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Alcohol abuse among women is on the rise

February 18, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Almost 2.5 million women are alcoholics. Many of these women are busy juggling families and careers -- all while hiding a dangerous habit. Health Specialist Denise Dador takes a look at how these"cocktail moms" go from happy hour to addiction.A deadly wrong-way crash in New York last summer shoved the issue of alcoholism into the national spotlight. Police say, Long Island mother Diane Schuler, was drunk when her minivan plowed into another car, killing Schuler and seven others.

"I had become a functioning alcoholic," said Heather Fanning, a recovering alcoholic.

Fanning says she's lucky her drinking didn't kill her or anyone else.

"Around my house there would be alcohol stashed every where, and I'd drink when people weren't watching," said Fanning.

At her worst, Fanning was drinking three shots of vodka, 10 beers and two glasses of wine every day, all while holding down a job and raising a son.

A wave of new studies shows a surge in the number of women abusing alcohol.

According to a federal study, the number of women between 30 and 44 who reported abusing alcohol doubled over the past decade. The number of women arrested for DUI is up almost 30-percent.

Psychologist Barbara Kelly says families need to look past the stereotype of the old man on the bar stool, and look more closely for signs of a functioning alcoholic.

"They hide the alcohol in places that they know people wouldn't typically look for it," said Kelly."Sometimes they hide it in the nursery where their baby sleeps."

Stay-at-home mom Michelle McClennen kept an immaculate home, took care of her two kids, and still managed to juggle daily drinking.

"It was one of these huge goblets that became so in style a few years ago. It was more than half a bottle of wine, but to me I felt like I was having one glass of wine," said McClennen. "So I'd put the roast in the oven and I'd go out into the driveway with my daughter with the glass of wine in my hand."

Her nights out with other moms became her excuse.

"We'd go to jewelry making parties to Tupperware parties," said McClennen. "There was also Bunko, a dice rolling game, that's actually called Drunko, because you definitely drink a lot."

Fanning found help through an in-patient addiction center. McClennen worked with a counselor. Both say admitting they needed help was the toughest part.

"It's the socially acceptable sleeping giant that nobody's going to say anything," said McClennen.

But these moms are sharing their shame, and hoping to reverse the trend of women turning to alcohol.

Some of the warning signs include: always thinking about the next drink, behaving in ways that are uncharacteristic of the person while sober, and trouble controlling the number of drinks. These signs could be a red flag that a person is headed towards alcohol abuse.


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