The social drinker in Canada is someone who enjoys an alcoholic drink when in company, who does not drink to get drunk, and whose alcohol drinking has never caused them problems, either healthwise, in the workplace or on social occasions, never brought them into conflict with the law. In Canada, where alcohol distribution is predominantly in the hands of the government, there is a considerable revenue interest in promoting social drinking in the community as being a good thing.
Consequently a proportion of revenues from liquor sales is directed to advertising that promotes social drinking, for family events and celebrations, public entertainment and by way of refreshment at business conventions. The concept of alcohol as a pleasurable social stimulant that provides the icing on the cake to any social event permeates our society to such an extent that light refreshments served at most community events include a selection of alcohol drinks.
The social drinker occupies a position somewhere in between those who abstain from alcohol drinking for personal reasons and those who are not in control of their alcohol drinking habits. It is to be noted that in Canadian society, it is not for those who choose to drink alcohol to justify the need, but for those who choose to abstain from alcohol drinking to come up with a reason.
Abstinence from alcohol drinking based on religious belief is generally treated with respect, based on a common perception that it is impolite to argue with a person about their politics or religion, but anyone abstinent for reasons that they feel to be ethical or moral is likely to be confronted on a regular basis with a challenge to that position.
A common example is the female social drinker who chooses to abstain from alcohol drinking upon learning that she is pregnant. Perhaps it is not until a social drinker is on a course of antibiotics, on a weight loss program that cuts out alcohol drinking, or makes a decision to have a zero blood alcohol content every time they drive on the road that they meet head on the pressure there is at most social events to be having an alcohol drink.
It is a fallacy that social drinkers don’t drink alcohol to get intoxicated – the whole purpose of having a social drink is because the alcohol provides us with an instant shot of tension relief and makes us feel relaxed. The pressures of the world today mean that virtually no one feels completely relaxed and tension free unless they make a conscious effort to achieve it. Alcohol provides a quick and easy way to create the relaxed ambiance and mood that we need to happily socialize. When all is said and done, alcohol is a drug.
That so many people today can’t get into a party mood, or enjoy a social event without the presence of alcohol indicates the level of tension and stress that we have become accustomed to and accomodate within our lives.
The healthy resolution of tension and stress is often something that we are far too busy to do – we are encouraged by advertising to extract at least 30 minutes a day from our busy schedules to engage in exercise. Having an alcohol drink, eating comfort food will create in the mind very much the same feeling of balance that we could get from a healthy snack and getting some exercise – social drinking does not improve or benefit our health.
It is probably fair to say that the encouragement that we get for moderate social drinking is part of a social plan – a socially approved release valve for the pressure cooker existence that modern life has become, provided that we don’t overdo it, and become a problem drinker.
The alleged benefits of alcohol drinking are purely an illusion – alcohol drinking results in a “perception” that things are better – the reality of alcohol drinking is that alcohol effects are detrimental to a balanced healthy body.
There has been much research done on total abstinence from alcohol drinking. The results sadly show, that our life expectancy rates might be reduced if we don’t drink alcohol. On the other hand, research shows that once we exceed safe alcohol drinking levels, we are at risk of becoming a problem drinker. What research doesn’t compare is the life expectancy rate for an abstainer who has a balanced lifestyle, that keeps them fit in body and mind, and people who don’t do anything to keep themselves fit, who don’t use alcohol.
When faced with stress people will respond by engagement, acceptance or withdrawal. Using alcohol puts us into a mood of acceptance that fails to generate change. When alcohol effects wear off, we are still in the same situation as we were before. When we “need” alcohol to engage with a social situation, or use alcohol to withdraw from feelings of stress, we fail to take any course of action to bring about positive change.
People might take pride in their social success and position in the community, supported by regular social drinking. Regular social drinking however blunts the edges of our reality, makes our life feel cozy. Frequent social drinkers surround themselves in a bubble of security and bon homie – insulated from personal and world problems and local community issues. We don’t get down to “doing something” about anything when we habitually use alcohol to relax and fill our discretionary time.
There are some serious issues in the world that we need to address. Chronic disease, poverty, depression and drug use can be conveniently displaced as being someone else’s problem when we prefer the buzz of a social drink to taking affirmative community action.
Habitual social drinkers might not appear to cause or contribute to community problems by their responsible alcohol use, but the reality is that world wide distress and despair is increasing every day – while well- adjusted, successful social drinkers sit back, relax and prefer to enjoy a drink.