In a massive blow to the nearly $1.6 trillion booze market (by 2022, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/alcoholic-beverages-market-expected-to-reach-1594-billion-globally-by-2022---allied-market-research-618354513.html)a new study by The Lancet has determined that the only good alcohol consumption is no alcohol consumption at all. (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31310-2/fulltext#seccestitle150).
Well, that sucks for most of my friends.
While this is bad news for an industry that serves to kids (like tobacco, get ’em while they’re young) it also deals a badass blow to those who have been justifying their multiple glasses of red wine because some study a while back indicated that one glass might be good for you. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/red-wine/art-20048281 The study said occasional. Oh well, this minute is an occasion. So is this one. And the one after that.
I feel healthier already (hic).
Oh. Well, if one is good, then six are even better, right?
That study, just like that piece of work that the media went nuts about claiming chocolate was a health food, uses a great deal of carefully-worded language and a great many mights. Maybes. Possiblies.
The problem is that while there might be slight bennies from boozing up with a glass or two of red wine, once in a while, you can get largely the same benefits from eating red grapes with the skins on. Besides, that wine consumption can lead to cancer. Ouch.
Here’s what Time had to say about the study:
Compared to non-drinkers, people who had one alcoholic beverage per day had a 0.5% higher risk of developing one of 23 alcohol-related health problems, including cancer, road injuries and tuberculosis, in a given year, the study says. At that level, the absolute increase is small, equaling only four additional deaths per 100,000 people per year, according to the study. But those who had two drinks per day had a risk 7% higher than non-drinkers. At five drinks per day, the risk was 37% higher, the study says. http://time.com/5376552/how-much-alcohol-to-drink-study/.
Of course this argues that if you are really mindful and only imbibe on occasion, the chances of harm are minimized. Of course they are. As with all things that aren’t very good for you, the less we do, the better off we are.
WHERE IS THE FUN IN THAT????
Here’s fun: some wag thought it was a great idea to pay me for a speech with a bottle of wine. Nobody asked me if I drank. I tossed the bottle in a cabinet, where it gathered dust for decades. Finally, I gave it to a friend for Christmas. She’s still trying to get the pucker out of her pouter. I don’t know shit about wine. Apparently it makes pretty damned good vinegar.
You could make the perfectly legitimate argument that some of the potential damage depends on our bodies, our unique constituencies. Some of us process poison better than others. Clearly most indigenous people didn’t fare so well with that. However, that’s not the norm. It’s particularly bad if youngsters get started early (as did my big brother), it’s much harder to stop. I guess I have a hard time with the Russian Roulette attitude of “let’s find out over time” rather than just avoiding potential crap news in the first place. Just cuz your granddaddy drank rotgut hootch until the day he died doesn’t mean that you have a steel stomach.
On one hand, though, this study https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AA70/AA70.htm says that about a third of us don’t drink at all. That’s hugely good news (unless of course we’re popping pills or hooked on heroin or whatever else, all of which is entirely possible). Or, they might have simply copped to having only had one drink last week because the week before they knocked off their entire liquor cabinet because they didn’t get a blow job. Look, that’s perfectly understandable.
One the other hand, for most folks, just enough alcohol regularly can tip the scales for serious health consequences.
This doesn’t even begin to truly touch on the stupid shit people do while drunk, whether that’s driving, or texting while driving, or swimming in icy rapids at altitude in spring (a good way to end up as a bloat toy in town), picking up your fair share of crabs and STDs to say nothing of getting Raped While Stupid Drunk by another Stupid Drunk. Oh my, what a list. It’s endless.
I am not a fan of froth.
As someone who left home at 16, who travels alone and all over the world, I have never been able to justify putting myself in jeopardy by undermining my ability to think, run like a banshee, call for help, fight off an aggressor, work my way out of a dangerous situation. All of which have happened. I am always and forever sober (with one distinct exception: dental work. I am high on laughing gas for dental work. But then, when I stand back up, no aftermath. Just pain. For that they have legal shit. Wait. Booze IS legal shit.)
My First Brush With Booze
I grew up in a family that felt that highball time was 5 pm. That justified the clink of ice into glasses and opening up the cabinet high over the sink. A number of drinks followed in a habit that is as hallowed as any all over the world. A few shots, a gurgle of this or that, and down the hatch. Hail fellow well met holy shit this stuff is strong oops was that your wife’s tit I am sooooo sorry man…
I watched my parents turn into somebody else. One night after a particularly rambunctious party I had to walk my wobbly, woozy mother up and down the clay road on the farm. In the dark. I was utterly terrified. I honestly thought she was dying.
I have never stopped being terrified at what booze does. DID to people I loved. Booze is in part why I no longer have an immediate family.
My brother discovered that cabinet quite young. He was adept at filling vodka and gin bottles with water to keep the level in the right place.(My parents marked the bottles). When my folks began to notice that their highs were staying awfully close to ground level, well, he was the only culprit. There was a reason for that.
My early brush with booze was brief and short-lived.
And funny. Well. To a point.
My folks had bridge parties fairly regularly. When I was around ten, there was a four table setup in our living room. This being Central Florida, we had big old mayonnaise jars used for cold water in our ancient Frigidaire. I had a bad habit of grabbing that wide-mouth jar and throwing back big mouthfuls of icy water to help stave off the heat during the years our house had no air conditioning.
The night my folks had their big party, I had padded off to bed in my pink bunny pajamas. I was ten at the time, and still given to nighttime wanderings. I woke up about 11 pm and padded back out silently into the kitchen. It was a warm night.
I opened the fridge door and got my small mitts around an ice-cold mayonnaise jar, and took about seven big swallows.
The only problem was that what was heading down my gullet wasn’t water. It was pure vodka.
Holy shit. Mother f*cker.
I never touched alcohol again. Unlike a great many of my acquaintances, repeated bashing of one’s coconut against a hard wall while trying to walk to the toilet to get rid of the offending substance is not how I define fun. As a ten- year-old then, or now.
That unfortunately didn’t happen with my father, who was a full-fledged alcoholic, or my brother, who bloomed into one, added drugs, and took his life at 62. He couldn’t get his head above the marker on the bottle.
In 1983, when I was learning how to scuba dive in order to explore the Great Barrier Reef (this is how you know I’m old, there was WAS a Great Barrier Reef) I drove my brand new gear out to my parent’s retirement apartment in North Denver. I leaned the big tank against my car with the BC and regulator. Proudly and with real excitement, I invited my parents out to inspect.
My father was naked but for a pair of too-big underpants, out of which his shriveled penis dangled to the side. I guess Mr. Happy was enjoying the fresh air. He had a drink in one hand. He stood next to my car in the broad daylight, weaving, eyes glazed over. People passed us on the sidewalk, staring at my once-dignified Dad. I was mortified. My father had no clue, nor did he give a shit.
I grew up despising the sweet stink of alcohol breath. I grew up despising what it turned people into. Like my father, who had a vicious, acid tongue after taking his first drink. I recall saying to him while in my thirties that I needed to be treated like an adult. He responded that he couldn’t do that.
Well of course not. How can an adolescent man treat his adult daughter like an adult?
That was the beginning of the end. When I called him an alcoholic he wrote me out of the will. The level of denial in his final letter to me as he cast me out of the family is extraordinarily telling. Between his drinking and three-pack-a-day Marlboro habit, he died of cancer a few years later.
Last year National Geographic had a cover story on the history of alcohol. There’s a good reason that people like it. The problem is that it’s poison, pure and simple. Responsible for some 2.8 million deaths worldwide, a faster killer of men than women, the stats just don’t shore up any reason to imbibe. Needing a drink to relax all too often evolves, as vastly too many habits do, into needing a drink to greet the day. I’ve lived with that. I married that, briefly. When the alcohol consumption became intractable, and deep angry punch holes began to show up in my drywall as a result, a brief marriage ended.
This past April I was in Bali. One of the most powerful messages I saw was a looped video in the back of a 7–11 store on the main drag which promoted Marlboros and booze. The very clear message was that cool people did this. Cool people drank, smoked and had it ALL. Of course they do. All the diseases and addiction problems that you could possibly ask for. Loss of land, loss of family, loss of everything. Totally cool man.
This is no goody-two-shoes article on how I am holier than thou because I don’t drink. Please. As I have written elsewhere I have been just as drunk wielding my credit card at Neiman Marcus as anyone who ever stumbled out of a bar. The difference is that I could take that $2500 skirt back when I got home, looked at my bills and sobered up. It’s hard to get your liver back. However I understand the attraction. I get that it’s a massive industry, keeps lots of folks employed, and there are billions upon billions who have no interest in changing their habits. If anything it’s growth industry.
I just find it fascinating that booze and cigarettes are promoted as high-end luxury products. I bought into that for a while. For three years, sixteen to nineteen, I smoked up to five packs a day. By the time I quit I was coughing my lungs out. Luxury product?
Know what’s a luxury you assholes (who make booze and cigarettes)? Superb health.
I once did a prize-winning article on then-Washington Secretary of State, later Governor, Christine Gregoire. At the time she had been working closely with fellow State Secretaries to battle the tobacco industry. They won. I mentioned to her that alcohol was just as bad, just as complicit. She said that movement against the industry would never happen. She was right. It won’t. Prohibition was a terrible mess, and it will never work. We are too ingrained with our grain alcohol, our craft beers, and are far too willing to forfeit our health for a few minutes of forgetfulness, fellowship and false laughter.
Just Look At Your Face
My father used to shove a drink at me and demand that I join them “in fellowship.” I rarely saw him without a bottle or a drink in his hand. In fact, the last photo I have of my parents, my father is dead drunk, my mother lively and laughing. His eyes are glazed over and he looks like a toad on a rock. This immensely intelligent, talented man, reduced to a soft-focused blob.
My dad was a great many good things but this was not one of them.
For those of us who don’t drink
I rather like this Bored Panda piece that shows before and after photos of folks who took their health seriously: https://www.boredpanda.com/before-after-sobriety-photos/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic.
For those who smoke when they drink, and it’s a very common combination, the smoking directly attacks the skin’s collagen, and the effect is magnified. You age incredibly fast, to say nothing of what’s going on inside your body. Lungs, liver, what the hell. Who needs those? We can get parts.
Unfortunately some parts don’t transplant particularly well:
Here’s the piece: Absolutely nothing, no facts, no stats, no studies, no logical argument will win anyone over. That’s a fact of life. People do not care about the consequences of their actions, be it opioid abuse or alcohol consumption or smoking, until ruination sets in. Sit in on any AA meeting as my BF had done to support a previous girlfriend, and hear the stories. It’s no different from drug abuse or any other habit that kills. I didn’t get my eating disorders under control until they had cost me a great deal. I get how hard it is. I truly do. Not only that, societal norms, peer pressure and the constant bombardment of images all add up to make it damned difficult for anyone to get, and stay, sober. From any addiction. Please. Addictions are very big business (let’s see…opioids anyone? https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/08/21/640530842/dispatches-from-a-dopesick-america)
All I know, and this is from someone who watched a family and marriage dissolve due to addictions, that there is no excuse to ever drink. That includes those priests who are tipping the rest of the bottle after communion. Hey Father! Nice red, isn’t it? WHOA don’t fall into the pew Father…..
The wholesale anesthesia of those who apply alcohol to their problems- including being able to relax with others- simply doesn’t compare with what you can see and experience in the cool clear light of day. There is no vista, no vision that improves with a wobbly haze. What does work is loving ourselves enough to treat our amazing bodies with the respect they deserve.
That’s hard work. You’re damned right it is. As a sugar addict, I can attest. Sugar has its own set of problems but by god it doesn’t impair my cognitive abilities. That, I can control. Well, until I have to drive by a Krispy Kreme shop, to which I admitted publicly eating seven donuts right in a row just recently (https://medium.com/@jhubbel/seven-donuts-13a8cc09a036). Now THAT impaired my cognitive abilities.
I am not a fan of froth.
That doesn’t make me right. Nor does it make me righteous. You and I will do what we will do. And we will reap the consequences.
Drinking sucks. Just ask any one of us with addicts in the family.
No alcohol is good alcohol, just as no sugar is good sugar, unless it’s natural. And even though I too can laugh at the joke about beer’s being a major food group or tobacco’s being a vegetable, I can’t laugh at the toll they took in my family’s life. Or the toll it takes on the roads, in our colleges, in our personal lives.
I have never felt left out at a party, at an event, at a cocktail gathering, or any other situation where growlers are gurgling. I also never left home to come back in a casket, either. Thankfully no drunk driver put me in one.
So far. I have no idea every time I head out if I will make it back. Here’s who doesn’t: Every day, 29 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This is one death every 50 minutes. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $44 billion. https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html
Ask any Uber driver who has the night shift, folks. And what they get to clean out of their cars.
Yah. What fun, right?
I like living. I like living healthy. But hey, that’s just me.