• Amy C. Willis

My clapback to a recent Mic article on "intuitive drinking"

I recently came across an article published in Mic (which is a publication under the umbrella of Bustle Digital Group, which spans 9 publications, boasting 84 million readers and 55 million social fans, most of which are women) entitled: "I tried mindful drinking, a more intuitive way to imbibe".


To say that I was not pleased with what I read would be the understatement of the year - and yes, I recognize that we're 4 days into 2021 but based on how strongly I responded to what I read, I can confidently say that assessment would stand for the duration of this year.


As someone who works in sobriety and addiction recovery, as well as being someone who is deeply committed to challenging and disrupting normative alcohol culture, I could not not say something. So I reached out to the author of the article, the expert who was interviewed and offered advice within the article and to the fine folx at Mic/Bustle. I just hit send on these emails and for transparency, I share below what I wrote each of them. These conversations are an important part of holding each other accountable when our words and actions have the potential to cause harm. This article insidiously upholds normative alcohol culture, which means it inherently has the capacity to harm.


If you're interested in reading the article, it's linked above. And as always, I'm more than happy to chat about this topic so please reach out to discuss!


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SUBJECT: In response to your recent Mic article entitled: “I tried mindful drinking, a more intuitive way to imbibe”


Hi Melissa,


I recently came across your Mic article “I tried mindful drinking, a more intuitive way to imbibe” and I had some thoughts. I noticed that this article was originally published in September 2019 and updated for publication December 27, 2020; I find the timing and update of this a bit concerning given the current covid climate and the massive increase in drinking during this time. I recognize that perhaps this was also a decision made by Mic/Bustle, which I have addressed with them directly.


The overarching issue I have with your article is the application of the intuitive eating model to the consumption of alcohol for the purposes of sustainability. Food, unlike alcohol, is essential for our bodies to function, survive, and thrive. The intuitive eating model encourages us to tune into the messages we receive from our bodies, reject diet culture that is rooted in starvation, shame and restriction and ultimately, have a healthy relationship with both food and our bodies. Conversely, alcohol has been classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. There is nothing healthy, wholesome or beneficial about alcohol; it contains ethanol, which is neurotoxic, poisonous and highly addictive to and for human bodies. So much so, that a recent global study (published in The Lancet) found that no amount of alcohol is safe for human consumption. To position intuitive drinking as parallel to intuitive eating is dangerous; it subtly suggests that drinking, like eating, is also essential and can be managed in a healthful way if approached from a mindful perspective. This is not only an erroneous comparison but one that could potentially have dire consequences for your readers. At the end of the day, alcohol exists only to generate billions of dollars, off of our backs and to our detriment, ultimately resulting in 3 million+ alcohol-related deaths globally per year.


Despite what we know about the dangers of alcohol and it’s devastating impacts, here is your article, sharing the alleged benefits of intuitive drinking. I was simultaneously flummoxed and fuming as I read your article because it argued for ways to sustain drinking and alcohol consumption, argued against participating in initiatives like Dry January (which is the entry point for many into long-term sobriety) and falsely stated that only those with previous substance-use issues or a familial history of cancer should be concerned about their alcohol consumption, when in fact, all adults should be thinking critically about the role alcohol plays in their lives. None of us are impervious to addiction and alcohol is a carcinogenic substance regardless of family health history. I also recognize that much of this guidance was provided by Carolina Guizar; however, as the author of this piece, you also bear responsibility for its content and the opinions and advice shared within.


Finally - and again on the topic of the publication date of the updated article - given the context we currently exist in and the global pandemic that has disrupted all our lives in countless ways, finding new ways to ensure sustainability of alcohol consumption during a global health crisis is irresponsible and again, potentially dangerous. Alcohol sales and drinking have skyrocketed since the beginning of covid, largely a result of more of us being at home, dealing with unprecedented levels of anxiety, uncertainty, stress and boredom, coupled with increased accessibility to home delivery of booze and the complete erasure of the invisible boundaries that delineate day from night, weekday from weekend, resulting in alcohol consumption bleeding into parts and times of our lives it normally wouldn’t. Both the US surgeon general and the World Health Organization have warned against the consumption of alcohol during the pandemic as it may increase the risk of experiencing complications of covid-19. For women in particular (and I imagine the readership of Mic and Bustle is largely female-identified folx), drinking and alcohol-related deaths have been on the rise for years, further impacted by covid. From a New York Times article entitled: Alcohol Deaths Have Risen Sharply, Particularly Among Women published in January 2020: “The death rate tied to alcohol rose 51 percent overall in that time period (1999 to 2017), taking into account population growth. Most noteworthy to researchers was that the rate of deaths among women rose much more sharply, up 85 percent.” As such, the very last thing we as women need is to find new ways to sustain our alcohol consumption that trick us into believing we’re actually doing something healthy in support of our well-being, especially when the exact opposite is true.


“Intuitive drinking” is a distracting gimmick, keeping us from asking the important, life-saving questions like “Does alcohol actually serve me in any way?”, “Why am I regularly putting a poisonous substance in my body and convincing myself that it’s normal?” and “Why do I want or need to drink in the first place?” Stratagems like intuitive drinking have fooled us into believing that our relationship to alcohol is “healthy” when in fact the only safe and healthy relationship to alcohol is to avoid it entirely.


My request at this time is that you offer a follow-up article (or a retraction of your original and updated articles) speaking to the damages caused by normative alcohol culture (which your article inadvertently upholds). I would be more than happy to be interviewed for this article. I am a sobriety coach and consultant as well as someone who struggled with alcohol addiction for 15+ years; I have been sober for almost 4.5 years. I am deeply passionate about disrupting normative alcohol culture by shifting the ways that we think, speak about and engage with alcohol. I would love the opportunity to share some thoughts as well as providing your readers with tangible ways they can think critically about the role alcohol plays in their lives. Please let me know your thoughts on this.


In full transparency, I have also reached out to Carolina Guizar and Mic/Bustle expressing my concerns with the problematic guidance offered in this article. I have also made my email correspondence with you, Carolina and Mic/Bustle public on my blog for my community.


Thank you for taking the time to read my email and hear my concerns. And please feel free to get back to me to discuss this topic further. I’m more than happy to talk about this in greater depth.


Sincerely,

Amy C. Willis



SUBJECT: In response to your interview for the Mic article entitled: “I tried mindful drinking, a more intuitive way to imbibe”


Hi Carolina,


I recently came across an article you were interviewed in for Mic called “I tried mindful drinking, a more intuitive way to imbibe” and I had some thoughts that I wanted to share.


The overarching issue I have with this article is the application of the intuitive eating model to the consumption of alcohol for the purposes of sustainability. Food, unlike alcohol, is essential for our bodies to function, survive, and thrive. The intuitive eating model encourages us to tune into the messages we receive from our bodies, reject diet culture that is rooted in starvation, shame and restriction and ultimately, have a healthy relationship with both food and our bodies. Conversely, alcohol has been classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. There is nothing healthy, wholesome or beneficial about alcohol; it contains ethanol, which is neurotoxic, poisonous and highly addictive to and for human bodies. So much so, that a recent global study (published in The Lancet) found that no amount of alcohol is safe for human consumption. To position intuitive drinking as parallel to intuitive eating is dangerous; it subtly suggests that drinking, like eating, is also essential and can be managed in a healthful way if approached from a mindful perspective. This is not only an erroneous comparison but one that could potentially have dire consequences for your readers. At the end of the day, alcohol exists only to generate billions of dollars, off of our backs and to our detriment, ultimately resulting in 3 million+ alcohol-related deaths globally per year.


Despite what we know about the dangers of alcohol and it’s devastating impacts, the advice that you offered focused on sharing the alleged benefits of intuitive drinking. I was simultaneously flummoxed and fuming as I read this article because it argued for ways to sustain drinking and alcohol consumption, argued against participating in initiatives like Dry January (which is the entry point for many into long-term sobriety) and falsely stated that only those with previous substance-use issues or a familial history of cancer should be concerned about their alcohol consumption, when in fact, all adults should be thinking critically about the role alcohol plays in their lives. None of us are impervious to addiction and alcohol is a carcinogenic substance regardless of family health history.


I really struggled with the statement: “A healthy relationship with alcohol makes you feel mentally and physically healthy ...” We know that alcohol is linked to a variety of different cancers including: breast, colorectal, esophageal, pharynx and larynx, lip and oral cavity and nasal. We also have evidence that alcohol affects more than 200 different diseases identified in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. Moreover, alcohol is a known depressant and exacerbates existing mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and more, not to mention how alcohol severely disrupts sleep, a cornerstone of mental and physical wellness. There is nothing healthy about alcohol consumption and I find it problematic and irresponsible that given your profession, you would mislead people into believing that alcohol consumption can make you feel healthy and offer ways to help people drink more sustainably.


I also strongly disagree with your assessment that emotional drinking is “a perfectly fine coping mechanism.” If we were talking about cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines, would you feel the same way? Instead of placidly placating readers, why not offer healthy alternative coping strategies? Yes, many folx lean on drugs to cope and will continue to do so until they have better alternatives so why not offer better alternatives? It’s not about shaming or judging those who lean on drugs as we’ve all been there but touting drinking as a perfectly fine coping mechanism is blatantly unhelpful and again, potentially quite dangerous.


Finally, after spending some time on your website, I see that you are deeply committed to applying anti-racist, feminist and social justice lens to your work, which I respect, applaud and admire (I do the same in my work). With that, I want to urge you to consider that challenging normative alcohol culture is indeed a feminist, social justice issue. We live in a capitalist, white supremacist, patriarchal world, where we’ve been inundated with messages telling us that alcohol will solve all our problems and deliver us the lives that we love and deserve. Alcohol is ubiquitous and the truths about how dangerous it is are watered down, making it the ultimate coping tool. So many of us deal with the oppressive world that we live in by numbing ourselves, checking out and tuning out via booze. For women in particular, drinking and alcohol-related deaths have been on the rise for years, further impacted by covid. From a New York Times article entitled: Alcohol Deaths Have Risen Sharply, Particularly Among Women published in January 2020: “The death rate tied to alcohol rose 51 percent overall in that time period (1999 to 2017), taking into account population growth. Most noteworthy to researchers was that the rate of deaths among women rose much more sharply, up 85 percent.” As such, the very last thing we as women need is to find new ways to sustain our alcohol consumption that trick us into believing we’re actually doing something healthy in support of our well-being, especially when the exact opposite is true. If we stand any chance of creating massive, meaningful, just and equitable change in the world, it won’t be through keeping ourselves numb and disconnected via “intuitive drinking.”


In full transparency, I have also reached out to Melissa Pandika and Mic/Bustle expressing my concerns with the problematic guidance offered in this article. I have also made my email correspondence with you, her and them public on my blog for my community.


Thank you for taking the time to read my email and hear my concerns. And please feel free to get back to me to discuss this topic further. I’m more than happy to talk about this in greater depth.


Sincerely,

Amy C. Willis




SUBJECT: In response to a recent Mic article entitled: “I tried mindful drinking, a more intuitive way to imbibe”


Hello Mic/Bustle team,


I recently came across a Mic article entitled: “I tried mindful drinking, a more intuitive way to imbibe” penned by Melissa Pandika and I had some thoughts. I noticed that this article was originally published in September 2019, with an updated version published December 27, 2020; I find the timing and update of this a bit concerning given the current covid climate and the massive increase in drinking during this time, which I’ll discuss in greater detail below.


The overarching issue I have with this article is the application of the intuitive eating model to the consumption of alcohol for the purposes of sustainability. Food, unlike alcohol, is essential for our bodies to function, survive, and thrive. The intuitive eating model encourages us to tune into the messages we receive from our bodies, reject diet culture that is rooted in starvation, shame and restriction and ultimately, have a healthy relationship with both food and our bodies. Conversely, alcohol has been classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. There is nothing healthy, wholesome or beneficial about alcohol; it contains ethanol, which is neurotoxic, poisonous and highly addictive to and for human bodies. So much so, that a recent global study (published in The Lancet) found that no amount of alcohol is safe for human consumption. To position intuitive drinking as parallel to intuitive eating is dangerous; it subtly suggests that drinking, like eating, is also essential and can be managed in a healthful way if approached from a mindful perspective. This is not only an erroneous comparison but one that could potentially have dire consequences for your readers. At the end of the day, alcohol exists only to generate billions of dollars, off of our backs and to our detriment, ultimately resulting in 3 million+ alcohol-related deaths globally per year.


The article in question contained many statements that were not only confusing but potentially quite dangerous for the reader. For example, I really struggled with the statement: “A healthy relationship with alcohol makes you feel mentally and physically healthy ...” We know that alcohol is linked to a variety of different cancers including: breast, colorectal, esophageal, pharynx and larynx, lip and oral cavity and nasal. We also have evidence that alcohol affects more than 200 different diseases identified in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. Moreover, alcohol is a known depressant and exacerbates existing mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and more, not to mention how alcohol severely disrupts sleep, a cornerstone of mental and physical wellness. Given this information, how can the author or expert logically or reasonably say that a healthy relationship with alcohol is even possible, let alone that it makes us feel mentally and physically well?


Despite what we know about the dangers of alcohol and it’s devastating impacts, the article in questions focused on sharing the alleged benefits of intuitive drinking. I was simultaneously flummoxed and fuming as I read the article in questions because it argued for ways to sustain drinking and alcohol consumption, argued against participating in initiatives like Dry January (which is the entry point for many into long-term sobriety) and falsely stated that only those with previous substance-use issues or a familial history of cancer should be concerned about their alcohol consumption, when in fact, all adults should be thinking critically about the role alcohol plays in their lives. None of us are impervious to addiction and alcohol is a carcinogenic substance regardless of family health history. While I recognize that the author and expert featured in this piece have a large degree of accountability here, as the media company that published this piece, you also bear responsibility for its content and the opinions and advice shared within.


Finally - and again on the topic of the publication date of the updated article - given the context we currently exist in and the global pandemic that has disrupted all our lives in countless ways, finding new ways to ensure sustainability of alcohol consumption during a global health crisis is irresponsible and again, potentially dangerous. Alcohol sales and drinking have skyrocketed since the beginning of covid, largely a result of more of us being at home, dealing with unprecedented levels of anxiety, uncertainty, stress and boredom, coupled with increased accessibility to home delivery of booze and the complete erasure of the invisible boundaries that delineate day from night, weekday from weekend, resulting in alcohol consumption bleeding into parts and times of our lives it normally wouldn’t. Both the US surgeon general and the World Health Organization have warned against the consumption of alcohol during covid as it may increase the risk of experiencing complications of covid-19. For women in particular (and I imagine the readership of Mic and Bustle is largely female-identified folx), drinking and alcohol-related deaths have been on the rise for years, further impacted by covid. From a New York Times article entitled: Alcohol Deaths Have Risen Sharply, Particularly Among Women published in January 2020: “The death rate tied to alcohol rose 51 percent overall in that time period (1999 to 2017), taking into account population growth. Most noteworthy to researchers was that the rate of deaths among women rose much more sharply, up 85 percent.” As such, the very last thing we as women need is to find new ways to sustain our alcohol consumption that trick us into believing we’re actually doing something healthy in support of our well-being, especially when the exact opposite is true.


My request at this time is that you offer a follow-up article speaking to the damages caused by normative alcohol culture (which this article inadvertently upholds). I would be more than happy to write this article or as an alternative, be interviewed by Melissa Pandika (which I offered to her as well). I am a sobriety coach, speaker, writer and consultant as well as someone who struggled with alcohol addiction for 15+ years; I have been sober for almost 4.5 years. I am deeply passionate about disrupting normative alcohol culture by shifting the ways that we think, speak about and engage with alcohol. I would love the opportunity to share some thoughts as well as providing your readers with tangible ways they can think critically about the role alcohol plays in their lives. I realize this is a non-traditional way to pitch writing for your publication but since we were on the topic, I thought I would address it. Please let me know your thoughts on this.


In full transparency, I have also reached out to Melissa Pandika (who authored the article) and Carolina Guizar (the expert consulted for the article) expressing my concerns with the problematic guidance offered in this article. I have also made my email correspondence with you, her and them public on my blog for my community.


Thank you for taking the time to read my email and hear my concerns. And please feel free to get back to me to discuss this topic further. I’m more than happy to talk about this in greater depth.


Sincerely,

Amy C. Willis


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