Today’s blog entry is from Alisa. Alisa has been a member of Café RE since July 2023. She recently took part in our Recovery Elevator REstore 2024 course. She is an active and supportive member of her Café RE GO group!
Women and Alcohol
By: Alisa (Café RE GO)
I’d heard the anecdote that women had started to surpass men with their drinking habits. Then in 2023, the WHO announced that no amount of alcohol was safe for consumption. This was all lining up with what Holly Whitaker said in her book Quit Like A Woman. So I sought to dig into this and better understand what was behind these trends in women’s drinking.
The history of women and alcohol is an interesting one.
It zigzagged from a movement to ban alcohol (predominantly to stop men from plundering the family savings at the bar) to the pursuit of a seat at the bar. Ironically, Prohibition gave rise to secret bars (speakeasies). Where women were able to redefine long standing gender roles by smoking, drinking, and having fun in public. Though women had imbibed before this time, they had rarely done so in public because as you can imagine, most drinking establishments were male-only. “So for young women, speakeasies stirred a spirit of rebellion”.
In order to understand what happened to the alcohol industry, it’s useful to examine what happened with cigarettes.
Big Tobacco used several strategies to advertise to women. For example, the industry prompted a feminine ideal of thinness presenting the cigarette as a way to achieve this ideal. They taught Hollywood actors how to smoke in films to make smoking look sophisticated. They also hired a PR giant. The PR giant then hired women to smoke in a parade to manufacture a connection between smoking and liberation. He coined the term “Torches of Freedom” to encourage women to smoke as a symbol of emancipation and an act of challenging social taboos.
Big Alcohol* rode in on the coattails of the tobacco industry.
They used similar tactics to market alcohol to women by appealing to their thirst for equality and independence. By making tobacco products custom fit to women (think Virginia Slims) and hiring women to smoke while engaging in the women’s liberation activities, they spread the idea of smoking as empowerment. Similarly, the alcohol industry created pink drinks, colorful labels, overpowering fruit flavors, and low-calorie options to target women by capitalizing on gender stereotypes. I find these strategies incredibly ironic since initially the alcohol industry used women’s bodies (and implicitly the promise of sex) to sell alcohol to men.
The advent of social media made things even easier for Big Alcohol
The advent of social media made things even easier for Big Alcohol as algorithms specifically targeted individual demographics. Now we receive customized ad feeds based on our past behaviors. Us social media users also became their advertisers by spreading trends like “Rose All Day.” Culturally, alcohol (and especially wine) became a symbol of stressed-out women and moms with memes featuring “Mommy juice.”
Sadly, these common marketing messages exploit women’s desire for friendship, relaxation, and empowerment. Having a glass of wine has become a way that women and moms feel like they are taking care of themselves. As Sarah Hepola put it in her drinking memoir Blackout, “Wine and confession. Wine and sisterhood. Wine had become our social glue, the mechanism of our bonding. We needed the wine to shut out the jackhammers of our own perfectionism and unlock the secrets we kept within”.
While many of us use alcohol as a social lubricant, we may also use it to “unwind” in private.
While many of us use alcohol as a social lubricant, we may also use it to “unwind” in private. Concepts like ‘Wine o’clock’ offered permission to drink when we felt like it and linked alcohol to a method for navigating daily life stress. Absolutely none of us are to be blamed for falling for this and using alcohol in these ways. As the addiction and trauma specialist Gabor Mate says, alcohol use is a response to pain and suffering. Alcohol has long been a culturally accepted and condoned way of dealing with stress. In fact, alcohol marketing to both women and men ramped up during one of the most stressful global times in recent history: the pandemic. Here is an example of a marketing slogan by Retail Drinks Australia:
“If we want people to stay at home, if we want them in a good state of mental health with a conviviality that encourages them to adhere to social isolation, we’ve got to ensure they have access to the social norms such as enjoying a drink.” Danica Keric and Julia Stafford from the Cancer Council Western Australia’s Alcohol Programs Team said in response, “There was a deliberate move by the alcohol industry to frame alcohol as an essential product including for our mental health, during the pandemic”.
If you’re not appalled by now at how the alcohol industry operates, consider how the same things are happening with our food supply.
Like alcohol and cancer, the food industry plays a significant role in the metabolic disease rates in our country by lacing food with addictive chemicals like sugar and then obscuring the dangers of these additives. “The system works. Not for the best interests of health but for the best interests of those who are profiting off the system” Michael Greger, author of How Not To Die.
My favorite Quit Lit writer and recovery program pioneer, Holly Whitaker, summarizes:
“We read labels, we shun gluten, dairy, processed foods, and refined sugars. We buy organic, we use natural sunscreen and beauty products. We worry about fluoride in our water, smog in our air, hydrogenated oils in our food, and we debate whether plastic bottles are safe to drink from.
We replace toxic cleaning products with Mrs. Myers and homemade vinegar concoctions. We do yoga, we run, we SoulCycle and Fitbit, we go paleo and keto, we juice, we cleanse. We do coffee enemas and steam our yonis, and drink clay and charcoal, and shoot up vitamins, and sit in infrared foil boxes, and hire naturopaths, and shamans, and functional doctors, and we take nootropics and we stress about our telomeres. These are all real words.
We are hyper-vigilant about everything we put into our body, everything we do to our body, and we are proud of this. We Instagram how proud we are of this, and we follow Goop and Well+Good, and we drop 40 bucks on an exercise class because there are healing crystals on the floor.
The global wellness economy is estimated to be worth $4 trillion. $4 TRILLION DOLLARS. We are on an endless and expensive quest for wellness and vitality and youth. And we drink fucking rocket fuel”.
While women started off forbidden from drinking in public, women are now drinking as much as men if not more. But what most women don’t know is that our rates of addiction and alcohol-related deaths are surpassing theirs. It turns out that due to our physiology, women start to have alcohol-related problems sooner and at lower consumption rates than our male counterparts. This occurs because of how we process alcohol. Because we have lower total body water content, blood alcohol levels are higher. The first stage of alcohol metabolism is slowed which results in more alcohol being absorbed into the bloodstream. Unfortunately, this leads to greater generation of liver-toxic products like acetaldehyde. Thus, imbibing alcohol increases the vulnerability of women to the risk of alcohol-related illnesses such as liver disease and cancer.
In my fantasy worldview, everyone is ethical and people who have the authority to powerfully impact public health make the “right” (aka moral) decisions. Sadly, this isn’t true. The way we can take our power back is to know the truth and make decisions based on these facts. When I started treating sobriety as an act of rebellion, something new clicked for me. I hope it can for you too.
*Big Alcohol refers to the lobbying front group for twelve of the largest multinational alcohol corporations.
**More from Recovery Elevator referencing Big Alcohol**
RE Podcast Episode 407
Blog – A Messgage to Big Alcohol
Today’s blog entry is from Bobbie Malatesta. Bobbie has been a member of Café RE since February 2020. Bobbie just celebrated 4 years alcohol free and is a big source of support to her Café RE UP group!
How I Cured My Atheism
By: Bobbie Malatesta (Café RE UP)
Recently, someone shared a beautiful acronym that I wish I had earlier in my spirituality journey. Before I get into that, please allow me to explain a little of my history in this department.
In my family, we had the Italian and Polish grandparents that were traditionally Catholic. My parents didn’t make us be Catholic except for when we went to weddings and funerals of course. I was given the option to choose what religion I wanted to be.
At age 10, I decided to get baptized a Baptist. I was to stand in a sunken tub in the church and get dunked by the clergy and that would be that, right? Well, not exactly. I begged the man baptizing me to hold my nose when he dunked me. Guess what? He didn’t!!
And so began my atheism. How could I trust this God if his person couldn’t even help me with my minor little request? Staying true to my disbelief and anger was easy as my life unfolded. Trauma, tragedy, death after death, abandonment, and all the other bull-oney that life has to offer seemed to start and never stop in my life. How could there possibly be a “”God” if all these bad things kept happening to me?
And so my life went.
Once I joined 12 Step and had to memorize the Serenity Prayer, it got a bit more challenging. Any time my GA crew wanted me to kick off the prayer, they expected me to say that “G” word but I didn’t want to talk to him. I still didn’t believe in him. On account of my big mouth and the fact that one of the principles in the program is that you don’t have to believe in the G word per seh, we found a compromise. Whenever I started the prayer, I addressed the Universe. Eventually, some of my fellows would start with Universe too, in support of me.
Things were going along just great until I got to Step 11. “ Sought through prayer and mediation…. conscious contact with GOD….” Oh Sugar! It was time to revisit this whole God concept for me. Long story short, I started going to church, meditating and doing the work so I could “graduate” Step 11.
One of my favorite parts of doing this “work” was being in recovery communities like Café RE. Working on Recovery Dharma, Sober travel trips with beautiful peers, learning from Patrick and appreciating the landscape of Bozeman all contributed to what is defined as spirituality to me now. I can see God now in the essence of people, sunsets and sunrises and music. The key is it doesn’t have to be labeled as god, universe or any other word in particular.
The end result was that for me, I now believed in a God, and I still choose to call her or him, Universe.
Now, I have embraced and want to share GUS!
GUS was there all along and I heard about him when I was supposed to, recently at a conference.
GUS stands for:
I am believer that there is no one right way for anything, including our own spirituality. This is not meant an insult to anyone’s faith or choices, but to offer a solution to anyone who might be stuck on this premise like I was.
Either way, GUS got us, no matter what you call her/ him/ it.
Thanks for letting me share!
With Love & gratitude,
Recovery Elevator is excited to offer a new type of blog experience to our readers! We are reaching out to our Café RE members and giving those that are interested the opportunity to be guest bloggers for our site. Think of it as a podcast interview in written form. You will get parts of their story along with tips and tools that they have found beneficial in their own recovery journey. Please let us know what you think, or perhaps topics you would like to see covered, in the comments.
I’m excited to bring our first guest blog submission to you today! Stephanie McCarroll has been a member of Café RE since August 2020, has been alcohol free since January 12, 2020 and is very active within the community. You can often find her on one of our daily ZOOM chats, if not hosting it, offering support and accountability to our members. Thank you Steph!!
Benefits of Service in Recovery
By Stephanie McCarroll
One of the most important aspects of long term recovery is being of service to others. At the early stages of sobriety, my focus was to get through the day sober. While sobriety continues to be my most valuable thing I have, my life moved past just getting through the day without a drink. A greater need arose in myself to heal and thrive in all areas of my life: physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually.
Like the disease we have, recovery is also progressive.
True recovery is a path beyond simple abstinence. Rather, it is a journey by which we build strength to face the wounds that may have led to addiction and create a flourishing sober life. Being a helpful and valuable part of my recovery community is an integral part of such a life, and it is deeply nourishing to our social and spiritual wellbeing.
Alcohol isolated us.
It demanded we put our substance abuse above all others in our lives. Some of us feel a great deal of guilt for the time lost to our addiction. Although we cannot go back and erase our mistakes, our addiction gave us insight of what slavery to alcohol looked like. Hearing that other alcoholics could stop and recover was something that inspired us to keep fighting. We were no longer alone. We had evidence we could recover.
For those who have shared their stories, they chose to be of service, giving powerful testimony of the benefits of living an alcohol free life. In recovery, the idea of service could be a new, daunting thought. Yet, giving back to our communities provides us with so many benefits.
Science has proven that being of service positively affects your brain and mental health. According to research, when you give your time and resources to people in need, your brain activates pleasure sensors, giving you a feeling of wellbeing. In this way, being of service in recovery is a form of self-care and lifts our spirits. It also helps us to manage stress.
It also helps us rediscover our self-worth. It means being part of something bigger. At Cafe RE, members are encouraged to find ways to be of service wherever possible. Because Cafe RE is an intimate community, members volunteer to host chats and participate in community service projects.
In recovery, my art of writing has been rediscovered. Like those who had a fondness for music and photography, I wanted to reach out to the writers. This prompted me to inquire about the possibility of forming a members-driven Guest Blog for Recovery Elevator. Paul said YES!
In finding the right service opportunity for you, it can be helpful to tune into your passions and what makes you come alive. Being in recovery is a beautiful gift that gives you the chance to pursue the things you love most about life, things that may have been robbed from you during your addiction.
If you would like to give back to the recovery community and guest blog, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We know our members have a lot to say and want to be of service. We are excited for this new endeavor and know it will help a lot of people.
Today is the day! Today is the day we are going to find out if you have a drinking problem…or not. Are you ready?
For Paul, when it finally sunk in that he did indeed have a drinking problem (and a good one at that!) two things happened.
First…he was like, “Oh F&#K!”
Then…immediately after, as this truth spread into his body, to his bones, to his conscious, his unconscious, to the heart, to the liver, something neat happened. An incredible amount of energy was instantly liberated.
For two reasons.
- The stigma or label of an alcoholic didn’t change who he was. He was still alive.
- But more importantly…all the energy, the incessant thinking he had of…
- Do I drink, or not?
- Do I have a problem, or not?
- How am I going to control my next session of drinking?
- How am I going to hide it?
- Let’s do our best not to black out before 8 pm.
- Do I have enough shitty box wine back home?
- Let’s not let people know we’ve already had 9 drinks before meeting up at the bar.
ALL of that went away instantly.
In fact the worst place a person can be with a drinking problem is in limbo. The do I or don’t I phase. (Paul covers this in Episode 417).
So for this diagnostic, we are going to use the test listed in the DSM 5, or the diagnostically statical manual which is what most psychologists and/or therapists have somewhere on their shelves.
There’s 11 YES or NO questions. If you answer YES to 2 of the questions, if you meet 2 of the 11 criteria, within the past 12 months, they call it an Alcohol Use Disorder.
- Do you sometimes have difficulty controlling how much you drink or for how long you drink alcohol?
- Have you made unsuccessful attempts to cut down your drinking?
- Do you sometimes spend a significant amount of time drinking or recovering from drinking?
- Has your alcohol use had any negative consequences at home, school, or work? (Have you ever lost time off work because of your drinking?)
- Has your alcohol use had any negative consequences to your relationships or social life? (Have you ever concealed how much you drink? Has anyone ever commented on your drinking?)
- Have you continued to use despite any negative consequences?
- Have you put off things or neglected to do things because of your alcohol use? (Have you ever disappointed your family or friends? Have you ever missed a family event?)
- Do you occasionally have strong cravings for alcohol?
- Has your tolerance for alcohol increased? Are you able to drink more than you did before?
- Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms the next day after drinking? (Have you ever been shaky or sweaty that evening or the next day?)
- Has your alcohol use led to any dangerous situations? (Have you ever been charged with impaired driving?)
Paul has always strived to be a good student, and was “happy” to report a score of 100%. 11/11. For shits and giggles, let’s’ cover what it means if you didn’t ace this like he did.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
The presence of at least two of these symptoms means you have an AUD. If you have two to three symptoms, it’s considered mild; four to five symptoms is considered moderate; six or more symptoms is considered severe. (If you don’t fall into the severe category, a mild diagnosis can still warrant concern, as it may be the start of a larger problem.)
A couple things before we wrap this up. If you have a drinking problem, life isn’t over…in fact, it’s just beginning.
Some of you may have just learned you have a drinking problem. If this is devastating to you, go to Episode 411 where Paul talks about the grateful alcoholic.
Paul had one more bit of info in his notes from Episode 428 If you find yourself listening to a sobriety podcast (or reading this blog), and you’re not a therapist, a doctor, or listening so that you can support a loved one, then YOU have a drinking problem. If you question whether or not you have a drinking problem, you just answered that question. The bigger question is…what are you going to do about it?
***Taken from Recovery Elevator Podcast, Episode 428, host Paul Churchill***
This past year I have been working for a large international women’s retail clothing store. I have the first hand knowledge of how fashion is coming back around… the good and the bad. The return lately has been to the fashion of the early 90s, grunge but with a little more sophistication and polish.
While I am not loving the low rise jeans that are back (can we please just not) and overalls, I am loving the return of Clueless and Cher’s plaid suit, slip dresses, a cropped sweatshirt and a good bias cut.
Having my head so firmly in the 90’s and a lot of time on my hands has led me to day dreaming back to that magical time as well. In my high school, before parents worried as much about what we ate during the day, I would buy a Snapple Kiwi Strawberry drink everyday for $1.25 and drink it with my lunch. Something sweet and tart at the same time really hit the spot.
I think I just heard the 3 people who
read this blog get really excited!!
They know where this is going!
Kiss from a Rose
Prep time: 15 minutes + cooling time
Ingredients Simple Syrup
- Handful of strawberries, rough chopped
- 2 Kiwis peeled and rough chopped
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. water
- Seltzer of your choice
- 1t of balsamic syrup
To make the syrup
Add all ingredients to a pan and bring to a boil over medium head, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Once boiling reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month
To make the cocktail
Add 1T of the simply syrup, add 1t balsamic syrup (try a berry flavored one) top with seltzer of your choice and stir.
The Recovery Elevator podcast last week was about the AF beverage (S4 / E416), go check it out and let us know where your feelings lie on this!
Love and Mocktails,
406 episodes of the Recovery Elevator Podcast were released before there was an intro with the main message being addressed to Big Alcohol. Why do you think that is? That’s a lot of Mondays to not tell Big Alcohol what we think, (or where to stick it 😈). Why wasn’t this addressed before episode 407: A Message to Big Alcohol…?
Well, like Paul said…we have limited time together and it feels like a better use of our time discussing how to build a new life that no longer requires alcohol, instead of fighting Big Alcohol, or fighting the past.
In fact, although you may not feel like it right now…if you keep moving forward, if you don’t quit quitting, and you keep doing the next right thing, one day at a time…you may just find yourself thanking Big Alcohol for giving you the life you have today. Crazy to imagine, right? I know it was for me. But it absolutely is true today. I am thankful for where my struggle with Big Alcohol has led me.
So here we are…let’s call out a couple of things regarding Big Alcohol, and maybe, there is a way we can work together.
First off, let’s get real for a second Big Alcohol. We both know your business model doesn’t survive off normal drinkers. Your lights are on, your doors are open, salaries are paid because of problematic drinkers…aka: alcoholics.
This is called the 80/20 rule in business and for Big Alcohol, it’s probably a 90/10 rule. This means that 90% of revenues are coming from 10% customers.
Let’s take a normal drinker. This is someone who buys a six pack of Coors Light, drinks 2-3 beers, and the remaining 3-4 cans sit in the refrigerator in the garage for the next couple weeks or months.
That is one type of customer.
Then take the alcoholic. This is someone who buys a 12, 18, 24, or 30 pack of Coors Light… daily. Where do you think your revenue is coming from? This question is rhetorical because they already know this.
Big Alcohol, we bring this up because there needs to be accountability on your part…and here’s some reasons why:
◾️Yes, it’s the individual who is drinking excessively, but the data and science support that alcohol is the most dangerous and addictive drug on the planet.
It kills more people each year than every other drug combined. An estimated 40-75% of occupied hospital beds have underpinnings to alcohol. In 2010, a Doctor named Dr. David Nutt, hired by the British government, was tasked to put a harm score on the world’s 20 most addictive drugs. Alcohol came in at #1. In 1958 the American Medical Association classified alcoholism as a disease.
◾️No amount of alcohol consumed is beneficial to the consumer.
This a myth that you, Big Alcohol, tries to perpetuate. In the Mid 2010’s the government funded agency the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) performed a study to see if alcohol consumption was good for you.
The answer was…YES. Say whattttt?? 🤯 However, it then became known the study was funded by Big Alcohol. No surprise the answer was yes! 🙄
In reality, no quantity of ethanol is good for you. The Huberman Lab Podcast has a fantastic episode about the effects of alcohol on your mind and body. The Stanford University Neuroscientists confirmed that no amount of alcohol is good for you.
◾️And let’s talk trash, garbage or waste.
A couple months ago Paul had new brakes installed on his vehicle and he rode his bike home from the mechanic after dropping off his truck. He took a scenic county road home for about 7 miles. While hugging the side of the road he was astonished by the amount of empty alcohol containers that littered the shoulder.
Keep in mind, this was in the part of the grass that had been maintained. Paul said he guessed there was triple or quadruple the amount of empty bottles and cans in the taller grass. (Now to be fair, he did see empty gatorade bottles, and trash that was not related to alcohol, but he said if he had to guess it was a 10/1 ratio.). Paul estimated there was an empty alcohol container every 100 feet (and that’s a safe estimate). With some easy math that put 52 bottles, or cans, every mile totaling over 350 pieces of trash on his 7 mile bike ride. That figure would be way higher if one were to walk through the taller grass.
This past October Paul did a retreat in Peru. One of their tasks was to pick up trash around a sacred temple about 20 miles outside of Cusco, which once was the capital of the Inca Empire. They filled about 4 trash bags, and again about a 10/1 ratio of alcohol containers to other trash.
Big Alcohol’s footprint is all over the globe; societal wreckage, physical disease, and in the form of excessive trash.
As human beings there is a goal that many of us share. That is to make this world a better place. 💚🌎
Big Alcohol, let me ask you this question, are you making the world a better place?
What impact are you having on society? On the fabric of family systems? Are you adding or subtracting to this world? Are you a net benefit? Or a net drain? What do you stand for Big Alcohol? Are you okay with your customers discarding your product waste into nature? Into my backyard? Into your backyard? Big Alcohol, your name, your brand, your message is on these containers that end up in our streams, rivers, and oceans. By all concerns you are still tied to the product, but you are not shouldering the burden after the monetary transaction has taken place.
This. Needs. To. Change.
As we all work on cleaning up our internal wreckage and chaos it’s time that you, Big Alcohol, start doing the same.
We here at Recovery Elevator are calling you out, Big Alcohol, to lean up your mess. A disproportionate amount of trash in nature is yours. It’s the RIGHT thing to do – to pick it up. We have a yearly service project at Recovery Elevator, and we’d love your help. Maybe take 1/2 a percentage of your marketing budget and help us out.
Big Alcohol, if you want to work with us, we’re open to it. Our email address is email@example.com.