Alcohol is the drug of choice among American women. An astonishing 4 million women meet the diagnostic criteria for abuse or dependence. Yet until recently, alcoholism-like heart disease-was considered a man's problem. Research, prevention, and treatment efforts were aimed at men. The few studies on women that existed focused on the effects of alcohol on children and families.
Mixing cutting-edge research with moving stories of women who struggled with alcohol problems, Happy Hours challenges our assumptions and expands our awareness of the role alcohol plays in women's lives.
Women metabolize alcohol differently from men, more quickly developing such physical complications as liver disease, high blood pressure, and hepatitis. A female alcoholic is likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, which may not go away even if she stops drinking. Commonly, her alcohol abuse is comb combined with the abuse of other drugs. She is at high risk for suicide.
She must also bear the rage leveled at women who don't live up to certain standards of femininity. She is seen as a bad mother, a disgraceful daughter, a shameful wife. Unfairly regarded as sexually "loose' " she is actually more vulnerable to assault. Indeed, when a woman drinks, she is five times more likely to be raped.
One stunning fact says it all: Female alcoholics are twice as likely to die as male alcoholics in the same age group--even as male alcoholics die at three times the rate of men in the general population.
Devon Jersild tells the stories of women who fell into a dizzying maze yet moved forward into recovery. Her book began as a journey of understanding when her alcoholic sister edged closer to death. Jersild consulted climclans, doctors, psychologists, and researchers 'in the field of alcohol studies. What she found is sometimes shocking but always inspiring. Elegantly written and compelling, Happy Hours is an important look at the lifelong effects of alcoholism on a woman's health and well-being.
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Devon Jersild's essays and stories have appeared in such publications as the New York Times, USA Today, Redbook, and Glamour. She won an O.Henry Award in 1991. She has taught courses in women's studies and creative writing at Middlebury College and is administrative director of the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference.From Publishers Weekly:
After a slow start filled with tedious statistics, this noteworthy examination of women and alcohol delivers compelling personal stories that illuminate previously neglected aspects of this devastating social problem. Jersild observes that, as for many other health-related issues, most research on and treatment for alcoholism have been based on male-only models. Alcoholics Anonymous, the most widespread (and, generally most respected) long-term sobriety program, was founded by and designed for "white, Protestant, mostly upper-middle-class men," says Jersild, a freelance writer. While its 12-step disease-model approach deliberately avoids cultural and gender-specific issues, Jersild points out many obstacles to recovery that, she claims, apply only or primarily to women. For example, she contends that the AA tenet of "accepting powerlessness" is based on the "assumption... that alcoholics are self-centered, self-aggrandizing and controlling," while women, Jersild asserts, more often have felt nothing but powerless in society and with their mates, and "need a recovery program that shores up their sense of self." Additionally, these women often have unique shame issues involving sexuality and may be victims of physical abuse. Motivated by "self-loathing," they need, she says, to focus on therapy for childhood traumas, gaining financial independence from men and caring for (and keeping custody of) their children. Jersild offers hope in the form of some treatment programs that are tailored to what she says are the specific needs of women, Native Americans and African-Americans. Agent, Elaine Markson. (Jan.)
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