Debunking the Normalization of Alcohol
One of the most challenging parts of being in recovery for alcohol use disorder (AUD) is dealing with society's normalization of alcohol, a deadly drug. Alcohol is everywhere. Some days, triggering situations come at me more quickly than I can process them. Some days, I want to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head, and stay there forever because that feels like the only safe place in this alcohol-obsessed culture.
The Normalization of Alcohol in Everyday Life
Last week someone started a conversation with me by asking if I had ever seen four grown men blackout drunk at a one-year-old's birthday party. She even took out her phone to show me a picture of drooling, passed-out Uncle Rick like it was funny. She joked that it was "one heck of a rager" and expected me to laugh along with her as I awkwardly swallowed my disbelief.
Uncovering the Truth of Alcohol
The truth is we live in a society that brainwashes us into believing that using and abusing this drug called alcohol is a perfectly normal part of life. Culturally speaking, life only involves a handful of noteworthy milestones: getting a driver's license at 16, becoming an adult at 18, reaching the legal drinking age at 21, getting married, and having kids. We view being able to pour a highly addictive, lethal, Group 1 carcinogen1 down our throats as a celebratory rite of passage. The normalization of alcohol is woven into the fabric of our lives long before the brain develops fully.2
Statistically, 14.5 Americans struggle with AUD.3 Worse yet, AUD kills over three million people annually, making it the third highest preventable cause of death.4 Alcohol is destroying lives and killing people at record rates. Chances are someone you know, like Uncle Rick, is silently struggling with alcohol. To joke about it is egregiously insensitive, irresponsible, and ignorant.
I believe the social acceptability of alcohol makes it the worst drug. It would not be okay to joke about four grown men doing lines of cocaine or shooting heroin at a one-year-old's birthday party. The government would have that kid removed from the home immediately. And yet, blackout drinking is laughable and normal?
Rooting Myself in Truth Despite Our Culture's Normalization of Alcohol
Recovering from an AUD can feel like an impossibly isolating experience while trying to survive in an alcohol-obsessed culture. There are triggers around every corner. Going against the grain is hard work, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. Rooting myself in truth allows me to take pride in my teetotaler status. By debunking the normalization of alcohol, I create space to participate in the accrescent revolutionary and life-saving alcohol-free movement.
- Kiaer, T. (2021, October 20). Alcohol is one of the biggest risk factors for breast cancer. https://www.who.int/europe/news/item/20-10-2021-alcohol-is-one-of-the-biggest-risk-factors-for-breast-cancer
Schwartz-Bloom, R. (n.d.). Content: Brain Maturation is Complete at About 24 Years of Age – The Alcohol Pharmacology Education Partnership. https://sites.duke.edu/apep/module-3-alcohol-cell-suicide-and-the-adolescent-brain/content-brain-maturation-is-complete-at-about-24-years-of-age/
- Alcohol Facts and Statistics | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). (n.d.). https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
- Hanson, M. (2023, January 1). Alcohol Abuse Statistics. NCDAS. https://drugabusestatistics.org/alcohol-abuse-statistics/
Cronkright, K. (2023, February 6). Debunking the Normalization of Alcohol, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, September 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/debunkingaddiction/2023/2/debunking-the-normalization-of-alcohol