I’m trying out my “edgy please come click me” titles so if it’s NOT working for you, please leave me a COMMENT down below chastising me for being inappropriate and WACK AF! If you’re already over it, then let’s hang out, chit chat about alcoholism and reflect a little bit on our culture. Why? Because we’re f*cking nerds, that’s why! Deal with it!
For some reference, here is my first post about alcoholism on this blog that actually made it through my five rounds of editing on this blog Intersectional Feminism: Addiction & Discrimination: https://www.westindiancritic.com/blog/marijuana-alcohol-how-we-focus-on-one-substance-while-ignoring-the-other
Here is my other post, 1 year later about alcoholism and substance abuse:
I’ve written a bit more informally, but none of these posts made “the cut”, so suffice it to say, these two posts summarized my thoughts up until that point about alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse in general.
Today, I’ve decided to make my daily post about alcoholism because of a recent event in Saint Lucia, “Live N Colour”, an end of summer party marking the end of Carnival season for young people in Saint Lucia. One of our country’s most prominent newspapers, The Voice, tackled the issue of teenage drunkenness at the party, an issue which rose to prominent attention due to a viral photo of five or so teenagers passed out drunk and covered in powder in disturbing positions that made the teenagers in question look dead. The image rightfully raised cause for concern, however due to the fact that those teenagers were likely minors, I will not be sharing the photo here. You can view an article about the subject on The Voice website here.
While the seemingly annual occurrences of fatal car crashes related to youth consumption of alcohol have promoted various anti-alcohol abuse pledges, these public displays against excess intoxication seem to have been muffled by the louder voices of ongoing cultural practices, family culture, and repeated instances of Heineken billboards and Chairman’s Reserve billboards plastered across our country’s highways. While I just pointed out the cultural component to alcoholism, this isn’t to say that the country I’m currently in (the United States) is actually any better. Alcohol addiction is present and highly visible to me in both countries, even if of course, we do things differently in Saint Lucia. So do not think this is a “compare and contrast” kind of blog post.
I wanted to cover five subtopics here somewhat informally since again, this is my daily blog post and doesn’t require the rigor of hours of research and citations that I would publish along with my long form blogposts. Here are the five subtopics and I’ll move quickly through them so that you don’t get bored and decide to flame me for coercing you to read something longer than a tweet.
Common myths about alcoholism that crop up during publicized alcohol related incidents (Part I)
What most people don’t realize about alcoholism that I learned during my Neuroscience degree program from Middlebury College (Part II)
Why I’m specifically interested in alcoholism (not just “YOUTH” alcohol consumption)
Challenges facing NON-alcoholics in understanding the illness
Solutions we can come up with that do not require governmental or medical intervention
OK, are we ready?!
Common myths about alcoholism that crop up during publicized alcohol related incidents
Myth #1: The blame and responsibility for alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction lie solely in the hands of the alcoholic. Alcoholism and abuse are personal failings that reflect poor character.
Truth #1: I understand why it can be hard for people who have never struggled with alcohol abuse to understand that it is not a personal failing. Personally, I have no trouble turning down a drink and I rarely drink despite keeping a fully stocked liquor cabinet in full view right in my home. If you’re like this, you might see someone binge drinking and think that they just need to control their behavior. The truth is, alcohol abuse and addiction are rooted in many factors, not just personal choice. There’s a large genetic component to alcoholism which predisposes different people to alcohol abuse. Even if something may seem easy for you or me, this doesn’t mean it’s the case for everyone else.
When searching in recovery circles, I found this graphic that accurately depicts some of the different root causes of addiction and where they may lead if someone doesn’t turn to alcoholism. It’s not just a matter of mimicking behavior, but how people are predisposed to respond to their environments. Some people grow up with alcoholics and become alcoholics while some grow up around alcoholics and never touch a drink in their lives. This doesn’t mean however that these people are immune to codependency, overeating, or abusing another drug.
Myth #2: Alcoholism isn’t a problem as long as you’re “high functioning”.
Truth #2: This one can be the most frustrating as it enables many intelligent alcoholics with severe issues related to their alcohol abuse to deny that their alcohol consumption is an issue. Many “high functioning” alcoholics hold down jobs and keep their lights on, enabling them to live in denial for years. Most of these alcoholics would be unable to appear “normal” without the people they surround themselves with covering up their addiction for them. While their friends and family suffer, they are able to maintain the façade that their drinking falls within normal limits. This quote from The Recovery Village outlines the issues many high-functioning alcoholics are covering up. I urge you to focus your attention on the bold and underlined section of this quote:
They ask friends or family to cover up for them. A high-functioning alcoholic might ask her husband to call in sick to work for her when she’s struggling with a hangover, or borrow money from a friend to pay bills when she’s spent too much on alcohol. In reality, high-functioning alcoholism is usually made possible through the enabling behavior of loved ones.
They restrict their drinking to specific times, situations, or beverages. You might hear a high-functioning alcoholic say, “I never drink on weeknights,” “I only drink at bars,” or “I only drink beer.” These self-imposed limitations might help the alcoholic convince himself that he is in control of his drinking when in fact, he often breaks his own rules.
They isolate themselves in their private time. High-functioning alcoholics may act sociable and outgoing at the office or at company parties. But when they’re not at work, they often prefer to spend their personal time drinking alone or at bars. They may even discourage their family from inviting guests to the house because they don’t want their drinking habits to be exposed.
They break personal commitments because of their drinking. A functional alcoholic may receive awards at work for meeting high-performance standards, while forgetting an important anniversary or missing a family celebration because he or she was drunk or hungover.
They secretly struggle with mental illness. Many high-functioning alcoholics use their substance abuse to mask psychological disorders like depression, social phobia, or an eating disorder. They may suffer from anxiety about their competency or their material security. When they’re not under the influence, they may be moody, withdrawn, tearful, or irritable. They might even talk about suicide or attempt to harm themselves. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 25 percent of functional alcoholics struggle with depression.
Functional alcoholics are often intelligent, hardworking, and well-educated. Their professional status or personal success can make it hard to approach them about having a “problem” with alcohol. However, it is impossible to continue drinking heavily for a long period of time without suffering the physical and psychological consequences of alcoholism, such as liver disease, heart disease, neurological damage, cancer, or depression.
Here is some more troubling information about high-functioning alcoholics from another website Blueprints For Recovery
People who are in denial about the harm of being a “high functioning” alcoholic often:
Joke frequently about alcohol addiction
Keep employment but not earn raises or promotions
Get arrested for driving under the influence (DUI)
Binge drink to “relax”
Forget conversations and activities that occurred while drinking
The clear trouble with “high functioning” alcoholics is that their addiction may not catch up to them for many years, but the long term effects of binge-drinking are not up for debate; they’re verifiable scientific facts. High-functioning alcoholics are likely to underreport their drinking as well due to remaining in a high stage of denial. Since around 20% of alcoholics are “high functioning”, this allows many to hide their trouble with alcohol abuse for years.
Myth #3: Some alcohol consumption is actually healthy.
Truth #3: Oh sweet summer child… Sadly, the facts just do not back up this commonly held misconception. The negative effects of alcohol consumption especially on a regular basis vastly outweigh the benefits. Additionally, alcoholics are likely to drink far more than “moderately” and far more frequently. They underreport their drinking yet rely on studies to validate their addiction that rely on alcohol consumers taking in the smallest doses — which they themselves are unlikely to consume. This article digs deeper into the myth regarding a glass of wine a day and was written by a physician. This article discusses common “big alcohol” myths regarding alcohol consumption and debunks every single one.
Reuters recently summarized a large 2018 study with this quote which more accurately portrays the effects of regular alcohol consumption:
Blood pressure and stroke risk rise steadily the more alcohol people drink, and previous claims that one or two drinks a day might protect against stroke are not true, according to the results of a major genetic study.
We believe a lot of horse shit about alcohol whether or not we are big drinkers. While education in and of itself will not necessarily stop an alcoholic from having their fifth pint of beer and calling it their second, it will certainly help those of us who want to learn more about alcoholism and alcohol consumption to contextualize their behavior and will help us to understand our deadly culture surrounding drinking.
Stay tuned for Part II of this post tomorrow! When I’m done with the series, they’ll all be linked and combined into one post.