Why Alcohol Ruins Your Appearance

I don't know why I was never able to connect the dots. Actually I was, but deeply in the back of my mind, inaccessible, a very real fear that alcohol was ruining my health. But I continued to drink while suffering through the relatively rapid decline of my physical and mental wellbeing, as though the person who knew this was trapped inside the body of a person who drank liberally. I would meet models and athletes who refrained from drinking even on a night out. I saw their example and longed to join their ranks—the tequila was just too good. Actually, I longed for them to join me and prove that alcohol was compatible with such beauty. They never did.

Because alcohol is a type of sugar it helps cells make huge amounts of energy, and this why we so often use it, especially if we are stressed or want to feel better. But alcohol is incompatible with the human body because of the various metabolites into which it degrades after consumption. People who don't want to believe alcohol is bad for their health, even if they're already sick, immediately hail the witless tripe of stuff working differently for various persons, as if we are different species or something. Sure, maybe you won't be one of those to get cancer from alcohol (that warning label you always ignore), but that doesn't mean you're superman with your own laws of chemistry. It's okay. Alcohol helped me think I was exempt for a time too. It also gave me cancer, and turns out that warning label isn't just annoying, it's also true.

The reason alcohol is bad for health has nothing to do with morals, religion, or spirituality, and many of us who should probably stop drinking do not want to because of people who hurt us deeply who also probably told us not to drink. Unfortunately alcohol is incompatible with health, but only because of chemistry and nothing more. As a former lover of alcohol no one wants this to be untrue more than I do (or did). But I've learned lately how much life does not care what I want to be true.

One of those truths is that alcohol is highly estrogenic. Men lack the hormones that protect against excessive estrogen, and herein lies the root of our long, proud tradition of alcoholism. Women, with high amounts of progesterone and pregnenolone are more resistant to the effects of alcohol (but by no means immune). Estrogen's nature is to stimulate the swelling of cells, to stimulate division and growth. This is how wounds are repaired and fetuses grow. But when alcohol stimulates the same kind of swelling it is usually in places where it isn't needed and in fact, harmful. Even a single drink of alcohol causes a flood of stress hormones, flushes vital nutrients from your body, and triggers devastating inflammation. The reason a hangover develops is because of alcohol causing cells in the brain to swell, which creates pressure in the tightly closed environment. This swelling is not a side effect of alcohol but a primary one, and it causes tissues to become fragile and to break down, destroying your liver, intestinal lining, kidneys, pancreas, etc—organs you desperately need to maintain health and youth. Being estrogenic, alcohol also causes heat to escape from your core for the very same reasons post-menopausal women experience hot flashes. That sweating and heat you experience while drunk is just a hot-flash. Your body tries to counteract this effect by constricting blood vessels. This cascade of swelling and vasoconstriction cuts off blood supply to the skin and is the reason you look dry and sad after a night of drinking. Drinking with any kind of regularity establishes a homeostasis of high stress hormones and sets the stage for indeterminate degenerative illnesses. Ugly just so happens to be a degenerative illness.

I recently knew a woman who had been sober for some time. She was cherubic, bright eyed and youthful. I hadn't seen her for three months and when I did she seemed drawn and a little pale. I thought maybe she'd been sick but no, she'd come up drinking again. A few years ago a friend quit drinking while training for the Aids Life Cycle. Though already fit, he soon seemed years younger. But more than youth he had an inexplicable brightness to his appearance. After the ride he took up drinking again and within a week his skin regained his usual pale and ashen quality.

Some people take breaks from drinking, which is admirable. But the harm from even moderate drinking can't be undone quickly. I have been sober now for fifteen entire months but am still dealing with the fallout of alcohol's effect on my physiology from years of drinking. Of course, it wasn't always this way. When I first started drinking my body dealt with it quicker. I had a sense of tomorrow being far off. But tomorrow came and I found myself strange and unfamiliarly unattractive. Today's drink is tomorrow's ugly.

Strangely, there is a scenario in which alcohol won't cause physical harm. In order for alcohol to cause damage it must be in the presence of unsaturated fat. It is physically impossible, however, to eliminate all unsaturated fat from the body, and so impossible to use alcohol without at least some damage. But this is why some people seem immune to the effects of alcohol while others succumb more quickly—it has to do with the kinds of fats within their tissues and organs. Maybe one day medicine will figure out how to engineer this, but for now drinking alcohol is like pouring pure estrogen down your throat. Any man who does this and expects to not age quickly is a fool. Women who do this are playing with fire. If you want to enter your thirties healthy, happy, and beautiful, or regain your lost youth you have only two choices: put down the drink, or become the scientist who makes a cure for alcohol.

If you drink, you probably would like to stop, but are wondering how you can possibly go through life without alcohol in the chest of coping strategies and entertainment. Maybe, like me, you will need help from a recovery program. Either way, I tell you that life post-alcohol is amazingly fun and wonderful—I do everything I used to do, like dancing, socializing, winding down, but I am able to do it all without alcohol. Life is more fun and satisfying because I never feel sick, my senses are sharper and more stimulating, I always remember my good times, and the growing I do is permanent. 

But best of all, I'm aging backwards.