STAYING SOBER Is it possible you’re drinking too much? Ask yourself: 4 Can you go a night without alcohol? 4 Does socializing revolve around drinking? 4 Are you foggy in the morning? 4 Does your family think you drink too much?
Dependency counselor Huston Stolz challenges the idea that wine is glamorous.
YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
“RETHINKING DRINKING,” CONTINUED... they don’t know how they let their drinking escalate, but admit they drink every night and will make a special trip to the store to buy wine if they are out.” It’s easier than ever for anyone of legal age to purchase wine. From the drugstore to the grocery store, liquor is readily available and wine is cheaper than ever before.
ow did we get here? Social mores around women drinking are more relaxed now than they were generations ago, and alcohol consumption can start in high school, escalate in college and continue into adulthood. “I don’t remember being pressured in high school, but in college, drinking was just something people did,” says Ashley (who does not want her last name used), a 25-year-old professional woman and graduate of the University of Idaho. “There was pressure, yes, but just maybe teasing, especially on Greek row. You could choose not to drink, but people offer — or beg — you to drink with them. I never personally experienced bullying, but I could see it
26 Health FEBRUARY-MARCH, 2016
happening.” College women say they often “pregame” or “pre-funk” before going to a party or a sporting event, wanting to have a buzz on before the evening starts. “Everyone did pre-gaming in college at bars or at home. Even now, my girlfriends and I have a glass of wine or a shot before we go out,” Ashley adds. Binge drinking sounds like it would entail hideous amounts of liquor, but in fact, just four drinks in two hours is considered a binge, an amount common with coeds who sometimes feel they need to match the drinking of their male counterparts. What they don’t realize is that women metabolize alcohol much differently than men. Female bodies have more fat, which retains alcohol, and less water, which dilutes it, and males have more of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol before it enters the bloodstream. “I think most women know they can’t drink as much as men can, but they still do.” Ashley says. She cautions women to be aware of how much alcohol they are con-
If you decide you have alcohol issues, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. People then often seek help, either through individual or group counseling or a treatment program. The behemoth of nonprofit treatment programs is Alcoholics Anonymous, created in 1935 by a surgeon and a stockbroker, both struggling to stay sober. Today the worldwide organization has millions of members and daily group support meetings. The foundation of AA’s Twelve Step Program is for the alcoholic to admit that he or she is powerless over their addiction, that the addition — not individual choice — drives their behavior. In the second step, the alcoholic must surrender to a higher power (which may or may not be God) in order to overcome their shortcomings. Meetings are encouraged but are not mandatory, and many people credit their sobriety to the support and understanding of other recovering alcoholics. Although AA works well for millions of people, it’s not always a good fit for women who have felt subjugated by men (a higher power) all their lives, who lack self-confidence, have been victims of sexual abuse or struggled with eating disorders. Instead of relinquishing their recovery to a higher power, those women need to feel in control of their lives and develop the belief that they personally possess the power to get and stay sober. Alternatives to AA have sprung up in the last decade; one of the best known is SMART Recovery. SMART focuses on selfempowerment, personal choice, a balanced lifestyle, a holistic approach to recovery and science-based tools such as cognitive behavior therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, which examines irrational beliefs that lead to poor choices and addiction. Group meetings are part of the treatment but are not mandatory. Online services allow for anonymous participation via a screen name on the website. SMART does not require members to relinquish control of their recovery to a higher power. — LINDA HAGEN MILLER