All my life I have been surrounded by people who have suffered from varying degrees of alcohol abuse. Some saw this as a problem, others did not. Family, friends, significant others- it is everywhere. Did you ever ask yourself why this is? Have you ever caught yourself saying, “boy I need a drink!”? We live in such an alcohol centered society and it never became clearer to me as when I decided I didn’t want to drink anymore. People associate having fun with having a few drinks. Social situations seem to require alcohol to “loosen people up”. If you don’t drink, you are made to feel like something is wrong with you, you are a party pooper, or you must be an alcoholic. The truth is, we are all one drink away from becoming addicted- there is no immunity.
When my husband and I reconnected after many years, I asked him if he wanted to meet for a drink. Not being much of a drinker, I still fell into society’s construct of what is expected. I was relieved when he said “I don’t drink, but I would be happy to have some lemonade”. He planned the best first date for us; off-roading with his jeep, hiking, 4 wheeling around his property, and a delicious healthy meal that he cooked for me. It was such an amazing, fun-filled day sans alcohol. Obviously, he won me over! The best part is there was no worrying about saying the wrong thing, I remembered the entire day, and no hangover the next day- which of course is when we had our second date.
Big Tobacco set the stage by making smoking look cool. They had brilliant marketing strategies, which our society drank up. They continued to market to new smokers since their loyal customers kept dying off. First men, then women, and even children. Every young boy wanted to be the Marlborough man. Big Alcohol was smart and they used what the tobacco companies had already done and slid in and put a drink in the hand of every smoker. Sooo cool! We have been tricked into believing that alcohol is socially necessary and biologically normal. It is touted as a digestive, an appetite suppressant, and reduces anxiety and is not at all bad for you if you partake “in moderation”. In her book Quit Like A Woman, Holly Whitaker believes that alcohol will have its “cigarette moment” where there will be a reversal of public opinion and a rejection of it in mainstream culture once we remove our willful ignorance of its harmful effects on us personally and collectively.
My first marriage consisted of having a “party” every weekend. We would pack bags and head up to his family’s house for a get together that involved heavy drinking. Sunday morning was all about nursing the hangover. The amount of alcohol consumed was mind boggling and more often than not resulted in someone arguing or even physical fighting. It didn’t stop when the kids came. Packing was that much more difficult- porta cribs, diapers, all the necessities. Now I was staying sober; to take care of the kids, to get up early with them, and to drive us all safely home. After much arguing, I finally brought the party to our house. At least it was less disruptive for the children. The problem is this is commonly the family dynamic and how our society lives and functions. I have certainly caught myself saying after a stressful day, “I need a drink”, but now if that thought comes to my head, I chuckle and wonder why that is the direction my brain goes. I remind myself that, No, I don’t NEED a drink and that there are much healthier ways to deal with stress.
According to Wikipedia, Ethanol, also commonly called alcohol, ethyl alcohol, and drinking alcohol, is the principal type of alcohol in alcoholic beverages, produced by the fermentation of sugars by yeasts. It is a neurotoxic, psychoactive drug, and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Ethanol is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid with a slight chemical odor. It is used as an antiseptic, a solvent, in medical wipes and antibacterial formulas because it kills organisms by denaturing their proteins. Ethanol is an important industrial ingredient. It is a good general-purpose solvent found in paints, tinctures, markers, and personal care products such as perfumes and deodorants. The largest single use of ethanol is as an engine fuel and fuel additive.
And we drink this for fun…
As Holly Whitaker points out we are the same society that shuns gluten, dairy, refined sugar, and processed foods. We buy organic, we use natural sunscreens and beauty products, worry about fluoride in our water, smog in our air, and avoid plastics. We go Paleo and Keto, we juice, we cleanse. We sit in infrared saunas, we hire shamans, functional doctors, and do yoga. We take vitamins and worry about the length of our telomeres. We are on an endless and expensive quest for wellness and youth.
And we drink rocket fuel.
In her Book Never Enough, Judith Grisel explains, the effect of a drug causes an A process, in trying to adapt to that A process, the body initiates a counteractive B process, which tends to last longer than the A process. The states of withdrawal and craving from any drug are always exactly opposite to the drug’s effects. If a drug makes you feel relaxed, withdrawal and craving are experienced as anxiety and tension. Alcohol is a depressant and if we are using it to relax we are actually creating more anxiety because of this A-B process. This happens with one glass. Maybe I don’t really need that drink.
According to Healthline, alcohol disrupts sleep, fuels anxiety, impedes detoxification, causes weight gain or interferes with weight loss, causes facial redness, interferes with your brain function, messes with blood sugar balance, disrupts hormone function, is linked to seven different cancers, causes premature aging, and destroys your microbiome. These are all things that people seek me out for as a health coach!! Could it be as simple as not consuming alcohol?
I won’t lie. Not drinking isn’t always easy for me. I have had to reevaluate some friendships. I can be around people that decide they want to drink but I have less tolerance for intoxicated people. Also people that drink feel uncomfortable around people that aren’t indulging. I am not quite sure why this is, but I think it makes them examine their decisions and they may not be ready for that. So instead of hanging out in bars, I do a lot of healthy activities- biking, hiking, kayaking and sometimes find people that will join in. My husband and I are looking forward to becoming part of the horse community because I feel that alcohol and horses really don’t mix, hopefully I am right about that.
My decision to live a healthy life and my goal to be a centenarian is what has sparked me to remove alcohol from my life. Also seeing people in my life struggle with addictions and related bad decisions has really made me get a little fired up about it. I felt compelled to write this blog and hopefully make you question your relationship with it. It is a poison in every sense of the word and I hope our society starts to realize it. When alcoholism became termed a disease, it took the blame off of the alcohol companies and put it on the person who became addicted and this is wrong. With every single other kind of drug use and addiction, we blame the drug even though drugs account for 14 percent of the deaths caused by alcohol. But alcohol is a legal drug and huge business that profits from our pain. I challenge you all to a life without it. A life of feeling healthy, clear thinking, and with no regrets.
-Written by Dr. Robin Davies, DMD,CHC