With Apologies to CNN, Here are 6 Actual Facts about Alcohol

With Apologies to CNN, Here are 6 Actual Facts about Alcohol

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This post was originally published on January 28, 2015.

According to CNN, it’s “crazy” that we drink more than we think do, and have little ability to count carbs that come from alcohol. And so they’ve created a list of myths we all have about drinking. Said list emphasizes alcohol’s supposed benefits, including the fact that it helps to ward off strokes. Awesome! Except for the fact that, according to many other sources, the exact opposite is true.

Let’s Get Real

From there, the article gets a wee bit more real: number five on the list is some information about how drinking disrupts a person’s sleep, followed by the sixth fact that just one night of binge drinking can cause major damage to a person’s body. This author’s suggestion? Don’t binge drink!

Bottom line, according to CNN: Alcohol may be linked to some scary stuff, but avoiding these issues is simple so long as you are drinking in moderation. In other words, none of this shit applies to you if you’re a fucking alcoholic, which you just might be if you’re looking to the Internet for reassurance that booze isn’t really that bad.

For an alcoholic, it really is that bad. Alcohol’s not that great for a moderate drinker either. Believe me—or choose to believe “service pieces” like this one here at CNN. CNN’s source, by the way? Some guy named Sam Zakhari, who is—surprise, surprise—Senior VP of the Distilled Spirits Council, a trade organization that represents yes, the distilled spirits industry. In other words, CNN’s got a lobbyist for the alcohol companies answering the question, “How bad is booze?” Fun fact: The Distilled Spirits Council is the same lobbying group that, in 2008, got called out by The New York Times for questionable ethics. I’d say the ethics behind this service piece—not to mention its facts—are a little dodgy, too.

So, let’s try that again. I present to you six crazy facts about drinking (when you’re a drunk):

1) You drink twice as much as you tell your doctor. And your doctor still recommends you go to AA.

You know it’s pretty fucking crazy when you’re on psych meds for a mood disorder—medicine that you’re not supposed to drink on (because alcohol is a depressant)—and so you lie to your psychiatrist about how much you drink, dramatically reducing your consumption. And yet you’re still on the receiving end of a wary look that all alcoholics know before being casually advised to try out a 12-step program.

2) You drink a week’s worth of calories after every time you write down “One glass of wine” in your food journal.

Watching your weight? Watch it soar, along with your drinking! In an effort to get healthy, I spent years keeping careful calculation of my caloric intake in a food journal—until alcoholism made diligent record keeping impossible. I’d be “good” all day, until right around the time when I’d have my first glass of wine. Then my eating was off to the races. You know that familiar story you hear in meetings of how people would change up the liquor store, embarrassed by the store clerk’s reaction to how much they drank? My variation of this is the time the guy at Papaya Dog commented on how I’d purchased the “family size” chicken fingers and French fries, again, and so I lied and said that I was having a party. Uh, yeah, a party for one—one sad, lonely alcoholic whose drinking and drunk eating habits were making her fat.

3) Your brain will certainly not benefit from booze.

For the last time, alcohol is not a health elixir. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol abuse results in detectable impairments in memory. It can fuck with a developing brain and disrupt the growth of new brain cells in people of all ages. And women are more vulnerable than men to negative health consequences due to drinking. We’ve all been drunk, we know what happens to our thinking…who out there really believes that booze is good for the brain.

4) That wasn’t a stroke. You were just drunk!

It’s hard to worry about things like paying bills, changing light bulbs and hurting friends feelings when you’re (maybe) having a heart attack and (probably) dying of AIDS! In other words, “what’s wrong” is not an easy question for an alcoholic to answer because the answer is everything—and never what we think (certainly the problem is not our best friend, booze). We have a slogan in recovery: First Things First. As an active alcoholic, I should have worried less about things like my chances of having a stroke and focused instead on the havoc alcohol was wreaking in my daily life.

5) You slept…

In your coat. On the bathroom floor. At the club.

Or on your professor’s couch in the middle of the party. On a Tuesday night. As an active alcoholic, I thought I slept just fine. I wasn’t sleeping, I realized when I got sober—I was passing out.

6) A night of binge drinking can kill you.

No, really.

It sounds scary but avoiding these issues is simple (though not, of course, easy). Just don’t drink. Of course when it comes to talking about booze, I am definitely more than a little bit biased. But at least I’m upfront about it. I’m not sure I can say the same for CNN.

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About Author

Melissa Petro is a freelance writer and writing instructor living in New York City. She has written for NY Magazine, The Guardian, Salon, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, Jezebel, xoJane, The Fix and elsewhere. She is the founder of Becoming Writers, a community organization that provides free and low cost memoir-writing workshops to new writers of all backgrounds and experiences.