The Damage Beneath the Surface
Updated: Aug 20
We always worry about the wrong thing..........
Quitting drinking as a high-bottom drinker lulls you into a false sense of security:
I always told myself I wanted to quit drinking before I ‘had’ to. Before the obvious signs of drinking revealed my dirty little secret: Liver damage, a DUI, cancer…… Before my daughter had to confront me and say I would never be left alone, at night, with my grandchildren because I was always too drunk. A host of reasons I KNEW I had to ‘get ahead of’ before it got ahead of me.
Although to this day I have not stepped foot in ‘the rooms’, I still have a strong sense of spirituality, and I believe in my heart if it weren’t for the gentle push of God’s hand, I wouldn’t be almost 10 months abstinent today. It was almost someone else sitting outside of my body saying “if you don’t quit drinking, it will kill you”.
I was so tormented for so many years. How was I going to just stop? It was such a gigantic part of my life, such a HUGE habit. If I didn’t have my usual wine at night, then what would I do? What would that even look like?? The only way I thought I could make such a drastic long term change, I was certain, was to go to rehab. Oh my word, rehab? Then the whole world would know? The alternative would be AA. Oh my God, then for sure my mom would find out? That was her club after all and being a 30+ year member, surely to God everyone knew her……… Plus, I just didn’t feel like the philosophy applied to me. 1. My life had not become unmanageable (that’s the high-bottom part) 2. I was not powerless over alcohol (I was convinced I CHOSE to drink every. Single. Day) 3. I did not and do not believe alcoholism is a disease (just my opinion).
Then what happened? I found the ‘sober-curious’ movement – a whole bunch of people on the web who blogged, coached, hosted podcasts and online meeting groups (not AA). I discovered a ton of ‘quit-lit’; memoirs of people (many just like me) who I could identify with, and ultimately gave up the booze. Some used AA, some didn’t. I have discovered private Facebook groups who support everyone on the different paths they walk. I am part of something huge. It’s amazing. And I didn’t have to spend 1000’s on rehab, or step foot in an AA room.
Here I circle back to the thinking that I got ahead of alcohol. That I escaped its clutches before it made its permanent impact on my body and life. Just kidding, alcohol laughed. Being 55, I recently had my yearly mammo and a bone density exam that my Dr. schedules on occasion. Yesterday I got the phone call from my Dr. “Low Bone Density” she says, “EXTREMELY low. You need to get on Vitamin D and Calcium immediately”. “huh” I thought. Getting old is a bitch, I thought. Until I googled the likely cause of my condition this morning:
The link between alcohol and osteoporosis
Alcohol negatively affects bone health for several reasons. To begin with, excessive alcohol interferes with the balance of calcium, an essential nutrient for healthy bones. Calcium balance may be further disrupted by alcohol’s ability to interfere with the production of vitamin D, a vitamin essential for calcium absorption.
In addition, chronic heavy drinking can cause hormone deficiencies in men and women. Men with alcoholism may produce less testosterone, a hormone linked to the production of osteoblasts (the cells that stimulate bone formation). In women, chronic alcohol exposure can trigger irregular menstrual cycles, a factor that reduces estrogen levels, increasing the risk for osteoporosis. Also, cortisol levels may be elevated in people with alcoholism. Cortisol is known to decrease bone formation and increase bone breakdown. (Anyone having read Annie Grace’s This Naked Mind will have learned how Cortisol responds in the body when we drink).
Because of the effects of alcohol on balance and gait, people with alcoholism tend to fall more frequently than those without the disorder. Heavy alcohol consumption has been linked to an increase in the risk of fracture, including the most serious kind—hip fracture. Vertebral fractures are also more common in chronic heavy drinkers.
Damn. It seems I wasn’t as clever as I thought I was. Alcohol did start impacting my long term physical health. It didn’t start with a red nose, broken blood vessels on my face, stained teeth. It is much worse, it started impacting my health beneath the surface where it was gradually worsening like a ticking time bomb.
Today I am 297 days alcohol free. I will start on my regimen of supplements and vitamins and use this as a big reminder why I will not go back to drinking. What would I tell myself in 10 years if I continue to drink and fall and break my hip because of something I was fully aware of and did nothing about? How do you pick up a grandchild when you have no strength in your body? How do you travel the world in retirement when you are wrought with pain deep in your bones?
Please stop drinking. Any way you can. Check out my resources page, or email me for more ideas.