Women. Midlife. Alcohol.
What could go wrong?
At first glance, nothing seems too crazy here. So, you’re kicking back and relaxing with a little more alcohol than you used to. No biggie. You deserve it. The kids are gone. You have some extra time on your hands. Why not let loose a little more often?
The only problem, letting loose is killing us.
A study released last week, led by Dr. Ibraheem Karaye, highlights the narrowing gender gap when it comes to binge-drinking and alcohol related deaths (read it HERE). Not exactly the kind of gender gap we want to close.
What was most surprising about the report is that women in midlife are the fastest growing segment of binge-drinkers.
To be more precise, it’s women in midlife, who have the highest socioeconomic status, the highest incomes, the most education, and most prestigious occupations.
In other words, these are the women who are supposed to know better. These are also most likely the women who are doing all the things to stay healthy – shopping for organic produce, reading food labels, scheduling expensive spa treatments, using anti-aging supplements and procedures, attending self-help seminars and workshops.
So, why are they drinking so much?
Stress. The pressure of trying to keep it all together. The transitions that occur in mid-life – empty nest, divorce, career change, looking after ailing parents. All the emotions that go along with these changes – grief, sadness, unease, dissatisfaction, uncertainty, boredom.
Alcohol has been sold to women as part of a luxury lifestyle. It’s the hallmark of having a good time, and a way to relax after a long day of juggling work, home, and kids. It’s marketed as self-care and as a necessity to treating yourself right.
So, what should you be on the look out for in your own drinking patterns, and how do you know when it’s time to explore your relationship with alcohol?
RED FLAG #1:NO AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL IS SAFE FOR CONSUMPTION If you’ve been on the fence about exploring your relationship with alcohol, this one’s for you. In 2023, the World Health Organization stated that no amount of alcohol is safe for consumption. The report continues, “Alcohol is a toxic, psychoactive, and addictive substance, and was classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. This is the highest risk group, which also includes asbestos, radiation and tobacco. Alcohol causes at least seven types of cancer, including the most common cancer types, such as bowel cancer and female breast cancer.”
Based on that fact, I would say now is a pretty good time to start exploring.
RED FLAG #2 YOU’RE DRINKING TO COPE. Or to take the edge off your day. If drinking has become one of your most well-used coping strategies, it’s time to add some new ones to your toolbox. Drinking to cope is a one-way ticket towards having some serious problems with alcohol. You begin to rely on it to numb and dull your senses, so you’re no longer dealing with the things you need to deal with. Alcohol also dulls all your feelings, not just the difficult ones. So, if you’re finding it more difficult to feel joy and happiness in places you used to, your nightly bottle of wine is a big factor.
RED FLAG #3 YOUR SOCIAL LIFE IS CENTERED AROUND DRINKING This starts to happen slowly, and it can be hard to see the forest, because the trees are so bloody thick. Alcohol is everywhere now – birthday parties, book clubs, sporting events, charity fundraisers. Take a look at your social calendar – are your weekends filled with boozy brunches, happy hour celebrations, dinner parties (with a greater emphasis on the wine than the food), girls’ nights out, or evenings home snuggled on the couch with your partner and a bottle or two of wine. Alcohol use can take over your calendar because all of a sudden the kids are gone, or you’re no longer on duty as an on-call chauffeur. If this is the case, begin to explore other ways to interact with friends and family. Dare to host a dinner party where you serve alcohol-free cocktails, or schedule a sunrise hike, instead of a boozy night out. Stay curious.
RED FLAG #4 YOU TIME = WINE TIME Not only has alcohol seeped into your social life, but it’s the thing you reach for when you have some time alone. It’s the thing you reward yourself with at the end of a hard day. It’s the thing you use to transition between your day and night, hitting that 5 o’clock mark pretty consistently. The thing you use to celebrate if you have a night-in with no obligations – hello bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. The thing you use to fill up your time when you don’t know what else to do. My drinking crossed into new territory when I was going through my divorce. All of a sudden I was drinking all alone – sometimes out of boredom, sometimes I did want to just drown my sorrows, sometimes I wanted to feel festive when my kids were at their dad’s. But, it was also the thing that just kept me so stuck in my grief and in my healing.
RED FLAG #5 YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW YOU’RE A BINGE DRINKER I always thought binge drinking was the thing I did in college. You know, having a bunch of drinks before heading to the party, and then drinking more at the party. Rinse and repeat weekly. But, binge drinker is defined as 4+ drinks for women (5+ for men); with each drink being equal to 12oz of beer, 5oz of wine, or 1.5oz of spirits. With that in mind, it’s easy to be a binge drinker on a nightly basis, without even knowing it. I know I didn’t. My wine glasses are 12oz (the bigger the better, right?) I would fill them up, pretty close to the top, and I could easily drink two in an hour. Meaning, I’m packing in a lot of alcohol, in a short amount of time, and my body got pretty used to that amount, which meant I didn’t always feel it’s impact right away.
These RED FLAGS come with no shame or judgment attached. I was right there in the middle of using alcohol as my everything. I didn’t want to know the truth about my own drinking. I wish someone had spoken to me sooner about the ways alcohol was wreaking havoc with my body, mind, and soul.
If you’re curious about exploring your relationship with alcohol, reach out and book a STRONGER SOBER session, under the WORK WITH ME tab.
I’ve got you!