5 Reasons why people drink alcohol
So I often get asked on the blog to give 5 reasons why people drink alcohol and what are they?
Of course there are many but over the years especially as a coach of stressed executives I have seen these come up a lot as a reason. Since I was diagnosed with liver disease and started this blog it has grabbed my attention even more than you would expect.
Before we beat ourselves up or in fact celebrate these reasons it is important to know that these are not who we are! They are behaviors and habits, circumstances and can be changed or celebrated.
It may be social pressure, habit, addiction, escapism or just that you want to drink alcohol. They all have very good reasons and knowing them can often help us understand it more.
The bottom line is we can change or just be happy with who we are and either way alcohol is in our lives. The good news is that there is a rise in non and low alcohol drinks options and its growing every year.
Number 5 – Social Conformity
Let’s face it, social pressure is enormous. We still have those old instincts that we travel in packs so if other people do it well it must be the right thing to do!
Have you ever heard of social proof?
It’s what marketers do to get you to think that if you don’t buy their product you will be left out. It’s a bit like keeping up with the Jones family next door.
We want what everyone else has. Have you ever sat down for dinner at a restaurant and there is a big table that orders something that you have not ordered.
You look over and say , “it must be good if they have all ordered it”. We are right nosy nora’s in restaurants.
It’s the reason testimonials for products work so well, including the review sites. In fact when there is a trend of bad reviews people often start seeking out what was bad with their experience just to conform.
You see it on holiday, the week starts with the hotel being amazing and by the end there is a huddle of people picking out all the faults.
People drink very often to fit in. I know I have had a similar experience when I came out of hospital and due to my liver I knew I could never have another alcoholic drink again.
Here is what I found and people on the blog have also found it to be true:
You are damned if you drink too much and damned if you don’t! You end of being in a double bind, if you don’t drink alcohol people think you have a problem and if you do drink people think you have a drink problem.
It’s a weird concept.
However, I have also experienced it in a bar when I ask for an alcohol FREE beer and make the point it has to be 0.0%. I get some weird looks I tell you.
So now I am even more bullish about my answer and just say “ I have liver disease and a drink could kill me is that OK with you”. It works most of the time but of course no matter what you do some people will always be judgmental so it’s best to move on!
There is now a trend which is showing that younger people are going for alcohol free choices because of how they might look on social media and their job prospects.
In fact the growth of alcohol free drinks is at around 23% year-on-year which is astonishing. Studies are showing give people a good alcohol free option and they will take it.
Of course once that social pressure pinch point changes so do drinking habits.
So it’s a good question to ask : “how much social pressure is forcing you to drink alcohol”? The word forcing might even be the wrong word maybe “to fit in” better be a better explanation.
For me it’s right up there in one of the 5 reasons why we consume alcohol.
Number 4 – Habits
Imagine the brain is full of neurons and connections all designed to make our life easier. The brain loves shortcuts and is either :
- Moving away from pain
- Moving towards pleasure
It’s inbuilt into the very ancient part of our brain. It’s part of our make up and our computer programming aspect of the brain. It’s just that nowadays it is a slightly outdated model.
But our primary function to stay safe!
And before you say like a friend of mine does, no, we are not running away from dinosaurs. Different time and place!
Not only that but the brain is designed to take short cuts. So we have a conscious mind, the one we are really aware of and the subconscious mind which looks after all our automatic functions.
It’s the reason once we have learned to ride a bicycle we don’t think about it. Unconscious competence they call it.
After we have had a drink on numerous occasions and we feel good about it our brain programmes it as a habit. So your brain is on autopilot when it comes to that action.
So let’s take some examples of a drinking habit and why people drink alcohol.
Can you relate to some of these?
- You pick up a bottle of wine after work then after a few weeks you pick a bottle of wine up every night
- You go to the pub one night after work and before you know it’s 5 days a week with a binge night on Friday
- You order a large glass of wine in a bar and then that becomes the norm then you get the rest of the bottle free
- Your shopping online order gets more alcohol in it as the weeks go on and now it’s a regular delivery every Wednesday.
You can probably relate to these and we are human and it’s how the brain works. I have been there myself with a glass of wine after work despite having my gym bag with me it became the normal.
It is why we have to reprogram our subconscious brain to build new habits and once they are done again and again the brain switches to the new habit.
And you do it without thinking!
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Number Three – Addiction
Addiction is a funny word and I mean that will love. What is the definition of someone with an addiction? Is it over used when it comes to alcohol?
It’s hard to tell as it’s very common and as with money it is what I call an emotional changed feeling and double standards of course, we are all good at those.
Take a few scenarios and then look at the frame we put around it.
For example if I said I am an addict you could fall into many camps including
- Extreme Sport
- Social Media
There will be emotion attached to each one. In fact, you probably started to imagine the person in each category and having an opinion about it. In fact the actual definition is actually very helpful and not intentionally charged thank goodness!
“the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity”.
So if I said I was addicted to healthy eating you would maybe have a different reaction than if I said I was addicted to cocaine. ( I am not by the way)
Now here’s the thing, I was not very hard core when I drank wine I just enjoyed it. Was it an addiction?
The debate in the hospital continued when my liver started to fail and they could not find any alcohol in my bloodstream, I refused a so called “come down” pill as I did not need it and as someone even said “did I have any alcohol on me in my pockets”?
My face was a picture as I showed them my mobile and keys and said no “have you?”
So there I was a social wine drinker with a great job with liver failure in casualty. I actually stopped drinking straight away no problem, so was I addicted to a glass of wine who knows, maybe, maybe not or was it just a habit?
There was of course things like stress and genetics all playing its part but it goes to show how in our world addiction can be misinterpreted.
Yet we know that you can be addicted to the buzz of pleasure that is created for good and bad addictions as the brain is always moving toward pleasure and away from pain.
There is no doubt that we can become addicted to certain feelings. Moving away from those serious addictions can have serious consequences for our mental health and body without medical help.
So yes addiction is definitely why we drink alcohol but it’s a label that can mean so many things depending on the surrounding frame,
What I do know is that the physical symptoms of coming off addiction, the financial and emotional consequences are far-reaching for those involved.
But, saying everyone who drinks a lot is addicted is probably stretching the truth just a bit.
Number Two- Escape
There is no doubt escaping from our daily lives is one of the reasons people turn to alcohol even socially. Here are just a few examples that people connected to the blog have mentioned :
- Sunday night school feeling ( a hangover for school-day)
- You hate your job
- Your relationship sucks
- Money issues
- You hate your boss
- It diverts your attention away from thing that needs to be done
- Health issues
The list can of course be very personal to you, however here’s the thing alcohol won’t solve it. In fact if you drink too much you can actually damage the brain leading to what’s known as brain fog.
It is in many cases and this is especially true of health and money that the more you drink the bigger the problem you are trying to avoid gets.
Having a hangover rarely gets us in the best shape to set goals and take some action in our lives as we just don’t feel like doing anything about it. It becomes an escape from what we don’t want to see.
It’s like locking the door but wanting to go for a walk but it’s raining so you keep opening the door again only to find it is still raining hours later.
You never do get that walk you need just as with drinking alcohol the problem does not go away.
You worry about paying the bills but spend just as much drinking after work so you forget about it.
The truth is of course that is can provide a release valve and we all like a good party, however if your release valve is on permanently that is when there is a problem as we have not dealt with what is causing the pressure that has built up in the first place.
Number One – You actually like alcohol and you control it
Now of course we should not avoid this one when talking about why people consume alcohol,
It’s simple because they enjoy it.
We can be in danger, a bit like ex smokers who go mental when they see a cigarette the other side of the beer garden that we try force our views upon them. There are lots of people who enjoy a drink, the taste, physical aspect and yes the buzz but still have a very fulfilled life.
Before my liver jacked in I would like to think that was me. From a glass of fizz at the awards dinner to a gin and tonic in Ibiza, those moments are special. So if this is the reason you drink rather than beat yourself up, be grateful that you can live the life you want and enjoy a few drinks keeping within the guidelines of course.
14 units per week, 1 standard drink = 1 unit
I once met a couple in Gran Canaria who cycled for miles every day but when they got back to the hotel their treat was two large beers and they did that every day of their holiday and had some wine with dinner.
Good for them as they were in charge of their drink and not the other way around!
There is a danger we vilify drinking alcohol and of course that would be unfair but it is a very fine line as it is a drug and a poison so keeping some detachment from it is key.
For those people that sometimes ask “Are you alcohol free now” yes is the answer for 20 months and yes people still think I have a problem!
What’s your view?
What would be your 5 reasons why people drink alcohol? What is your experience and do let me know. I always respond to your comments and I love reading them. Its a judgment FREE zone!