Why Do People Drink Alcohol?
This article is primarily for individuals who seek to better understand why drinkers and alcoholics choose to drink. At Origins Recovery Center, we work with all different types of alcoholics with varying degrees of alcoholism. Often, the appeal of alcohol seems almost intuitively obvious to both suffering alcoholics and former alcoholics in recovery.
However, it is true that, in fact, many people do not enjoy alcohol much or at all. Some do not like the taste, some do not enjoy the feeling of being “tipsy” or feeling out of control (although an alcoholic generally has paradoxical feelings in this regard). If this sounds like you and you are seeking to understand the drinker in your life, then read on as we examine the most common reasons why people drink alcohol.
Furthermore, this article may prove to be a valuable resource to those recovering from alcoholism. At Origins, we tend to avoid dissecting the “why” so much as we just accept that it “is”; an alcoholic (who is not in recovery) is going to drink. That said, it can be helpful to identifying common triggers in creating a proper relapse prevention plan, so that you can understand what forces are generally at play when people choose to drink alcohol.
Social Drinking & the Influence of the Alcohol Industry
Have you ever noticed that modern movies make binge drinking out to be more of a funny commonplace occurrence, rather than some kind of behavioral anomaly? Consider The Hangover, Project X, or Superbad. Of course, humor related to alcohol can be funny, but you have to think about potential ulterior motives in creating the cinematic ubiquity of alcoholic behavior. It is a known fact that big companies and advertisers have a hand in the movie industry. Did you see Transformers? It was basically a 1.5 hour long GM commercial. If you think this is different for alcohol and the alcohol industry, then you are sorely mistaken.
What is more, the prominence of commercials for alcoholic beverages has risen in recent years. You cannot watch nearly any show with any degree of popularity without seeing an ad for beer or liquor. And, similarly, you cannot open up a magazine without seeing an advertisement beckoning you to “stay thirsty, my friends”, “tap the rockies”, and so on.
The alcohol industry is an enormous multi-billion dollar industry. The more prominent and commonplace people believe drinking alcohol is, the fewer inhibitions people will have about drinking more often. In other words, a media-induced perception of acceptance around drinking allows people to drink more, thus increasing the bottom-line of Anheuser Busch. However, it is this same perception that also allows the alcoholic justify drinking with such frequency; it is a perfect shield to hide their illness.
Peer Pressure and Alcohol
I am sure we are all familiar with the sort of teenage peer pressure that is generally associated with the term. As in, your buddy dares you to do another shot, or a keg stand at a high school keg party. The general assumption, however, is that peer pressure is a product of age which dissipates as people mature. This, unfortunately, is not the case. It can take on different forms, but peer pressure to drink alcohol may exist through a person’s entire life.
For example, it is not uncommon for an employee to have a bad day, or maybe just a long day, and afterwards decide to go to a bar to have a couple drinks and wind down. Often, this person will want to do a bit of recruitment: “Oh, come on… it’s been a long day. Just have one or two.” Generally, the recruiter will find someone who takes the bait. Is this situation really all that different from the situation outlined above? The teenager at the keg party wants to get drunk so he encourages his friend to do so as well, that way he will not feel like a loser drinking on his own; the coworker wants to let loose but, similarly, does not want to drink alone so he pressures his coworker into joining him. Both are instances of preying upon many individual instinctive desire to please others.
The problem is that the alcoholic or problem drinker may very well work in an office full of a lot of people, thus affording him many opportunities to be pressure throughout the week by his peers.
Alcohol Lowers Inhibitions
There are many shy people in the world. Moreover, there are many circumstances in which someone does not have to be extremely shy in order to feel intimidated or uncomfortable. For instance, a guy meeting his girlfriend’s friends for the first time. Alcohol helps to lower inhibitions, making many people feel more sociable and outgoing. Perhaps a person is on a first date with someone they like…this is often a time when people feel the need to imbibe a bit more beforehand and during.
Whatever the situation, people will often use alcohol to lose their inhibitions and to feel more comfortable in situations where they otherwise might not. Alcohol is a wonderful, temporary social lubricant. The word “temporary” is used because these effects are short-lived and, quite often, the person drinking becomes too uninhibited and begins to behave in an inappropriate, embarrassing or obnoxious manner..
Alcohol Can Relieve Stress
For many people, alcohol provides wonderful anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties; thus, people drink alcohol to temporarily relieve stress. Quite often, however, drinking to escape stress only exacerbates stress in the long run. This is because, rather than dealing with the stressful situation, the drinker only acts to temporarily avoid the stress, thus prolonging that which is actually making them stressed. To make matters worse, alcohol has been shown to heighten anxiety among those who drink, when they are not drinking. This, in turn, promotes further drinking, which begets further anxiety; it is really just one vicious cycle.
This is not a conclusive list and, quite frankly, many alcoholics do not need an excuse to drink. They just drink. However, this is a good place to start in understanding the needs and desires of an alcoholic. If you or someone you love is addicted to alcohol, please contact us. We would love to be able to help.