When did two drinks a week become 14? A few things happened between then and now. These days I’m a parent of two young children, whose acute dependency upon me makes socializing around a glass of wine or beer at a friend’s toy-filled house often the best choice. I live in California, where wine is available on tap, and sold in nearly every neighborhood grocery store. I can afford a few bottles in the house, whereas before I’d run out to buy one only before a party or dinner. Heck, I’m a writer.
I live at the place where these circles meet: I am the Venn diagram of drinking as habitual and easy entertainment.
You might say, “Why worry?” Much of the epidemiological research out there is pretty decisive on the benefits of moderate drinking, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends a daily limit of one drink for women and two for men, says that recent research on health benefits is inconclusive.
Here’s the thing: At this middle stage of my life, I can easily make out the slippery slope where two a day becomes three; when you split a bottle of wine and open another; when you go out for a special event and three drinks doesn’t do much because you’ve built up a tolerance and it takes four or even five drinks to achieve a celebratory state of inebriation. Perhaps I think more about these borderlands because though my husband is also a moderate drinker, he has a strong family history of alcoholism. For him, the slippery slope is more like a cliff.
But my inquiry is not about the descent into addiction. It’s an attempt to investigate more deeply the middle ground between the poles of addiction and abstinence, at a time when our culture is sending out dueling messages.
From Bonnie Tsui’s very nicely observed “Drinking by Numbers” in The New York Times.