I recently saw this coaster (featured below) at a restaurant. As I sat there drinking my ice cold water, I began to think about how engrained alcoholism is in our culture, or at least North American culture. It’s everywhere! Here are 4 things I’ve noticed about this issue:
It’s ingrained in our consumerist culture and is sexist. Just like the photo in #2 suggests, a man’s best friend is a cold one. It’s ingrained in our consumerist culture. Remember those commercials where men are partying with a cup of beer in their hand and those very fit attractive women are practically objects of pursuit to them? Alcohol is perceived as an instant cure to unattractiveness and lack of confidence, thereby giving men the “edge” to pursue a woman.
It’s cool to drink. If you don’t have a drink, you’re just a straight-out party-pooper. “What do you do with your life? Sit at home on a Saturday night with your cat playing video games?” Why yes I do, minus the cat. As children we see our parents drinking and they put this idea in our heads that you have to be a grown up to drink without ever seriously telling us what the consequences are. So when it comes time that you’re a teenager and your hormones are raging out of control, all you want to do is enhance your image by doing “grown-up” things, like drinking. Drinking, it gives off this sense of maturity for teens who may feel inferior or just want to feel that sense of independence. Not only that, but drinking is a way to say “I don’t care. I’m not boring. I can and will break the rules.” The sad fact is that parents, educators, and authoritative figures alike rarely ever take the time to educate our youth publicly about the risks of drinking. Instead, what we see is advertisements on TV presenting us with the life-threatening circumstances of drinking alcohol. That’s good and all, but without the intent to inform our youth about the damages to their bodies and the stupidity of such actions, we are simply leaving them with a disillusioned optimism (“That could never happen to me”). Our Youth needs to be informed of what DOES happen to them with this rage called drinking, not what COULD. Adults need to reinforce this. And adults need to stop caving into this idea that drinking alcohol is a fun pastime. It’s not. It’s alcoholism at its worst.
3. It’s fun. It’s rather sad that alcoholism has become so ingrained in our culture that nobody acknowledges as it is – a problem. It’s acknowledged as a solution to boredom and a gateway to having fun with your peers. It’s used as a way to socialize and gain confidence. With parties and social gatherings, it is the most acceptable norm to bring a bottle of alcohol with you as a gift. Otherwise, it is perceived as rude. This is a ridiculous phenomena that I cannot grasp – to go to a party with a bottle of alcohol in hand and potentially give someone with an alcohol problem alcohol? I cannot wrap my head around it. What logical person came up with this idea? Is it not possible to “unwind” simply by sharing common interests and socializing with each other?
4. You’re no fun if you don’t drink. At least, this is what I have perceived. I am one of the rare non-drinkers out there. I have probably only had 3 bottles of beer in the last 12 months. Frankly, I do not enjoy it the way it has been advertised that I should. Whenever I go out with friends or family, there is always the pressure to drink. Upon denial of the offer to drink alcohol, I am told that I need to “loosen up a little”, “be more fun”, and “chill.” I understand that these people are trying to have a good time with me. Unfortunately, I don’t think they understand how much they are feeding into this ideology that people who don’t drink are no fun. “They don’t do anything.” Yet, they do. I would even argue that these people engage in more spiritual and adventurous journeys than the average bar visitor. I have had the most fun in my life doing the things that don’t require a drink to socialize or have fun. However, I honestly feel that the constant pressure to drink to have fun is something so damaging to the psyche of those who find their fun in other outlets. There is pressure to conform and a tendency to ostracize these people from future gatherings because they don’t do like everyone else does. This ultimately leads to people drinking just to fit in, which is damaging not only to the individual, but to this entire culture based on alcoholism.
All in all, I am not trying to target anyone who drinks. I am rather wary, however, of this system we are brought up in where drinking is a regulated pastime. I am wary of the fact that it can be constituted as a hobby. And I am wary of the fact that this mass issue of alcoholism exists and yet, no one acknowledges it. Have a drink and sit back and relax if you enjoy it. But please understand why you’re drinking. If you need it to fit in, socialize, or to get a fix, you may have a problem.