Tequila was my thing. As cosmopolitan martinis were to Carrie Bradshaw, tequila shots were to me. OK, I also loved my cosmos but if I really wanted to take the party up a notch, a tequila shot (or four) was the way to go. That feeling as the tequila slid down my throat and then warmed my body was special. I felt euphoric, unstoppable - the life of the party. And I was. Until the party wasn't fun anymore.
North American society has a love affair with alcohol. Is it a healthy love affair? I would argue that it isn't always.
At the recent Bottom Line Conference hosted by the Canadian Mental Health Association there were many conversations about alcohol - when it becomes a problem in a person's life and when it becomes addiction. One of the keynote speakers was award winning Canadian journalist and author Ann Dowsett Johnston, whose book Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol explores the relationship between women and alcohol. Her talk was compelling as she spoke about her own journey through alcohol addiction and the conscious marketing of alcohol to women.
We often turn to alcohol when things are stressful, we are trying to avoid feelings of pain or we want to push away memories of physical or mental trauma. I chose alcohol at a time when I was first struggling with depression and anxiety. If I went out with my friends at night and had the 'best time ever' (ie: got smashed) then things would be better. Right? It didn't help that I worked evenings in the hospitality industry. What do you do when your shift ends at 11:00 pm? You go out for drinks to unwind. Throw in an alcoholic boyfriend and it was pretty much the perfect storm.
Little did I realize at the time that alcohol is a depressant. For someone grappling with a mood disorder it's absolutely counterproductive to drink alcohol. While my drinking did become problematic, it never became an addiction. I was able to just stop - to step back from the habits that I had developed and consider the 'why' of it all. I drank to feel better. When that didn't actually happen, when, in fact, I felt worse, I stopped. I quit drinking entirely for six months and then I did reintroduce alcohol in my life but on a much smaller scale. Twenty years later I made a conscious decision to stop once again because I choose to take control of what I can when it comes to my mental health; even a glass or two of alcohol will impact my mood. These days I very rarely drink and I really don't miss it.
To be clear, I have absolutely no problem with a person enjoying a glass of wine or tumbler of scotch or an ice cold beer; or even getting drunk once in awhile. What I worry about is what Dowsett Johnston referred to in her conference keynote address as the glamorization of alcohol. We joke about how, after a hard day at the office or with the kids, we are going to drink a bottle of wine. Substitute the wine for heroin or cigarettes - is that joke as funny? Alcohol is legal but make no mistake about it, it's still a drug that can have incredibly harmful effects on the human body and on a human being's life. Do women, in particular, trivialize or underestimate the impact that alcohol has in their lives? That's what I wonder.
The sun has set on my party days. Yes, I had some fun and I also experienced some pain as a result of that chapter of my life. The sunrise after a night of overindulgence wasn't always as pretty as one would hope or the media portrays. I said goodbye to my tequila sunrise. Should you?
Here are some common signs that your alcohol use has entered a problem zone:
* You drink in response to stress
* You have pain in your stomach
* You drink more than you intended
* You find yourself spending more than you ever used to buying alcohol and/or more than you can afford
* You find yourself increasingly hiding your drinking from others
* Your previous attempts to manage or reduce your substance use have been unsuccessful
* Your personality starts to change.
Learn more at Here To Help
Read more about Dowsett Johnston's book in this interview with Huffington Post
Curious about out boozy habits in Canada? Check out this National Post article.