As one of the most popular activities in the nation, drinking alcohol is almost inescapable within the cultural framework of the United States. To this day, many social expectations exist around drinking; moreover, television shows and films heavily romanticize drinking as a social activity.
Alcohol as a Cultural Issue
Despite the fact that alcohol is a substance with a high potential for abuse, in fact, the use of alcohol has been largely normalized within the US. In a country where drinking is so prevalent, it can sometimes be difficult to find accurate information about alcohol addiction. It can also be difficult to know what constitutes problematic drinking behaviors.
With all this in mind, how can a person evaluate whether or not they will be prone to alcohol addiction? Answering this question can be something of a tricky proposition: When it comes to predicting a person’s potential capacity for alcohol abuse, there is no one “right” answer. However, there are a few general principles to consider when considering your potential for alcohol dependence:
<li>Do you have a family history of alcohol addiction?</li>
<li>Do you use alcohol as a coping mechanism?</li>
<li>Has alcohol caused you to experience any interpersonal problems?</li>
When Alcohol is a Family Issue
In order to better evaluate the likelihood of developing a drinking problem, you should consider whether you might have a genetic predisposition to alcohol addiction. To your knowledge, have any members of your extended family suffered from alcohol dependence? If so, you may be more likely to develop an alcohol problem.
However, there does not necessarily need to be a genetic link to alcohol addiction in your family for drinking to become a problem in your own life. For example, if your parents drank heavily while you were growing up, you may have thought of these behaviors as “correct” adult coping mechanisms. When we are children, after all, we tend to learn much about the world around us from people who are older than we are; this is true even when such people do not exhibit healthy coping skills.
Alcohol as a Substitute for Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Indeed, it is important to recognize whether your own relationship to alcohol is rooted in unhealthy coping mechanisms developed from an early age. For many people, alcohol provides temporary relief from painful emotions, thoughts, or memories that they struggle to deal with. When these feelings and thoughts go unprocessed in our minds, they can reemerge in the form of anxiety or guilt.
This lack of emotional resolution can set up a cycle of drinking that is difficult to overcome.
For example, a person who has experienced traumatic events may use alcohol to mask difficult memories or feelings. Because these events are not fully emotionally processed by the individual, they may reemerge in the form of nightmares, flashbacks, or uncomfortable feelings. Once again, alcohol may be used by the individual to cope with these difficult experiences. As the process escalates and traumatic memories become compounded by different stressors, the person may develop a very serious level of physical or mental dependence on alcohol.
Fallout Due to Alcohol Addiction
Certainly, this form of dependence can wreak havoc on an individual’s personal and professional life. Alcohol addiction can certainly affect a person’s performance in school and at work; moreover, drinking can cause serious relationship problems. Addiction can also bring about the loss of friendships and a significant measure of alienation from family members.
Added to this is the fact that avoiding alcohol is not always an easy process in a culture that celebrates drinking. If our friends use drinking as a way to socialize, for example, we may feel pressure to join in so as to not stand out from the crowd. Family or work gatherings where drinking is encouraged may also put pressure on individuals to consume alcohol.
If you feel as though alcohol might become a problem in your life, however, it may be worth considering whether it is worth it to risk your health to appease other people. There is no foolproof method for predicting whether a person will become addicted to alcohol: For the most part, individuals will have to take a hard look at their drinking patterns to determine whether or not continuing to drink will pose a risk to their well-being.
If you feel as though you might be prone to alcohol addiction, it is important to understand that there is hope for positive change. If you need help building a life of sobriety, don’t hesitate to get in touch at 833-497-3808!