Tuesday 20 March 2018

'I would talk myself into a second glass then try to talk myself out of it'

Another glass? Our levels of drinking are beyond the norms. Picture posed
Another glass? Our levels of drinking are beyond the norms. Picture posed
Another glass? Our levels of drinking are beyond the norms. Picture posed
Victoria White

Victoria White

He'll be back on the beer by Sunday and I'll be back to denying my own growing dependence on alcohol.

Lent has been hard.

He gave up the drink on Ash Wednesday and only broke out on St Patrick's Day.

So there was no "Go on, you'll have a glass of wine" at dinner time.

"Half a glass," I might say. Then I'd take another half glass. And that might even do me.

But it might be Monday night and there'd be the same on Tuesday building up to Friday when I often have to go to bed early in a state of befuddled exhaustion.

I never thought I needed the stuff. I'm always the designated driver. But I don't drink when I'm out, I drink at home. Not for pleasure as much as to deal with stress.

Suddenly all through Lent there was no open bottle. I found myself gasping for a glass of wine mid-week and I had to open the bottles myself. I would talk myself into having a second glass then try to talk myself out of it.

I'd sip away as I stood at my kitchen counter, making the dinner and loading the dishwasher. Booze made the wall of work which I have to climb every day seem lower, then higher.

It was a way out of endless responsibility, a small reward for endless slaving.

That's fine, isn't it? A little of what you fancy?

It's not fine at all.

Not if I want to have a long and happy life with my children and - please God - grandchildren.

Drink has a far harder effect on women's bodies than on men's. Take the statistics on breast cancer alone: a 41pc increased chance of developing it if you have three drinks a day.

Even if you have one drink a day, your risk increases 9pc.

Half a bottle of wine or two pints a day and you're five times more likely to get cancer between your mouth and your voice box and eight times more likely to get a stroke.

And that's leaving aside the obvious ones, like cirrhosis of the liver. Wasn't that on my mother's post-mortem, along with the cancer?

She was tippling away in the nursing home towards the end, that's the truth of it.

My mother, who always presented herself as so self-controlled. I remember her shock when the local shop-keeper called in a neighbour's husband to tell him the grocery bill wasn't paid. His wife had been quietly drinking the house-keeping money in the kitchen.

Women got found out easily when they had no money of their own. But we will never deal with the rise in alcohol consumption among women if we refuse to see how so-called liberation has brought its own stresses. Yes, many of us have some money of our own. Many of us can go out with our friends. Many of us can go on holiday.

But that means most of us are dealing with some paid work as well as the care of a home and family - and all of those demands have gotten bigger.

Work nowadays demands a person's body and soul. We have electric household appliances but our standards are higher.

And as for the kids…

Our mothers beat us out the door in the morning and told us not to come back till dinner-time.

Now we're meant to be psychologists, teachers and domestic goddesses all rolled into one or we're told we're harming our children.

We're meant to be baking home-cooked treats with the little one while simultaneously driving a child to a football match and steering the eldest through Leaving Cert maths, which we can't understand.

But if we don't put in an effort for our kids to go to college we're counted as failures.

It's simply got too much for huge numbers of Irishwomen, including, on occasion, people like me who know that drinking will not make things better, it will make them worse.

I'll have a drink on Easter Sunday. By Monday, when the chocolate bunnies have hopped all over the couch, I'm going to have to have a serious think about better ways of reducing my stress levels. But it would sure help if there was an honest debate out there about the reasons four in every 10 women in Ireland is a problem drinker.

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