Summer, that season of endless boozy celebrations, is just around the corner, and I am about to sound like the biggest party pooper around.
Here goes: Doesn’t it seem like alcohol is everywhere?
Tell me I’m not the only one noticing that alcohol is showing up in all corners of our lives — and in ways that seem different than before.
Music – be it pop, rap country or R&B – is overflowing with it. You can’t go anywhere without hearing Maroon Five’s Adam Levine stretch out the word “wasted” in “Don’t Wanna Know.”
I mention that hit because it celebrates the popular – and worrisome – notion that when drinking, the more, the better. Then there’s the message that alcohol brings wild and crazy adventures into our lives. TV and many a movie embrace that idea. There’s a whole film franchise (“The Hangover”) built around it.
Social media’s full of people talking about alcohol like their lives depend on it. (Hmm.) On Facebook I see more people lovingly hugging a bottle than hugging their spouses.
When my kid was young, I felt I had to really have my wits about me. Now all the cool moms (like Claire Dunphy on “Modern Family”) drink – maybe Mommy’s Time Out Wine – to get through time spent with the kids.
I know, you’re thinking, lighten up; it’s just fun and games. Well yeah, until it’s not anymore.
Martha Carucci once lived a life with alcohol at every turn: Stashing a bottle in the stroller while taking the kids trick-or treating with her mom friends, cracking open a bottle (and finishing it) at day’s end “because I deserved it,” tailgating (translation: drinking lots) at the kids’ lacrosse games.
What started as a “normal thing,” she says, eventually changed to where she “absolutely needed it.”
Carucci writes the blog Sobrietease and has a book (with another on the way) with that moniker in the title. She’s been sober since a particularly bad Memorial Day weekend in 2012.
“Frankly, I’m lucky to be alive,” she says.
That might not be an exaggeration. Data released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed there has been a 28 percent increase since 1999 in U.S. deaths directly attributable to alcohol.
Absolutely, Carucci says, about alcohol’s increasing prevalence. “It’s everywhere,” she says.
Am I more sensitive to this issue because I don’t drink? (Type 2 diabetic here.) Is Carucci more sensitive because she’s a recovering alcoholic? Maybe, but not entirely.
What Carucci and I probably have picked up on is how alcohol has taken “a front and center place in our culture,” says addiction expert Ramsen Kasha, executive director for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s Chicago facility.
Kasha, too, has noticed the shift in how alcohol is presented onscreen. In the old days, big drinkers were troubled, in crisis. Today, he says, “those are the heroes, the people we are trying to be like.”
Turning to booze in tense times has much to do with our fast-paced lives, Kasha says. We want everything to happen lightning fast, even our stress relief. Down a couple drinks and all’s good, we think.
But not really.
“The concerning thing,” Kasha says, “is that it becomes a habit, almost reflexively,” to combat stress.
Being legal lends alcohol an unspoken approval, according to Kasha, that obscures another message: “It’s still a drug, and a deadly one at that.”