April is Alcohol Awareness Month: Why do people drink and why is it so culturally acceptable?

Alcohol has been around for thousands of years. It’s a part of our culture and society and is a legal drug that’s easily available and inexpensive. It’s been a part of religious traditions since the dawn of religion and we use it to celebrate and socialize and to mark special occasions like birthday’s and weddings. Even though some say alcohol is more dangerous than heroin or crack, drinking in moderation is viewed as normal in many cultures, ours included.

When one happy hour isn’t enough

Why? Drinking is fun. It’s liberating. The craziest, most intense times of my life were had under the influence of alcohol. But I could never drink in moderation as the ‘fun’ and ‘liberating’ feelings became an addiction in themselves.

A recent poll reveals that I’m not alone. In fact, 22% of drinkers say they sometimes drink too much.  It’s enjoyed too frequently and becomes the focal point of our life. We’ve transformed drinking into something that no longer only brings joy. While I had a many wild times drinking, they were always tempered with a devastating sense of self-loathing for not being able to control my drinking. The majority of the time, I hated myself the next morning for indulging so deeply. Yet I knew I would soon drink again. Why would I do this to myself?

According to the  University of Michigan Depression Center, people use drugs to avoid mental or physical pain. To self-medicate. To heal wounds.  Because alcohol is a drug that’s so cheap, accessible, encouraged and legal, it’s almost too easy to fall into its trap.

For those of us who drink to a point of dependence, often it’s the following that leads us there:

  • Domestic violence
  • Abuse
  • Family problems
  • Divorce
  • Bullying
  • Low self-esteem
  • Health issues
  • Unemployment
  • Financial stress

That’s what happened to me. Aside from a warped childhood (raised in religious cult) and massive personal losses sustained in my teens (lost entire family when leaving cult), the genetic predisposition bestowed upon me by my alcoholic lineage (both sides of my family contain many alcoholics), and a myriad of other life stressors, I also became addicted to the feeling of being drunk. Of being reckless and irresponsible and dangerously free. I was physically and mentally addicted.

The bottom line is that we live in a culture that provides many mixed messages, especially when it comes to drinking. We don’t even like to think of alcohol as a drug, but it is. I take issue with the fact that alcohol is so encouraged, yet so dangerous. Does anyone else feel this way?

Image credit: PinkMoose

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