Last night my mom was talking to me about how she thinks I drink too much (again) and she worries and all that mom-stuff that moms say (you know) and then my dad comes home and loudly proclaims to me “I bought two bottles of wine just to make sure we don’t run out!”
…So, yeah, that didn’t help my cause…
I wanted with all my might to say “I AM NOT DRINKING ANY OF THAT WINE! OR EVER AGAIN, FOR THAT MATTER!” But I didn’t…because I like to drink and I LOVE wine! (who doesn’t?)
My dad said that he doesn’t think it’s a problem, I am a young woman raised in the American culture of drinking a lot (and then he not-so-subtly added that I drink more than the average person). Which I am okay with, because I don’t think I have a problem. But it got me thinking…what is classified as a problem and what is just part of this “culture”?
People say that if it interacts with your life (job, relationships, school, etc) then it is classified as a “problem”. If your partner or your close friends are thinking it’s a problem then it’s a problem. If you’re at work hungover (or drunk) it’s a problem. If you’re at school hungover, I personally don’t think that’s a problem but if you didn’t finish your huge paper or study for finals because you were boozing, that’s a problem.
But what if all that is fine? What if your partner and your friends go out the same amount you do, nobody is judging you because of your intake of alcohol, you are okay at work and you’re passing school and getting your work done? Wellllll, then you’re considered a functioning alcoholic. (Or you’re all alcoholics!)
(You just can’t win with these people!!)
I think this question is more complicated than just saying “if you’re not happy then it’s a problem” Because when people break up (for example) they aren’t happy and they sometimes go out and drink more to get over it. Sometimes it takes months. That doesn’t make it a problem (or does it?). It means you got your heart broken and are coping with it in your own (unhealthy) way. But we all do it. Are only the people who continue to drink that way after they’re over it the ones who have a problem with drinking?
When I’m on vacation I drink the whole time- for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner (unless I’m passed out drooling on the pillow by that point- too many mimosas, it’s a blessing and a curse) but I know thousands of people that do that (probably closer to one hundred, I don’t know a thousand people, let’s not be delusional, pfft). When I come back to this dreadful reality I call my life, I reserve that level of drinking for special occasions only.
TV shows and movies depict the American culture as drinking for a variety of colorful reasons such as: every day that you don’t have work the next day, when there’s nothing good on tv, when you’re sad, when you’re happy, when you’re meh, when you’re bored, when you’re celebrating, when you just got fired, when you got a job offer, when you wake up and it’s the weekend, after your afternoon nap, when you’re on a date, on every major holiday, on every non-major holiday, anniversaries, birthdays (which count as major holidays), baby announcements (unless it’s your baby), weddings and other festivities. Then you have your victory drinks after you run a race, beers while watching sports games and shots when your team wins, also shots when your team loses, shots during commercials, shots because it’s raining outside, snowing outside, sunny outside, let’s go to the beach and don’t forget to bring beer, let’s go snowboard and take shots afterwards because I fell an infinite amount of times and everything hurts but can you also just pour it down my throat for me because I literally can’t move anything…okay that last one isn’t necessarily from a movie or TV show it may have happened to me but that’s not the point! The point is this list could be so much longer! We see people drinking all the time, we hear about drinking in every song that comes on the radio, we are surrounded by alcohol and everyone wants a big booty bitch (or hoe). That’s what America is!
Relevant side note: I just went on Facebook and saw like 10 alcohol-related posts without having to scroll down the page. It’s everywhere!
So where does the American culture stop and real alcoholism begin?
My opinion? It’s very hard to tell. There are so many variables to this that I don’t know how I feel. I have started writing what I think and deleted it for the past 10 minutes because this can’t be written down (any my brain is starting to hurt). It is on a case by case basis and although there are so many rules in place like:
- I don’t think it’s okay to drink if you’re alone.
- I don’t think it’s okay to drink when you aren’t happy.
- I don’t think that drinking should be a hobby
- Blah blah insert another rule here
Which all make total sense – but I think if you and your friends have a day off together, it’s okay to go out and drink and I don’t think that means you have a problem because you didn’t spend your day off making macaroni necklaces and braiding each other’s hair. I don’t think it’s okay to drink when you’re not happy but we’ve all done it and I don’t think that means you have a problem (I think it means you HAD a problem and a little bit of alcohol just made that problem a little better). I really do not think you should ever drink alone unless you’re waiting for your friend to pick you up and have a beer while you wait. That, I will say, is a rule I follow and I think I’m on to something.
The culture sculpted drinking as this frame of mind like everyone should be ridiculously wasted all the time, and because humans cannot function being perpetually drunk, the reality is that obviously that’s not how life should be lived, but people still do. Drinking like you did when you were 19 at the age of 45 because you still like to go out and party and doing it on a regular basis isn’t part of the “American culture” – so does that mean they are alcoholics too? Or does it just mean they had a mid-life crisis and started going out again (and being kind of creepy – no offense) Does it stop being a part of the American culture when you don’t want to go out because you’re afraid you’re going to blow your paycheck in one night? ( Or when you only go out ‘for one beer’ and that turns into waking up in your bed the next morning not remembering anything after 9pm, phone is broken and wallet is missing? What if that same situation happened after you just turned 21? Or when you’re in your 40s? What if you’re in your 40s and you don’t have kids, you have a good job, and you love your life and all the nights you don’t remember?
I started writing this thinking I was going to come to some sort of conclusion and I can honestly say that I didn’t. I think it’s hard to say when one ends and the other begins – I think it’s a slippery slope. Maybe deciding to write a blog wondering what being an alcoholic really is means you have a problem…(I hope not)
I think that we should all take a few minutes and evaluate our drinking habits (or any substance habits) and truly, honestly look at our lives to see if we want to change it. Or ask someone else to do it for you. There isn’t a formula, not everything can be written down on paper. We are people, we are complex creatures who aren’t one-dimensional pieces of paper and can be neatly placed into one of two categories. And then once you’re done evaluating yourself, if you decide you don’t have a problem, come on, let’s go to this new bar I just heard about!