Accepting the things I cannot change, trying to change the things I can’t accept.

[fa icon="calendar"] Jan 9, 2017 5:00:00 AM / by John MacDougall


I’m accepting the things I cannot change, but I keep trying to change the things I can’t accept.

I have supported the equality of all people over the years, but women are now dying of alcoholism at a rate that is equal to men. This isn’t progress.

The soaring death rate from alcohol is the greatest in well-educated, affluent white women.  The Washington Post, on December 23rd, printed a well-documented study of how heavy drinking has been normalized for women, and how the greatest increases in the death rate have happened in well educated white women. In the sixteen years from 1999 to 2015, the alcohol related death rate for white women went up 130%. For Hispanic women it went up 27%. For black women it actually declined 12%.

The Post article speculates that the main reason is that there are a lot of promotional materials in films, television, and social media portraying middle to upper class white women binge drinking.  The article portrayed three brands of wine: Mad Housewife, Mommy’s Little Helper, and Mommy’s Time Out and some of their ads.

The article commented on lifestyle catalogs such as Urban Outfitters at Etsy that sell wine glasses that are large enough to hold a whole bottle of wine, with captions such as “She will be telling the truth when she says ‘I only had 1 glass’” or “Drink until your dreams come true”.

There are regulations on advertising that prohibit having anyone consume a whole box of wine in an advertisement, but wine promoters get around that with product placements.  In product placements, arrangements are made with the producers of movies or television shows to have a particular product placed in the script of a movie or television show. The character then consumes a whole box of wine, often with hilarious results. This normalizes drinking a whole box of wine in a way that is not allowed in an ad. Most of the fictional characters who are binge drinking are successful white women.

In the sixteen years from 1997 to 2013, the change in the rate of binge drinking among women has been this: 40% more white women have been binge drinkers. 10% more Hispanic women have been binge drinkers. 10% fewer black women have been binge drinkers. Also, among white women, those drinking two, three, four, five, six, or seven days a week, those women with college degrees, drink more than those without college degrees.

Why are the rate of overall drinking and the rate of problem drinking going up rapidly for the more affluent and more educated white women? I believe that it is because they are the target market for alcohol. Why are they the target market? I believe that that is because that’s where the previously untapped money is.

The other, matching problem is this: I don’t see a corresponding increase in women going to treatment and attending A.A. My figures on the problem are national figures. My impressions on the number of women going to treatment and attending A.A. are just my impression from local treatment centers and local A.A.

Getting drunk is not a sign of equality. It is a sign of exploitation. So, what can I do? I can write this newsletter and include these facts. I can encourage the expansion of recovery services for women, here at The Retreat and throughout the field of recovery. I can welcome women at my A.A. home group. I can challenge the idea that intoxicated laughter represents real fun. If you know a woman who is headed for trouble with her drinking, you can invite her to an open A.A. meeting with you, and you can share your experience, strength, and hope with her. If you want to read the article in the Washington Post, click here:  Facts are good things to have. Pass them on to those who need them the most. Happy New Year! 


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Topics: alcoholism, women in recovery, substance abuse, Women's Sober Residential, Recovery Program

John MacDougall

Written by John MacDougall

John MacDougall is the Spiritual Care Coordinator at The Retreat.
His book, “Being Sober and Becoming Happy” is available from

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