Young Drunk: Social Drinker or Alcoholic?

cocktail

I didn’t just drink when I was young. I drank alcoholically, drinking as much as possible as often as possible, and getting sucked into every drinking game in the book. I drank Jungle Juice. I played beer pong. I did “kegstands,” which meant being hoisted upside down to drink directly from the keg’s tap, flipping my shirt up and exposing my bra in the process. Luckily, I was too drunk to care.

I “bonged” beers, sucking an entire beer down in a few gulps from the business end of a funnel-and-tube contraption. I played “power hour,” taking one shot of beer a minute for a full hour, drinking the equivalent of five beers in sixty minutes. I played “Edward Forty-hands,” a game where you tape a forty-ounce bottle of beer to the hands of everyone at the party. Once bound, you can do nothing with your hands until you’ve consumed eighty ounces of beer. This can get complicated, because you have to finish the drinks fast in order to free a hand to go the bathroom. Drinking twenty-one shots on your twenty-first birthday is a newer tradition, one I missed. When I mentioned that tradition to people my parents’ age, they were shocked, but it’s ingrained enough in youth culture today that my twenty-five-and-under friends just shrugged when I asked them if it was normal.

Binge drinking is officially defined by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as consuming more than five drinks within a single day. I first heard that during college, and I almost spit out my beer. Five drinks isn’t binge drinking! That’s a regular Thursday night. I wasn’t alone. More than a third of American college students binge drink.

I found it hard to believe at first, but fourteen percent of these drinkers have had ten or more drinks in one sitting. I had to verify those numbers over multiple sources to believe it. Ten or more drinks is a lot, so I was surprised that so many students admitted to doing it. Some take it to a deeper extreme: almost six percent will have as much as fifteen or more in an evening. Fifteen. That’s about a fifth of hard liquor. This type of drinking is known as “extreme” binge drinking, which sounds more like an X-Games event than a medical term.

Ten to fifteen drinks would be enough to get anyone wasted. I should know. I drank that much regularly. It’s definitely enough to make a 150-pound eighteen-year-old male vomit in his sleep, and could even be enough to put a 125-pound eighteen-year-old female in a coma. The first time I got drunk, I went to the hospital with a BAC of 0.36. I couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds at the time. I shouldn’t have been able to walk out of the hospital that night. I’m unbelievably lucky.

The more often someone drinks, the more her body will adjust to having blood laced with booze. That’s why I was able to drink more and more over time. I was proud of it. I could drink a lot of full-grown men under the table, and I liked to prove it. This is also known as building a tolerance, which is the same thing that can kill a longtime heroin addict. The amount of drug needed to catch a high starts to exceed what the body can physically handle. Binge drinking is one way to increase your tolerance, and after a few years of regular drinking, I was a pro.

I refused to admit that my drinking had gotten out of control. I told myself that bingeing is a symptom of alcoholism like nausea is a symptom of pregnancy. Not all pregnant women experience nausea, and not all nausea indicates pregnancy, so you can’t automatically assume that every nauseated woman is with child. She might just have the flu, or maybe food poisoning, or a migraine. Just because I binged didn’t mean I was an alcoholic. People who watched me drink didn’t think I was an alcoholic, either. They thought I was celebrating. Or maybe I’d had a bad day. They say, “I never thought you were a drunk.” Then they look down and sigh, “But then again, I was drinking, too.”

At some point during my downward spiral, I started to wonder if maybe I was drinking too much. I took an online quiz, trying to convince myself that I was just a youthful partier, that I wasn’t a problem drinker or an alcoholic.

NCADD Self-Test: What are the Signs of Alcoholism?

1. Do you drink heavily when you are disappointed, under pressure or have had a quarrel
with someone? Yes
2. Can you handle more alcohol now than when you first started to drink? Yes
3. Have you ever been unable to remember part of the previous evening, even though
your friends say you didn’t pass out? Yes
4. When drinking with other people, do you try to have a few extra drinks when others
won’t know about it? Yes
5. Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable if alcohol is not available? Yes
6. Are you more in a hurry to get your first drink of the day than you used to be? Yes
7. Do you sometimes feel a little guilty about your drinking? Yes
8. Has a family member or close friend express concern or complained about your drinking? Yes
9. Have you been having more memory “blackouts” recently? Yes
10. Do you often want to continue drinking after your friends say they’ve had enough? Yes
11. Do you usually have a reason for the occasions when you drink heavily? No
12. When you’re sober, do you sometimes regret things you did or said while drinking? Yes
13. Have you tried switching brands or drinks, or following different plans to control your drinking? Yes
14. Have you sometimes failed to keep promises you made to yourself about controlling or
cutting down on your drinking? Yes
15. Have you ever had a DWI (driving while intoxicated) or DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) violation, or any other legal problem related to your drinking? No
16. Do you try to avoid family or close friends while you are drinking? No
17. Are you having more financial, work, school, and/or family problems as a result of
your drinking? Yes
18. Has your physician ever advised you to cut down on your drinking? Yes
19. Do you eat very little or irregularly during the periods when you are drinking? No
20. Do you sometimes have the “shakes” in the morning and find that it helps to have a
“little” drink, tranquilizer or medication of some kind? No
21. Have you recently noticed that you can’t drink as much as you used to? No
22. Do you sometimes stay drunk for several days at a time? No
23. After periods of drinking do you sometimes see or hear things that aren’t there? No
24. Have you ever gone to anyone for help about your drinking? No
25. Do you ever feel depressed or anxious before, during or after periods of heavy drinking? Yes
26. Have any of your blood relatives ever had a problem with alcohol? No

I answered “yes” to sixteen of the twenty-six questions. That put me in the “serious level of alcohol-related problems requiring immediate attention and possible treatment” category. I took it again and got the same results. I took a different quiz the following week. And another a month after that. Every time I took one of those quizzes, the results said I should seek treatment for my alcohol consumption, but I still didn’t believe it.
I wasn’t a bum. I wasn’t drinking in the morning. I didn’t get the shakes or hallucinate. I called the tests bogus. I knew better. I was different from those people who can’t control their drinking without a support group and a chip that says how many days its been since the last drink. I thought I didn’t need help. I was wrong.

I don’t know if binge drinking caused my alcoholism, or if I was an alcoholic from the start. The culture surrounding alcohol in my teens and early twenties certainly made it easy for me to drink lots and lots of booze without being labeled a drunk. From the very first time I had more alcohol available to me than I could physically consume, I binged, to the point that I had to be hospitalized. No one else went to the hospital that day, even though we all got drunk. I wasn’t alone in my overindulgence, but I was somehow different. I was an alcoholic, but it took me ten years to admit it and finally get sober. I’m glad I did, because it saved my life. I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t found the courage to say, “Hi, I’m Emma, and I’m an alcoholic.”

Healthy Life Stylist: Question & Answer

Question

I eat a lot of fast food, smoke and drink alcohol. I’m interested in adopting a healthy lifestyle as I continue to age. What are the easiest and fastest ways to get started down my new healthy path?
Vivienne, California

Answer

I have good news and bad news for you, Vivienne. The good news is, the first step to adopting a healthier lifestyle is the desire to change, so you’ve got that covered. The bad news is, like most changes that are worthwhile, altering your life for the better rarely comes easy or fast. That being said, my advice for you is to take it one step at a time and give yourself credit for everything you accomplish.

First, drink more water. This sounds so simple, but you’d be amazed at how many health problems can be solved by adequate hydration. Water not only helps to keep your body functioning properly and decreases cravings, it also flushes out the toxins from all that fast food, cigarettes, and alcohol you’ve been consuming. Bonus: drinking a full glass first thing in the morning wakes your body up and helps you crave healthier options throughout the day.

Second, add more healthy foods into your diet: fresh [preferably organic] produce and lots and lots of leafy green vegetables. Spinach, broccoli, kale, and other greens purify the blood, reduce inflammation, and can help reduce cravings for sugar and alcohol when eaten regularly. The powerhouse nutrients in leafy greens will help your skin glow and their diuretic properties will reduce bloat. Bonus: Adding in healthy foods will eventually crowd out the unhealthy ones without making you feel deprived.

Third, pick one bad habit a week to change for the better. In my health coaching business, I work with my clients every other week for 6 months because the best way to change old habits is with patience, support, and time. Maybe your goal for this week is to drink more water, or perhaps you want to try to eat one new vegetable…whatever you decide to work on, stick with it and give yourself credit once you’ve achieved it. Bonus: Taking things one step at a time prevents you from feeling overwhelmed with life changing goals, but you’ll still be able to change your life.

And finally, find yourself an accountability buddy to help keep you on track. This can be a friend, a family member, or a hired professional [*ahem*], just make sure that it’s someone you can count on and trust. It’s your buddy’s job to make sure that you stay on track with your goals and to remind you of everything you’ve accomplished. Bonus: If someone in your life makes a good accountability buddy, they probably make a great friend.

Ask A Healthy Life Stylist

Just make sure you are clear about if you mind your question/answer being published on Miseducated and if you’d prefer to be anonymous. All questions will be answered by Michelle regardless so ask away!

For more information about Health, Happiness, & Hoola Hoops please visit Michelle‘s website!

Indiana Wineries and Wine Reviews

I’m a huge fan of wine, and nothing tastes better than a cool, crisp glass made right in my home state: Indiana. Indiana boasts a number of wineries which puts all our fabulous breweries up against some stiff competition.

Whether you like white wine, red wine, sweet wine or dry wine to spice up those nights with friends or peers, Indiana is the place to come. The prices are inexpensive and affordable and you’re sure to find the perfect wine for you and your occasion. Here are four of my personal fav’s:

indiana wine

Easely Winery

Downtown Indianapolis
Easely’s has 14 wines in addition to an American Champagne, all of which are sold at their winery located in downtown Indianapolis. They provide free tastings every day, wine tours on the weekends and a great, homey-feel. In the summers they host live music and offer cheeses and wines – making it a great place to take even your kids!
*I recommend the Reggae Red (mix it with a little coconut rum!). It’s a sweet, red wine with hearty flavor. Great for dessert!

Chateau Thomas Winery

Plainfield, Indiana
Chateau Thomas is an award winning, nationally recognized winery. The winemaking process of each wine (from fermentation to bottling) takes place in Plainfield. The grapes are grown in California, Oregon and Washington vineyards, crushed on the west coast and then shipped to Plainfield via refrigerated truck (to ensure the best taste).
*They’ve recently introduced a new “Slender Wine” branch which is wonderful. They offer white, blush and red wines that have zero sugar, carbs and fats! How’s that for a sweet treat?

Oliver Winery

Bloomington, Indiana
Oliver may very well be my favorite winery (and not just in Indiana). It’s nestled in the heart of Bloomington (where Indiana University is located) and it’s a great place to bring a date, your family or just a friend. Buy a bottle of wine, some cheese, and find a place to call your own on the 15 acre rolling green premises!
*Try the new SkyDog line – the packaging is great and the taste is even better.

New Day Meadery

Elwood, Indiana (near Anderson)
Because I grew up in Northern Indiana and my family still lives there, my fiance and I would often drive from Indianapolis to Goshen about every other month before moving to Korea for a year. Every time we take the road trip we pass, ‘New Day Meadery,’ a tiny wine shoppe that offers meade wines (wine that is made with honey). They have their own bee farms and get the honey from there. The wines are all great – you can try them all with an inexpensive wine tasting. The wine is slightly more expensive than the other wineries on this list, but totally worth it (and it’s great to support small business).
*Try the “Dry Blueberry Honey Wine,” – it’s a great treat!

For more Indiana wineries, check out indianawines.org.

On Being Miseducated for Life

Sure, why not. So the word LIFE is a little loaded, or scary, or both. A lifestyle and way of living… that’s really a bizarre thing for women to grasp sometimes. When you wake up a little hungover and your mascara has smeared across your pillow, is that a lifestyle? We’re not all mothers, homemakers, students, wives, career-driven, party girls, crafty mavens, so why accept Miseducated so freely into our life and mantras? Well don’t unless you feel you’re a little conventionally different, your lifestyle is a little odd but that’s what makes it rad.

There is no necessary reason to sprinkle the table as well as your cocoa. There is no need for a tiny, pink lamp that releases such a faint fairy glow so that you can hardly see your hand in front of your face at night. These are the lovely pieces that nestle within your life, they add a sense of nostalgia, whimsy and they make you smile.

Now, some tips for making your life and your home a little bit more Miseducated whilst in the lifestyle battle of deciding what you’ll do once you actually have clean laundry…

Miseducating your Life Tips

When you finish making your cocoa, whether pink or not, top with a few sprinkles. Add more happy hues into your world where they are sparse. Colors affect your mood but it doesn’t mean a little more here and there isn’t perfectly acceptable. I’m telling you it is.

Before bed and after a bubble bath or shower, grab some of your favorite scented lotion and rub it all over your body excluding your face! Keep a bottle in your night stand for just this purpose. While you sleep your body sweats and leaves the scent behind, your bedsheets however will smell like your favorite delicious lotion when you jump in next!

When choosing home decor don’t stick with safe, muted colors. Choose your favorite colors, choose bases you feel comfortable with, such as black and white or chocolate brown, and add accents of your favorites everywhere. Each and every table, shelf and desk are stylized scenes you have created, feel free to nestle glass bottles of your colors and candles, knick knacks. Hit the antique shops or your local thrift store for some unique, inexpensive finds.

Hide tiny positive fortunes (from fortune cookies, of course!), pictures and notes in numerous, unexpected places around your home. You’ll find these and smile later.

Remember, your creativity can only be expressed by you. Stay tuned for more nonsensical tips in the future.