You’ve just walked in the door, after a long day at work. You’re beat. Your feet hurt. No one’s walked the dog yet. You’ve got ten things on your mind, and now you have to make dinner.
How long does it take for you to have a glass of wine in your hand?
Maybe wine isn’t your thing. Maybe it’s a cooler, a gin and tonic, or a beer.
Whatever your fave booze is, ask yourself if you’re using it to relieve stress, to relax and to just have a moment for you. A peaceful, smooth, tasty moment.
Is alcohol your self-care? I know it used to be mine.
For me, it was red wine, and I drank it all week long. After a stressful day at work. Celebrating and socializing on the weekends. A relaxing evening with my husband.
Wine took the edge off. More relaxed. More laughing. More good times. Drinking wine was fun.
Until it wasn’t.
If you’re not 40 years old yet, you may or may not have noticed you don’t bounce back after drinking like you used to. When you hit your late 40’s or early 50’s, you become more aware of your health and the horrifying idea that you should drink less if you want to be healthy.
Speaking of drinking less. Think about what you pour into your glass. According to the serving sizes of alcohol, I was probably drinking 1.5 to 2 servings in each glass!
So, how do you know if you should reduce your intake of alcohol or even consider giving it up?
Consider two things:
- How alcohol affects you
- The actual dangers of booze (especially for women)
Checklist: How Alcohol Affects You in your Life
Read each statement below, and keep track of how many you agree with in terms of your drinking habits.
- I drink alcohol 3 or more times a week.
- When I drink, I usually have 2 or more drinks.
- I usually finish my drink before others around me finish theirs.
- When I’m stressed, I look forward to my glass of wine/drink.
- There are times I’ve told myself I wouldn’t drink at an event, but then I do.
- On more than one occasion, I’ve told myself I should drink less for my health.
- I sometimes drink more than I intended.
- Sometimes I drink when I don’t really feel like it; it’s a habit.
- After drinking too much, I feel awful the next day (whatever your definition of awful is: headache, tired, groggy, hungover, etc.)
- I often don’t sleep well, and I’ve started to notice my poorest sleeps are after I drink.
- My hot flashes get worse after I drink.
- Drinking alcohol leads me to eating crappy food and/or too much food.
- If I think about it, most arguments with my spouse, family or friends have been when I or we were drinking.
- On more than one occasion, I’ve forgotten conversations or events from the previous day when I was drinking.
- On more than one occasion, I’ve said or did something I regretted or that was embarrassing while drinking.
Although we’re all different (culture, genes, habits, lifestyle, etc.), and alcohol can affect us in different ways, the following guidelines can help you determine if you need to have a frank, but gentle, conversation with yourself about how much alcohol you’re drinking, and how often.
In addition, although you’ve heard that wine can be good for you, the risks of drinking it regularly outweigh the benefits. Just like running might benefit your health, the risk of harm from running down the center of a busy highway outweighs any benefits you’d get from the actual running.
Here are the answers to the checklist. How many of those statements were true for you? These guidelines are my own. I’m not a doctor or health care expert. Only you can gauge whether you need to look at reducing your alcohol intake.
1-4 It’s unlikely you’re turning to alcohol for self-care. Alcohol is probably not a focus in your life. However, depending on the specific items you checked off, keep an eye on how often you drink, and how much you drink, to avoid future health problems.
5-9 Your self-care habit may lead to bigger problems. Alcohol is impacting your life in more ways than you might have realized. Depending on which items you checked off, it would be a good idea to decrease how often you drink and to consume less when you drink. Try drinking only once a week and limit your drinks to two. Doing so will decrease your chance of acquiring alcohol-related health problems.
10-15 This score indicates that your regular self-care routine of sipping a lovely Shiraz or whatever you like to drink, is going to bite you in the ass, later. You should seriously consider the physical and mental health risks of your alcohol consumption. Try going alcohol-free for 30 days. Doing so will be eye-opening. It may show that you just have a bad habit of drinking, or it may show that you have an addiction that needs to be looked at. Either way, you’ll need to start drinking less if you want to have good health.
After reviewing your results, you may need to look in the mirror (with love and kindness) and have a conversation with yourself about whether your health and overall well-being is really important to you or not. When I say health, I mean the health of your body, mind and even your relationships.
The Real Dangers of Drinking (especially for women)
Now that you’ve had a look at the effects of your own alcohol consumption, let’s review some of the dangers. It’s my guess that most women are completely unaware of just how harmful drinking can be. I was one of those people, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020.
Since then, I’ve gone for weeks and months without drinking. I drink less, and honestly, I envision a future life without any alcohol because the World Health Organization has classified alcohol as a carcinogen in the same category as asbestos and tobacco. The organization says alcohol is toxic and that there is no safe level of alcohol.
Since I’ve had cancer already, and a type that has been shown to be (in part) caused by alcohol (see below), it would be in my best interest to abstain from alcohol altogether, for my health. It is my hope that I can achieve this eventually.
The information below is not a comprehensive list of the dangers of booze, but if you want to improve your health or keep the health you have, it will give you a glimpse of how alcohol can greatly impact your health. I’ve bolded the parts that stood out to me.
“Alcohol is a toxic and psychoactive substance with dependence producing properties. In many of today’s societies, alcoholic beverages are a routine part of the social landscape for many in the population. This is particularly true for those in social environments with high visibility and societal influence, nationally and internationally, where alcohol frequently accompanies socializing. In this context, it is easy to overlook or discount the health and social damage caused or contributed to by drinking.” –World Health Organization
“Cancer: alcohol consumption has been identified as carcinogenic for the following cancer categories (Baan et al., 2007): cancers of the colorectum, female breast, larynx, liver, oesophagus, oral cavity and pharynx. The higher the consumption of alcohol, the greater the risk for these cancers: even the consumption of two drinks per day causes an increased risk for some cancers, such as breast cancer (Hamajima et al., 2002). ” –World Health Organization
- “Liver Disease: The risk of cirrhosis and other alcohol-related liver diseases is higher for women than for men.
- Impact on the Brain: Alcohol-related cognitive decline and shrinkage of the brain develop more quickly for women than for men.
- Impact on the Heart: Women who drink excessively are at increased risk for damage to the heart muscle at lower levels of consumption and over fewer years of drinking than men.
- Breast Cancer and other Cancers: Alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon. In women, drinking is also associated with breast cancer, even at low levels of consumption.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“[Women’s] bodies contain proportionately less water and more fat than men’s bodies. Water dilutes alcohol and fat retains it, so our organs are exposed to higher concentrations of alcohol for longer periods of time. Also, women have less alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme that breaks down alcohol before it reaches the bloodstream. At any given dose, our blood levels of alcohol will be higher than a man’s, even taking into account differences in body weight. As a result, one drink for a woman is roughly equivalent to two drinks for a man.” Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School
Women are increasing how much they drink, compared to the past. This article published by NPR (National Public Radio) talks about how women are using booze to cope with life, as opposed to using it just for pleasure, and that so many women are completely unaware that their drinking habits need to be adjusted or halted.
Based on my own drinking habits and experiences, and my observation of family and friends’ drinking patterns, I whole-heartedly agree that we’re turning to booze for an escape. Many women are practically in-lust with their vino (ya, that was me) because it helps us to relax and escape our hectic, stressful lives, where we do much more (work and home) than the average man (especially if we have children).
Do you want to take a closer look at the stress in your life and how you can reduce it? Read “3 Steps to Less S#?@**(Stress)“.
If you want to go deeper into reflecting on your drinking habits, go to Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and your Health.
I’m writing this post because I want women to see that turning to booze for their self-care program is not the way to go.
I’m hoping women will begin to see that we need to make other changes in our life to cope with stress. I want us to see the incredible power we have within, and that we’re not treasuring that power when we reach for our glass of toxins.
Check out my other post about alcohol, “I’ll have a Cabernet, with a Side of Cancer”.
Be HEALTHY (Healthy Eating And Living Transforms and Heals You),