For those of you new to Raising the Bottom, welcome! I’m here to educate, support, and tell it like it is when it comes to our drinking culture.

I grew up in an alcoholic home (my mother), and in my late twenties, got sober. It’s the only disease that I know of that has to be self-diagnosed. If you don’t think you have a problem, it won’t matter what anyone else says. I decided for myself that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I didn’t go to rehab, and never consulted a doctor. Thank goodness, because I had no desire to start on the pharmaceutical train to nowhere.

I relied on what my then sober mother pointed out: I seemed to like wine, beer, and scotch, a little too much. Though I was  rather early in my disease, the benefits of getting sober before I hit a low bottom had its rewards and challenges. The rewards are too numerous to list, but the challenge to quit drinking when I wasn’t a daily drinker, was a struggle. From the outside looking in, my life looked as stable and normal as the next person, but I was disintegrating internally. I knew that my life would be better without the booze. Although I hadn’t had any consequences, yet, I knew it was only a matter of time before they’d start to pile up. Acceptance was the hardest. How could I be an alcoholic when I wasn’t a daily drinker and nothing bad had happened?

There’s a huge disconnect between what alcoholism can look like in the earlier stages and what people think of when they hear the word alcoholic; hence, the reason I wrote Raising the Bottom: Making Mindful Choices in a Drinking Culture, that by the way, I’m proud to say recently won the 2017 Best Book Award in the category of women’s health. My hope is that if people understood what early alcoholism can look like, perhaps they’d consider recovery before their life implodes. The stigma of alcoholism and a lack of understand of what it looks like, particularly in the early stages, is what keeps many mothers, lovers, and friends stuck in half lived lives and chaotic relationships.

 As a society, we’ve normalized alcoholic drinking.

Wine takes the stage in many a young women’s lives. We’re conditioned to believe that a life without alcohol will be dismal indeed. Regardless how much someone drinks, they’ll continue to proclaim, and sometimes loudly, “That I’m a social drinker. I only have two.” Two seems to be the magic number; who cares if you have two or twenty-two beers/glasses of wine, etc… most people stick to the number two because that sounds—well, social.

Last week I wrote about how to make those small changes in your life that add up to big changes, but on purpose, I didn’t mention drinking because it deserves its own discussion. Should we drink? As a society, do we drink too much? Why is everything all about the booze? What about gender based marketing of wine to women, especially?

As with the start of any New Year, I think most of us look to the things that we’d like to change or improve about ourselves—the good ol’ resolution wagon comes rolling around every January, but as with most things, the allure of making those hard changes wears thin. Two to three weeks into the New Year, for most, it’s back to business as usual. With that said, it’s quite remarkable the number of people who have jumped on several trends such as “Dry January” and a “Year with no Beer.’

As one blogger points out, “A dry January could be the sign of a drink problem,” and I’d have to agree. If you’re someone who needs to give your body a break from the booze, might that indicate that alcohol is already too prominent a factor in your life? I doubt too many social drinkers feel the need to give the ol’ liver a month’s rest, or like one of the doctors I wrote about in Raising the Bottomwho every few months, drew her own blood to check her liver enzymes. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of too many people who drink one or two drinks a few times a month who’d feel the need to monitor their lab values like that.

The year with no beer was more of a social experiment, some say, but I tend to think it came about because of the drinking culture that we’re immersed. Women all over the world are drinking more than ever, but in the UK they’ve translated some of the results, and it’s not pretty. Liver disease among young women is on the rise. Families are impacted in the form of broken homes. Personality disorders are often the result of alcohol soaked lives. In too many families, drinking is a staple. Kids witness their parent’s drinking in front of them from the time they’re toddlers. Already, drinking is as important to some as their work and family obligations, but for too many, the family and job may become an afterthought. Unhappiness ensues, and instead of the person looking toward their drinking as the reason they feel unfulfilled, they blame everything but the booze.

Women in particularly are targeted. Catchy phrases such as “Mommy Juice” and ‘Mommy’s Little Helper” have become part of our lexicon. Women are led to believe that it’s okay to drink on play dates or while the kids nap, never mind that for too many moms, a few glasses of wine in the middle of the day will turn them into a snarky bitch that their little ones will have no choice but to put up with them.

If we could all take a step back and consider the whole picture: the alcohol companies only have profits in mind. they could care less if you destroy your health and your family. They’ll laugh all the way to the bank and continue to push their agenda on anyone who will listen, and sadly, women are falling for the coup. According to NPR, drinking has escalated overall by 29.9%, and in women, there’s been a 58% increase in high-risk drinking, and there’s an astonishing 87.3% increase of problem drinking in women. Not good new for the women and their health, and terrible news for the innocent children who will be raised in these alcohol soaked environments.

If you think you may drink too much, I encourage you to try “Dry January” or better yet, a year with no booze. If you can go a whole year without alcohol and find that life is so much better without out it, hey, maybe you’ll enjoy a new norm.