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Irish Women’s Drinking Culture

Women friends toasting with shots at a bar

 

Irish women are known to have the craic and enjoy themselves with copious amounts of alcohol. Our mates never seem to hear us when we say ‘that is enough, I don’t want anymore.’ They seem to go into Mrs. Doyle mode and say ‘Ah go on, sure you will have another, you will, ah go on.’ The sensible woman won’t continue drinking when she feels a bit tipsy, but the alcoholic will keep drinking until she drifts into oblivion. She thinks she is the life and soul of the party, while others think she is a liability and recoil from her. They are afraid she will fall on top of them or worse, throw up on them. However what they don’t realise is alcoholism is a disease and an allergy to alcohol and that is why people crave it.

What happens to those who don’t recover? Are they the people we see on our streets wearing shabby clothes and holding a paper cup requesting money in a drunken slur to every person who passes them? And the people who do recover, is it because they have more love and support than the sick alcoholic, or is it because they have the courage of conviction to change and do all the necessary things in order to remain sober? I decided to look at two cases of women, one who is in recovery, and the other who despite trying on a number of occasions, keeps slipping.

Nicky 26

‘I didn’t start going out and drinking until I was in my early 20’s. I was shy and nervous and I hid behind my friends larger personalities. I started to drink vodka and orange before I went out and this gave me the false confidence I lacked. I began to look forward to my nights out but not so much for the social aspect of it but because of the elation I would feel when the liquor would touch my lips and warm my stomach. Alcohol made me feel uninhibited and I felt I could do anything or be anybody when I drank. My friends began to notice how intoxicated I was getting and told me they thought I had a problem and should cut down on my drinking. I laughed and told them they were being ridiculous. I began skipping meals because I was conscious of the empty calories I was consuming while drinking. Drinking on an empty stomach increased the effects of the alcohol and although I knew it wasn’t healthy I liked the feeling I got from it. I think I finally realised I had a problem when I was doing my final exams in college. I fell asleep in one of my exams after downing a nagon of vodka that morning on an empty stomach. I was gutted! I couldn’t believe I had blown all of that hard work away for nothing. I decided to go to AA. I got a sponsor and did the steps with her. I completed my final exams and I’m now three years sober.’

Angela 30

‘Addiction is in my family. My mum is a recovering alcoholic and my dad is a recovering gambler. I had my first beer when I was 15. My friend’s 18 year old brother bought it for us. It was a hot summer and I loved how the cool frothy liquid tasted. I continued to drink during my teen years but it didn’t become a big problem until my 20’s. My mother started to notice the tell tale signs and confronted me about my drinking. I got angry and denied that I had a problem. When I got arrested for drunk driving I agreed to go into residential treatment to conquer my alcohol addiction.
I was in treatment for three months and I got a further six months sobriety when I left. Then I slipped. I was out one night with my workmates and everyone around me was drinking and I thought surely one won’t hurt? Unfortunately I was wrong, it did. I lost my job, my apartment, most of my friends. I have been in and out of treatment continuously for years now. I manage to remain sober for a while and then I slip again. I hope one day I can beat it before it beats me.’

Women’s bodies can’t process alcohol as well as a man’s therefore they become intoxicated quicker than men, despite perhaps being the same height or weight as them. Women’s bodies contain less water and more fat than a man’s and fat can’t absorb alcohol properly. Also due to women’s hormonal changes they can become intoxicated quicker, especially before menstruation or if they are taking contraceptive pills. Women have a lower level of the enzyme dehydrogenase, than men, which helps in the metabolic process of alcohol before it goes into the bloodstream. Unfortunately this means that a woman’s health declines more rapidly than a man’s when it comes to alcoholic drinking or continuous binge drinking.

Alcohol abuse can result in serious medical diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, digestive problems such as inflammation of the stomach, pancreas and ulcers in the oesophagus. Excessive drinking can cause osteoporosis and can affect your nervous system, resulting in confusion or dementia. It can cause high blood pressure and may bring on heart disease or a stroke. It may cause hypoglycaemia and can cause infertility or disrupt menstruation.

If you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol AA would like to help. Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

Go to AA meetings and work with the steps with a sponsor.

Build your support network. Develop new activities and interests.

Deal with stress in a healthy way, instead of drinking when stressed, talk about your problems to a friend.

Avoid the people, places and things that trigger an alcohol craving for you.

Assert yourself and say ‘no’ to people in social situations when they are trying to convince you to drink.

When you are having an urge to drink distract yourself by going for a walk, listening to music, phoning someone, or doing some cleaning. The urge will eventually pass so keep trying to keep yourself busy until it stops.

http://www.alcoholicsanonymous.ie/

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