Women in midlife face many challenges from hormone changes, weight gain, children leaving an empty next, ageing parent, career changes, divorce, and often thrown into the mix is a growing concern and an increasing alcohol problem.
Midlife and A Growing Alcohol Problem
At first an alcohol problem may not seem to be obvious because the signs are so subtle, but after 20, 30 and even forty years of regularly consuming alcohol women tell me that they are exhausted with the constant effort of not drinking and then the psychological aspects of the aftermath of drinking the night before.
The Morning After Drinking
The morning after drinking brings the inner critic, self-loathing, guilt, shame and even despair as on otherwise strong, and capable women struggles on through a caffeine-fuelled day to just sink into another bottle and feel awful the next day.
Midlife Crisis and Alcohol
Any kind of midlife crisis makes alcohol consumption worse when we have grown up and grown accustomed to managing our emotions by drinking. It becomes more than just a crutch, alcohol becomes the automatic way in which we deal with stress, worry, anxiety and the uncertainties of midlife and middle age events.
Losing a Parent and Alcohol
In midlife we are faced with our own mortality as our parents age before our eyes, and we feel helpless as we watch the strength of our parents wane. Losing a parent is a hard transition in life, and when alcohol is our life, it is widely accepted by society that reaching for a stiff drink will ease the blow.
The fact is that alcohol causes us to feel stress, anxiety, overwhelm and agitation, even without a major life event or transition to cop e with. When a difficult life event is thrown into the mix with alcohol, it is a dangerous cocktail that can lead to a greater alcohol problem, as increasing amounts of alcohol are drunk more often, and the feelings that we sought alcohol to solve actually get worse and more unmanageable. At a time when a woman needs support, she can then alienate herself, her family and friends and alcohol increases her feelings of isolation.
Empty Nest Syndrome and Alcohol
Any parent who has waved their son or daughter off on the steps of university halls knows the intense feelings of loss and emptiness that come from having beloved children spread their wings and leave home. On the one hand we are happy that as mothers we have done our job well and have raised independent and successful children. On the other hand, our role as nurturers, and carers of our most precious humans is over, or at least left for holidays, and we can feel alone and vulnerable and with more time on our hands.
One thing that alcohol loves is time. Alcohol steals time from us, and it also is there to happily step in and fill any hours where a woman may feel lost and lonely. Children are a huge source of comfort and friendship to their mothers, and alcohol is always there as a fake friend. Alcohol is the friend who gives you $10 and tales $20 every time. When a woman is unaware of how alcohol works, and lives in a society where it is commonplace to assume that alcohol is a helpful asset for dealing with unwanted emotions, then it is likely that she will reach for the bottle of wine, gin or prosecco to help numb the feelings.
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Alcohol is a highly addictive drug, that quickly establishes itself as a woman’s emotional management system if it is allowed to do so.
Many women who have a problem with alcohol find that their relationships with their older teenagers and children in their 20s and 30s suffer under the influence of alcohol. Women find that children can become distrusting and when they are able, they vote with their feet by keeping distant. This can be very upsetting for the woman who has loved and nurtured her children and who now feels abandoned. Despite all the societal norms around alcohol and the perception that alcohol is sociable and fun, the opposite is true over time. Alcohol causes disharmony and breakdown in relationships all too often, and it can cause the woman who drinks in middle age to become insecure and isolated.
Hormone Changes and Alcohol
Midlife is a time of significant hormone changes associated with menopause, and during menopause, cortisol levels can become raised due to hormone imbalance. Alcohol itself causes cortisol levels to surge, and so the combination of menopause and alcohol is not a good one.
Menopause seems to coincide with a decrease in tolerance to alcohol. One of the reasons for this is that as we age our cartilage and tendons lose water, with the result that our bodies are less able to hold water. The more water in your body, the better your body can dilute alcohol. Women report feeling more polluted by alcohol as they age in midlife, and the ability to bounce back from drinking alcohol isn’t what it was in our twenties.
Hangovers also seem to be worse in midlife – why is that?
Enzymes in the liver responsible for breaking down alcohol can also diminish as we age, which is why hangovers seem to get worse and worse for women as we get older. The decrease in tolerance to alcohol is caused by the ageing process rather than the hormonal changes of menopause.
Midlife Opportunity for Women
Midlife is a time for huge opportunity for a woman to grow and develop as she blossoms into maturity. For many women they feel like they are at a crossroads in midlife. Some of the situations she finds herself in are a condition of midlife changes, and others can come from a position of empowerment, self-realisation, and rebirth.
Midlife is a time for renewal, and without alcohol a woman in her 50s or 60s can go onto thrive. This means that she can grow closer to her children as she adjusts to the new, long-distant relationships with them and watches them grow into their own life adventures.
When the decision is made to make a shift in your relationship with alcohol, the negatives can all be removed, and midlife can be a bright, clear-headed time of adventure for women.
Hi, I'm Michela
I’m a leader in the science of transformational freedom for women, and someone previously addicted to alcohol. I have walked the path. I understand your concerns and fears. Here you will find some of my thoughts and insights. Happy browsing!
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