Recently, someone recommended that I watch a video on Netflix. Lipstick & Liquor is a documentary film that explores the growing number of suburban women who become alcohol dependent. It is a film about women and alcohol – one in particular who disappeared on a frigid December day. Thirty-nine year old Julie stumbled away from a minor car accident, leaving behind her eight year old daughter, an open container of alcohol and a host of questions that baffled her family, her friends, and the police. Days later, Julie was found dead right around the corner from her home.
We had a huge snow storm several weeks ago and similar events unfolded right in my own neighborhood. I didn’t know the woman well, but had met her once through my husband. He told me that she also suffered from a life-threatening problem. She disappeared during the storm and was discovered two days later, a victim of hypothermia and other injuries.
This very thing could have happened to me! She came from the same culture, socio-economic status, and community as I do. She was admired and esteemed by all who knew her.
I remember, awhile ago, I started drinking in the morning and walked down to the local liquor store. On my return up the steep hill home, I slipped into the woods to have a few drinks, hiding so my adult children who were home wouldn’t know. The glass bottle was tucked safely under the waistband of my sweats inside my coat. I placed my arms around my tummy to keep my prize from escaping from my grip.
I had sneaked out of the house earlier, no one the wiser save for the occasional passerby and the liquor store owner. He didn’t recognize me because I seldom frequented his store. I was ashamed to be known as a familiar buyer in my own neighborhood. Years ago, when it was owned by different people and I was in denial of my disease, I was a regular. Back then, I told my kids it was the licorice store because I would purchase licorice for them when I stopped to get my own treat. My own treat ~ really?
The news of the woman in my community has hit me hard!
I picture that day. She saw the snow coming, went to church, cleaned the house, cooked her family’s meal, all while sipping her drinks. I imagine her husband getting frustrated with her – scared and angry, helplessly taking away her keys. Then, after he left for work the following morning, the cravings hit hard. Without a vehicle, she grabbed some cash and began the mile long trek to the store. Ahh… the bottle. Walking home, she stopped and hid to take a swig. She slipped in the snow, already a foot deep and still coming down. She reached for her phone, but realized it was at home. She couldn’t get up.
I envision her husband returning home from work to a cold and silent house. He calls his wife’s cell and it rings in another room. He is alone, completely alone. Out in the driveway sits the new fifth wheel they purchased to vacation with this summer and in the coming years of retirement. After a long while of comforting his anxiety, reasoning that she is with a neighbor, or on one of her long walks, he faces his reality. He calls 9-1-1. A report is filed. The adult children are notified. Days pass. Another needless tragedy has struck.
Liquor and lipstick – the middle class career woman’s essential purse items. According to the documentary, DUI arrests of women have increased by 30% over the last ten years. Binge drinking by women is also on the rise. However, if you were to query a woman’s family or friends about her habits, many would not even know she has a problem. That’s because women are more likely to drink alone and keep it hidden.
This could have been me. It could have been you. We must stay vigilant so that our families do not endure this type of senseless loss. I have so many questions. How do I reach out to women in denial, women at risk, women who believe they are fine because they think they are responsible, women who call themselves highly functioning? How do we reach these women before they die? How do we reach all women? How do we help homeless women, women of color, and women in abusive relationships? How do we help them find peace?
It is my sincere hope that these women will discover the benefits of Women For Sobriety (WFS) and its New Life Program. To learn more visit https://womenforsobriety.org/