Most women read “Excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of
preventable death in the United States and is a risk factor for many health and societal
problems,” (1), and think, “Oh, too bad, this really isn’t about me. That’s about all those
others, who really have problems,” without stopping to think how it could apply to them.
I know this may make you a tiny bit anxious, but let’s take a moment and look at the
definition of heavy and binge drinking:
Heavy drinking is defined as more than two drinks per day on average for
men or more than one drink per day on average for women. One drink a
day! (1) Some of you are thinking “this is crazy,” but bear with me for a
Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks during a single occasion
for men or four or more drinks during a single occasion for women (1).
Four drinks, you may be hearing yourself say–that’s just a moderate night
The reason why this doesn’t feel like a problem is that it’s common: about
1 in 8 women aged 18 years and older and 1 in 5 high school girls binge
Women who binge drink do so frequently – about 3 times a month (2) that
is going out most weekends. And therein lies the problem for many, not
realizing the impact of a “girls night out.”
Most girls and women don’t realize that drinking four or more drinks, even on occasion
can create a problem, a serious problem, even a permanent problem. Binge drinking
increases the chances of breast cancer, heart disease, sexually transmitted diseases,
unintended pregnancy, and many other health problems. Drinking during pregnancy can
lead to sudden infant death syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (2). I know
the long-term health effects seem very remote, to women of all ages, so let’s look at the
immediate ones, and add a couple.
Sex and alcohol is a complicated relationship — it giveth and it taketh away. Alcohol
gives us lower inhibitions leading to feeling more relaxed, less worried, less observant
about what we’re doing, or saying. That can be, and is frequently, nice. And yes, it
can ease our way into a sexual situation. This may sound even better. But alcohol also
say, what I won’t repeat now, my head cleared a little. I realized I had another choice. I
could leave, and I did.”
But, if we decide we want sex, the next question is how do we protect ourselves
– yes ourselves for once, not everyone else, and not his or her feelings when we
make arrangements to be safe. This much alcohol can also make our thinking fuzzy,
particularly when it comes understanding not only what we want to do but also how
to protect ourselves by asking the right questions, and taking the right actions. Think
STDs, yuck, I know, but many are preventable through the use of a condom. Think
unwanted pregnancy, and yes it can happen to anyone from the President’s daughter in
TV show 1600 Penn, to friends, to you.
Anger and alcohol is another potent mix. I have found in my clinical work that many
women binge, many times alone, because they are angry. And since we’ve all been
raised to be good girls, a key belief being that we shouldn’t be angry, many women
unconsciously deal with their anger by anesthetizing themselves through alcohol use.
Speak about a no-win solution. God forbid they actually allow themselves to know that
they are angry and express their anger. Who knows what could happen then? Maybe a
solution could be reached.
Alcohol and weight gain. Yes, alcohol can make you fat. It is after all highly caloric,
and has no nutritional value. I know none of the models are fat, and yes it is so unfair!
So what to do? No easy solutions you say. Well, there is one. Stop giving away your
power, and using alcohol to excess is one way that women give away this vital inner
resource. Begin to tap into your inner strengths, your resilience. You know what these
are — the parts of you that you use in situations to help everyone else: the skills, the
behaviors, others see and comment upon, so very favorably; what you do for others, the
advice you give your girlfriends about drinking, about guys. What if you remembered
your own advice and gave to yourself. How good would that be? Now that would be