Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.
By Quinn Nystrom, MS
I touched on this topic in my March article about pandemic fatigue. However, I’d like to dive a little (OK, a LOT) deeper into the known fact that overindulging in alcohol has increased significantly since the pandemic. Reports show that excessive drinking (8 drinks a week for women, 15 for men, per the CDC) has spiked 21% since March 2020.
Since April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and April 7 is National Alcohol Screening Day, I truly feel the need to talk about the concerning stats surrounding alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
Now, you may be wondering what this topic has to do with eating disorders. After decades of research and talking to hundreds of others who struggle with eating disorders, I can confidently assure you that ED and excessive alcohol consumption are more closely linked than people think.
First, let me give you some background on this vital national observance. Every April, the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) sponsors Alcohol Awareness Month with a mission of increasing awareness and understanding of the causes and treatment of the nation’s #1 public health problem: alcoholism. The theme this year is Changing Attitudes: It is not a ‘rite of passage.
The target audience: youth and their parents.
As part of Alcohol Awareness Month, the NCADD says local, state, and national events will be working diligently to educate people about the treatment and prevention of alcoholism, particularly among our youth. Another essential facet of this work is the critical role that parents can play in giving kids a better understanding of the impact that alcohol can have on their lives.
Leo Gaeta, VP of Programs at CBHA, believes there has never been a greater need for awareness of the dangers of underage drinking. “Sadly, approximately 5,000 youth under 21 die each year because of drinking,” Gaeta noted. “We use an alcohol screening tool that helps patients identify behaviors that might indicate an alcohol dependence problem. Trained staff members assist patients, and the information they share is entirely confidential.”
Michelle Taylor, Psychiatric Mental Health Provider, added, “We prioritize situations like this. If a clinic physician calls me and has a patient that he would like me to see right away; I will do my best to see the patient at the moment.”
This campaign and associated events are an opportunity to reduce the stigma associated with alcohol dependence and remove the barriers to treatment and recovery while making help available to those who suffer from the disease.
Taking Action | Try To Go Dry
An essential part of Alcohol Awareness Month is choosing an Alcohol-Free weekend during the month of April. The intent is for you to stop drinking from Friday through Monday and then gauge the effectiveness of the alcohol-free days.
If your body has become used to the continual presence of alcohol, suddenly stopping can cause physical effects, such as sweating, nausea, headaches, and trouble sleeping.
If it was challenging to manage 72 hours without drinking, that struggle could signal dependence on alcohol that should be more closely examined. If you are having trouble with your three-day alcohol-free test, we urge you to contact your medical provider to learn more about alcoholism and its early symptoms.
SOURCE: National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
Another reason that I am passionate about raising awareness of alcohol abuse is that I come from a family with a long history of struggling with alcoholism. For years, I made up reasons as to why my drinking was not a “problem” (I could handle myself in social situations, I never lost a job over it, I wasn’t homeless, I only drank in the evenings). Those facts may have been true…at one point, but my battle with alcohol eventually made a grand appearance in my life.
They say that alcoholism is a progressive disease, which was certainly true in my case.
Luckily, I recognized the signs and had a solid idea of where to go for support. My support system for Type1 diabetes and my eating disorder was (and still is) strong, and I leaned on them heavily while navigating this new path to recovery.
I also discovered a book that changed how I viewed drinking. Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker mirrored so much of what I felt and even called me out on a few things I was reluctant to face. My biggest takeaway was that I needed to prioritize my actioned based on what fed my soul instead of what destroyed it. It wasn’t easy or comfortable, but I did it.
And I am so grateful I did.
My efforts turned into the guidelines that I follow to this day: to be sure I am building the best life for myself. One that honors who I am as a person. Instead of spending time on producing a life that I don’t want. Or need to escape from.
I am grateful to be sober today. I take it one day at a time.
If you feel the above information applies to you or someone you love, please do not hesitate to ask for help. The first step can be as easy as visiting alcoholscreening.org to answer just a few questions about your alcohol consumption. The experts will then provide you with health and risk guidelines and your answers and information are confidential.
The first step to asking for help is always the hardest, but you are worth it.