If you were to flip through the radio searching for a familiar tune, it wouldn’t take long to find a song that references alcohol. From upbeat party anthems to wistful country ballads, the idea of alcohol consumption is ingrained into mainstream aspects of American society. The beloved substance has a long, complicated history and its presence is expected on holidays such as New Year’s Eve and Saint Patrick’s Day as well as events such as the Super Bowl. While drinking alcohol is acceptable in moderation, it is important to consider how the American drinking culture can influence younger generations and how it impacts alcoholics and those recovering from addiction.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Defense, 1 in 12 adults struggle with alcohol dependence and abuse. While this number seems high, we can better understand it by looking at the social pressure surrounding drinking. When alcohol consumption becomes a strong social norm it is no surprise that over 17 million people are struggling. In addition to influencing alcoholics and recoveries, it’s also important to consider society’s attitude toward alcoholism.
When I had a conversation with my roommate a while back, she said something that struck me. She said, “I feel that most families have a member that’s an alcoholic.” Although this seemed an overstatement, it has been reported that over 50% of Americans have a family history of alcoholism or alcohol abuse (“Facts about,” 2015). Perhaps the reason this issue is overlooked is because it is so common. While many families accept the fact they have a member that drinks in an unhealthy manner, less consideration is taken into account on addressing the problem.
Lawrence Osborne, an author and self-admitted lover of alcohol wrote about this issue very eloquently:
“The worst time of year for the drinker is Christmas and New Year’s. It may be the worst time for everyone, but for the determined and solitary drinker it has a coercive and dismal quality, because suddenly your private vice becomes a public virtue in which you are obliged to participate as if nothing has changed. Drinking not only increases and becomes more social; it becomes part of the actual rite of this long devastated Christian holiday, which would be better renamed the Winter Solstice with shopping and antidepressants. (Osborne, 74).”
Osborne’s quote helps solidify the impact that social drinking in Western cultures has on people struggling with alcohol use. It’s important to realize that social settings can be extremely difficult for recovering and current alcoholics. Even though drinking has been a substantial part of American culture for such a long time, it should be taken into account how alcohol consumption culture negatively affects the recovery of those dealing with alcoholism.
Facts about alcohol. (2015, July 25). Retrieved November 6, 2016, from https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol/facts-about-alcohol
Osborne, L. (2013). The wet and the dry. Crown.