*I read this book and wrote this review in 2016, but struggled with whether this was the right venue for it. Given the news of late, Drink has been on my mind a lot and I decided it was a shame I hadn’t posted this earlier.
It’s important to acknowledge that alcohol, while an enjoyable indulgence for many, has a much darker layer for others. Reading Ann Dowsett Johnston’s Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol made me think about that side of things in a way I hadn’t much before.
Writing about wine and alcohol in general is a fraught topic. Our culture has normalized drinking, and wine in particular has a very romantic side to it, so it can be easy to forget about the darker side. For me, it hasn’t become an issue, but reading Drink brought into stark reality the fact that one day it could and for others it already is.
Drink is not a research book, it tells the stories of women and problem drinking through the lens of Dowsett Johnston and her mother’s personal story. Some of it was extremely eye-opening: the increase in binge drinking, especially in young women, and the number of career women who are turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism. For someone who didn’t drink at all in high school, I admit to being shocked reading about young girls getting blackout drunk before they were even in the 9th grade. And university drinking, which I indulged in moderately (I was still living at home and mostly broke, so it wasn’t really an option), has taken on bizarre proportions.
But it was the older women, those who had solid careers and families that interested me most. Some drank because of family histories with alcohol, others to get over trauma and many just to cope with the stress of their lives. It makes you think about how we so often use alcohol as a crutch when things are bad. How many times have I joked that I needed a glass of wine after a crazy day? And how easy might it be to slip from a habit to an addiction? It’s definitely something worth paying attention to and one of the many takeaways from this book that I found worthwhile.
I liked Drink overall because it made me think about drinking in a way I wasn’t used to and, while it certainly didn’t dampen my interest in wine, it was a good reminder about the importance of paying attention to alcohol consumption. Looking at the whys and the whens and having the wherewithal to stop if it all becomes too much is important. And so is knowing to ask for help if you can’t stop when you try.
Dowsett Johnston’s writing is smart and lovely and I expect her story will resonate with many who are drinking to numb their pain. I highly recommend this book for those who want to reflect on alcohol through a different lens than we’re used to on this blog.
Have you read Drink? What did you think? Did it inspire you to reconsider your own drinking?