Changing the Culture of Alcohol

Changing the Culture of Alcohol

Different cultures and groups of people have different belief systems and practices when it comes to alcohol. Those of us who have used substances, particularly alcohol, may have experienced a lot of familial, cultural, or social pressure to drink. That pressure can be very real. As we seek treatment for substance use, though, we can be torn by the societal pressure and making choices that are right for us. The expectations surrounding drinking and substance use are not always healthy. Sometimes, it can become necessary to change the culture of alcohol.

Influences of Advertising

In the United States, alcohol companies spend billions per year to advertise their products. While there are guidelines in place as to where and when alcohol advertising can be shown in an effort to prevent advertising to minors, those who are underage are still exposed to such advertising daily. Thus, alcohol is a culture that is marketed as a societal norm from as early as a child is able to see and be aware of television ads, billboards, grocery store advertising, and more.

Whether or not this marketing increases the actual instances of drinking in those who are exposed to the advertising is something that is heavily debated. Research about the social and cultural impacts on alcohol use demonstrates that the impact of advertising varies amongst various races, genders, and age groups. However, the one thing that is clear amongst all groups is that advertising and marketing of alcohol creates positive beliefs about consuming alcohol. The images we see create an expectation of alcohol being not only socially acceptable, but a behavior that is encouraged, particularly in certain environments and occasions. Advertising gives us all “permission” to drink.

Cultural Influences

Alcohol use varies widely within various cultures. For example, where there are strong ties to family and religion, there is often less alcohol consumption. Cultures with a lot of socioeconomic challenges, oppression and other stressors often consume a lot more alcohol than other groups. Gender-wise, men traditionally consume a lot more alcohol than women.

Although there may be cultural influences that impact us such as those listed, it is our own personal culture that impacts us the most. We do not need to fit into one of those groups or stereotypes to use or abuse alcohol or even other drugs. Rather, it is the overall culture that surrounds us that most impacts our choices to drink or not. 

The Power of Family

The part of our culture that impacts us most is family. As with any other area of our lives, the values our family places on alcohol consumption will directly impact our own choices. Often, our values are similar. Sometimes, we choose the exact opposite values. For example, in a very conservative household that condemns alcohol use, we might be inclined to rebel and use or misuse alcohol to defy the familial values.

However, the most impactful influence our families can have is by example. If alcohol is acceptable but only used socially and occasionally, we are likely to adapt that attitude for our own lives. If we witness excessive alcohol use and the behaviors associated with it, we may also end up abusing alcohol as well. If we never see our families using alcohol, then it will more likely be foreign to us and something we are less likely to engage in. 

Regardless of the social, cultural, or familial environments we have been exposed to, we are now faced with the challenge of treating our substance use. This requires wholesale changes in how we think about alcohol and other substances. We are also going to need to change our own culture surrounding alcohol.

Creating a New Culture

There is stigma around sobriety that not drinking makes us boring, or turns us into people that no one wants to be around. This stigma is partially based on the permissiveness that society gives to drinking alcohol, and the guilt that people have of drinking, sometimes excessively, when others around them are not so inclined.

The truth is that sobriety frees us up to be so much more than just a social drinker, an excessive drinker, or someone who likes to party. We can create a new culture around us of fun and excitement that is not based solely around bars or clubs or parties. We can expand our activities and circles to include others who are also looking to create a culture that challenges the norms that advertisers have paid to construct for us. We can look beyond the marketing and societal stipulations meant to sell products regardless of the harm that misuse and abuse of alcohol causes to us and to others. When we free ourselves from alcohol addiction, we free ourselves to create a new culture without limitations. 

Just because advertising, societal, cultural, and familial influences have dictated to us that alcohol use is acceptable, or even encouraged, does not mean that we need to buy into that way of life. For us, maybe alcohol or other substance use is harmful, both to ourselves and others. That is definitely not okay. 

Alcohol is also not necessary to live a life that is rewarding and fulfilling. We can change our own culture. We can be empowered to make new choices. We can inspire others to make better choices, too. 

You can change the culture surrounding alcohol. Call AToN Center at (888) 535-1516 to start making a change today. 

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