There is a birthday I celebrate every fall: not my belly-button birthday (that’s August); and not my sobriety birthday (that’s November). No, I celebrate the birth of my book baby, Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, named one of the top 10 books of 2013 by the Washington Post. This fall, as Drink turns eight, I am struck by how little has changed since I begged this pivotal question: “Has alcohol become the modern woman’s steroid, enabling her to do the heavy lifting necessary in an endlessly complex world? Is it the escape valve women need, in the midst of a major social revolution still unfolding? How much of this is marketing, how much is the need to numb?” I was the whistle-blower on the pinking of the alcohol market. Holly Whitaker (Quit Like A Woman) has called me the pioneer--a moniker that makes me smile, if not feel a little long in the tooth. Back in 2010, when I began selling the newspaper series that would evolve into Drink, many looked at me in disbelief when I said that professional women would catch up with men in terms of risky drinking.
Now, that reality is true: an equal opportunity disaster. We live in an alcogenic, alcocentric culture. Let’s face it: female drinking is the epidemic in the pandemic. The facts: in recent years, women have increased their rate of heavy drinking—defined as four or more drinks within a couple of hours—by 41 per cent. This past winter, North American doctors began to speak of large spikes in alcoholic liver disease in young women— a condition usually experienced by older men. Between 1999 and 2017, alcohol-related deaths among women in the U.S. rose 85 per cent—a far higher rate than for men. Ultimately, there has been little progress on the empowerment ground. Women fall into the alcohol trap all too easily, anesthetizing themselves with a legal drug--and suffering the consequences of isolation, illness, injury, death. We sit at the tipping point: the Mommy-Juice memes have gone too far. Ellen De Generes tossing back a box of wine; babies wearies onesies, emblazoned with “I am the reason Mommy drinks”; coffee mugs reading, “This might not be coffee.” Women are drowning in this messaging, and alcohol is a key ingredient in modern life—especially motherhood. Too many are numbing to get through the day.
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