It’s a Friday night. Your buddies are telling you to relax and grab some drinks. You know you probably shouldn’t, but they keep pressuring you, so you finally give in. You’re watching a football game with your best friends on a Saturday night. Your peers are cheering you on to drink just a few more. Your team is winning, so why not celebrate? So, you drink. Or maybe you’re in college and the alcohol is flowing at a party. You want to fit in. You don’t want to be “that guy” or “that girl.” So you drink, and drink, and drink.
Alcohol abuse and social acceptance of drinking alcohol is a vicious cycle. You have a tendency to drink and the culture you are around (a party or college atmosphere, a celebration, etc.) lulls you into a false sense of security. If they are drinking, it must be okay. You want to fit in and be accepted. You’ve had drinks before and you try to tell yourself that you’re just a “social” drinker or a “weekend” drinker. Or maybe you are in college and you tell yourself that once you graduate, you’ll stop drinking. But the truth is that you are using social acceptance of alcohol as an excuse for your alcohol abuse. And hey, that’s not okay.
More Acceptance + Less Stigma = A Bad Combination
Alcohol is one of the substances that is more socially accepted than other drugs. It also doesn’t carry the same stigma that other drugs might. Parties, weddings, many college campus atmospheres, birthday celebrations, and other events encourage and supply alcohol. With alcohol so prevalent in our lives, we begin to normalize it into our daily behaviors. We might even mistakenly think that alcohol abuse is a term left for extreme circumstances. But alcohol abuse is very prevalent in our society. In the U.S., 17.9 million Americans (1 in 12 adults) suffer from alcohol abuse and/or dependence and millions more have risky drinking behaviors that could lead to alcohol abuse. Because alcohol is so prevalent, many people are desensitized to its dangerous effects.
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Are We Really Being Desensitized To Alcohol?
Maybe it’s not obvious how much exposure you may have to alcohol on a daily or weekly basis. We really are bombarded a lot in our lives by alcohol.
Here are some examples of how you could be exposed to alcohol in your daily life in a socially acceptable way:
- TV, radio, magazine, or internet ads that mention alcohol in a positive light
- Attending a party/celebration/wedding, etc. that offers alcohol
- Exposure to alcohol in different environments such as home, school, or work
- Attending a sporting event that sells alcohol
- Exposure to billboards advertising alcohol
- Portrayals of alcohol in a positive light by movies, TV shows, and song lyrics.
- Peer pressure to drink amongst friends or even a romantic partner
- Social media posts about friends or family drinking or partying
- Attending a holiday party (Independence Day, Labor Day, etc.) where alcohol is present
- Going to a concert that offers alcohol
This is not an entire list, but it should be easy to see how much we are exposed to alcohol in our lives. We might not realize it at first because it is so prevalent. Increased alcohol exposure leads to more social acceptance and also desensitization.
Do I Have A Drinking Problem?
One of the first signs of an alcohol problem is that you have built up a tolerance to alcohol. You constantly must increase your alcoholic intake in order to feel the same buzz or relaxed feeling you once had with less alcohol.
Another sign you may have an alcohol addiction is withdrawal. When you haven’t been able to drink, do you experience headaches, vomiting, irritability, shakiness, anxiety, fatigue, sweating, etc.? If so, you may be going through withdrawal. This is your body’s way of telling you it needs more alcohol, and that is not good. In extreme cases, you may even experience a fever, seizures, confusion, hallucinations, or agitation. Call emergency services immediately if you experience these extreme withdrawal symptoms.
And finally, there are other signs that may point to alcohol abuse or dependence.
These signs include:
- Losing control of your drinking: you drink more amounts or for longer than intended
- Desire to stop drinking but can’t: you desire to stop or cut back, but are unsuccessful
- Losing interest in other activities you once enjoyed because of alcohol.
- Devoting more time to drinking, recovering, or thinking about your next drink.
- Drinking even though you realize it’s causing harm to your body.
- Denying you have a problem or downplaying your situation.
- Blaming others or circumstances for your drinking behaviors.
- Stealing money from someone so that you can drink.
- Lying to friends or family about your drinking habits.
- Blacking out after drinking.
- Friends and family are concerned about your drinking habits.
- You feel ashamed or guilty about your drinking patterns.
- All your social activities involve drinking alcohol.
Should I Seek Help?
YES! If you or someone you know is suffering from alcohol abuse, the best thing you can do is seek help. Alcohol abuse is being perpetuated by social acceptance of drinking alcohol in our society. If you are struggling from an alcohol addiction, seek help today before it’s too late. Alcohol abuse can lead to death, so don’t wait another minute to reach out. Seeking help is a courageous thing to do. You can help stop the vicious cycle of alcohol abuse and social acceptance of drinking alcohol by seeking help. We’re ready to answer any questions you might have and here to listen and help.