03 Apr 2014
Truth and Transparency: I Think My “OFF” Switch is Broken
If you look at my family tree, there are alcoholics teetering on nearly every branch. Given this, I am keenly aware of a little nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me I need to pay attention.
In the last few years, I have started to wonder if I’m heading in the direction of a problem. Not a Ready-for-Betty-Ford kind of problem…but one where my “OFF” switch has gone on the fritz.
I have never said this out loud, much less put it in print, but I think it’s time to be honest with myself. I teach women about the risks of breast cancer and alcohol and how alcohol disrupts hormones, and every day I am reaching for the wine bottle at the stroke of 5:00 pm. And occasionally counting down to said stroke.
This feels out of alignment and that misalignment requires a lot of my mental energy and feels very wonky. And given my already-astronomical risk of breast cancer, it’s just plain stupid.
Research shows that midlife can be a slippery slope for women who drink even a little alcohol. That’s because they begin to experience new stressors…body changes, aging parents, divorce, and retirement…the list goes on.
And alcohol is a socially acceptable way to become comfortably numb to anything we’d prefer not to deal with.
So what does problematic drinking look like?
“There aren’t kids to get out of bed in the morning, so OK, I’ll have another drink.”
“There’s nothing big on my calendar tomorrow. Pour me another glass, please.”
“I had a tough day, I deserve it.”
“I had an amazing day, let’s celebrate!”
And so it begins.
A recent study shows about 10 percent of us – us being women over 50 – binge drink during any given month. That’s 5 drinks at one sitting, although you have to wonder about those numbers because who’s doing all that score-keeping after the first two.
Whether or not you believe the math, you can’t question midlife biology. Our metabolism slows as we age. So that one glass of wine hangs around in your liver for-freakin’-ever. Hangovers linger on and on and on. The floaty around your middle gets bigger and bigger. Estrogen levels get all out of whack. There is nothing pretty about this picture.
I could drink like a fish in my 20s. And my 30s. And for most of my 40’s. But now that I’m in my 50’s, I’m tired of puffy eyes and feeling wiped out the next day if I have more than 2 glasses of wine. But more often than not, I do it anyway and that’s what makes me wonder about my OFF switch.
I found this on a web site about women and alcoholism.
“The defining characteristic of addiction is loss of control over when you drink, how much you drink or the way in which you think about drinking. Getting hooked psychologically is independent of the amount you drink. If that one drink per day becomes the focus of your life or if you feel like you can’t enjoy dinner without a drink, that’s a warning of psychological dependence.”
Hmmm. This is the part that makes me squirm. My evening wine ritual is as ingrained in me as brushing my teeth. I wonder who I would be without it and that thought makes me nervous.
I wonder how my relationship with my husband and friends would change.
What would I do with the time I spend zoned out in front of the TV?
Would my introvert no longer be allowed to hang out in the corner at parties while my lubricated self entertained?
If awareness is the first step, then I am there. The cold truth of this is that warning signs are everywhere and I can choose to ignore them or take the next step…whatever that is. If this post hits close to home for you, I invite you to share below or e-mail me privately at email@example.com. We are all in this together.