Let’s look at the ways in which our lifestyle can influence our drinking. This article is primarily about the dynamics that come into play in regular, daily drinking, as opposed to binge drinking. To be clear I am not dealing with traumatic events that have been shown to increase the likelihood of problem drinking (I am working on a separate post dealing with this), this is to do only with our lifestyle. Consider the following situations.
Number one. Male in his 50s. He is a successful businessman running his own company. He works in a high-powered and stressful environment and is unmarried and has no children. He lives alone. He considers that his lifestyle contributes to his drinking because he has no children or family which would cause him to reduce his drinking. He considers his financial situation (he has an excess amount of money) also exacerbates his drinking because he can afford to drink as much as he likes. He also considers that his stressful job contributes to his drinking because when he gets home of an evening he just wants to drink to escape from the stressful day. He has to socialise with clients a few times each week and considers alcohol to be an integral part of this.
Number two. Female early 40s. She has two young children. She considers that her drinking is caused by the stress of having a young family. She finds her two young sons extremely hard work and feels that her life is no longer her own. She considers these elements of her life trigger her drinking.
Number three. Unemployed male early 20s. He considers that he drinks because he has no job, too much time on his hands, and feels worthless. He has very little money which causes additional stress and he feels that the relief provided by alcohol is the only pleasure he can get from life. He has no friends and no social life, and again he feels this is a trigger for his drinking because it relieves his loneliness.
Number four. Male, mid 30s. He is employed but finds his job boring. He considers that he drinks to relieve boredom at work and finds when he is at work with nothing to do the thing that gets in through the day is fantasising about, and planning, his evening drinking.
All of these are based on real people but I’m sure you can probably empathise with each of them and in all probability have experienced parts of each of their lifestyles and found yourself that it is increased, or discouraged your stopping, drinking. If one of these people sat down in front of you and told you about their lives and how it made them drink, I’m sure you would be nodding in sympathy.
But lets consider this in a bit more detail. We have people drinking because they have a job and people drinking because they don’t have a job. Of those with a job, we have people drinking because the job is stressful and people drinking because the job is boring. We have people drinking because they have money and people drinking because they have none. We have people drinking because they have a family and people drinking because they don’t. We have people drinking because they have too much time on their hands and people drinking because they don’t have enough. There are people drinking because they socialise and people drinking because they don’t.
Isn’t it funny how alcohol always seems to win, whichever way you slice and dice it? How it always holds the upper hand, pulls the strings, has the power? It’s easy to see how people start to think of it as sentient and evil being, how they see it as ‘the demon drink’. Of course it’s not that at all. It’s just an inanimate chemical substance. It has exactly the amount of power that you decide to give it. Like a physically weak, but psychologically abusive, partner. The second you decide you’ve had enough and walk away, its insidious hold is gone. The only way it can retake its hold on you is if you start wanting it back again.
So it is really their lifestyles that are causing these people to drink? Or is it the fact that for years they have regularly been imbibing an addictive drug? Withdrawal from alcohol causes us to feel nervous and out of sorts, weak and scared. The drink then partially relieves that feeling and so we become fooled into thinking it is an essential part of our lives. Whatever we are doing we need that drink to give us that little extra boost, to relieve that decidedly unpleasant feeling that can best be described as the loss of our mental resilience. It is essentially a feeling of not being able to cope with life, and of being too easily overwhelmed by the stresses and strains which, without the withdrawal, we are able to take in our stride.
Your lifestyle is not the reason you drink, or the reason you can’t stop, it is just an excuse. Whatever you change your lifestyle to, even if a change is possible, drinking will remain an integral and essential part of it. You’ll still be miserable if you don’t drink, and ‘happy’ if you do (of course that ‘happiness’ is simply the feeling of mental well being you get by relieving with withdrawal, and is a feeling you would have all the time if you simply stopped drinking for good). What lifestyle change could possibly alter that dynamic? If you are looking at your lifestyle for the reason you drink and find it hard to stop, you are looking in the wrong place. There’s only one thing to analyse to understand why you drink, and that’s the nature of the drug itself.