Thoughts about Alcohol in our Society
After two years of abstinence from alcohol (since the end of October 2018) and after being through many negative but also positive experiences and addicted family members, I have gathered my courage to write about the extremely polarizing topic of alcohol in our modern society.
I would like to start by talking about my own experiences: “What were the reasons not to drink alcohol anymore?” “What was especially challenging in my own environment?” and finally expressed in the character of a project, “What were the Lessons Learned?”. To keep in line with the title of this text, I would like to present my thoughts on alcohol in our modern society.
Why I Stopped Drinking Alcohol
Almost every person who grew up in the countryside knows that most young locals start drinking alcohol at the age of 15 or 16. I too drank regularly and also a lot, sometimes to the point of a blackout, when I was young, despite being ambitious and playing a lot of football. That was considered quite normal (not from everyone though). After finishing school, the focus shifted more to the topic of physical training which resulted in less excessive drinking. All good things come in threes: The third gastritis in 1.5 years has made me think - finally! Training and health started to become more and more important in the early twenties, so I made the decision to completely abstain from alcohol for two months in the summer of 2018. Although it has been a short amount of time, my training and recovery benefited remarkably, and positive effects on sleep quality, skin condition etc. were also noticeable. The following September I spent a semester abroad in Scotland where things started to get worse again. Training, alcohol, parties and a dragged flu caused the worst health condition I have ever been in. Feeling like shit and being desperate was the turning point for me. The positive experiences from the summer had remained in my head. Also, the negative sides of drinking and partying outweighed more and more the positive ones in past, so a change had to happen – I decided cut alcohol from my life. Back then it felt drastic, when I think about it today it seems preposterous.
What Was Challenging
Especially challenging for me was to make the environment aware of this substantial change. The environment got to know me as a person who also drinks alcohol and likes to go to parties – but this changed considerably. This applies in particular for an Erasmus semester abroad in Scotland, which is well-known for its pub and drinking culture. During the first weeks the social pressure felt quite high, mainly from people who cannot accept this "I am not drinking". Only a few accepted this decision directly and an even smaller part was happy for me and asked with interest for the reasons. People like these seemed exceptionally tolerant and mature, which was very nice to see. Sometimes it also happened that I was longer invited to certain events, which made me sad in the first place and made me question myself.
My Lessons Learned
The most important thing I learned is that you must stand behind your personal decisions with 100% self-confidence. As Jocko Willink would say: “Take ownership of your life.” If the environment does not accept this, then you have to change the environment you are in. Friends, family and acquaintances perceive you as a changed person after a while and if you still go to parties you can avoid annoying questions by simply always having a drink in your hand – let it be water, apple juice or milk, people won’t even notice. Without the "social lubricant" of alcohol, i.e. the state when you are slightly drunk, I had to learn to get out of my comfort zone. Talking to strangers, having conversations with them, dancing, all this is much easier for me today than it has been in the past. Nowaday, I also sleep better, my skin is purer, I am fitter in everyday life and in training, my mood has improved - in short: my life has become better. In addition, abstinence, unlike moderation, has helped me to see everything from a kind of bird's eye view. This made it really frightening to see how many people have a problem with alcohol and how too much alcohol can affect people in a negative sense and how it constantly damages their body, their environment and their health.
My Own Thoughts About Alcohol in Our Society
The following thoughts refer only to a consumption of alcohol that goes beyond a rare enjoyment of a glass of wine during a dinner in a restaurant with friends or family.
Anger, despair, loneliness, sadness, vacuity, boredom, social pressure, pain or personal feelings of inferiority like shyness are all feelings that each of us has felt, feels or will feel in life. Dealing and coping with it is hard to master. But alcohol can be the easy way out. They drink to feel better.
However, consumption does not solve these problems, it only postpones them into future and usually makes them worse.
Moreover, alcohol is generally accepted in our society and not considered as a drug. We drink it, advertise it and offer it at almost every opportunity. And because each of us is a product of our environment, many people drink regularly. Alcohol is a social lubricant and our society is considered as being “social” – whatever being “social” exactly means. It brings people together, whether known or unknown, young or old, rich or poor. Previously unknown people laugh together, cry together, kiss or are having sex with each other. This can be great. But it also hurts people, makes them addictive, increases their problems and can kill people. This is bad.
A solution could be: Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself the question: Why do I drink? If everyone would ask themselves this question, then each of us would drink less. Which would mean less bad experiences and more honesty and depth on the side of positive experiences with family, friends and personal environment.
For more information regarding the topic of alcohol:
SWR2 Wissen Podcast: Wege aus der Alkoholsucht (German)
TED Talk: Everything you know about addiction is wrong
Nathaniel Drew: 30 Days No Alcohol: Facing Social Pressure
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