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Drowning in her drink

Think alcoholics, and you think of glassy-eyed men. But now it is time to be less sexist, writes Nivriti Butalia.

india Updated: May 21, 2006 02:57 IST

Think alcoholics, and you think of glassy-eyed men, staggering all over the place, clutching on to a bottle of booze. But now it is time to be less sexist as women alcoholics are suddenly tumbling out of the closet. According to Dr Nikhil Raheja, a Dwarka-based psychiatrist and therapist, alcoholism in women is growing at an alarming rate of around 10 per cent. “Even five years ago, we had no women patients,” he says.

At the Masihgarh Church in Sukhdev Vihar — where meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are held regularly — there are 14 women who attend meetings now. And Dr Megha Hazuria Gore, clinical psychologist at Max Health Care, agrees that an increasing number of women are admitting to alcohol problem and seeking treatment for it. “Women today see drinking as a part of acceptable social behaviour,” she feels.

Teesta was an alcoholic for 12 years before joining the AA fellowship. Early on, as a newly-wed, her reason for hitting the bottle was a rapidly souring marriage to an abusive husband. “I drank for the high,” she says. Then, there came a time when she would have blackouts: “I felt I would die without my drink.” Three years ago, she kicked the habit.

Vinita, 32, an ex-airline hostess, started drinking in her early twenties. “I’d finish a bottle of vodka in my room at night when everybody was asleep,” she admits.

It’s not just a bad marriage/love life or stress that’s making women take to the bottle. A case of social drinking gone wrong, Anjali, a naval officer’s wife says the frequent cocktail parties are what made her take to liquor. “How long can you sip Coca-Cola wearing high heels?”

The lowest common denominators for these women seem to be: they belong to the upper middle class, are educated and have the money to buy the bottles.

(Names have been changed. AA helpline number 9811908707)