Friday, May 21, 2010

Issues of Life: Alcohol-Dependency in Women

Alcohol-Dependency in Women

     How ironic that I wrote about wine glasses in yesterday's 'Good Housekeeping' section of this blog-magazine because I'm now writing about alcohol dependency. I like to balance things because we need to remember that everything in excess can be harmful instead of beneficial.
     Some women love to sip a cocktail or wine whenever they're entertaining socially or invited to a party. But do you know that there are women who we think just casually drink in a party but turn out to be an alcoholic already? Women tend to keep alcoholism a secret and most likely hide when they drink alone any time during the day. In the U.S., there are approximately 15.1 million alcohol-abusing or alcohol-dependent people and 1/3 of them (4.6 million) are women. Also, alcohol dependency is more prevalent in middle-aged women groups (35 to 49 years old).
      So why do women become alcohol-dependent? There are many causes why women turn to alcohol. One is stress--women work outside the home, take care of the household chores, please their husbands, teach their children, etc.--overwhelmingly great responsibility. Second is depression which some stay-at-home moms suffer from; also may be caused by separation or divorce from husband or partner or separation from children. Third, social pressures and influences coming from friends, workplace, community or neighborhood. Fourth is trauma which may come from childhood experiences like sexual abuse, or trauma that comes from verbal abuse and other kinds of traumatic experiences. The warning signs are usually the following: increased risky behavior outside her comfort zone, short-term attention or forgetfulness, lack of sound judgment, lack of coordination, unusual sleepiness, uncertainty and confusion and irrational emotional outbursts or mood swings. 
    Since most causes for alcohol dependency are psychological and emotional in nature, the treatment aims to provide the needs of the deprived individual of these things that drove her to alcohol in the first place. The first recommended treatment is an all-female group therapy which most women respond to best. In the U.S., there is a group called 'Women for Sobriety' which is like an Alcoholics Anonymous exclusively for women. We only have Alcoholics Anonymous here in the Philippines which accepts men and women. I haven't come across a group therapy center for women. The second is individual therapy which many treatment centers incorporate in their therapies especially for those who suffer from trauma. Another thing that they incorporate is the final treatment which is the holistic treatment approach involving the mind, body, and spirit. These therapies include art therapy, music therapy and meditation. However, the best and crucial therapy is that of the spiritual which many Alcoholics Anonymous employ in the U.S. Since alcoholic women are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and depression, self-derogation which lead to a feeling of purposelessness in life, they need a spirituality that empowers them, lifts them up, equips them, and gives them a sense of identity and worth. They invoke a one-on-one relationship with the omnipotent God before whom  the alcoholic admit her total powerlessness over alcohol and who is able to "restore sanity" to her as she surrenders her own will to Him. Aside from her individual "therapy" with God, the woman alcoholic also develops her relationship with her group through the help of the Holy Spirit who ignites the spark of hope within her and breathes life through the group. That is why many alcoholism cannot be treated just by pastoral counseling.
     Just a small warning to those women who are drinking excessively. Chronic alcohol abuse extracts a greater physical toll on women than men because of our smaller build and the detrimental effects of alcohol on our liver is more severe than for men. 


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