitis, much more quickly than men. Ditto for brain damage. Studies show that women who drink two to five drinks per day have a 41 percent greater chance of developing breast cancer than those who don’t drink at all. Not to mention fertility issues [About.com].
So, why, even knowing the health risks, does it seem like women are drinking more and more? I can’t speak for women at large, only for myself—and I’m self-aware enough to know that I’m self-medicating. What can I say? I’m going through a rough patch. I’m still feeling down after an out-of-the-blue breakup a few months ago with a person I think there’s a decent chance could have been the love of my life. While my career is going well, thirty is quickly approaching, and I’m just not where I imagined I would be. I’m sick of sitting at home. The truth is that, with alcohol in the mix, I have fun. I’m not so cerebral and analytical. I let my hair down—I don’t hold back the jokes that occur to me on the fly, and I can walk up to hot guys with no fear of rejection.
I know it’s time for me to cut back. I’m not going to get all preachy and tell you to do the same. But, I’m curious. How much do you drink a day? A week? Does it feel like the right amount, or does it feel way excessive?