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Women, Depression and Drinking

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Depression and drinking can go hand in hand. Women often self-medicate by telling themselves that work, depression and problems sleeping are benign reasons why they “drink to relax.” Truth is, their drinking may be making their problems worse. While alcohol delivers an initial high and temporarily lifts the weight of their problems, the depressant effects of alcohol will also bring them down.

Whether it’s cabernet or cocktails, women are drinking more than ever, and not just socially.

Thirty to 40 percent of alcoholics in the U.S. are women. Many are secret drinkers with full-time jobs. Because there is more of a stigma attached to female alcoholics, than male alcoholics, many women and their families remain in denial. As a result, the death rate for women with alcoholism is higher than it is for men.

Alcoholism doesn’t respect age, education or socio-economic class, so it’s easy to convince yourself that you, or a woman you know, don’t have a problem. Elizabeth Vargas, of ABC News’ 20/20, knows that all too well. Last month, Vargas, who first went into rehab for alcoholism in November, 2013, checked herself in, again. Earlier this year, Vargas told Good Morning America co-anchor, George Stephanopoulos, “Denial is huge for any alcoholic, especially a functioning alcoholic. I wasn’t living under a bridge. I hadn’t been arrested.”

My first husband, Philip, became an alcoholic. I staged an intervention before I even knew there was such a thing. Because he had a strong personality, and I had no professional guidance, it failed, miserably. Since denial is a fundamental part of the disease, the alcoholic may not get help until something terrible happens. Family and friends are afraid of staging an intervention and jeopardizing their relationship, are concerned about the woman’s career, or they worry about “what the neighbors will think.” None of these are reasons to keep you from getting yourself, or your loved one, the help needed to cope with depression or to stop drinking. Alcoholism doesn’t go away. Just the opposite. Alcoholism is progressive.

There are numerous online quizzes to see if you, or your loved one abuse alcohol or suffer from depression. However, if you’re asking the question, you already know the answer. There isn’t a “one size fits all” answer for getting help, but the most important thing is to take the first step. Begin by calling your doctor, even the office of a neighborhood church can refer you to someone in your area who can advise you. Above all, do something! Do it, now!

In years past, a public admission of depression or an alcohol problem was viewed with raised eyebrows. Now, whether you’re high profile like Elizabeth Vargas, or not, seeking help shows admirable strength and courage. It sends a powerful, inspiring message to other women: There are alternatives to suffering in silence and continuing down a dangerous path.

As far as Elizabeth Vargas’s notion that she “wasn’t living under a bridge?” More women die from alcoholism and depression in their home than die from it under a bridge.

Love, Brenda


  • EAK September 6, 2014 at 8:49 am

    I don’t drink, I used to be a social drinker.. My girlfriends and I would get together over dinner and it was nothing to polish away at least 4 bottles of wine. Or I’d meet my friend we’d drink at least two over the course of the evening.. I didn’t like the hard stuff though from time to time I did enjoy a cocktail. In my crazy youth being young dumb and of course drinking will never have an effect on you. The objective was to get smashed before arriving at your destination.. We had a bootlegger living behind my house. She was our main source and supplier as long as you had a Coke Bottle she’d fill it up with booze. Back then you were clueless up and until you have to go to your friends funeral because they were all drunk in a car your friend “Dizzy” flew out the windshield she was decapitated! I stopped… You grow up are involved with social activities, alcohol is always part of the picture. I didn’t like the taste it left or even the nagging headache. I stopped all alcohol approximately 12 years ago. But I watched my younger brother crawl deeper and deeper into the bottle..Any excuse to drink he was an alcoholic Of course living in denial. see he was the kind that he could go sit in a bar and order a soft drink..At least that’s what he wanted us to believe. I won’t stretch this out .. I watched him getting into this ugly place day by day.. He was jailed , he was in rehab, jailed again Promising this time he stopped for good. I needed him to be sober, I found out I had Breast Cancer He and I were very close. He would call me all hours of the night promising me he’d take care of me. He didn’t he died instead. After a three week binge with no food he fell in the bathroom bumped his head Was alone for 3 days until I called the Police asking them to check. He died alone. All I could think of that I sure could use a drink right about now Just had my Breast removed drains hanging off my chest and my brother drank himself to death And I wanted to feel numb. I had no booze. I see how easy it would be to get into that cycle of alcohol and depression and no one would be the wiser because women can hide things.. but I didn’t and I have not touched it. I come from a family my Bio father was an alcoholic, my younger brother was one too. I was not going to be the first female to wear that moniker…Bad enough I had Breast Cancer now that’s a card carrying stigma disease if there ever was one !! Being a breastless boozer I think not! Unfortunately women already feel pressured an admission in having a drinking problem on top of feeling depressed is like a recipe for self loathing. I have seen a few friends either taking pills for their depressive state and or alcohol to numb the rest.. Sometimes I wish I could have a crazy drink like a Cosmopolitan or a Strawberry Daquiri.. but I don’t crave it enough to want one.. Maybe I’m lucky that way….

    I applaud and give Kudos to those who seek help. It’s a long lonely road otherwise…Alli…

  • 1010ParkPlace.com September 7, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Oh, Alli… That’s quite a story. One I can identify with on so many levels.

    When we’re young, we think we’re invincible. “That” won’t happen to us. The lucky ones, or the ones like you and me, learn from the tragic tales of those close to us. A lot of the guys I went to college with are no longer here because of alcohol. One was so desperate, he decided to commit suicide. As he was walking down the stairs, to another room, to shoot himself, he accidentally tripped and shot himself in the stomach. He wound up wearing a colostomy bag. I’ve lost touch, so I don’t know if he still drinks, or he’s even still alive. Another college friend died when we were in our mid-30s. A lot like your brother. Because he only drank, he weighed 100 lbs and was on a walker. After a few days of not answering his phone, a friend checked on him and found him dead, in the bathroom.

    Like your brother, I watched my brilliant first husband change into someone I didn’t recognize. As a result, I have a healthy fear/respect for drugs and alcohol. After my darling husband, James, died unexpectedly nearly four years ago, when the numbness wore off, I sunk into a terrible depression, but wouldn’t take any pills. I saw a counselor and did hypnosis… something I’ve used since my my 30s. I must blog about hypnosis, because it’s the most amazing tool to help us with anything we want. And, as breast cancer survivors, you and I shouldn’t drink much anyway. There’s a link to alcohol and breast cancer, as well as recurrence.

    You and I are more than lucky. We’re determined to survive, no matter what life throws at us. That’s not easy, but it’s what we do. I sometimes think I should put “Survivor” on my resume, but the blank isn’t big enough for me to fill in all of the things I’ve survived.

    I’m so glad we have this dialog going here, because it’s allowing me to make a new friend. Thank you:)

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