Society’s Obsession With Alcohol
It often seems like no matter where you look, there’s something promoting alcohol use. Has the constant stream of alcohol-related media influenced our drinking behaviors?
It is a scientific fact that alcohol is essentially poison to the human body. Consumed in excess, alcohol can have detrimental effects on our bodies and our lives. Yet, there is this fascinating juxtaposition of society wherein alcohol is almost seen as inherent to and concurrent with celebration and joy. Wedding? Champagne toast. Graduation? Champagne toast. New Year’s Eve? Let’s ring the new year in with some alcohol! Fourth of July? Celebrate your patriotism with a beer. And so on and so on.
While I am always an advocate for moderation — and I do not want to demonize moderate and mindful consumption of alcohol — I would like to dive deeper into why society conflates alcohol with happiness and how that might affect people in recovery. The overall point I would like to make is that alcohol is not, in fact, synonymous with happiness, and that society should be continuously evaluating the importance we tend to place on a potentially toxic substance.
Drinking in Advertisements
Let’s think of the last advertisement you saw for a type of alcohol. Was it sparkly and vibrant? Was it filmed at an exotic and exciting location? Were phrases like “life of the party” and “find your beach” invoked? Did it feature thin and beautiful people interacting with other thin and beautiful people? The answer to all of these questions was most likely yes. Let’s examine each of these tactics and consider how this might affect a person’s perspective on alcohol.
Human beings are attracted to beauty. That is why these alcohol companies portray vibrancy and radiance in their commercials. Most of us would like to feel beautiful, and these ads suggest that drinking their alcohol might grant us that. Many of us dream of being the center of attention or adventuring off to some faraway land. These are all departures from reality that these companies are trying to convince us can come from consuming their product.
All of this is completely baseless. Alcohol doesn’t make you prettier; in fact, it can cause bloating, inflammation, puffy eyes and acne, just to name a few side effects. It’s also super high in calories and can have a lot of added sugars. Alcohol doesn’t make people more vibrant or sparkly. Anyone who has ever overindulged in alcohol or has been with someone who has knows that this often leads to looking really messy instead of sparkly. It’s not “liquid courage” — that’s a myth. It can actually inhibit your ability to make sound and responsible decisions in social situations.
The point is that there has been a marketing push that has really made us have a falsified perception of what alcohol actually is and how it affects us. Being a critical consumer is crucial to our health and well-being, so the next time you see an advertisement like this, critique it and recognize that what is being pushed in that ad is simply not reality.
Drinking in Entertainment Media
Alcohol has actually permeated society as a perceived necessity. I think in the reality show “The Bachelor/Bachelorette,” there is alcohol present at every single date. Apparently, a picnic in the wilderness after a fantastic helicopter ride with a private concert is simply not complete without a bottle of champagne. It’s an interesting thought.
This past season of “The Bachelorette,” there actually was a contestant in recovery who works at a recovery center in New York. After his season aired, it came out that every time the others had champagne, he had apple cider in his glass. At cocktail parties, he had club soda with lime. It was really refreshing to see someone making the choices they needed to make for their health in a landscape that seemed to be hardwired with alcohol. The show did allow him to share his story about his sobriety, which is a great step in the right direction. However, the critique of the sheer number of times alcohol and people drinking are featured on that show still stands. Society is full of this subliminal messaging that alcohol is somehow crucial to events and settings in which it simply is not necessary.
Is Alcohol Ruling Our Lives?
How many of us are in recovery or know someone who is? I think we all have some connection to the recovery process. However, we consistently allow the influences of alcohol to permeate our lives. I noticed that once my friends and I all turned 21, the gatherings people planned all involved some sort of alcohol — wine nights, mimosa brunches, etc.
Again, I am not demonizing moderate and mindful consumption, but it would be nice if we all pushed for and normalized having fun with your friends minus the alcohol component. It can be so easy to fall into the trap of believing that consuming alcohol is a really important part of life. In reality, it should be — at the very most — a small leisure activity that adds socialization to your life once you are of age. But it absolutely is not necessary for a full, meaningful life.
Our perceptions of alcohol are shaped at a very young age. Since alcohol is off-limits to young people (as it should be), it can become something that is overly sensationalized. It’s like when your parents told you you couldn’t have that piece of candy, and it became all you could think about. In many cases, alcohol is associated with the freedom of young adulthood, but in reality, there are much more valuable pursuits that embody this newfound sense of freedom.
Between this type of sensation, advertisements, pop culture and social activities centered around alcohol, it’s no wonder that many Americans struggle with alcohol dependency. There is a very real societal obsession with a toxic substance that can impede the life that you want to live. The good news is that knowledge is power, and it can empower you to recognize the flaws with alcohol’s current place in society and actively evaluate how you can make sure its place in your life — if it has a place in your life — is a healthy one.
Peele, Stanton. “Science Is What Society Says It Is: Alcohol’s Poison!” Psychology Today, November 10, 2010. Accessed February 8, 2021.
Federal Trade Commission. “Alcohol Advertising.” September 2013. Accessed February 8, 2021.