The media is currently saturated with stories about the rise of women drinking alcohol, and this is not about a sudden increase in female ‘skid-row drunks’. It is far more about the excesses of young, professional women with much greater access to boutique wines, teen-age girls joining the boys in quaffing craft beer and middle-aged women ‘treating’ themselves to the latest trendy cocktails at a ‘girl’s lunch’.
Female Alcoholism on the Rise
It all seems so fun-loving, but alcohol is also increasingly regarded by many modern women as a remedy to the stresses of their busy, demanding lives. After all, harried mothers and striving working women ‘deserve’ their glasses of wine at the end of their hard day.
A report by the World Health Organization, revealed that 41.2% of South African women were binge drinkers, the highest in Africa. They are followed by Burkina Faso (36.8%), Mozambique (32.8%), Nigeria (32.9%) and Zimbabwe (20.3%).
The documentary, My Name was Bette, which was a part of the line-up of the 2016 South African Recovery Film Festival is a pertinent reminder of the dark side of women’s abuse of alcohol. Filmmakers Josh Hays and Sherri van den Akker, the daughter of Bette, chronicle the progression of her alcoholism and put together the story of how this nurse, wife and mother died of the disease in 2007 after a harrowing and desperately lonely battle with addiction.
“While the taboo attached to women drinking alcohol has certainly lifted in many cultures, there remains a strong perception of stigma ascribed to a woman revealing that drinking alcohol has become a problem for her. Women are still far less likely than men to seek help and treatment for alcoholism, and yet the risk factors for alcoholism are higher for women,” says SACAP spokesperson and Registered Counsellor, Claudia Raats.
Through interviews, the family archive, medical records and court documents, My Name was Bette presents a personal and detailed look at the physical, emotional and mental toll of alcoholism. Due to their physiology, women process alcohol differently from men and sustained heavy drinking does more damage to their vital organs and brains.
“Though this moving film is sometimes shocking and deeply sad,” adds Raats. “It also offers hope for those affected by alcoholism. With professional support, it is possible for women who are addicted to alcohol to heal their pain, repair their damaged relationships, revive their hopes and dreams, and take charge of their lives.”
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