Drink the first. Sip the second slowly. Skip the third. ~Knute Rockne
I drink only to make my friends seem interesting. ~Don Marquis
I'm not much of a drinker. Occasional glass of wine--always red--with food--max of two--mostly in the company of friends & family. Although I did enjoy a Mojito at Monday night's dinner-with-friends.
I was twelve years old when The Days of Wine & Roses came out. It made a huge impression on me. Drinking--drunks--alcoholism scared me silly. My parents rarely drank--a little Mogen David wine or a little whiskey for the uncles on holidays. That was it.
It seems hard to believe in today's alcohol-entrenched culture, with binge drinking rampant in high school & college, but I never drank in high school--rarely in college. At age 20, while visiting a college friend in New York, I decided to see what it felt like to get drunk. We bought a bottle of something awful & cheap, like MD 20-20 or Boone's Farm, and drank. One bottle--shared--that was it. I felt awful the next morning--I wasn't going to do that again. And I never did.
I don't get (as in understand) drunkenness or why anyone would want to feel hungover.
Which is why I was so interested in Jim Atkinson's recent New York Times opinion piece on the discomfort of celebrating the winter holidays if you want to stay sober, "It's the Holidays. How About Just One?" Apparently a lot of other people were interested as well--almost 600 people have commented on the piece & right now it's #4 on the top 20 list of most emailed articles.
Atkinson has been sober for 16 years now. He's still not comfortable with the alcohol-laden holidays--in his opinion:
Here's Atkinson's Theory on Over-Drinking & Alcohol Addiction:
- “You know how you feel at Christmas at the umpteenth family gathering or company cocktail party. You really need that drink, right? That’s the way I used to feel all the time.”
- "The best I can say from personal experience is that we (over-drinkers) all tend to be afflicted by a low-grade dysphoria, a sort of constant melancholy that causes feelings of unease, isolation and dissatisfaction with life — an “inexplicable ache,” I once heard it called."
- "But is this nature or nurture? I personally have come to believe in a construction proposed by Dr. Mark Willenbring, director of the division of treatment and recovery research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which says it’s both."
- Willenbring argues that the main thing that alcoholics share is a natural tolerance for alcohol, which leads them to overindulge without knowing it.
- And here's the END RESULT: Repeated overindulgence, in turn, changes their brain chemistry and literally creates the inexplicable ache by altering the activity of two systems: the brain’s “reward system,” which sends the message that drinking feels good; and the excitatory and stress response systems, which become “recruited” and, over time, produce an elevated anxiety when one is without alcohol in his system.
- If you are among the 80 percent of people who drink “normally,” think of your relationship to booze as a minor friendship that strikes up at certain times of the week, or even the year. Think of the drunk’s as a torrid, reckless and self-destructive affair.
Atkinson isn't about to risk finding out.
"If I decided to take a drink at a party, I might be able to tough it out for that night, but I know that the next day, another drink would be someplace in my mind. That someplace might be a manageable place, but would it be worth the considerable hassle of having to think twice every time I took a sip?
And if you're like me, and you thought red wine & good heart health went hand-in-hand, think again.
Some balloon-deflating words from Dr. Joel Fuhrman:
- "Alcohol is not actually heart-healthy; it simply has anti-clotting effects much like aspirin. Thinning the blood with alcohol is not health-enhancing unless you are eating the typical heart-attack-inducing diet." But if you're already eating a heart-healthy diet, the extra blood thinning "only adds more risk in the form of gastrointestinal bleeding or a hemorrhgic stroke." Note: he's talking a diet of "nutritional excellence"
- Red wine contains some beneficial compounds like flavonoids and resveratrol, a potent antioxidant found in the skin of grapes...(but so do) grapes, raisins & berries..One does not have to drink wine to gain these benefits.
- Consuming more than 1 drink a day for women, or 2 drinks a day for men is associated with fat around the waist and all the associated health problems linked to excess belly fat.
- Even moderate alcohol consumption in women is associated with increased breast cancer in susceptible women.
- More than one drink a day can create a mild withdrawal sensation the next day, which is often mistaken for hunger--which leads to overeating. Even moderate drinking is associated with overweight.
- Recent studies have linked even moderate drinking with an increased incidence of atrial fibrillation, a condition which can lead to stroke.
- Bottom line: Don't rely on alcohol or red wine to keep you healthy. One glass of wine--or one drink isn't a major risk--but it's not a major health asset either!
Be Happy Be Healthy Long Life
Reference: Fuhrman, Joel. Eat for Health. Book One. Gift of Health Press, 2008.