‘Abstinence Is Bad For You’ -Thoughts On Irresponsible Health Claims

When I woke up this morning I saw that someone had posted an article on the Soberistas Facebook page which was all about a body of medical ‘evidence’ pointing towards abstinence being bad for a person’s health. Hmm, helpful I thought. And promptly deleted it. I’m all for free speech and it’s nice that someone had thought of Soberistas and wanted to contribute a little something to our Facebook page, but these types of articles are just not helpful to those of us who cannot moderate.

As a drinker, if you had shown me literature of this nature I would have seen it as a green light to continue necking wine as though it was water and I had been lying stranded in a desert for days on end. I must not stop drinking – there it is in black and white! I am far healthier if I down booze than not, no matter what sort of scrapes I find myself in as a result, and no matter how much damage I wield upon my poor, alcohol-soaked body!

It is possible to produce findings that support any theory if one restricts their study to a small enough group (for instance, the ninety-year-old man who has smoked fifty fags a day since he was twelve). But there is a wealth of evidence that demonstrates that alcohol consumption which exceeds government guidelines (14 units for a woman and 21 units for a man) is highly detrimental to a person’s health, and is a causal factor in over 200 different conditions and diseases (see WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2014).

Well then, let’s just restrict our drinking to recommended limits and maintain a strict ‘three days off the booze’ policy each week, one could argue.


OK, let’s get real for a moment. Firstly, how many people do you know who drink alcohol and who consistently stick to government guidelines? I can think of a couple. Secondly, there are many, many individuals who have no off switch. Despite the best of intentions, these people (me included) do not have the capability to stop at one or two glasses but, once started, go on to drink way more than ‘safe’ amounts and subsequently end up in any number of dangerous situations. Alcohol for me (and others in the same boat) is poison – plain and simple. It is a devilish substance that perpetually leads us to a place of shame, embarrassment, debilitating hangovers, irresponsible parenting, thoughtlessness, selfishness, carelessness, and low self-esteem. It is a drug which, when consumed in excess, sometimes results in unintended sexual encounters, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, depression, altered personalities, domestic violence and occasionally, suicide. Alcohol, for those of us who cannot control the amount we consume once we start drinking, is the stuff of nightmares – for us, and all of the people in our lives.

For anyone with an off switch nicely intact, these consequences to boozing are more than likely challenging to comprehend. Some of these people may find it amusing to post articles about abstinence being bad for one’s health on the Soberistas Facebook page (and other online, open forums which have been established for the use of people who struggle with alcohol dependencies and not for those who have no problem in moderating). Should such contributors ever find themselves crossing the invisible line into alcohol addiction or should they become closely entangled with someone else who has a problematic relationship with booze, they probably would not find things quite so amusing or trivial. Until then, I am happy to delete their postings should I consider them unhelpful to those of us who are bravely managing a dependency upon alcohol – that substance which is so prevalent, so unregulated, and so bloody damaging to so many people.


10 thoughts on “‘Abstinence Is Bad For You’ -Thoughts On Irresponsible Health Claims

  1. healthesoul says:

    Well done for deleting. I would rather stick to abstinence than go back to damaged internal organs, heart flutters, constant anxiety, mild depression, headaches and feeling like crap every morning. I don’t care how many articles want to perpetuate the myth that this stuff is good for you, I know how my body felt when drinking, and how it feels now. No contest.

  2. clairesuper says:

    I have no control. Abstinence cannot be an option when as you are drinking your first glass, you are already guzzling & are mentally onto your 3rd or 4th.

    It will never be an option for me…..

  3. No way to moderate for me… tried it, and just can’t do it, and alcohol is poison… I just wish it was easier at the beginning to stop it and not go throught the BS to get on the happy side of sober…

  4. SC says:

    Hey there. I know what you mean about those headlines, and there are quite a few studies that show that completely abstinent people are, on average, less healthy than moderate drinkers.

    BUT – AND IT’S A BIG BUT – here’s what they DON’T tell you:

    What are the main reasons for abstinence in the Western world?
    1. Previous alcohol abuse or dependency.
    2. Advanced age or illness.
    3. On medications.
    4. Religious conviction.

    So on paper, OF COURSE abstinent people appear less healthy! It’s because they’ve either done shitty things to their bodies through previous problems with alcohol, or they’re ALREADY dealing with illnesses, conditions, or medications that leave them unable or unwilling to drink. And generally, the people with the strongest religious convictions, at least in America, tend to be part of less-educated and less-affluent populations, and ignorance and poverty are often correlated with adverse health outcomes as well.

    Besides, the most important thing is not doing what some half-assed study purports, but doing what you know is most healthful for YOU.


  5. Cuéntame says:

    There is also the element that if you are the sort of person who is able to drink with moderation – i.e. actually stick to those mythical 1-2 glasses of red wine a day- you are more likely to do other potentially destructive things with moderation too, which is far more likely to lead to a healthy overall lifestyle. The implication that it is the wine itself that is making you `healthy’ is a bit of a red herring. Without proper context, statistics like this are meaningless.

  6. noetoh says:

    Great posting. Good to know there are so many of us out there who are struggling and surviving and living…Helpful today as I was feeling very alone in this whole thing. Thank you.

  7. Donna says:

    Great post, and I, too, would have seen that article as my ticket to keep on drinking. Thanks for this….
    Donna (with no off-switch)

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