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inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #26 of 111: Elizabeth Churchill (leroyleroy) Wed 20 Jan 16 17:51
    
I am of a slightly older generation, and what I'm seeing now among
many of my women friends is an increase in what I think of as quiet
drinking. Nobody has the energy or inclination to go out partying or
clubbing, everybody's way too tired and stressed and over-extended,
so they drink quietly at home: a socially acceptable glass of wine
(or 2) while cooking dinner, another perfectly respectable glass (or
3) with dinner, then a nightcap (maybe with several refills) while
Netflixing. Not really DRINKING drinking, you know, just a little
something to help them unwind at the end of the day, relax, and
maybe even be able to fall asleep for a change. But by the end of
the week the recycling bin is an embarrassing overflow of empty
bottles. 

Is this an increasing trend among middle-aged women, or I have just
not been aware of it in the past?
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #27 of 111: Sarah Hepola (shepola) Thu 21 Jan 16 05:31
    
It’s a trend. There have been two recent nonfiction books that hit
on this quiet late-in-life drinking: Gabrielle Glaser, who wrote
“Her Best-Kept Secret,” and Ann Dowsett Johnson, who wrote “Drink.”
Both are middle-aged journalists who point out the way female
drinking has grown alongside the wine industry, which simply
exploded in the past 30 years. In England, “empty-nest” female
drinkers are actually out-drinking young ones - in part, that’s
because of increasing diversity in a younger population, some of
whom don’t drink for religious reasons. 

I have a line in my book: “Alcohol is a loneliness drug.” I was
referring to myself as a teenager, but it fits any age. Many of us
are tweaked by a quiet, aching loneliness. Technology connects us,
but keeps us physically isolated. Wine — with its air of
sophistication — provides a warmth and comfort for many older women
who struggle to face a home with no noise in it (or too much noise:
drinking is certainly a go-to for young mothers). Wine is an
excellent companion. But this creates a fair bit of “gray-zone”
drinking, where two glasses bleed into four, or six, and it’s not
exactly a PROBLEM but it’s a problem. There’s a good portrayal of
this in “The Kids Are All Right,” the 2010 movie where Annette
Bening plays a successful physician who dips into that wine bottle
as soon as she gets home, and just keeps dipping, and dipping, and
the tipsier she gets, the more the air around her changes. 

A lot of my book takes place at bars and parties, but I spent many,
many nights with my bottle of red wine and my reality TV. When we
think about women drinking, we often picture the 20-something with
her fruity cocktail, in a sparkly dress and high heels, but an
accurate portrait would have to include this domestic image of
women, alone, quietly sipping away their evenings.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #28 of 111: Tom Howard (tom) Thu 21 Jan 16 08:04
    
My neighborhood FedEx guy and I were chatting one day. He tells me
apropos of godknowswhat about how Americans really have a drinking
problem (he's Serbian). He is apparently making tons of deliveries
of wine (etc? what else are you allowed to buy online?).

I have a friend who lives in a high rise. He knows which neighbor (a
woman) is leaving case after case of twelve packs of beer in their
stairwell for trash/recycling.

I'm sure quibbling can be done, but I'm pretty sure you can take it
to the bank that 10% of the population are alcoholics. I do know
that Alcoholics Anonymous works for people, but I believe it's a
small number and a small percentage of the people who apparently
"need" it.

Do you, Sarah, and others think that the general popularization
(teevee and movies, e.g.) of AA has helped?
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #29 of 111: Peter Meuleners (pjm) Thu 21 Jan 16 09:28
    
Following this discussion with great interest (I'm 26 years sober).
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #30 of 111: Renshin Bunce (renshin) Thu 21 Jan 16 09:29
    
Me too (37 years sober)
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #31 of 111: behind on BADGES! (obizuth) Thu 21 Jan 16 09:43
    
rock on, peter and renshin. xo
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #32 of 111: Renshin Bunce (renshin) Thu 21 Jan 16 09:46
    
It's when we get sober that the rocking really begins!
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #33 of 111: Sarah Hepola (shepola) Thu 21 Jan 16 11:01
    
You ask an important, but complicated, question, Tom. AA worked for
me, and from where I stand, the number of people who have been
helped by the program is not small at all. But I’m open to the idea
that we’ve been too narrow in our approach to treating drinking
problems. AA was founded in the 1930s as a last resort, for
hard-core drinkers who had tried everything. The program’s success
was such that it is now often presented as a *first* resort. Are we
missing the development of a few intermediary programs, to track
alongside a culture that has learned to identify drinking problems
much earlier (thanks in large part to the proliferation of AA)? I
wonder. 

Lately I have been consumed by the social problem of young women in
their 20s and 30s who stop drinking, and feel undateable. Quitting
drinking should be a return to the world, but for these women, it’s
a social exile. Hook-up culture thrives on drinking — it is almost a
necessary prop for casual sex —  and some men simply won’t spend
time with a woman who doesn’t knock back drinks. One woman I heard
from had to quit drinking because of a medical diagnosis. She
doesn’t need AA (although the community would certainly be
supportive), but what are the resources for her to meet non-drinking
young people? Where does she spend her time now? I’m intrigued by an
Australia-based website called Hello Sunday Morning, where people
who are trying to quit — for a week, or a month, or a year - share
tips and support one another. 

I want to be clear that I don’t think the answer is to bash or
dismantle AA, because it is a profound program that works for some
people, including me. What might be helpful, though, is a larger
variety of resources *in addition to AA.*

I could spend all afternoon answering this question, so I’m going to
stop now. And I haven’t even touched on drug addiction, or proposed
pharmacological treatments, which is a whole other Pandora’s Box I
will decline to open right now (and not my area of expertise
anyway).

Peter and Renshin, would welcome your input on how you got sober,
and whether you think AA is overemphasized in the recovery process.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #34 of 111: Ari Davidow (ari) Thu 21 Jan 16 12:35
    
I could also have sworn that I read a recent NY Times article about 
alternatives to AA, but now can't find it. The idea behind the article is 
that AA =does= work for some people, but, mostly, it doesn't. And, for a 
lot of people, learning to drink occasionally =is= possible--it doesn't 
have to be all or nothing.

Having said that, the AA approach has always made sense to me. I've never 
been very attracted to alcohol, but it took me 20 years to quit tobacco. 
Along the way, it was made clear to me that I had no "occasional 
cigarette" option. I either don't smoke, or I smoke a lot. I am very 
grateful that I made it to the "don't smoke" place. I can only imagine how 
hard it is with drinking or drug abuse.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #35 of 111: Renshin Bunce (renshin) Thu 21 Jan 16 18:22
    
Sarah, when I got sober it was AA or nothing.  Also, I was
unemployed and unemployable for quite a while, so going to two or
three meetings a day was no problem.  That's where I found the
information I needed ("It's a disease" and "You're not a bad person
getting good, you're a sick person getting well" and "Stay away from
slippery places if you want to stay sober" - stuff like that) and
the social involvement I craved since I had no friends left by the
time I hit my first meeting.  Of course the guys I met and dated and
even married in AA were as cuckoo as I was, so there's that, but
some of the men and women have remained friends for decades. 
Through the years I've seen people proclaim that AA doesn't work and
that people should learn to drink socially or whatever, but I don't
believe it.  I still believe that AA is the only treatment that has
a success rate worth paying attention to.  The emphasis on Bill
Wilson's very traditional God eventually became a problem for me,
but in those early days I would have signed up for anything that
would help me save my life.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #36 of 111: descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Thu 21 Jan 16 21:32
    

My mother-in-law had a pattern of drinking that has not been mentioned
in this topic.  When she got home from work every day, she disappeared
into the kitchen to "make dinner" which emerged hours later along with
"soldiers" in the trash. I guess she was a "high functioning" alcoholic.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #37 of 111: Paulina Borsook (loris) Thu 21 Jan 16 23:35
    

am not going to weigh in as to whether some of the new pharmaceutical modes
of addressing alcoholism might suffice.

i will remark though that yes, i have observed AA work very well for many
ppl of my acquaintance.

but have also observed some ppl who were just drinking too much (but perhaps
not to blackout degrees and losing everything in their life) --- realize
they were drinking too much and they just cut back. so perhaps there is a
difference between 'drinking too much' and 'alcoholic'? i know AA folks say
this isnt a meaningful distinction --- but i have observed it.

as for me, i too was just not born with the addiction gene (except for
chocolate); the same bottle of vodka can stay in my freezer for yrs at a
time (although i like having a drink with friends); never found a
recreational drug i -liked-. simply genetic luck of the draw (when much of
the rest of my genetic endowment aint so great).

i do remember in my teens and 20s how all the interesting ppl were smokers
(which i never was) and/or made use of substances. that i didnt do any of
things was simply because they werent enjoyable --- as other ppl in this
topic have observed was also true for them. but i have wondered about the
interesting ppl/substance abuse connection...
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #38 of 111: Dodge (dodge1234) Fri 22 Jan 16 04:48
    
I am responding to the comment on late-life quiet female drinkers.
I've taken notice lately in novels that they write a lot of single
women as getting home from a long day at the office or whatever work
and it seems common to write them as changing to comfys or at least
kicking off their shoes, and heading to the kitchen for what is
apparently their nightly glass of wine which they sip while
contemplating dinner. Funnily, I don't recall that being common
amongst single women when I was working. 

But now that I am elderly and alone, I have actually tried to get
used to drinking and cannot. It's a chore to remember to drink the
bottle of wine I opened. I have bought stronger stuff, too, and
while I sorta appreciate it, just can't see the draw. I've at times
wanted to have that relaxation and fuzzy edges but I a lifetime of
not going there and I guess Im just not cut out for it.

Ironically, I got my certification in mixoligy and bartending in my
early 20s but never worked at it much.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #39 of 111: Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Fri 22 Jan 16 07:44
    

Interesting. I read something in, IIRC, The Atlantic, about how poorly AA
does statistically. The thrust of the article was that, basically, this is
thge wrong way to go about it and the stats bear this out.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #40 of 111: Sarah Hepola (shepola) Fri 22 Jan 16 07:52
    
One question we’re batting around here is: What makes an alcoholic?
One definition is that an alcoholic is someone who has lost the
ability to moderate their drinking. If a person finds he or she is
drinking more than they want and CAN cut down successfully, I would
say that person is NOT an alcoholic. What we often find, though, is
people who can cut down for a little while but ultimately it’s like
holding their breath underwater. They can only moderate for so long
before slipping back to old habits. Bill Wilson once said alcoholism
is the place “where want tips into need.” The alcoholic *tries* to
cut down, but cannot. “I can’t stop” is a key phrase.

One lightbulb moment for me was when I learned about “the phenomenon
of craving.” It’s the idea that once you introduce booze into your
system, that action induces a need for more. Not everyone
experiences this. Paulina mentions her bottle of vodka in her
freezer. That never would have lasted with me. (I never kept alcohol
in the house, because if it was there, I’d drink it.) The phenomenon
of craving tracked with endless confounding experiences I’d had over
the years, where I’d show up to a party swearing up and down I would
only have one or two drinks, but once I had one or two, I felt
something close to panic if I couldn’t have more. No WAY was I
quitting now. Alcohol also woke me up. I sometimes went to a bar
feeling very sleepy, but after a few drinks, I was spazzy and hyper.
Compare this to friends of mine, who passed out after two beers.   

Alcohol worked in my system differently than other people. For a
long time, this made me cool. I was the fabled “girl who could hold
her liquor.” But later, this became a problem. I was the girl who
could not stop. 

This is why the only solution for me was to stop drinking
altogether. One drink left me slavering for more, but with no drinks
in me, I didn’t have to fight that battle. This is why you hear the
phrase, “One drink is too many, and a thousand is never enough.”

(One aside: I quit smoking the same day I quit drinking. Nicotine is
notoriously difficult to kick, but I quit that day and never looked
back. It simply did not have the same hold on me. I’ve never missed
it once. Meanwhile, I was in a daily battle not to return to the
bottle. My addictions were not equal. One more strong vote for the
genetic component to this.)

A few important points about alcoholism. I was not scouring the
liquor cabinets every time I drank. Years could pass between my
blackouts. There were nights when I had two civilized glasses of
wine, like Robin Wright on “House of Cards,” and these were the
moments that sustained me in my habits and allowed me to rationalize
the times I went off the rails. (Even a bad boyfriend is nice
sometimes.) I never lost everything to my alcoholism — not even
close. Too often we characterize alcoholism as a set of external
consequences: Someone who has lost their house, or their job, or
their children. That certainly happens. But just as common, if not
more, is someone whose consequences are internal. They have lost
themselves. 

By the way, the medical community uses the term “alcohol use
disorder,” which is a diagnosis you get if your drinking behavior
lines up with a certain number of distress signals. They do not use
the term “alcoholic,” which is a word used in common parlance and in
AA, but it is really a self-diagnosis. Being an alcoholic is a bit
like proclaiming a faith. If you say you are one, no one can really
argue with you. (Though of course, some people try.)
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #41 of 111: Sarah Hepola (shepola) Fri 22 Jan 16 08:27
    
As if I haven't blathered on enough, I want to quickly address the
question on the statistical efficacy of AA. First of all, AA doesn't
keep tabs on the millions of people who come in and out of its doors
each year. It's not run like a business. It's a giant anarchy. So
any claims of "statistical success" must be taken with a giant grain
of salt. The studies of its effectiveness are multiple, and
contradictory. Even further complicating this, however, is the
question: What is success? Is it staying sober till you die?
Sobriety for a year? For two months? I went in to AA for the first
time as a 25 year old, and stayed sober for a year -- the longest
I'd ever been without a drink since I was 13. Then I went out. Is
that a success -- or a failure? 

The most interesting question of that Atlantic Monthly article is
the discussion of Naltrexone, a pharmaceutical developed to curb
alcohol cravings. It basically takes the joy out of drinking. I was
prescribed Naltrexone at one point, many years ago, and I thought to
myself: Why would I want to take the joy out of drinking? I tossed
it. Personally, I'm glad that my recovery didn't come from a pill,
because I would have missed out on the emotional growth and
psychological insight I got from a group. That said, are we missing
an opportunity to help people who don't want to work the AA program?
Maybe so. 
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #42 of 111: Elizabeth Churchill (leroyleroy) Fri 22 Jan 16 08:59
    
Was that Atlantic article the one by Gabrielle Glaser? She points
out that AA was designed for men but has many drawbacks for women.
Also that it's more efficacious for some personality types than
others. Have there been any scientific studies?
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #43 of 111: Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Fri 22 Jan 16 09:40
    
Yeah, to be honest I don't want to google AA here from work, but questions
like " Is it staying sober till you die? Sobriety for a year? For two months?"

are indeed addressed, in the context of "not drinking until you die" is 
perhaps not a good metric for success. Neither is abstaining for two 
months. 

It also covered the quite suspect current medical definitions of 
"alcholism" -- if you have 5 drinks a week you are one IIRC. This does not 
comport with the way the French pair wines with meals ... or Italians ... 
or any moderate drinker. This then sets you up for failure as a modest 
drinker is suddenly classed as a problem drinker and supposed to abstain 
for the rest of their lives, or something.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #44 of 111: descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Fri 22 Jan 16 10:36
    

> Nicotine is notoriously difficult to kick,

I kept quitting and restarting until one day when I had a powerful
emotional surge of I WANT TO LIVE and on that day I quite for real.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #45 of 111: Paulina Borsook (loris) Fri 22 Jan 16 10:55
    

sarah, a naive question i have always wanted to ask an alcholic --- and i
suspect you have both the patience and the understanding to reply/do the
AMA: that is, why arent the physiological miseries of alcoholism (the
puking, the hangovers/headaches/general crap feeling) enough of a basic
animal disincentive to stop? or at least modulate?

i guess i am such a wimp that one time i drank until i puked (i was 21) was
enough for 'NEVER AGAIN'. i've had maybe 20 hangovers in my life (these seem
to do more with my general state of health --- sometimes one drink, as
sipped over a few hrs, can do it) --- and boy, something to be avoided (and
when i realize my overall health is doing poorly, i just dont drink. again,
dont have the addict gene...)
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #46 of 111: Sarah Hepola (shepola) Fri 22 Jan 16 14:00
    
That's a good question, Paulina. In fact, I sometimes look at drug
addicts, and wonder: How can you put up with that? But the answer is
the same: Because the high is worth it. Alcoholics are pleasure
seekers, and as a rule they are pain avoidant. They put up with the
unpleasant side effects because they are far outweighed by the
euphoria. Alcohol FIXED me. It gave me what I needed. Hangovers were
like a stiff cover charge -- nobody likes them, but they're
necessary to get to the party. However, as I got older, the
hangovers grew worse, and harder to shake. The pain-pleasure balance
became more like 50-50, and eventually I tipped into more pain than
pleasure. Generally that's the point when people stop. 
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #47 of 111: Paulina Borsook (loris) Fri 22 Jan 16 15:31
    
that's an interesting explanation --- and one that makes sense.

useful to think about how different ppl's brain process 'pleasure'
vs 'pain. to me, I HATE PUKING SO MUCH that i will do anything to
avoid it. pain! and am such a wimp (and hate hangovers so much) ---
would want to avoid those, too.

i guess the 'pleasure' of alcohol to me --- isnt worth the 'pain'
from its overdoses.

but then, i was the person who said in the 60s, when doing the usual
experimenting with the usual things 'feh, that's nice, but 12 hrs
later when whatever it is has worn off, nothing is any different in
my life'.

but yeah, yr explanation that for an alcoholic the -pleasure- is
worth the cost --- has to be correct.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #48 of 111: Renshin Bunce (renshin) Sat 23 Jan 16 09:32
    
For an alcoholic, the need remains long after the pleasure has gone.

I heard a podcast of that woman who wrote the article for the
Atlantic that claimed that AA doesn't work and promoting a new drug
that does.  I'm so sorry when I hear those things; as Sarah says,
nobody knows AA's success rate or, indeed, what success even is in
this context.  It's excellent if they've found a drug that works for
some people, but not so necessary to bash AA to promote it.  I think
of some poor alky realizing they need help and not going to AA
because they saw an article that says it doesn't work.
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #49 of 111: Paulina Borsook (loris) Sat 23 Jan 16 10:48
    
'need remains after the pleasure is gone' --- that explains a lot
  
inkwell.vue.488 : Sarah Hepola, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget
permalink #50 of 111: disclaimers and disentanglements at gailwilliams.com (gail) Sat 23 Jan 16 11:04
    
Thanks for this.  

I recently heard an intriguing podcast episode that explores the
ambiguity between the model of a treatable disease on a chemical
level, and on deeper issues of identity and how to be.  Including a
powerful example of removing the chemical craving yet still leaving
a lost person.  One size clearly doesn't fit all.
A good listen:       http://www.radiolab.org/story/addiction/
  

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