It’s funny how we ascribe certain struggles to certain groups of people. And we expect those struggles to look a certain way. Young women, for example, will struggle with eating disorders and materialism. (This means they’ll get too thin or buy too many shoes). Teenage boys will struggle with self-control (Pornography or booze).I guess if we can allocate specific problems to specific people, then they’re not so dangerous. They’re somehow less likely to happen to us.
Of course it’s not true. We can’t draw lines around the problems we consider appropriate. Older men have eating disorders. Young women struggle with porn. And these days, alcoholism is just as likely to affect women as men.
“First a man takes a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes the man.” That’s the saying. But here’s the reality: These days, the poster girl for alcoholism is a woman aged between 35 and 50. She’s well educated, professional and seems totally in control. Instead of sleeping all day, she goes to work or looks after the grand/kids. She doesn’t crash the car and she takes care of herself and others. At night she winds down with a glass or four of wine. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s every single night. And it’s gotten so she can’t relax without it.
The American researcher Professor Sharon Wilsnack describes female alcoholism as a ‘global epidemic’. But while we’re aware of the dangers of say smoking, alcohol seems relatively harmless. We expect equality in the home and the workplace. So who’s to say women can’t keep up in the pub too?
But it’s our biology that’s unequal. We’ve got more body fat than men, which means there’s less water to dilute the alcohol. Our changing hormones levels can also make us more susceptible to it – and we’ve got less of the enzyme that helps break down and get rid of it. Women become dependent on alcohol much quicker than men – and we show the signs; liver disease and brain deficits, much quicker. Heavy drinkers of both sexes are at risk of fatal strokes; but the odds are five times higher for women.
So how do you know when enjoying a glass becomes something more worrying?
1. (from Bill Wilson, co-founder of AA):
“We do not like to pronounce any individual as alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself,” he wrote. “Step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking. Try to drink and stop abruptly. Try more than once. It will not take long for you to decide, if you are honest with yourself about it.”
2. CAGE is an acronym used to recall the telltale signs of alcoholism. 1. C – Cutting Down: Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking? 2. A – Annoyed: Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking? 3. G – Guilty: Have you felt bad or guilty about your drinking? 4. E – Eye-opener: Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover (eye-opener)?
3.Try taking the NCADD test.
You don’t have to tick all these boxes to have a problem with drinking. Many qualify as’almost alcoholic’ – someone who drinks more than they should – but not enough to qualify as a full-blown addict.
If so, maybe now is the time to think about getting help. Why not talk to someone at church and perhaps together you can access the following: