More women are choosing to work full time ― which is great that it isn’t, for the most part, a stigma anymore. But with longer hours and more responsibility comes the potential for reaching for alcohol as a self-medication for stress and anxiety.
A recent study shows that women are more stressed than men at work because they’re more likely to juggle work, childcare, domestic chores and household errands. That’s on top of casual sexism in the workplace and unequal pay. The stress, according to the official data, peaks in women aged 35-44 years when they’re more likely to be caring for elderly parents, as well as children and household tasks. The results suggested that women are more likely to take on careers in the public services such as teaching and nursing, which, I’m sure many would agree, comes with their own separate set of work-related stresses.
Alcohol is often used as an anaesthetic to essentially “numb” the stresses of the day or even just to get some sleep. Of course, drinking alcohol to get to sleep is a vicious circle, because it doesn’t give you the quality of sleep you need to function properly the next day. That means you’ll be more stressed the next day and possibly use alcohol again to “de-stress.”
Last year the NHS published some very interesting content, indeed ― women have pretty much caught up with men in terms of how much they drink. The researchers took the results from 68 studies across the entire world ranging from the years 1891 to 2000 to analyze the trends in alcohol use between the sexes. It was found that men were three-fold more likely to experience alcohol related problems including alcohol abuse and addiction.
One in five women who attended university in England are at twice the risk of having drinking problems, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Perhaps that’s a little too obvious because being a partying student could open up the floodgates to problems with alcohol in the future. Obviously, not all binge drinkers are born out of the student partying culture, but university can help breed it.
However, it’s still a bit rash to tar women’s drinking problems with “oh, students!” because many don’t graduate with full honors and alcoholism. In fact, the OECD suggests it isn’t until women take on high-powered careers after university that the signs of a drinking problem can appear. The report suggested that women are rapidly becoming extremely successful in previously male-dominated industries, but may feel they need to drink their male colleagues under the table to keep up with them or even just to get ahead with some unofficial networking. Also, these high-powered industries such as property, banking and so on usually come with their very own drinking culture.
Mark Pearson, OECD Head of Health and supervisor of the report, explained:
“Part of the story in this is the way work drinking habits have actually changed. The more highly educated you are as a woman the more likely you are to be drinking. As more women have gone into professions, they have gone into high-end service industries that have a drinking culture, such as finance.”
It’s not all bad news, though. The amount of women with drinking problems who turn to sober coaching as a successful treatment is on the rise ― especially with powerful female professionals in the prime of their careers. Originating from the U.S., sober coaching and sober companionship are fantastic tools that really can change your life. Need to go out for drinks for a potentially career-defining networking session? Sober companionship could be the answer ― you can stay at the top of your game without the need for alcohol, especially if you’re starting to realize alcohol is causing you to behave impulsively. The sober companion will accompany you to business dinners, networking event or any other occasion where alcohol could be a potential pitfall. Of course, this is done discreetly as your sober companion will blend in as a friend or colleague.
Sober companions have been helping celebrities for years, but in private ― that’s why some people may wonder, “Hey, if that person can film a movie and party hard, I can do the same!” The truth of the matter is, celebrities struggling with alcohol and substance abuse may have just finished filming that blockbuster movie of the year, but they’ve stayed sober or clean throughout production.
It works the most effectively straight after rehab or completing a step program. But instead of going cold turkey with no direction, a sober companion helps the person apply what they’ve learned to their daily lives. So we can be successful women in powerful careers, but without alcohol or any other substance as an obstacle.
Dr. Bunmi Aboaba
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.