Last month was Women’s History Month and it got me thinking a lot about women and alcohol, which is good because this month is Alcohol Awareness Month. Women and alcohol is not a new topic. It’s something we’ve been hearing about all the time lately. Women are at a higher risk for alcohol misuse and drinking-related long-term health problems. We recently learned that the gap between alcohol consumption for men and women is steadily closing. Alcohol use disorder in women has increased by 83.7 percent between 2002 and 2013. High-risk drinking, defined as more than 3 drinks in a day, or 7 in a week for women, has risen by 58 percent from 2002 to 2013. Liver cirrhosis deaths among women have risen, as well as a steep increase in alcohol-related ER visits for women.
Women are drinking more and are feeling the effects of their drinking sooner. We are also targeted more than men. The mommy wine culture and glamorization of alcohol in the media are proof of that. Everywhere we turn there are tampon-shaped flasks to sneak alcohol into public places, shower wine glass holders, and faux-feminist booze like Jane Walker. Spare me. When I was still drinking, Natty Light and good old Vladimir vodka in the plastic handle container, were good enough for me. Old me probably would have loved that Big Alcohol is now playing to my feminist agenda.
These facts have brought me to one serious truth: sobriety is an act of women’s empowerment. This is not an original idea, but one I’ve heard mentioned in various discourse from many role models of mine. I came to this conclusion by listening to women talk about alcohol, from my own experiences as a woman with an alcohol use disorder, someone who has experienced sexual assault with alcohol involved, and as a consumer of modern media.
Women have long been a group of oppressed people. Still to this day we are fighting for equal rights, including bodily autonomy and equal pay. William White in his paper, Recovery as an Act of Resistance, quoted abolitionist and statesman Frederick Douglass, “When a slave was drunk, the slave holder had no fear that he would plan an insurrection; no fear that he would escape to the north. It was the sober, thinking slave who was dangerous, and needed the vigilance of his master to keep him a slave.” He goes on to talk about the history of alcohol as a weapon of exploitation, colonization, and extermination among marginalized groups. Something that is still too close for comfort in our recent history, like the passing and enforcement of drug laws that unfairly target people of color.
As women we are constantly told that we’re too big, too loud, too mean, too abrasive, or too emotional. We are told that our trauma and experiences don’t matter unless we talk about them right away and have proof. If there is alcohol involved, our stories lose validity. We are told we need alcohol to look sexy, to feel sexy, to perform sexual acts, to let loose, be ourselves, to parent, to flirt, to live. And frankly I’m sick of it!
Ladies, listen to me: we do not need alcohol, for ANYTHING! My friend Holly Whitaker says, “it’s a rebellious act not to drink,” and reminds us that we’ve been duped by alcohol advertisers who invented the idea that drinking is somehow “rebellious,” and linked to liberation. Drinking a drug that has been normalized isn’t edgy or cool. Being one of the people who has woken up to that fact, and chooses to be sober in a world when the majority of people drink and buy into alcohol advertising, IS the rebellious act.
As women we can take our power back by not drinking. This is how sobriety is an act of women’s empowerment. We reject the idea that alcohol is needed to better our lives in any way. We reject the power alcohol has over us when we become intoxicated. We no longer put ourselves at a higher risk for sexual assault by consuming alcohol. We no longer toss up our choices to the grips of alcohol. We no longer give into the status quo and do what everyone else is doing.
One of my spiritual teachers, Kassi Underwood says getting sober was her first real act of defiance against the status quo. She says, “Getting sober is not about avoiding the bars, or RSVPing No to every wedding, or party or family holiday, getting sober is about conditioning yourself to go anywhere alcohol is served with peace and ease.” This idea speaks to me. Sobriety as resistance and empowerment is my pathway.
When you move through this world as a woman and have experienced your power being take away from you, whether it has been through alcohol use, sexual assault, trauma, catcalling, emotional abuse, physical abuse, or something else, getting sober can be the building blocks on which we move forward and take control of our lives again.
Sobriety isn’t only an act of resistance, of rebellion, of defiance against the status quo - as my wise teachers have all said, it’s also an act of women’s empowerment. Every time I say “I don’t drink,” I am empowered. I choose my future. I choose sobriety. I choose me.
We can’t smash the patriarchy if we’re getting fucked up.
Are you looking to change your relationship with alcohol? Are you looking for accountability, guidance and support? Let’s see if we’re a good fit to work together.