Her Best-Kept Secret

About the Book

Have you ever noticed groups of women clutching giant goblets of pinot grigio? How often have you seen a woman drain a half-bottle of wine while making dinner? What’s the first thing many women do when they go home? Make a dash for the white in the refrigerator.

In Her Best-Kept Secret, journalist Gabrielle Glaser uncovers this hidden-in-plain-sight drinking epidemic – but doesn’t cause you to recoil in alarm. Praised by the New York Times Book Review, People, the Boston Globe, and Kirkus Reviews, she is the first to document that American women are drinking more often than ever and in ever larger quantities.

Instead, in a funny and tender voice, Glaser looks at the roots of the problem, explores the strange history of women and alcohol in America, from Carry Nation to Carrie Bradshaw.

Glaser reveals that, for many women, joining Alcoholics Anonymous is not the answer—it is part of the problem. After all, two of A.A.’s key messages—that you are powerless over drinking and must relinquish your ego to stop it—are messages designed by A.A.’s male founders for men in the 1930s

Like Glaser herself, the book is optimistic. She shows that as scientists and health professionals are studying women’s particular reaction to alcohol, they are coming up with new approaches to drinking too much that work. Glaser offers contemporary solutions to a very modern problem.

While Alcoholics Anonymous is endorsed by many doctors, our judicial system, and is used in more than 90 percent of U.S. treatment facilities, study after study shows that it doesn’t work well for women.

Here are some of the reasons why:

  • A.A.was developed by men. Studies show that men feel more powerful when they drink. Women, by contrast, feel calmer and less inhibited.
  • The program urges members to surrender egos to a higher power. This might work for men, but women don’t typically suffer from an excess of hubris in the first place. Many of them are drinking because they feel powerless in other areas of their lives.
  • The logic is off. Sponsors in A.A. need only be in the program themselves, not doctors or experts at treating a condition like alcohol dependence. This was understandable when A.A. was developed in the 1930s, but our understanding of brain chemistry has evolved a great deal since that time. It is irresponsible to imbue them with such power, and it can often lead to one of the more sinister aspects of A.A. for women: sexual exploitation. A.A. has become a breeding ground for predatory behavior, and its prevalence in A.A. is an open secret, often referred to as “The Thirteenth Step.” The dynamic is toxic for women, who often drink because they are trying to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, disorders which strike women at twice the rate they do men. Many even have a history of sexual abuse or eating disorders, causing self-esteem issues that make them especially susceptible.

AA is not the only solution for women drinkers in need. There are some alternatives to Alcoholics Anonymous.