An alcoholic is an alcoholic, right? Whether male or female, black or white, gay or straight, we’re all the same. Wrong.

Female alcoholics differ substantially from their male counterparts in many ways. Female alcoholics are far more often the victims of sexual abuse than men. Unfortunately, many of these same women were considered promiscuous or “deserving” of the sexual contact. In the movie, “The Accused,” Jodie Foster played an alcoholic who was raped while under the influence. The defense claimed that she “asked for it” and called into question her character because of her excessive drinking. This kind of thinking, although challenged in this movie some 20 years ago, is very much alive today.

Society’s view of female alcohol usage is far more negative than that of male usage. Men are men and they will drink with their buddies. They will at sporting events, in bars, in strip clubs, at parties, sometimes even competitively. Society, in general, does not view this type of drinking in females as anything other than weak and unladylike. This negative view of female alcohol usage prevents many women from seeking help.

Alcoholism in women creates a serious problem that does not occur in men – fetal alcohol syndrome. Birth defects once considered random, or at best, genetic, are now known to go hand in hand with pre-natal alcohol use. Down’s syndrome, spina bifida, and forms of mental retardation are now directly linked to alcohol use of a pregnant woman.

Female alcoholics also suffer much more serious physiological problems than do men. Life expectancy is shorter – in fact, female alcoholics die as much as 15 years earlier than their non-alcoholic female cohorts. They are also more prone to die from suicide, vehicle deaths, spousal violence, liver and heart ailments.

As a woman myself, the excessive use of alcohol brought with it violence, rape(s), a car accident, and liver damage. And, I consider myself one of the lucky ones! Many, many women have not had the good fortune I have enjoyed.