The challenges of the past few years have impacted everyone in different ways. Many women, in particular, have been tasked with increased stress and responsibilities during the pandemic.
It's well known that alcohol consumption has increased tremendously since early 2020. Now, many women are re-evaluating their relationship with alcohol. Here's what you should know about the female relationship with alcohol and why so many women are on a mission to get sober this year.
Challenges with Women and Alcohol Consumption
While many outcomes of excessive alcohol consumption are the same regardless of gender, women tend to experience unique challenges. According to the CDC, biological differences lead most women to absorb more alcohol in a shorter period and take longer to break it down in their bodies.
Women are also more likely to experience sexual violence while consuming alcohol, as predators seek to take advantage of them in their inebriated state. This leads to additional trauma, which could exacerbate substance abuse as a coping mechanism. It can be challenging to find AA meetings for women, leading many to go without treatment.
It's also important to understand the differences in substance abuse between men and women. While biological males are more likely to abuse substances, women are more likely to experience strong cravings and relapse risks during periods of sobriety.
So while we're all weathering the same storm, we're not in the same boat.
The Sober Curious Movement
The sober curious movement is a trend in which people explore sobriety and move away from alcohol use. The people exploring this movement are not in the throes of addiction. Rather, they're unhappy with their relationship with alcohol or its impact on their life and body.
People who are sober curious are trying to change their lives by minimizing alcohol consumption. While some choose to eliminate it completely, others practice "mindful drinking." For example, they may have a glass of champagne on New Year's Eve or a glass of wine at a reunion with friends, but nothing more.
Recognizing Signs of Alcohol Abuse
As women revisit their relationship with alcohol, many wonder if they're facing substance abuse and addiction. While you may have a toxic relationship with alcohol, there's a key difference between bad habits and addiction: the ability to stop.
If you try to stop drinking and find yourself unable to quit or constantly thinking about alcohol, you may require professional support. There's no shame in seeking help as you try to achieve sobriety.
There are several other factors to consider when reflecting on your relationship with alcohol. If your drinking habits put your health, safety, financial security, or relationships in danger, there's a problem. In these scenarios, having professional support to practice healthy coping mechanisms and boundaries can help.
Benefits of Cutting Alcohol
Alcohol poisons your body, so it should come as no surprise that there are many benefits to cutting it out of your life. Here are some notable benefits of sobriety.
Decreased Cancer Risk
Hormonal regulation is a significant concern for women. In addition to impacting weight management, it also affects the likelihood of developing certain types of cancer.
Even moderate alcohol consumption has been linked with a 30-50% increase in the risk of developing breast cancer. It's estimated that the overall risk of breast cancer development increases by 7% for each additional 10grams of alcohol consumed daily. Cutting alcohol can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer by 35%.
Alcohol consumption also increases the risk of colorectal, stomach, pancreatic, and liver cancers.
Decreased Heart Disease Risk
Alcohol consumption also correlates with increased coronary heart disease (CHD) risk, increased blood pressure, and increased cholesterol.
There's a common misconception that drinking a glass of red wine every day can improve heart health. While there was a study backing this claim, it was flawed and had minimal scientific support. The antioxidants in red wine are also in unfermented grapes and other berries.
Improved Cognition and Focus
In recent years, scientists have been looking closer at the impacts of alcohol consumption on brain health. Cutting alcohol can lead to better cognition and focus— it only takes one bad hangover to instill that lesson. However, there's also a profound relationship between long-term cognitive function and memory.
Improved Skin and Hair
While the long-term health impacts of cutting alcohol are the top priority for sobriety, it's worth noting that cutting alcohol will also positively impact your skin and hair. There's plenty of anecdotal evidence from women who report better skin and hair quality after cutting alcohol.
Better Sleep Quality
Sleep plays a pivotal role in overall health and wellness. Most people believe that alcohol helps them sleep; however, there's a significant difference between quality sleep and passing out.
While a glass of wine may help you fall asleep, excessive drinking causes disruptions in your natural circadian rhythms. This disruption has a profound effect on mental cognition, hormonal regulation, weight management, disease development, and more— effectively exacerbating the issues listed above.
Tips for Getting Sober
The benefits of pursuing sobriety are apparent. As such, it should come as no surprise that many women are pursuing this post-pandemic goal. Here are some practical tips to help you as you cut alcohol from your life.
Don't try to do it alone. If you're struggling with sobriety and experience signs of an alcohol dependency, seek professional support. Working with a counselor, rehabilitation team, or support group can be transformative.
If you're sober curious, and re-evaluating your relationship with alcohol, find like-minded people on the same journey. One of the challenges of getting sober is finding activities and social groups that aren't built around drinking. Social connections with those on a similar path will help you stick to your goals.
Set some goals for yourself, both directly and indirectly related to sobriety. This is the time to try new hobbies, fix your financial health, and explore other strategies for improving overall health and wellness.
Celebrate every step of your journey and reward your progress. If you incur challenges, be compassionate with yourself. Relapses and perceived failures happen; it's what happens next that really matters.
Quitting alcohol offers endless benefits for women. Consider the tips above and take some time to reflect upon your relationship with alcohol and who you want to become.