Wine Confessional: I’m a Binge Drinker

Binge Hello, my name is Tom Wark and I'm a binge drinker.

I think I'm also a binge candy eater. It's also likely that I'm a binge golfer, but I can't find any support groups or studies to confirm these latter two problems.

Binge drinking is, according to the Center for Desease Control: "a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks, and when women consume 4 or more drinks, in about 2 hours."

Now although I binge drink probably only 2 or 3 times per year, it usually occurs around a dinner table with other binge drinkers who, like me, find themselves giddy at the prospect of binging through the usually 8 or 9 bottles of really interesting wines on the binge drinking table that were brought to the table for an evening of food and wine indulging.

This doesn't happen often (as I said, 2 or 3 times per year), but were I a part of the various surveys that went into any of the studies that make up this new report on the phenomenon, I would certainly help bump up the stats of binge drinkers.

The question is should I care that I binge drink occasionally? While I recognize the dangers of over consumption and particularly of trying to drive a car or make a speech while in the course of binge drinking, I can't bring my self to care that I probably have been a binge drinker. It's one of the many things I don't care about.

In addition to learning from this new study that I qualify as an occasional binge drinker, I also learned this:

"Women are catching up to men when it comes to how much and how often they drink alcohol. As a result, they are increasingly at risk for developing alcohol problems. What's more, men and women who were born after World War II are more likely to binge drink and develop alcohol-related disorders."

The researchers conclude that after World War II, women began to enter the workforce in large numbers and eventually began to enter professions traditionally held by men. This entrance into the work force by women began to cause them more stress and, like men, more often addressed this stress by drinking more alcohol.

It appears the risk of alcohol abuse is one of the by products of equality among the sexes.

Interestingly, my own occasional binge drinking has nothing to do with stress. It has more to do with the fact that unless I binge drink on these few occasions, I won't be able to empty my glass in time to get my hands on the 1995 Bordeaux, 1989 White Burgundy or 2005 Spottswoode being horded by my friends at the far end of the table. And I'm not about to waste the wine in my glass. So down the gullet it does as I demand a passing down of that White Burgundy.

I'm not making light of the binge drinking issue (at least not a lot of light). Is just that I'm always interested in what categories I tend to fall into.

13 Responses

  1. Steve Heimoff - September 16, 2011

    I hear you, but drinking to excess is a real problem. “Five or more drinks in two hours” is too much wine, too fast, for anybody. What about the next two hours? Another five? That’s ten glasses of wine!

  2. Thomas Pellechia - September 16, 2011

    I wonder how the “flappers” of the 19203 would feel about their binge-drinking role i our culture being given short shrift?
    Besides, unless I am as dense as a post, don’t most people alive today in the U.S. fall into the category of having been born after WWII? Are they saying that America is on official binge?
    Having been born soon after that war, I believe I have the right to say that I recall when a binge referred to an alcoholic went off for days at a time on a drunk. Have we lowered our standards that far? 😉

  3. Thomas Pellechia - September 16, 2011

    Flappers of the 1920s, that is.

  4. Tom Wark - September 16, 2011

    Steve, here’s the thing: Despite the fact that my couple of annual forays into binge drinking probably makes it less than dangerous, there’s something else that is more important in my ability to binge drink a couple of times per year: experience.
    After 25 years of semi-professional drinking, of being around alcohol constantly for that amount of time and in being around others who drink frequently, I have a great deal of experience with my body’s response to alcohol. Combine this with the fact that I’m not a real fan of being drunk (with the exception of a Pastis buzz), and I turn out to be a pretty safe drinker.
    I find that drinking experience is rarely discussed in any circles, let alone medical or sociological.

  5. jimmy - September 16, 2011

    Drunk is drunk………never a good idea and nothing fun, attractive or humorous about it.

  6. James Houston - September 16, 2011

    I was recently ruminating about this on my blog… how many respected winemakers/sommeliers/importers/critics/etc. do you really think follow the established guidelines for “healthy” drinking every day? I’d be surprised to learn that my guess of 0 is far or at all off the mark.
    Are the doctors wrong, or is harming our bodies the price of admission to this club?

  7. Charlie Olken - September 16, 2011

    Mr. Wark–
    In the last two years, you and I have jointly attended one of those “let sample a lot of interesting wines with dinner” events. To be sure, we drank a lot of wine, but I cannot remember that any of the twelve of us ever acted badly. No slurred words, no sloppy behavior.
    The consumption of many fine and aged wines was done responsibly. If any of us ever exceeded blood alcohol of 0.08%, I am sure we did not drive.
    But even if we did, we were not drunk, which is not defined by the blood alcohol used to determine whether one should drive.
    The use of that limit as a definition of binge drinking is an attempt to redefine the term which will turn exceeding the driving limit at any time into a act of shame.
    I reject the definition and thus I reject the notion that you have, in my experience, ever been guilty of binge drinking.

  8. bunt marker - September 18, 2011

    Only three times a year? Waaaahhhh!!! You are wasting your life. You should write about something else, like art, or cinema, that you are not ashamed to indulge in to excess every day. Charlie’s right- drink all you want, don’t get sloppy, don’t make passes at people’s whatevers, and don’t drive. If you get up in the morning and feel good, and function well, you are solid. If you can’t get out of bed, can’t work, can’t think, you went too far. I am sick of this puritanical neo-prohibitionist bullshit. In this the wine industry you have to drink the stuff and that’s part of why you are here- you like it. Get over it. Behave yourself, don’t hurt people, and don’t apologize. No one apologizes for watching too many stupid television shows, or listening to too much violent sexist music, or reading too much crappy literature, for eating too much unhealthy food, or for voting for idiots, or for wearing silly clothes. I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore. Neither should you. If it was good enough for Voltaire, Sam Pepys, Thomas Jefferson and Robert Mondavi it’s good enough for you and me. Geeez. If I see you in the gutter I’ll admit I was wrong. I doubt that will happen. If you think you’re an alcoholic, join up and leave me out of it. Maybe you could give me your cellar when you decide to dry out. Thanks- I won’t whine about to drink it. Mark

  9. bunt marker - September 18, 2011

    Typo, last line should read… I won’t whine about having to drink it. I think faster than I keyboard, which ain’t sayin’ much about my thinkin’. Maybe it’s because I drink wine. Mark

  10. harvey posert - September 19, 2011

    tom: don’t let the anti-alcohol community’s scare tactics, which has successfully defined “binge drinking” as whatever minimum they can get away with, trick any of us, including all the above. we all “know our limits” — whatever happened to that campaign?

  11. PaulG - September 19, 2011

    Tom, with this post, along with my three recent ‘Hangover Diary’ blog entries, I think we have struck a blow for freedom of imbibing!

  12. dvlokken - September 19, 2011

    Tom, I just want to say binge drinking is such a bad thing. I used to drink alot, until I left my job. I guess I just hated it so much and was drinking to medicate. Now that I left my job, I feel great and I have not had a drink in 4 month. Now it is no fun anymore. Thank for sharing.

  13. Fabio (Vinos Ambiz) - September 20, 2011

    Living in Europe as I do I can freely say, without any fear of the political or social incorrectness that you guys over there in the USA have to live with, that I’m a total and utter binge drinker, and no doubt would be in some sort of rehabilitation program (or living in a state of angst and guilt) if I were living and working in and Anglo-Saxon drinking culture country!!! What do I mean by this? Just that I have one or two glasses of wine at lunch every day AND one or two glasses of wine at dinner in the evening. Is that shocking or outragous? Here it’s completely normal! Depending on which reports you read you’ll either live to be 110 or die of liver failure in 3 months!!! It’s not about getting drunk – it’s about culture, life and food. I’m not saying that we drink interesting, exclusive, expensive wines every day – table wines are just fine for every day occasions. Then one can appreciate the fine wines even more. I’d take these binge drinking warnings with shovelfuls of salt!!!

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