How Novelist Joyce Maynard Realized She Had a Drinking Problem

UnderInfluenceWEBIn a candid 3-part series for The Huffington Post, Drinking Diaries book and blog contributor, Joyce Maynard, reveals how writing her new novel, “Under the Influence,” led her to examine her increasingly fraught relationship with alcohol. We can’t wait to read her new novel. Below is an excerpt from her Huffington Post piece:

“I was reading a book I wrote when I realized: I had to give up drinking.

This happened a few months back. I had just finished writing this novel, and was reading it over one more time, the way I always do before a piece of my work is published. And it was hearing my own words about addiction to alcohol, spoken in the voice of my fictional character, that revealed to me what my daily morning headache, and my trips to the recycling bin with all those empty bottles, had not.

There was a reason why I had been able to get into the head of a woman who had a problem with alcohol. I had one too.”

To read the entire post, click here.


The College Party That’s Actually Sober

party-sober-2I drank plenty in college. Now I have two kids in college, a freshman and a senior, and I know they are doing the same. Rite of passage, way to unwind, liquid courage, social bonding–whatever the reason, legal or not, there is plenty of boozing taking place on college campuses across the country. Hard to believe but not everyone wants to get drunk in college.

When I read “Not the Usual Party (This One’s Sober),” by Jennifer Conlin, in last Sunday’s New York Times, I was relieved to discover that there are a growing number of college groups offering alternatives for kids who want to be and stay sober. There are, writes Conlin, 135 Collegiate Recovery communities on campuses in the U.S, and “While they vary in size from small student-run organizations to large embedded university programs, the aim is the same: to help students stay sober while also thriving in college.”

At places like University of Michigan, Texas Tech and Rutgers University, students can have access to substance-free living, lounges, parties, sober tailgates, dance parties, study groups and a trip with recovery students from other colleges called “Clean Break.” Drinking and college may be historically synonymous–now’s the time to think out of the box.


photo credit


When Doctors Can Hear, but Can’t Help

article-1286369-07BA6D6D000005DC-830_468x347Last week, I read a troubling article that fell under the column title “Hard Cases” in the New York Times. Read on and you’ll understand why.

The author, New York Times writer Abigail Zuger, M.D., wrote about a patient’s wife who called her to express concern about her husband drinking. Dr. Zuger was surprised to learn about her patient Tom’s drinking, and yet without Tom’s admission of a problem, there was nothing Dr. Zuger could do or say.

Dr. Zuger goes on to write about the difficulties doctors have detecting drinking problems that are not extreme, and that many patients try to save face. “A new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that of the 38 million problem drinkers in the country, only one in six have come clean to a  health professional,” she writes.

The phone call from Tom’s wife made the situation clear to Dr. Zuger, yet she was forced to reply, “I’m so sorry. I can’t talk to you about that.”

There are moral and ethical standards whereby an adult patient’s health issues are his business alone. And of course, there is the law and the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) which govern patient privacy.

Dr. Zuger did tell her patient, Tom, that his wife called, but didn’t say what she’d called about. She asked Tom if it would be okay for his wife to come to his next appointment, to which he replied, “Absolutely not.”

The story ended there. The doctor never met Tom’s wife or spoke with her again. But she listened and never forgot.

To read Dr. Zuger’s article, “What Patients Don’t Tell Their Doctors,” click here.


photo credit


Drinking and Memory Loss in Later Years

42-20045584Yesterday, I walked through the garage at the assisted living development where my mother lives. When I got to the elevator, I bumped into a 20-something pushing a cart loaded with six cases of wine, two of which were alcohol free. We waited side by side for the elevator to take us up to the lobby, when he said, “Boy, these old people can drink.” I agreed, then pointed out that my mother is one of the non-alcoholic wine drinkers. Didn’t feel the need to explain the how or why, and after we exited we said our “Have a good day” and walked in our separate directions.

Over the last several years, I have watched my mother’s memory come and go, lapse and return. She has had an MRI of her brain and does not have Alzheimer’s. But she does have a form of dementia that is, according to her doctor, related to heavy alcohol use in past  years.

study conducted in Brazil focused specifically on cognitive problems caused by heavy alcohol use among 1,145 people who were 60 years old or older. The study found that 8.2 percent of the 419 men and 726 women studied were heavy drinkers, or drinking at levels that are considered high risk. (For women, heavy drinking is four drinks or more during a day or more than seven drinks a week.)

One of the more surprising findings of the study was that heavy drinking affects the cognitive function of women more than men. “The effects of heavy alcohol use on memory and other cognitive functions were more evident in women,” said Marcos Antonio Lopes, the author of the study. “Our findings suggest that alcohol use does not have a linear relationship with cognitive decline.”

In other words, women who continue to drink heavily into their senior years run the risks of losing cognitive function and are more prone therefore to falls and significant memory loss.

Photo Source


Drinking Diaries Goes to Brooklyn

Drinking Diaries reading at BookCourt in BrooklynOn Sunday evening, Drinking Diaries co-editors, Caren and Leah, headed to Brooklyn for a reading at Cobble Hill’s premiere independent bookstore, BookCourt— just voted “Best Bookstore 2012” by the Village Voice.Lianne Stokes at Drinking Diaries reading at BookCourt

Joined by local writers, Helene Stapinski, Elissa Schappell and Lianne Stokes, the reading provided the crowd with a taste of the diversity that makes up the book’s collection.

Helene Stapinski at Drinking Diaries reading at BookCourtFrom Helene’s take on her quest to Italy to see if the name behind Amaro Lucano liqueur–which she served to anyone willing to try it–is connected to her family ancestry, to Elissa’s tale of her husband’s decision to stop drinking after years of imbibing as a couple (and which was featured in The New York TimesModern Love” column), to Lianne’s piece about using booze to cope during a friend’s baby shower, the essays initiated Elissa Schappell at Drinking Diaries reading at BookCourtsome great post-reading questions and conversation.

To quote the Daily “The Drinking Diaries event at BookCourt will be saturated in stories by celebrated At the end of the Drinking Diaries reading at BookCourt in Brooklynwomen writers — tales of late-night adventures, dates, ladies’ night and wild college parties, all involving a few too many drinks. This reading, led by editors Leah Odze Epstein and Caren Osten Gerszberg, will be sure to send you on a page-turning binge.”

Enough said.

Thanks to everyone who came out, and stay tuned for more Drinking Diaries events.