Binge Drinking: Normalized

When did the shift occur that a one night celebration with a few girlfriends before the big wedding day has turned into a three or four day drinking bash all under the guise of a “bachelorette party?” From what I hear from women who have attended these bar-crawl weekends, it’s all about the booze.

What happens is the bride to be expects her bridal party and maybe a few additional friends to rally from wherever their post college days have taken them; everyone hops on a plane and skedaddles to the beach or any big city will do: Miami and Nashville are both hot spots for bachelor and bachelorette parties. The ladies may do a little shopping, but the majority of the three to four day get-together is all about the drinking. Days and nights filled with hard drinking. The concept has become mainstream, and if you question the questionable behavior, brace yourself for some serious push-back. Women say things like: “We’re just having fun.” “Lighten up, it’s a girls weekend.” “Oh, too bad you didn’t get to have one, you’re just jealous.” Yeah, I’ve heard all the excuses and I’m still not buying it.

Is it Deviant or Social?

Furthermore, let’s get honest; the sort of drinking that goes on at bachelorette parties looks far more deviant than “social,” because some women have upped the ante with banana bags. What’s a banana bag? It’s a shocking trend: Word-of-mouth spreads and there’s no shortage of unscrupulous doctors who will for a few hundred bucks hook these hard-partying young ladies to an IV to help combat dehydration from all that drinking. A banana bag is a mixture of 0.9% normal saline with additives such as multivitamins (MVI, gives the fluid its yellow color, hence the name, banana bag), thiamine, folic acid, and sometimes they’ll throw a little magnesium sulfate in there too. Women flock to these doctors after binge drinking to hydrate. I guess they believe that a banana bag will somehow flush out the detrimental effects of all the alcohol they consumed.

Women’s bodies are not made to handle the onslaught of alcohol that gets consumed on these trips—all day drinking that bleeds well into the night. Women lack the chemical alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), and therefore cannot process alcohol as rapidly or efficiently as men. The heartbreak of it all is the number of women, including some moms that condone and even participate in these drink-a-thons.

Will these same mother’s act as cavalier when the day comes where all that booze turns on them and their daughters? Will they think it’s funny as they sit and hold their daughter’s hand while she undergoes fertility treatments or chemotherapy due to breast cancer from all that alcohol? Alcohol in its purest form is ethanol; Ethanol is poisonous; it’s a known carcinogenic. What are we doing? Do we know?

Facebook and Instagram are littered with pictures from bachelorette parties: the bloated faces, the glassy eyes, the pictures of girls packed together like flightless dodo birds? Believe me, there are no shortage of alcoholics in recovery who can tell you where the drinking can lead. Alcohol is not harmless. It can wreck havoc on a person physically, mentally, and emotionally. Not only is the harm real, but think about the families these women will surely attempt to have that cannot and will not survive or remain intact without deep battle scars caused by all that indiscriminate drinking.

I continue to be baffled as to why pervasive drinking is celebrated and encouraged? Pinterest has pages and pages of bachelorette drinking games women can play. Really? There are bachelorette drinking party supplies too. Who could’ve imagined there’d be a whole website devoted to such madness? Have we lost our minds?

Our culture has come to accept this behavior as normal, when in fact, it’s exactly the type of behavior that contributes to alcoholism, and that’s if the young women aren’t already deep into their alcoholism or alcohol misuse disorders. It’s harder and harder to tell the difference between what many call “social” drinking, and the real deal—alcoholism. The lines are further blurred because women support each other in the erroneous notion that their drinking is normal; society has normalized alcoholic drinking.

I can tell you as a recovering alcoholic myself, I don’t believe I ever drank for four days straight, even in the height of my drinking. Two or three days in a row of drinking felt abnormal to me. Did I ever drink all day? I’m sure I did, but not often. I always believed that anyone who drank all day, regardless of the circumstances, was an alcoholic. Most social drinkers would agree. They have a few cocktails and that’s good enough. But that’s not the way it works at bachelorette parties. A constant flow of cocktails are expected, in spite of the fact that we all know that alcohol causes far more problems than it ever solved.

According to one young woman who I’ll call Madison, who’s now in recovery, she recalled one of bachelorette parties she attended. She shakes her head at the remembrance. “Geeze, she said.” The weekend looked like this:

Thursday night: Check into the hotel. Meet in the bar. Drink. Move on to another bar where there’s food. Eat something. Party, (aka drink) until the bars close.

Friday Morning: Half of the bridal party woke early. They found a doctor who for cash, gave them each a banana bag. (The bride-to-be had two banana bags so she could get to drinking again and not feel like crap.) The other half of the bridal party who didn’t go for IV hydration—slept in.

Friday, somewhere between 11:00 AM or 12 noon: meet for brunch. Drink mimosas, Bloody Mary’s, and have a “celebratory” shot. Brunch until approximately 2:30. 2:30-4PM-Get ready for the evening while drinking wine, beer, or if the ingredients are available, make drinks with racy names: sex on the beach, buttery nipple, slippery nipple, cockteaser, and heaven forbid, don’t forget the blow job, a sweet concoction made with Irish cream and Kahlua.

Friday around 4PM-Be ready for the bar crawl. Drink at the bars until they close.

Saturday- Repeat Friday’s agenda.

Sunday: Fly home, and try not to barf on the bald guy or someone’s grandma who’s seated next to you on the plane.

Madison, said that even back then when she was caught up in the fray, she knew that sort of drinking wasn’t normal. For a number of women who normalize this sort of drinking, a few of them will develop habits that will escalate to perhaps benzodiazepines: Ativan, Xanax, or Valium  They’ll need more and more of that feel good juice, or some adjunct, to feel normal. At some point alcohol quits working and that’s when and how pills may enter the scene. This is how addiction happens. In many cases, alcohol is where it all starts.

When Alcohol Is Your Solution

Women who drink like I’ve described often have few coping skills. Many of them have been drinking heavily since high school. They missed out on learning how to feel and deal. Alcohol is already their solution. With this sort of behavior normalized, I continue to ask, why are we surprised that the opiate epidemic is now mainstream? People from all walks of life walk the tightrope.

We have to dial it back. A whole cultural shift needs to occur in order for us to get a hold of this drug epidemic. The women described in this article are flirting with disaster. They are jeopardizing both their physical, mental, and emotional health. They jeopardize their coveted careers by this abnormal drinking. How can anyone justify IV’s so they can drink more and call it social drinking?  Four days of pounding down the drinks is not “social drinking.”

My mother was also an alcoholic, and unlike me, she hit a low bottom. For her to drink four days in a row was not uncommon, but she was an alcoholic. So what does this say about all the young women who pass four days of hard drinking off as “having a good time?”