If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll have read the Jill saga. If not I’ll recap. Jill has been a client at the tanning salon for several years. She is a former stripper and escort. She’s 38 years old and an alcoholic. She was released from rehab and lives in a halfway house in South Philly with several other women in recovery. We hired her to work a few shifts at the salon. She was doing a great job until one night when she went out with former employee and neighbor of mine Trish. Trish was sort of the catalyst because of her most recent mental episode because she was busted for cocaine. Trish went home but because Jill is an alcoholic, she couldn’t stop at one drink and got wasted and stayed out all night. That is against the rules in the halfway house where she lives. She was kicked out and didn’t tell us she wasn’t coming in to work so we fired her.
All is forgiven and she now works at a nail salon. They let her back in after a three-day detox. (So that’s good for her) She really is a nice lady and still comes in regularly to tan.
One night she comes in with another lady. She introduces her to me as her friend Sabrina. She has a pretty face, darker complexion (She doesn’t need to go tanning. She already has lovely skin) And a slender build. She looks to be around 5’4″.
I’m chatting with her and she says she works in the area. She seems nice enough but isn’t telling me much. Then Jill pipes in, “Oh, don’t be so evasive Sabrina. He knows all of our dark secrets. Sabrina lives in the halfway house with me.”
I can see Sabrina looks relieved.
“It’s just so boring to be sober! Everything revolves around drinking.”
Jill makes an interesting point. “Maybe you could start to consider a hobby or doing activities that don’t include alcohol.”
“I guess. But I’m so bored now! I haven’t had sex in six months and a girl needs the D! (sex) I think if they didn’t make us go to AA everyday, and do random sobriety checks I’d probably sneak the occasional drink just to have a little fun.”
“But you couldn’t do just a little drink or two now and then. You saw what happened last time.”
I send Jill back to the room for her tanning session. I sit down in the waiting area with Sabrina. She tells me that alcoholism runs in her family.
“We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, Sabrina.”
“No it’s okay. I didn’t always drink.”
“Really? How did you start?”
“I never had a problem with drinking until I got involved with a guy who drank a lot. I started drinking a lot with him and I just couldn’t stop. I just started getting blackout drunk all the time. It was terrible. So I had to get away from him and go to rehab, and now I’m here.”
“It’s a disease. Some people can drink all the time and it never owns them. Some can drink their whole lives and they don’t have any problems. But whatever your chemical makeup is, when it’s mixed with alcohol…”
“…It ends in disaster.”
We chat a bit more and I’m finding this woman sweet, attractive but a victim of her genes and choices.
Jill comes out of her session a little later, and we part ways. The girls say goodbye, and are off to do some sober activity.
I get to thinking about the girls and how hard this must be for them. You enjoy doing something and then it can destroy your life, and you can never do it again. It’s everywhere. On nearly every street in center city you can find alcohol. Most can enjoy it in moderation. Some in excess and nothing happens, but others it just wrecks your life. So it’s a large grey area like mental illness. I’m in no way comparing the two. But there isn’t just Sane and Crazy. There’s a whole spectrum out there.
The causes of alcoholism in women are diversified. Each person is unique. The way in which circumstances, psychology, and physiology come together ultimately create a likewise unique “formula” of factors that contribute to some women becoming alcoholics.
Alcohol affects woman far differently than men. In women, a larger amount of alcohol passes directly into a the blood stream than it does in men. This exposes a woman’s brain and body to more toxicity. Many experts feel that over-indulging is far more risky for women as a result, and that this alone is one of the potential causes of alcoholism in women.
Studies show that over 10 percent of women who drink have one drink a day. This is considered moderate drinking by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Some recent studies show that moderate drinking can have some benefits. Specifically, it may lower the risk of heart disease when combined with a good diet and exercise.
Nonetheless, this does not eliminate the risks, including the possibility that alcohol may interact with medications. Women who drink at this level are still in danger of developing various health issues including heart conditions, stroke and cancer. Additionally, thinking that drinking is “healthy” could be one of the causes of alcoholism in women.
Women who drink heavily run a higher risk than men of becoming dependent. These women also have a higher chance of being a victim of abuse (due to impaired critical thinking). They also tend to experience more severe physical damage then men, even if they haven’t been drinking as long as a man of the same age.
Some of the health issues that result from female alcoholism include liver disease, memory loss, and high blood pressure. Psychologically, women who drink heavily are also prone to depressive disorders.
A woman who drinks while pregnant puts her unborn child at risk. There are a variety of birth defects that may develop in a fetus from drinking during pregnancy. These defects are referred to as Fetal Alcohol syndrome (FAS). FAS can manifest in many ways including brain damage, learning disorders, memory retention problems, and disfigurement.
Stress is often noted as one of the reasons women drink. Unfortunately this can become a very negative cycle as drinking can cause stress at home and work, which in turn could become one of the causes of alcoholism in women.
A woman who has an alcoholic family member is at higher risk for alcohol disease than others. Each woman’s genetic make up can also make a difference to how drinking effects her body. Signs that someone is becoming dependent on alcohol include missing work, craving alcohol, having a growing tolerance for increased amounts of alcohol, and drinking in risky situations.
If a woman realizes she’s becoming dependent, it’s possible for her to begin making changes on her own by reducing alcohol consumption or stopping altogether. Nonetheless, that person will need to remember that the temptation to return to drinking heavily may always be a part of their life. Controlling those urges is one key to success.
Women who are already addicted can go to their personal physician for advice and information on support groups. There is no reason to go through this process alone, and many reasons to seek support. Studies show that people who have a strong network of friends, family, counselors etc. will be more successful in their battle against alcohol disease than those struggling alone.
All of that being said, I started to think about Sabrina and Jill and what they could do to make life less boring and more fun, but keeping things sober.
Then I came up with an idea…
Tune in tomorrow to find out what that idea is. It may not be a good idea, but it’s an idea.
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