Why I have quit drinking

First, let me say, I’ve never been a problem drinker. I mostly just drank on the Jewish holidays, or when I visited my mother (my stepfather collects wine).

Second, you need to know that both my parents died of cancer. My father died of pancreatic cancer 3 months after diagnosis, when I was 30, and my mother died of ovarian cancer 4 years after diagnosis when I was 50. 50 is not a child. It’s middle-aged, and well into middle-aged, but it’s still young to have lost both of your parents.

There’s other cancer in the family. My father’s sister died of a very aggressive form of stomach cancer, and my paternal grandmother had breast cancer, albeit, she had it in her early 70s, and survived almost 20 years after her diagnosis, so essentially, she was “cured.” But she did have to have a mastectomy-- it was the 1970s.

So, I listen to NPR in the car. I’m not big on music. About 4 months ago, I heard a piece about a woman who had written a book on the relationship between breast cancer and alcohol consumption, about which there appears to be no doubt: alcohol consumption can raise your risk for it by 5-15%, depending on how much you drink, and that’s independent of other risk factors.

I went home and immediately did some research. It seems the WHO classifies alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer declared it a carcinogen back in 1988. A causal relationship exists between alcohol consumption and cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colo-rectum, liver, breast, and pancreas. There’re also links between alcohol consumption and leukemia and multiple myeloma.

That scared the crap out of me. I decided not to drink anymore right there and then.

The thing is, none of this seems to be in dispute. It was all pretty easy information to find, with multiple sources. None of it smacked of a conspiracy theory, with just a few uncited sources, and lots of debunking. In fact, I deliberately looked for debunkers, and found NONE. All the sources for the information I did find were well-supported with data.

So why am I just finding out about this now? I’m 51. I was 21 in 1988-- why didn’t I hear anything then?

The truth is, I don’t especially fear dying relatively young. I made it to fifty, so I can’t die REALLY young anymore. I could die in my sixties, like my father, or my 70s, like my mother, and honestly, that would be better than having the last three years of my maternal grandmother’s life. She nearly made it to 100, and did well until about 93-94, but the last few years were not good. She couldn’t live independently, and she hated it.

But my father’s death was awful. He suffered for weeks. Every day, he’d lose something, another ability, to walk, to speak, to use the toilet, and finally to understand what was said to him. My mother literally starved to death when her cancer metastasized to her intestines, and she couldn’t keep food down. She refused IV hydration to speed things up, and was on heavy painkillers.

So, I really don’t want to die of cancer. I’d rather be hit by a bus.

Seriously: if I get cancer, I’m buying a gun.

But Plan A is not to get cancer. So toward that end, I quit drinking.

For you it’s not controversial. For you it’s cancer not just premature death/disability per se, being hit by a bus would be okay … or a heart attack or stroke. And especially given your family history that makes sense.

But for those whose interest is more broadly living longer and/or longer without disability there is some debate. Moderate drinkers do seem to have some advantages over nondrinkers, in at least a correlation. Correlation … maybe it travels with social connectedness … but still not a complete slam dunk.

My bugaboo nightmare fear is less cancer than dementia. FWIW.

Does anybody who dies of natural causes have an easy death anymore? Pretty much every death I’ve seen in my parents’ generation has been drawn-out and difficult. If you’re lucky, the time between when things started clearly heading in that direction, and the time of death, is mere weeks rather than months (or sometimes years).

Me too. I can deal with the prospect of physical pain and difficulty, but not the prospect of losing my ability for thought and normal conversation.

Aye, there’s the rub. In my father, cancer actually caused a form of dementia. I didn’t even know that could happen, but cancer can cause neuro-degeneration. It was only very serious for the last maybe 9 days that he was sick, but that wasn’t the worst of it. When he first started to go downhill mentally, and was aware of it, that was when it was bad. Fortunately, that lasted only maybe four days. I was praying that if he was going to die anyway, let him die quickly.

My father had been a college professor who earned his Ph.D at age 28, and that was even including a two-year stint in the Air Force, because he was in the ROTC to pay for college. Of course, he started college in September when he was 16, and then turned 17 in November, when most people were already 18 when they started. He was probably the smartest person I knew. I mean, I could name people who were smarter, but I didn’t know them. So to be someone like that, and then have your mind deteriorate was devastating.

Yes, there are quick natural deaths. The 40 yo son of a friend collapsed in the middle of a hockey game and was dead before he hit the ice. And the husband of another friend suddenly jumped of bed in the middle of the night made a single cry and then collapsed and died. That’s how I want to go.

Congratulations, Rivkah, for making an informed decision which goes against many peoples expectations.

OK, let me rephrase it: are there quick natural deaths at an advanced age, like 75 or older?

Of course there is. Unless you just happen to be visiting an emergency room then a massive heart attack or stroke will kill you dead right quick at 75.

Alcohol in the post-industrial era has always been a con, right up there with tobacco, pharmaceuticals and some other well-placed economic blocs. The government tacitly supports it through lobbying at the expense of ignoring public risk for the monetary benefit. Better to suppress competition through regulation and look the other way while raking in tax revenue and of coursed, lining the pockets of the owners, investors and shareholders.

Some additional perspective along the same lines.

If you have a history of cancer in your family then giving up alcohol to reduce risk makes all the sense in the world.

If a person doesn’t have much cancer in their family, or are at high risk of other things where moderate alcohol consumption can reduce the risk, then not giving it up is OK.

And if someone is aware that there’s a risk but wants to enjoy alcohol anyway… I’m OK with that as long as their use doesn’t negatively impact others.

We’re becoming more and more aware of the role of genetics in health and longevity, that we’re all different in those genetics, and that very much one size does not fit all.

What I do object to is that some of this information is not better disseminated. As the OP points out, this information isn’t new, but it’s not well known.

Same here. If it starts to happen, well, I’m going out on my own terms.


If you only drink on jewish holidays, I would bet that the added cancer risk is pretty darn forgettable. Not to project here too much, but dropping something that you barely do in the first place is kind of kidding yourself. I bet there’s a half dozen more useful things you could do to improve your long term health over not having a drink 5 times a year.

If she drinks on every Shabbat, she’s drinking at least once a week.

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Don’t be ridiculous (if you don’t mind); the
love of sometime delicious booze is as old as a(n inevitably) troubled human mind.

This argument is true, I think. There are a lot of very common widespread behaviours that are worse than having a drink now and then. But at the same time, if a person doesn’t really enjoy drinking all that much, then they lose nearly nothing by quitting - it’s a minor gain, but it’s close to a pure gain.

You need permission to quit drinking? Here, I give you abundant, comprehensive, and emphatic permission to quit drinking abruptly and permanently. Godspeed friend.

Nobody needs a reason or excuse to quit drinking alcohol. We were born sober, it’s our natural state.

I did used to drink every Shabbes, but not much, just like, a shot’s worth of kosher wine. I would actually get pretty drunk every Purim, though. No more of that.

As a matter of fact, I have done other things. I cut sugar out of my diet, which I should have done a long time ago, because I have reactive hypoglycemia-- I’ve always had to be really careful about not eating sugar on an empty stomach, but I finally just decided to stop being stupid, and cut it out. No more blood glucose levels of 40, no more shakes and cold sweats, and dizziness, because I miscalculated. And I lost ten of the fifteen pounds I’ve been carrying around since I had a baby. Still hoping I may lose the other five, but I’m 12 years older than I was before I was ever pregnant, so maybe not. My blood pressure is no longer labile. Who would have thought that just 10 lbs could make that much difference? It’s not back to being low, which is what is was before I was pregnant-- I could have blood pressures of 90/50, easily. It’s been running pretty steadily 110/60.

I’m already a vegetarian, but I could easily get lazy, and eat a lot of fat. I’d eat a lot of cheese, or put butter on vegetables. I have cut WAY back on saturated fats. Like, no more than one slice of pizza a week, and I use light creamy salad dressings, especially ranch, made more palatable by adding powdered buttermilk, blended light cottage cheese, onion powder, and balsamic vinegar. Ben makes a dressing from avocado, light sour cream, buttermilk, some spices and seasoning BUT NOT CILANTRO-- I think it’s turmeric, garlic, chili paste and grated cucumber, and then good old salt and black pepper. The dressing itself has nutrition

We make our own pizza, homemade, but tons of veggies on it, and it’s got fresh dough.

I serve it with fresh fruit.

I do my breast exams, and keep all my OB appointments. I always pi6. Keoiidd