Cracking open a cold beer or a fresh bottle of wine has become accepted normalcy in almost any and every situation. We drink to celebrate, and we drink after a hard day at work, we drink to help us harness our inner socialite, and some days, we drink just because we can. What if you find yourself drinking on all occasions?
This societal acceptance of alcohol consumption as an all-purpose accessory has negatively affected many aspects of people’s lives. Despite being a go-to addition to nearly all occasions, the troublesome byproducts of alcoholism and substance misuse continue to rise. While the act of drinking alcohol seems to have taken a record high level of public approval, being intoxicated is a whole different ball game.
Varying demographics around the globe have differing views on both the consumption of alcohol and the subsequent and nearly inevitable intoxication. The culture we belong to helps establish the general beliefs and behaviors when it comes to drinking alcohol. Even the smallest groups, meaning your closest friends and family, help create the boundaries and relationship you have with alcohol. Depending on the type of exposure to drinking you have had, the feelings internally will coincide with positive or negative outcomes.
As current media exposure helps to sway social norms about alcohol, it increases its influence by using techniques that include advertising and product placements, especially in:
- Social media
- Other forms of entertainment
Advertising the “Norm” of Drinking on all Occasions
Although alcohol sales and marketing are highly regulated, people are regularly exposed to a wide variety of alcohol and liquor advertisements, especially in the United States. As a result, the alcohol industry has a complex targeted marketing strategy. These strategies include techniques that focus on African Americans, Latinos and American Indians, among other minority demographic groups, such as youth and socioeconomic status. Unfortunately, this only compounds other demographic issues within those populations, making them a highly susceptible group for substance abuse.
Statistics have shown that upward of 90% of those with substance abuse disorder began using in adolescence. Studies have shown that those targeted in alcohol marketing techniques have resulted in individuals developing positive beliefs about drinking and creating and expanding environments where alcohol use is socially acceptable and encouraged.
These implanted beliefs contribute to alcohol products’ overall use and sale, although the bigger view is much more disturbing. Disturbances in the health of individuals and whole communities are observed because of an overwhelming acceptance of drinking on all occasions.
The most notable times that alcohol consumption takes place are in times of:
- Coping emotionally
History of Alcohol Consumption
Since Neolithic times (approximately 4000 BC), alcohol has played a key role in almost all human cultures. All societies, without exception, have used intoxicating substances, and alcohol has been by far the most common substance recorded historically. Thus drinking must have had—at one time—significant adaptive benefits of some sort, as the documented persistence of alcohol use throughout human evolution suggests. Note, however, this does not imply that the practice of alcohol intoxication, for any reason, is invariably beneficial to any situation in any context.
From the earliest recorded use of alcohol, drinking has always been associated with a social activity. Both consumption and behavior are subject to self-imposed social controls and levels of public acceptance. In today’s culture, it is perfectly acceptable to look forward to drinking for whatever reason, if any at all.
Whether you’re getting off work, it’s the weekend, or it’s someone’s birthday, there’s live music, it’s a holiday, you’re feeling too many emotions or need to take the edge off, etc. The list goes on. And why not indulge? It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?
This “why not?” mindset has sent large portions of society down a path of unintentional substance misuse. Alcohol has been touted as an easy way to pass some of the most challenging times in life, but in reality, it only makes things more difficult.
Getting into the habit of drinking on all occasions can quickly turn into a real-life problem. In areas where drinking is prevalent, mere participation can become a life hazard before you even know what’s happening. Like any misuse, alcoholism is a slippery slope and doesn’t look the same person to person.
In all levels of society, alcohol plays a central role in transitional rituals, including major and minor life-cycle events. Even everyday transitions can signify time to drink. For example, in cultures in which alcohol’s role is to mark the transition from work to play, drinking is associated with recreation and irresponsibility; this “let loose” attitude serves to signify the release of responsibility and even accountability. Alternatively, this mindset also contributes to the negative feedback loop experienced by families with multigenerational members dependent on alcohol.
A wedding, a birthday, a holiday and even a work promotion are all causes for celebration. The events and style of celebration vary with those cultural foundations and are acceptable to have a drink or two or five.
Our tolerance of this behavior is determined by whether the level of intoxication and associated behaviors are permitted by the group or not. If you grew up around drinkers, there’s a high chance you’ve witnessed one of those occasions gone awry because of alcohol intoxication.
Coping With Emotions
In times of difficulty, high or low emotions can be highly troublesome. In these moments, people turn to substances like alcohol to attempt to manage, calm or distance themselves from their feelings. The need to drink is present when it’s been a long stressful day, something big just happened or even just a tiny trigger has sent your emotions on a tailspin.
Choosing to add alcohol or any other mind-altering substance into the mix will not solve anything. Despite the temporary relief you might feel while intoxicated, the consequences often worsen.
With the exception of the self-isolated drinker, the majority of these circumstances also include a sense of social exploration. Whether it’s a celebration or just the transition to the weekend, chances are your plans include friends and acquaintances. This in-group feeling comes with a sense of belonging and safety.
However, your drinking buddies are a false sense of security. Due to the continued acceptance of some shocking behaviors like blacking out, vomiting or even fighting. Getting drunk with “friends” isn’t a healthy way to celebrate, transition or cope.
What is acceptable alcohol consumption?
Alcohol-related problems can be associated with specific cultural factors relating to beliefs and attitudes. The norms and expectancies about drinking alcohol and sobriety vary from group to group and culture to culture. Again the smallest of groups you participate in will determine the behavior used on the grander scale.
For example, suppose it was considered acceptable for your uncle to get so drunk at family functions throughout your life that he would pass out and even lose bodily function. So when your buddy gets a little sloppy and falls over, it doesn’t seem like a big deal.
Societies that generally have positive beliefs and expectancies about alcohol experience significantly fewer alcohol-related problems. However, when considering alcohol’s relationship with substance abuse and addiction recovery, these factors are less integrated. There is a large portion of the drinking population who also misuse other substances. Often drinking is the gate opener to increased intoxication and co-occurring dependencies.
Problematic Misuse: How much is too much alcohol?
When alcohol consumption turns into complete inebriation, it is a problem. If it feels like you can’t celebrate or transition to a night off without pouring a cold one, it is a problem. When alcohol becomes a go-to for all occasions, it is a problem.
This progression is the slippery slope that only ends downhill. Like other substance dependencies, alcohol dependency includes contextual associations and physical reliance on the substance. The associations of environments and situations can become lifelong triggers.
Biologically, once you take a drink, your body’s response is to make metabolizing it a top priority. Because your body doesn’t have a way to store alcohol, it needs to get processed before anything else. Alcohol abuse can cause bacteria to grow in your gut.
This bacteria can eventually migrate through the intestinal wall and into the liver, causing further damage. Alcohol can weaken the immune system and make the body more susceptible to infections like the cold and flu. In addition to causing the heart to become weak (cardiomyopathy) and have an irregular beat pattern (arrhythmias), alcohol abuse also puts people at higher risk for developing high blood pressure.
Drinking on all occasions is too much.
If you’ve found yourself needing to add alcohol to every transition in your life, notice you can’t celebrate without a few drinks or you recognize that the blanket acceptance of alcohol intoxication in your group is not healthy, it is time to seek outside help. The U.S., in particular, has become very lenient of problematic drinking. It is our responsibility to recognize when our habits have become reminiscent of an addiction.
The Ranch TN can guide you into the right kind of recovery options for your situation. Abusing alcohol doesn’t always look like passing out drunk. So when you feel you can’t enjoy any of those key moments without a drink, it’s time to reflect on what that means for you. Call us today at 888.645.7453 to learn more.