Hola Sober April 2024

I believed that a woman who drank alcohol was popular and desirable; she was self-assured and successful; she was liberated and intelligent; she was friendly and approachable; and most notably, she was healthy and normal. Long before I would ever hold a drink in my hand, I’d held a vision in my head: I would grow up to be a drinker. Not a problem drinker, of course—no one sets out to become one of those. But a woman who drank. And why not? It was the natural way to unwind, connect, and reward oneself. As a child, I was highly sensitive, vigilant, and impressionable. An adept junior researcher who collected evidence about the world around me through observation, television, movies, music, magazines, and marketing. Early on, I'd come to associate the wine or martini glass with style and sophistication, the champagne flute with romance and celebration. Things like a longneck bottle or red Solo cup represented joy and connection. And a shot glass? Even that appealed to me. A woman who could hold her liquor—one who looked like a girl but could drink like a guy—well, that was the ultimate power play. Anything that bordered on edgy and rebellious was particularly appealing to me, a timid dreamer type with an unfortunate knack for turning beet red. It's no wonder I studied and admired women who exuded confidence and charisma—or that I noticed how often they were portrayed with a drink in hand. There was no question that a life with alcohol was the preferred existence. It was the enlightened way. It was the acceptable way. And perhaps most significant of all, it was the normal way. For most of my life, I bought into the lie—the one that tells us that a life with alcohol is a better one. As a child of the 80s and a teen of the 90s, I soaked up all the messaging around me regarding life, love and what it meant to be a happy and empowered modern- day woman.

Initially, it wasn't the boozy buzz of drink that appealed to me as much as the overall image. I viewed drink as a prop, a social cue, an accessory. As young girls, many of us naturally try things on for size: we play dress-up and extend our pinkies during imaginary tea parties, and later, some of us graduate to test driving a wine stem, practicing how to grasp it between our fingers or pose with it raised for photographs. On special occasions when I was handed a delicate flute of sparkling Martinelli's, I grinned with delight at the clinking glasses and golden fizz. The thrill was visceral. I couldn't wait to turn 21 and sit at the grown-up table. I couldn't wait to start my better life. My first drink ended up being well before age 21—I was 14 years old and among the last within my social circle. My trajectory was fairly standard: alcohol was a party, then a priority, then a problem. I became known as a drinker, which quickly became a source of pride. I liked what my new identity said about me: I was finally that fun, free- spirited girl I’d aspired to be. High school, college and early adulthood merely reinforced my false belief that women who drink are the trailblazers. We were the ones out there living technicolor lives in a beige world. I firmly believed that drinking was my right and my reward. My friends and I referred to booze as "liquid courage"— acknowledging that drinking enabled us to do or say things we otherwise normally wouldn't. On the flip side, alcohol was an equally effective scapegoat; whenever we’d done something regrettable, we could chalk it up to being intoxicated. Drinking made us feel alive. But the truth that none of us had understood—and many of those same females never will—is that every time we were picking up a drink, we were killing ourselves slowly in plain sight. We were diminishing and disempowering ourselves, all while believing we were rebels.



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