Americans just love their booze. It seems like every celebration is a cause to pour that glass of wine, crack that beer open, or toss back that shot of tequila. It’s such a normal part of society that we hardly question it. Life is all good. But then, maybe you start having relationship problems with your friend-in-a-bottle.
You start thinking about how you just want to spend more time drinking. You pull back from friends and family. Your attitude changes and you become apathetic. Your job suffers. You can’t manage life’s stresses without alcohol. Now your friend-in-a-bottle might end up killing you.
According to the National Institutes of Health, alcohol use leads to over 140,000 deaths a year in America. It is the 4th leading cause of preventable death. Alcohol is also one of the primary causes of liver disease and other adverse health problems.
Numerous studies link alcohol use with chronic changes in the brain. It affects the heart, causing arrhythmias, high blood pressure, and could eventually lead to a stroke. Your liver takes the brunt of heavy alcohol use. Over time, the liver becomes cirrhotic, or scarred, and stops functioning. Several types of cancers, including colorectal, esophageal, and neck, are linked to chronic alcohol use.
This writing is not meant to be a scathing judgment on people that drink alcohol. Listen, I’ve had my fair share throughout my lifetime. I noticed, however, that I had really increased my alcohol consumption during the Covid pandemic. Much of it I attributed to the stress of working in the ICU during that time and witnessing the suffering and deaths of so many people. I just didn’t know how to cope with that overwhelming experience. I realized that alcohol could become a real problem for me and so I decided to test myself to see if I could just stop drinking.
It’s called the “Dry January” challenge. Many people around the world try doing this, and even going beyond just a single month. For me, the months of January, May, and September are dry months. I’m currently in one now. And, you know, it really feels good. Your body changes and you become more motivated and engaged. You start accomplishing more projects, as you redirect your focus away from alcohol. Yes, there are challenges, but I highly recommend it. And no, I’m not binge-drinking during the rest of the year. That’s not the point. Perhaps, one day soon, I’ll stop entirely.
Now, I don’t recommend you stop drinking cold turkey if you are a daily, heavy drinker. It could be dangerous and cause life-threatening seizures. Why does this happen? I use the comparison of a car (the nervous system) driving along with the brakes (alcohol) applied to keep it from going too fast. Imagine now if those brakes are suddenly gone. The nervous system just goes haywire. Severe alcoholism should be treated in a medically-supervised program.
If you are a drinker, hear me out. Acknowledge your relationship with alcohol. Can you stop drinking at any time? Can you cut back? Does drinking affect your relationships and employment in a negative way? Has alcohol impacted your physical health? Be honest and be courageous with yourself.
For more information on alcohol use, visit https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohol-topics-a-to-z. If you feel you have an alcohol problem, please reach out to your local community resources for help.
Stay safe and be well,