The Atlantic Ocean at 81st Street, Virginia Beach, Virginia
Nine Things I’ve Learned Since I Quit Drinking (July 12, 2022)
#1. You don’t have to be an alcoholic for alcohol to hurt, even kill you. Alcohol is really, really bad stuff. It’s a neurotoxin (poisons the brain), a teratogenic (causes birth defects), often causes aggression, it’s fattening, and it’s a potent carcinogen. (Over 50 percent of breast cancer in women worldwide can be attributed to alcohol, British Journal of Cancer, 2015) You get all this even if you only drink moderately.
#2. There are multiple labels for the same disorder. Alcohol Use Disorder is the term-du-jour. There’s also alcohol dependency; alcohol addiction; and good old fashioned alcoholism.
#3. Alcoholism is a brain disorder, not a character disorder. So says the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
#4. No one knows what causes alcoholism. We have a definition: an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. (I recognized my alcoholism when I couldn’t cut down on my drinking for more than a few days despite its impact on my heart health.) We know alcoholism’s symptoms, warning signs, and risk factors, but not its cause. I read somewhere that it might have something to do with chromosomes.
#5. There are levels of alcoholism: mild, moderate, and severe. I’m at the mild to moderate level, or as I prefer, medium-rare.
#6. Alcoholics can go “off the wagon” after years of abstinence because alcohol misuse causes permanent changes in the brain that make some individuals vulnerable to relapse. Remember, it’s a brain disorder.
#7. Doctors don’t address the dangers of alcohol consumption with their patients. When was the last time your doctor seriously asked you how much you drink? Did you tell the truth? Did he probe your answer? Likely not. “So why are [doctors] soft on alcohol? One reason might be the enduring perception that drinking is normal, fun, and healthy, and that the damage caused by alcohol affects only a small group of people who can't handle their booze.”  And because your doctor probably drinks, too.
#8. The constant promotion of drinking in our society is pervasive and insidious. This is the fact that has confounded me most. It’s not just Big Booze and its shameless profiteering that seeks to make alcohol normal, even desirable! It’s us with our colloquialisms, (happy hour, mommy-needs-a-vodka) internet jokes, movies, television shows, greeting cards, wine clubs. I can’t count all the hooks dangling in front of us luring us to drink. I mean, what do you do when you live in a society where images of drunk people are meant to be funny?
#9. I really miss drinking.
Bonus: Don’t ask me if I mind if you drink. The answer is yes, I mind. I envy your chilled Chardonnay, but telling you so is off putting, so I just say “no, not at all.” Don’t worry, you sipping your wine won’t cause me to run to the bar, but it will make my sobriety a little harder. The main problem, however, is that your question puts me in charge of your health. Don’t make me the decision maker on whether you drink or stay sober. You decide.
What's up with the password requirement?
Literary journals, those fancy-pants publications that hold writers like me hostage, will not accept material that's been previously published. This includes publication on websites or blogs.
Requiring a password allows me to share my work and also comply with journals' submission rules.