A friend of mine sent me a link yesterday to an article about Elizabeth’s Varga’s journey out of alcoholism and her willingness to break her anonymity and talk about it. Those of us in recovery have a duty to protect our fellow travelers’ anonymity. It is part of the responsibility that we have in recovery. And, it is not taken lightly. The stigma of addiction is much less now than it used to be, but there is still a significant stigma. The interesting thing is that there doesn’t seem to be much stigma to being a drinking drunk – that’s party time! But, there is a stigma to getting sober. I’ve never understood it. I’ve had people ask me if I was ever afraid that my employer would run across one of my blogs. “Well,” I told them, “yes, I’ve worried about it. But, I’m 53 years old. If they want to fire me because I drank too much in my 20s, then, that’s their loss.” That’s why it is a news story when an accomplished female woman admits to her problem AND the solution. I applaud her, AND I would never have any expectations that anyone else would ever give up their right to anonymity. The world is too cold. It’s a personal decision.
Another recovery friend shared this link with me this morning. Diane Sawyer looks at the increase in female alcoholism and how we cross the line before we even know it. They even define the line for those of us who think it keeps moving.
Women’s alcoholism is on the rise. I mean, it’s like a freight train picking up speed going down a mountain. The problem is that we are smaller, and our bodies metabolize alcohol much less effectively than it does men. The same is true of prescription drugs, and prescription drug abuse in women is rising as much – or more – as alcohol abuse. A Huffington Post article states data that says a woman’s body suffers as much damage from alcohol abuse in 4 years as a man’s does in 14. That’s staggering. AND, we become addicted more quickly. Both of these addictive substances are readily available. I know there are efforts to monitor prescription abuse, but I’ve heard too many horror stories where the doctors won’t quit writing them even when they been asked by families to stop. The reality is that the decision to stop using an addictive substance has to come from the addict themselves. We can’t kid ourselves that the supplier has to be responsible. Getting drugs and alcohol is easy peasy. If one source dries up, there are 50 to take its place. We can rail all we want about the system, but the addict is the one that has to be stopped. And, as any family affected by addiction can tell you, it’s a difficult … sometimes impossible…. journey to get an addict to want to stop.
I never knew where the line was on drinking. In fact, I drank mostly in my 20s, and there was no research or data available that said there was a line. So many of my friends drank like I did. The line was when you lost your house, your husband, your friends, all your money and your job. That was a pretty clear line. But, today, more addicts than ever are stopping before they get to that “low-bottom” line. Why wait until you lose everything? But, the stigma still exists. It’s hard to do it. And, it’s even harder to want to give up your pacifier in life. Addicts don’t drink because they want to; they drink because they have to. It’s complicated.
I’m not going to provide an answer because there’s no simple one. But, I would like to suggest to anyone that thinks they might have a drinking problem, they probably do. The rule of thumb in Diane Sawyer’s video is 5 oz. of wine…. no more than 2 glasses a day. That 10 oz. is less than a Grande Latte at Starbucks. If you drink 20 oz of wine on occasion … not even every day … you are a binge drinker. 20 oz is the size of a Venti Latte. I was a binge drinker. I didn’t lose much at all except my sanity. But, I kept wondering if I had a drinking problem. People who socially drink don’t ever wonder if they have a drinking problem. That’s why I like that rule of thumb. And, if someone has ever told you that they think you have a problem, that’s a significant indicator. People have a lot of difficulty saying that to loved one, and they wouldn’t say it unless they are feeling a lot of angst about it.
Make no mistake. If you are an active addict, your life will be shortened because of your disease. The days that you have will have less happiness than you could have if you get help. Forget about the stigma. There are lots of us out here. We are all around you. You just don’t know because most of us are anonymous. We know how to live, and we have fun. Most of all, we live life on life’s terms, and we cope without giving up our health, our lives, our families and our dreams. Girls, if drinking isn’t fun any more, or if you count the days to refill your next pain pill prescription, you have crossed the line. Don’t keep moving it. You are only hurting yourself and the people who love you. It’s going to trip you up, big time. That line is actually not a line… it’s a noose.