When I quit drinking seven months ago, I began paying even more attention to the strong drinking culture in our society indulges in. I used to think the “coffee now, wine later” mugs and the “rose all day” t shirts were cute. Now, I find them downright disturbing. While shopping in Marshall’s today, I found a nightgown that said “hangover shirt” and thought to myself, why are hangovers being glorified?! Hangovers are our bodies telling us how much we over did it the night before, not something to chuckle about. I know my hangovers were accompanied by headaches, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, severe anxiety. There was nothing funny about a crippling hangover.

There are a number of ways the drinking culture is not only accepted, but almost a rite of passage for everyone. I began drinking in high school as a way to fit in and to be more comfortable in my skin. The number of kids in my school who didn’t drink or dabble in drugs were very few and far between. I was talking to my mom on the phone last week about my drinking in high school and she admitted that she thought it would just be a phase, and that all kids have to go through the partying stage. I don’t know if anything or anyone could have stopped the behavior. I justified the partying because all of my friends were doing it and all of my friends were in honors classes, making good grades and on the path to college… that we could handle partying.

Binge drinking in college is another example of the party phase young adults go through. The reality is, a massive number of college students lose boundaries with alcohol early by binge drinking often. I had my fair share of happy hours, frat parties, thirsty Thursdays, and house parties while playing games like flip cup or funneling beers. Eventually, the drinking days became every day of the week. Managing classes through a hangover while trying to hold down a part time job was absolute torture, but the option to abstain from partying was unfathomable. In college, students drink to get wasted. No one at parties were establishing healthy boundaries with alcohol, or drinking water in between every keg stand. The consequences of binge drinking are terrifying

The following statistics were compiled and released by the Addiction Center regarding college students and binge drinking:

About 1,825 die from alcohol-related unintentional injuries

More than 690,000 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking

More than 97,000 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape

About 599,000 receive unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol

About 25 percent report academic consequences of their drinking, including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers and receiving lower grades overall

More than 150,000 develop an alcohol-related health problem

 

This isn’t a culture, this is a crisis.

 

Most survive college, only to find more sophisticated ways to get hammered. There are winery tours for a girls day. Brunching at fine restaurants with bottomless mimosas. Happy hours after work. We become beer connoisseurs by understanding the difference between a double IPA and a Belgian tripel.

We even find ways to blend the exercise world with drinking. Any race I have participated in had beer trucks and free vouchers for us to “celebrate” with. There are 5K’s located at local wineries, so after running the vineyards, you have the option to stay and drink their wine. Wine and Vinyasa Yoga is a new movement I see advertised often. Now looking at these events through sober eyes, I find myself extremely uncomfortable with how often exercise and drinking are intermingled. So many of us in the recovery community turn to exercise to keep us balanced, however feel automatically excluded from these events because of the party that is to follow after the workout. Not to mention how counterproductive it is to drink after vigorous exercise. Alcohol can affect muscle recovery and growth if ingested right after exercise. The concept of pairing booze and breaking a sweat is contradicting and infuriating.

The marketing world has paid attention to our growing drinking culture and jumped on board, making water bottles that say “not not hungover”, pillows that say “Xanax and chill”, workout attire that says “workout now, wine later”. Why is numbing out from life being glorified? Why is this being marketed?

Every stage of life from the formative years through to parenthood has an alcohol soaked undertone. When I became a mother, I fell right into the marketing trap of taking a “timeout” from parenting to reward myself with wine. The consequence of that was numbing out and checking out of life in such an unhealthy way. I see it on my closed Facebook mama groups. Moms posting pictures of their glasses of wine with a caption saying, “it’s been a rough day”. I have even purchased wine that is labeled “Mommy’s Time Out,” justifying my drinking because my mama tribe was doing the same thing. The idea of taking a load off and numb out from the life I helped create now feels so wrong. Instead of drinking, why aren’t we marketing more productive and fulfilling ways to take a break from a hard day? We need to be better than this.

I understand taking a break. I understand being completely overwhelmed and wanting to run from the world for a bit. The problem with running away from things that overwhelm us is those same issues will be there when we check back in. Choosing to drown our sorrows in a bottle of Malbec only means that when we sober up, we are left with the same issues we tried to run from and added a massive hangover with crippling anxiety. Problems never go away, so it’s best to face them head on with better coping mechanisms than a bottle (or 2) of wine.

I find that exercise helps me tremendously with staying mentally balanced. My local Y offers childcare for an hour and a half so I can take a break from mothering for a small amount of time guilt-free. Filling my cup up by taking a workout class with other women is a million times better than numbing out with wine. The best part about this is I come back to my family better than I left them. I’ll take feeling stronger, more confident and strong over being sluggish, foggy, nauseous and anxious while trying to be a functioning parent any day of the week. Exercise has replaced alcohol in my toolbox as a way to decompress, boost my mood and feel accomplished. One of these days, I hope to see a fresh juice vendor at the end of the finish line instead of a beer truck.

Statistic reference from Addiction Center https://www.addictioncenter.com/alcohol/binge-drinking/