Even though it’s widely available and socially acceptable to drink, alcohol is still responsible for thousands of deaths and countless injuries every year. Moreover, although it’s addictive and dangerous, people continue to normalize alcohol consumption in a way that would never be tolerated with other drugs. In fact, alcoholic beverages are advertised on all major media, and alcohol is available anywhere from the supermarket to your favorite restaurants to the arena where you go to watch sports games.
Because of how ubiquitous alcohol is, how acceptable it is, and how much pressure there is to drink it, recovering from alcohol addiction is extremely difficult, even with the help of inpatient alcohol rehab. But if alcohol is such a risky and addictive drug responsible for so many lives every year, why is it more socially acceptable and more accessible than other drugs?
For Alcoholics in Recovery, Triggers and Temptations Are Everywhere
One of the keys to long-term recovery is starting fresh, and that includes cutting out the people, places, behaviors, and substances that once dominated an addict’s life. When someone leaves alcohol rehab, they’re encouraged to make new friends, form positive relationships, stay away from people who enable their addiction, and avoid people and places associated with their drug of choice. The road to recovery is long and fraught with roadblocks, but these are necessary steps for long-term sobriety.
But when it comes to alcohol, it’s impossible for a person to avoid it completely without becoming a recluse who never leaves the house, listens to the radio, watches television, or goes on the internet. Alcohol is everywhere: anywhere you go, you’ll find an ad or a person telling you to relax and have a drink, and in some professional circles, it can be difficult to make inroads with people if you don’t drink.
The popularity of alcohol and the enormous pressure to drink is everywhere, making it very difficult to recover alcoholics to maintain a healthy distance. In fact, the pressure to drink alcohol is stronger than the pressure to consume any other drug, leading to high relapse rates.
Alcohol Is Pervasive, But Also Dangerous and Addictive
Alcohol is everywhere you look: it’s in advertisements, movies, and television shows, bars, and restaurants, at parties, concerts, work meetings, and even in some movie theaters these days. People drink at home, on weekends, in the evenings after work, at barbecues and celebrations, and for various other reasons and at several other places. In short, alcohol is extremely accessible, and drinking it is just as socially acceptable as drinking tea or water. However, unlike other beverages, alcohol is, in fact, a drug, and it’s dangerous, it’s addictive, and consuming it can have extremely negative—and even deadly—consequences.
Each year, alcohol can be linked to almost 90,000 deaths worldwide and plenty more injuries stemming from alcohol poisoning, accidents, reckless driving and vehicular fatalities, domestic violence, and drug interactions, not to mention the stress it places on family and friends. Moreover, alcohol also has severe long-term side effects, including liver disease, cancer, heart disease, nerve damage, gastrointestinal problems, and more. In fact, whereas most drugs are only detrimental to a single system, alcohol abuse can impact just about every part of your body.
So Why Is Alcohol So Socially Acceptable When Other Drugs Aren’t
Despite the proven detriment that alcohol can cause, it remains a drug that anybody can legally purchase over the age of 21. In fact, alcohol laws are becoming even more permissive, and you can now purchase alcoholic beverages in more locations at later and earlier hours. You can expect to be served in a growing number of places (such as movie theaters). There are many reasons why alcohol doesn’t have the same legal classification as other substances, such as marijuana, and they include:
- Strength in numbers: nearly half the population admits to drinking alcohol
- Constitutional Rights, which protect freedom of religion, would be impeded if alcohol were outlawed since the Bible states that Jesus turned water into wine, and consuming alcohol today is part of the Eucharist ceremony
- History: alcohol is as old as recorded history and has probably been around even longer than that
- Economics play a role as well because the alcohol industry employs nearly 4 million people and brought in over $400 billion in 2010 alone
Managing the Pressure to Drink
So what’s a recovering alcoholic to do when it’s impossible to avoid the one substance you’re supposed to stay away from and when the pressure to drink is everywhere? It is possible to stay sober, and most people in recovery find success with practice and a few tips:
Tip 1: When somebody does offer you a drink, have an answer prepared to decline your offer, such as “no, thanks, I’m driving.”
Tip 2: Try to make new friends who are sober (or who don’t drink very often) and avoid your old drinking buddies.
Tip 3: Remind yourself regularly of the reasons you chose to stop drinking, especially when you’re feeling tempted or pressured to drink.
Tip 4: Take a sober friend and ally to parties and social events where there will be alcohol.
Tip 5: When you’re in social situations where you or others might feel awkward if you aren’t drinking, ask the bartender for a non-alcoholic beverage in a high ball or cocktail glass.
Tip 6: Never be afraid to leave a situation when you’re feeling pressured to drink, and avoid people who place such pressure on you, even if they’re old friends.
One of the most important aspects of the fight against alcoholism is altering how alcohol is perceived, advertised, and talked about in society. At the moment, alcohol isn’t thought of as a drug by many people, and alcoholism is treated as a rare exception to an otherwise unproblematic behavior.
But as long as drinking remains the social norm, and as long as people don’t recognize the signs of dependence and addiction, then alcoholism and the problems it causes for individuals, families, and communities will continue to be ignored and dismissed. And for people who are struggling with alcohol addiction, inpatient alcohol rehab (that includes a medically supervised detox) at a trusted addiction facility is the best place to start if you want to get your life back on track, learn about the causes of your addiction, and learn more ways to avoid relapses in the future.