"Drink" - by Ann Dowsett Johnston
Ok, I’m not entirely sure where to start with this one. I guess let me first say how blown away I was by Ann’s honesty, extensive research and overall awareness and passion for this subject matter. I am 10 months into living alcohol free and I wish I would have read this book at the very beginning when I was struggling through those first few months. But then again, maybe I was supposed to have read it now to gain more appreciation and comprehend on a higher level the messages Ann communicates so well throughout this page turning book.
So let’s maybe start where she starts – Drinking is on the rise with women. There’s no denying it. There are various reasons for this ; work/home stress, living up to unreal expectations placed on us by society (having to “do it all – AND be perfect at it”), a sense of reward, sophistication & confidence (A la 'Sex & The City'). Add to that the buying power of women has steadily increased over the past few decades and you open up the unrestricted flood gates to advertisers & marketers selling women on the notion that alcohol will make you more confident, popular, happier, relaxed, fun. Take it from me, it literally does non of those things. As David Jernigan, Director of the Centre on Alcohol Marketing & Youth (CAMY) states, “The alcohol industry is selling young women on the notion that only really, really good things happen when there’s alcohol. And to have really, really good things happen, you have to drink.”
Of course, there is so much more to all of this. That’s just a small example of why drinking is on the rise among women. My own personal experience and research into the understanding of why we abuse alcohol so terrifically bad has brought me down two avenues of thought. The first one consists of some sort of trauma we sustained at one point in our lives and how we reacted (or didn't react) that ultimately affected our future coping habits & abilities without us even realizing it. And the second refers to brain patterns & thought habits developed over time. I guess they both go hand in hand. Before the thought of quitting for good entered my mind, I was working with a healer for over 3 years just trying to get to the bottom of why drinking had become my crutch. And it took a while to really understand why (still a work in progress). I had a pretty good childhood – I am the baby of 5 kids, had loving parents and was heavily involved in sports throughout my youth. You’d think on the surface everything was great. But dig down, deep down and there were feelings of neglect, but to no ones fault. My parents worked hard, full time hours + to provide for our family and we were always on the move with sports & activities. There was never any real time left for emotional stability, support or growth. I developed depressive tendencies in my teens that I wasn’t equipped to deal with it. And stress. So much of our life revolves around stress but no one is teaching us how to deal with it – especially in our developmental years. So I self medicated through it all, and my medication of choice was alcohol. “I drink to not be me.” “I drink to forget about negative feelings.” “I drink to relieve my feelings of anxiety & depression.” And around-n-around the hamster wheel we go.
Another point I feel the book addresses so importantly is the issue of being labeled an “alcoholic”. Ann had asked numerous women over the course of writing her book if they would rather be known as an alcoholic or a person who suffers from depression, and not one woman answered alcoholic. I have long said I feel that word hinders growth. It misrepresents. And it for sure stops people from speaking out about the negative role alcohol plays in their lives. I think it especially makes women hide their drinking habits further, worried about what their friends, family & workplace might think.
Now onto my favourite part, where she discusses the “real work” involved in giving up alcohol. It’s as if she wrote this part for me! I was nodding my head along in agreement as I read through it. In the beginning, it’s all about giving up alcohol. That’s all you’re really focused on, and rightly so. I still keep track on my living room wall how many days it's been (302!). But once you get over that initial hump of shitiness, and maybe withdrawal, the real work starts. This is where we strip all the layers back and start to rebuild from square one. As Ann so eloquently writes, "They say you stop maturing when you drink, and I believe it's true; I had a lot of catching up to do...I have found my voice again. All things are possible. And without alcohol in my life, there are so many more chapters to come." Amen Ann. I am beyond excited for my new chapters to begin. xo K