I learned to drink very poorly when I was 17 at a Canadian university that celebrated heavy drinking and, looking back at the photos, I am surprised I survived. On one picture I am sitting on the roof of a house, my face covered in purple ink wearing engineering overalls, and there is no question I am smashed. That was 32 years ago, and today I cringe at the idea I could have slipped going up or down that roof and immediately paralyzed myself for life by accident. It’s been 8 years since I had a drinking session like that, when I was 42 and drove myself home from my local pizza joint in Cape Town where I lived for six years. The following morning my best friend screamed at me so loud that it changed me. I have never since had that much to drink. Now I may have three or four drinks per week. Often I have none.
Now I’m wondering, when exactly did it become ‘cool’ for women to drink so much? I think it was around the millennium when this trend began, and heavy drinking is now one of the biggest health issues for women. Whatever the setting is, alcohol seems to always be an essential component of social events. And we embrace that, drink after drink, chatting away with our friends, not realizing how much alcohol we are consuming. But when did not holding a drink become awkward? And what are the costs to our drinking indulgences? Every drinking session that we recover from and regret was 2-8 hours of time we could have spent living in purpose. And as we age, this becomes more and more important to women.So what is driving this new trend of smart successful women drinking so much that we can’t even remember what we do, where we left our cars, how we got home or if we might have said something we regret? A nasty text message we might have fired off at a friend we’re irked with. Our kids watching us stumble up the stairs to bed. Why are we taking these chances with our physical and emotional well-being? Our middle and final years of life, between 40 and 70, are when we come alive, shake off our insecurities and step into our most confident selves with enormous gifts to share with the world, our friends, our kids and grand-kids. So is this the time to also increase our alcohol consumption?I know drinking can be fun, no question about that. But is there a middle ground? Can we still get together with friends and have a blast without getting smashed? Would we still have as much fun? For me the answer is yes, absolutely. Maybe not for eight hours straight but certainly for three or four. As I get older, I have become less interested in long drinking sessions and physically, I can’t even take in more than three drinks, and I know the next day will be hard. But mostly it’s my time and how I value it differently that changed the way I drink, now that I’m fifty. Every hour and every day is so valuable to me that I can’t imagine regretting any of it doing things that aren’t important. There’s too many other experiences in life I want to have that don’t mix, quite literally, with alcohol.If you’re one of those women regretting your last drinking session thinking ‘I’ll clean my office tomorrow’ or ‘I’ll start that painting next month’ or ‘I’ll apologize to my friend next time I see her’, ask yourself; is it your drinking that’s keeping you from doing the things that would add more meaning to your life? Just five hours a week doing something you love makes a big difference, but you have to find that time somewhere in your life. You’re going to have to give something up and it might be time to reduce the drinking. Think about it, this is your life, you can choose how many glasses of wine you’ll have. You can choose to refuse an alcoholic beverage and grab a mocktail instead. And don’t be worried about being socially awkward: happy people are the life of parties. I say, take back control of your life! Let’s make drinking less the new cool.
[Editor’s Note:The author of this post is a content contributor to Alavida, and this contributor was paid for their writing. The opinions, views, results and experiences are theirs alone.]
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Susan Standfield Spooner is a collaborator for Alavida who inspires everyday women just like her to transform their personal health story, the health of their families and communities. She chose to become a voice for a cleaner, more fair world for all after a North African drought in 2011, the Islamic revolution and 5 Arab wars. Since then, she’s fighting the biggest problem our world is facing; chemicals, be them ingested, injected, dumped, sprayed or bombed.