Nearly one-third of adult Americans do not drink alcohol at all. Furthermore, another one-third of adult Americans consume less than one alcoholic drink per week. These figures from a Washington Post article astonished me; far more Americans don’t drink alcohol or very light drinkers than I had realized.
The Reasons Americans Don’t Drink Alcohol
I’ve been in alcohol recovery for eight years, and most people I hang out with don’t drink. In fact, I’m so accustomed to talking with people in substance abuse recovery that I forget there are other reasons someone might not drink alcohol. A few weeks ago, I was at a conference and when I heard one of my fellow classmates didn’t drink, I immediately assumed he was in alcoholism recovery. When I asked him about it, he responded that he did not drink because he is Mormon.
This had never even occurred to me. But the truth is, I have known people from various religions or non-religious people who choose not to consume alcohol. My best friend from childhood drank a little bit in college, but it didn’t appeal to her and now she doesn’t. Another good friend of mine chooses not to drink because she doesn’t like to feel out of control. I also know health conscious folks who abstain from alcohol because they feel the negative health effects of alcohol outweigh the possible positive ones.
Most Americans Drink Less Alcohol Than You Think
According to statistics from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), 30% of American adults don’t consume alcohol. Of those that do drink, the median number of drinks per week is three. The mean average is misleading because the actual data is very lopsided: the top 10% of Americans drink on average 74 alcoholic drinks per week–over 10 a day. This means that many Americans drink little or nothing, but those folks on the high end of the spectrum often binge drink and hit the bottle–or can–hard.
Drinking Little or No Alcohol is Normal for Americans
In 2013, 43.6% of Americans over age 18 reported drinking no alcoholic beverages in the past month, according to NESARC data. Furthermore, 29.3% drank no alcohol in the past year. I’m not here to tell anyone they drink too much or that their drinking is abnormally high, but I think it’s important for those of us who have given up alcohol to realize we are not alone.
I never thought of alcohol as something you could take or leave. To me it seemed people either didn’t drink or it was a huge part of their lives. But then again, I am not a moderate person in general. I can’t just smoke an occasional cigarette, now and then, for example: I’m actively addicted or I’m abstinent. I now know that living with little or no alcohol drinking is a perfectly viable and acceptable way to live. When we are in our addiction, we tend to surround ourselves with people who drink or use like us. That is why it sometimes feels like we are the only ones who are clean and sober. In fact, those of us in addiction recovery are in good, and expansive, company.