Many societies have a long history of using alcohol. In a lot of communities it was cheaper and cleaner than water at one time, so you can see why it had it’s place. That is not the case today. Today, drinking alcohol is seen as a past-time. It is a ‘normal’ way to relax and unwind, and you are often more likely to be seen as odd or unusual if you don’t drink, rather than if you do. In my opinion this is rather strange, especially if you look at the fact that it is actually an addictive drug.
I think for me at least, the way our country deals with alcohol, and the way it is such a ingrained part of day to day life, made it much harder to address my drinking problem. I told myself it was okay, because everyone else was doing it. When you see alcohol everywhere it reinforces the idea that it is normal or that we need it. When we form an addiction we aren’t only fighting the physical need for the substance, but also the images around us. It can make us feel like we’re swimming against the tide and failing by being different. It makes it so much harder than it needs to be.
It is so easy to drink nowadays, prices are lower and availability is higher, and we are reminded time and time again that it is what we need to have fun and enjoy ourselves. When I was younger I remember supermarket aisles selling alcohol being shut on Sundays, or at least for some hours on a Sunday, and that was well before 24 hour opening came into force. My parents often frequented the local off license, but there isn’t so much need for shops like that now, when alcohol is so readily available in so many other places, and licensing laws have been relaxed over the years. It is so easy to throw some alcohol into the basket or trolley when you pop into the shops, even in many petrol stations, which I always find bizarre! I am glad that supermarkets have stopped some of the offers that used to draw me in. Three bottles for a tenner was always a catch for me, and as three wouldn’t last me two days I was often tempted to double up to make the most of the offer. I wouldn’t think anything of it, and that is a mark of how ‘normal’ it is to drink in our society. Even in some restaurants the meal deals involve an alcoholic drink, and it’s sometimes cheaper to get an alcoholic drink than a soft one. There often isn’t the same choice of non-alcoholic drinks, which is a shame, as I think sober people can be forgotten but just because I don’t drink alcohol, it doesn’t mean I no longer want to taste something interesting!
Self-medicating for stress or anxiety is becoming a normal thing, with a relaxed attitude to the fact that many people are drinking every day, coming home to their reward of a drink or two in the evening. The problem with this is that it builds a reliance, it encourages a dependency, and before long, you are relying on it much more than you ever thought you would be. Of course, this is without taking into account any thoughts of the physical harm that long term drinking can cause. Children as well are seeing alcohol as a normal way to relax, and that’s sad. It’s one thing doing something to yourself, but it’s tricky when it begins to influence others.
The statistics from The World Health Organisation are frightening. They suggest that 3.3 million deaths each year are attributed to harmful use of alcohol which is more than results from HIV/AIDS, violence or tuberculosis. They also estimate that an average of 6.2 litres of pure alcohol are consumed by every person over the age of 15 per year. As about half of the population don’t actually drink alcohol it means that those who do, drink approximately 17 litres of pure alcohol each year. According to Alcohol Change, there are approximately 586,780 dependent drinkers in England with around a quarter of adults in England and Scotland drinking more than the recommended low-risk guidelines. Although it was refreshing to see recently that the American Institute for Cancer Research are recommending that we should limit alcohol consumption. They actually go on to state that, “For cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol.”
I hope eventually something changes regarding advertising in the UK. While I am not against people drinking, I am against adverts which overly glamourise alcohol. I hate that it is promoted as something desirable, when it is really just an addictive drug. It does a lot of damage to a lot of people, as I have experienced first hand and I wish that were recognised more than it is right now, and perhaps it could be seen as less of a day to day normality than it is for a lot of people currently.
When we look at children, we can see how we were meant to be. They don’t need alcohol to have fun, or to relax. My three year old Stanley doesn’t crack open a beer on a sunny afternoon in the garden, but as adults we often feel we should. Come to think of it, my three teenagers wouldn’t either, so maybe I’m doing something right!
Take care of yourselves.