I heard Ann Dowsett Johnston interviewed about this book on “The Sunday Edition” on CBC radio. Her passion raised my interest in the topic, so I didn’t hesitate to purchase the book full price from Fanfare Books in Stratford when I saw it on their shelves this past July. The money was fully worth it. If you are a woman or you know a woman (so basically everyone), you must read this book.
This book is a combination of memoir, documentary, health and wellness, and women’s studies. Johnston reveals her own and her mother’s battle with alcohol, and interviews women who identify as recovering alcoholics. She documents their stories and the issues that led them to their relationship with alcohol. Johnston also researches the physical effects of alcohol on women, the increase of alcohol marketing to women, social pressure and acceptance of increased female drinking, the invasive culture of university partying, and the link between mental illness and alcohol. This book is the perfect combination of personal and factual to make it easy for people to read, to relate, and to learn.
Although I am not an alcoholic and I have been lucky enough to not have alcoholism in my immediate family, I connected very intimately to this book for a few reasons. One, I recognize how easy it could be to become an alcoholic. Alcohol has that buzzing happiness effect that is easy to seek after a hard day at work. It has become so acceptable to have a glass of wine while making dinner, a glass of wine with dinner, and then a glass of wine to unwind after the dishes are done. That’s three glasses of wine! Think how prevalent that alcohol mindset has become in our society. Think how often women are featured drinking alcohol on a regular basis on TV shows (The New Adventures of Old Christine, Bones, The Good Wife).
Which brings me to my next connection point….how alcohol consumption is linked to successful women. Women have advanced in the economic world; they are equal with men; they have it all…the job, the house, the family, the body. But to be respected in some workplaces, women must be able to match the men drink-for-drink even though women’s bodies metabolize alcohol differently. And there is this portrayal that since women work so hard, they are entitled to put up their feet with a bottle of “MommyJuice” or go for a “Girls Night Out” (both wine brands). Both of these images link the successful woman with alcohol. As someone who is trying to be a successful woman in her field, my eyes were opened to how easily I have been seduced by these images and how they are not beneficial additions to my daily life.
And lastly, I connected to Johnston’s battle of not giving into the demons in your life but seeking health and happiness (even when it means saying “no” to what that inner voice is saying). I have an anxiety disorder and I have struggled with depression. Some days, the voice says “don’t get out of bed there’s nothing out there worth getting up for,” “watch another episode of TV and you’ll feel better,” “you’re worthless,” “have another glass of wine,” or “eat the whole pint of ice cream.” Instead, I get out of bed; I turn off the TV and feed my mind with books I enjoy or feed my endorphins with a run or my spirit with prayer time; I remind myself that I have value and I am loved; I make a cup of tea; and I eat some frozen blueberries. I relate to Johnston’s vision of fighting the bad desires and encouraging the healthy ones. And I think that is the huge thing that women have to learn from this book. It’s not bad to have a glass of wine or a drink with your girlfriends once and awhile or a mimosa on vacation. I personally enjoy all those things. But we need look at the voices around us and determine what is really the best for us. We need to have our eyes open to the pressures, we need to encourage women to support each other, we need to stand up and say we can be successful women without a cocktail in our hand, and we need to be aware of the dangers of alcohol.
5/5 bacon strips