An Editor’s Invitation: Drinking

At my college, if you were male, drinking beer earned you acceptance, admiration and praise. For some reason, drinking many beers and capping it off by violently throwing up was seen as manly.

I’m not much of a drinker, which took its toll on my college status. To this day, I’m happy sharing just one beer with my wife

I don’t consider this a matter of virtue, it’s simply the way I’m wired. Neither of my parents were big drinkers.

Yet in my own life and in my medical practice I’ve seen the impact of alcohol on others.

One uncle–my mother’s youngest brother–drank heavily and died young.

My college roommate lost his brother to a drunk driver.

My sweet fifty-eight-year-old patient laments how often her husband gets drunk.

Another patient returns home from abroad, where he drinks to excess, with his blood sugars wildly out of control.

And I recently cared for a hospitalized patient whose drinking had scarred his liver, swollen his belly and made it unlikely that he would live out the year.

Most of the hospitalized men I’ve cared for who’ve landed in the emergency room deeply drunk are all alone in the world. Everyone they’ve ever known or loved has given up on them.

And as a parent, I watched my daughters come to terms with alcohol as they came of age. It was a bumpy road that passed through an emergency room, included countless brunchtime mimosas and once required a tearful 2:00 am phone call from a train terminal, someone having missed her stop because of an alcohol-lubricated slumber.

What’s the experience of drinking been–for you? Your family? Your colleagues? Your patients?

Tell us about it in this month’s More Voices–Drinking.

Paul Gross
New Rochelle, NY

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