Alcohol Awareness Month

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It is amazing how few people are aware that April is Alcohol Awareness Month in the United States. My gym is having a lot of events for Autism Awareness Month but no mention of Alcohol. I see a lot of people posting on Facebook about autism statistics, but when I posted about Alcohol Awareness, all I got was a joke mention that a friend will read it after she finishes her glass. I doubt I would have discovered this campaign if I was not battling alcoholism. Did you know?

April marks Alcohol Awareness Month, a nationwide campaign intended to raise awareness of the health and social problems that excessive alcohol consumption can cause for individuals, their families, and their communities. Excessive drinking is a dangerous behavior for both men and women. This year, CDC is drawing attention to the risks to women’s health from binge drinking, the most common type of excessive alcohol consumption by adults.

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Information about alcohol and binge drinking can be found on the Center for Disease Control’s website:

BINGE DRINKING AND RISKS TO WOMEN’S HEALTH

  • Binge drinking is defined as consuming 4 or more drinks per occasion for women and 5 or more drinks per occasion for men. It is a common and dangerous behavior that contributes to more than 11,500 deaths among women in the U.S. each year—approximately 32 deaths per day.
  • In 2009, more than 1 out of every 10 women reported binge drinking during the past 30 days. On average, women who binge drink said they engaged in this risky behavior at least three times per month. Among women binge drinkers, they consume, on average, almost six drinks per drinking occasion, which exceeds the threshold for binge drinking.
  • Binge drinking usually leads to impairment, and women who binge drink with greater frequency and intensity put themselves and those around them at increased risk of experiencing alcohol-related harms, particularly if they are pregnant or may become pregnant.
  • Binge drinking increases the risk for breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke, all of which are leading causes of death in women.
GENDER DIFFERENCES AND ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
  • Upon drinking equal amounts, women tend to absorb more alcohol when they drink, and take longer to break it down and remove it from their bodies compared to their male counterparts. These differences are caused by differences in body composition and chemistry between men and women. Even when they drink the same amount of alcohol, women tend to have higher levels of alcohol in their blood than men, and the immediate effects of impairment occur more quickly and last longer.
  • Alcohol tends to leave the body at a slower rate in women who take birth control pills compared with those who do not. The result can be greater alcohol impairment in women who take birth control pills.
RISK FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT AND SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS
  • Binge drinking is a risk factor for sexual assault, especially among young women in college settings. The risk for rape or sexual assault increases when both the perpetrator and victim have used alcohol before the attack.
  • Women who binge drink are more likely to have unprotected sex and multiple sex partners, which can increase their risk of acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
ALCOHOL AND PREGNANCY
  • No amount of alcohol is safe to drink while pregnant.There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink, and no safe kind of alcohol.
  • Women who drink alcohol while pregnant increase their risk of having a baby with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). This group of conditions includes physical and intellectual disabilities, as well as problems with behavior and learning. Often, a person has a mix of these problems. FASDs are a leading known cause of intellectual disability and birth defects. FASDs are completely preventable if a woman does not drink while she is pregnant or may become pregnant.
  • Women should not drink alcohol if they are planning to become pregnant or are sexually active and do not use effective birth control because they could become pregnant and not know for several weeks. In 2001, about one-half of all pregnancies in the United States were unplanned.
  • National surveys show that about 6 out of every 10 women of child-bearing age (18–44 years) use alcohol, and about one-third of women in this age group who drink alcohol binge drink.
  • Female binge drinkers are more likely to engage in unsafe sexual activities compared with women who are not binge drinkers. Binge drinking increases the risk for unintended pregnancy which may lead to a delay in recognizing pregnancy. If a woman does not recognize that she is pregnant and she continues drinking, she can expose her developing fetus to alcohol without realizing it.
ALCOHOL AND CHRONIC DISEASES

Women are often more vulnerable than men to the long-term effects of alcohol on their health. Over time, drinking too much alcohol can lead to

  • Cancer: Alcohol consumption increases the risk for breast cancer and cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
  • Liver Disease: The risk for cirrhosis and other alcohol-related liver diseases is higher for women than for men.
  • Heart Problems: Studies have shown that women who drink excessively are at increased risk for damage to the heart muscle than men. Binge drinking can lead to high blood pressure and increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.

 

Habit vs Disease

I got into an argument recently with a good friend about whether alcoholism is a disease or a habit. I viewed the discussion as a “fight” but he views it as a “difference of opinion”. I made a comment suggesting friends would help me if I had a disease like diabetes or high cholesterol but not help me quit drinking. He said the first two are diseases but the last is a habit. I have been stressed about going sober, what caused me to go sober, and other changes in my current life. I was too stressed to have this disagreement.  This conversation was online so I blocked him as a temporary solution. But I can not stop continuing to debate the topic in my mind.

I believe I have a disease. I do not have physical withdrawal signs but my drinking problem is a disease. If it was not, I would be able to control the way I drink. A bottle of wine would not be followed by “only a few more glasses.” Habits can be controlled.

I have done “drinking breaks” a few times the past two years. I have gone without alcohol for 30 days and abstained for the last two months of 2013. I have friends that use my breaks as proof I do not have a problem. But they do not know the history of my drinking and mistakes.

It has been an abusive relationship. There have been honeymoon periods and great memories. Much like a woman will stay with a husband that beats her, I have stayed with a substance that has destroyed my life in so many ways. It is a pychological disease that can have physiological symptoms.

That does not relieve a person of taking personal responsibility for their disease. You are responsible for your response. You either acknowledge your disease and fight it or ignore it and let it kill you. Because my drinking problem will kill me one way or another if I do not stop. (Or someone else.) I have had close calls and never fully appreciate the 2nd chances and the 3rds and 4ths. I thank my god that I never seriously harmed anyone and that I have survived.

I think some friendships are like bad habits. Going sober will show me which habits need to be changed.

Mistake #6: I had a huge fight on vacation with a boyfriend and lost stuff. We were staying at a bungalow on a beach. We started drinking beers at dinner with friends. We argued a bit throughout the night. I think it was arguments typical for he and I but neither of us were sure. We had to take a water taxi from the bars to our bungalow.  I think we fought in the taxi. Then we fought on the beach.

I woke up the next morning in our bed with a huge hangover. He said his passport was missing. We took inventory of what was missing. I was missing clothes. My shoes were gone. My cell phone and camera were both broken from water damage. His prescription glasses were missing. My sunglasses were gone. We both spent the day searching the beach. We both kept questioning each other about what happened. Why were we fighting? What caused it? Would we have fought if not so drunk? How much did we drink? Did our neighbors hear us?

Throughout the day we found almost everything again. My shirt was hanging in a tree. My skirt was on a log. One shoe was on a rock and another on a step of a restaurant. (Did I try skinny dipping drunk?) He found his passport right by the bungalow. My sunglasses were on the sand but with scratched up lenses. We never found his glasses nor the answers to our questions. It was our worse night on that trip.