In most parts of the world, alcohol is both the most accessible and accepted drug. While social drinking is actively promoted and oftentimes demanded, addicts are socially excluded. A view on double standards:
“I can assure you, his absence tonight is not because he does not drink.” Laughter. As if the leader of the field trip had to come to the bus driver´s defense because he´s not joining the farewell party. Because that would be really impolite. Well, this is plainly speaking double standards. Because on the other hand, people don´t really want a hungover bus driver either.
Sometimes I seriously ask myself, if people actually realize how ambivalent our society really is when it comes to the consumption of alcohol. Hey, you coke slurping weasel all alone in the corner, what´s wrong with you? Are you sick? Pregnant? While people constantly have to justify a night out without drinking, it is totally cool to get shitfaced every weekend and blast yourself with every dubious liquid you can get your shaky hands on. Why else would you go out in the first place? People who have real problems, on the other hand, people who have to get shitfaced out of addiction, these people are wastes, scum, white trash, dirt, socially stigmatized. Don´t veto here now, I know we all want to believe we are free of prejudices, but in the end, these are the thoughts we have when we see all that mess out there on the streets on a daily basis.
And it is bigotry. Because the well-off middle-class weekend boozers, who are stumbling over the drunk hobo sniffing at him, while on their way home at six in the morning, just had been so damn fucking lucky to have the right gene at the right spot.
To some doctors, we are all sick
Who actually defines alcoholism? Does your fellow student with amazing grades, functioning and all and drinking a bottle of wine every evening have a lesser problem than the welfare recipient in that inner city social housing project? According to a lot of doctors actually, most of us should be sick. Their only definition of alcoholism is drinking regularly, for example daily or weekly.
Now, this rigid definition is bullshit of course and no help to anyone. As stupid as the self-righteousness of some doctors is to believe, it´s just the alcoholic´s very own fault if he´s sick. That they just lacked will power. But nobody tears himself and his loved ones into the abyss, destroys families, friendships, whole existence because he just cares more about getting the next round of beer.
There´s so many factors to consider when it comes to alcoholism, making the probability of getting seriously ill seem like Russian roulette. Besides social status, education or mental health it is due to availability and the social expectation to drink that make it so difficult for our bus driver to just respectfully reject the invitation without giving a reason. And finally genetics has a saying as well in the discussion whether you will drink yourself senseless tonight or not: There are different variations of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, regulating the decomposition of alcohol in your body. The more inactive the enzyme, chances are you´re not going to be an alcoholic. But a lack of neurotransmitter dopamine can catalyze the sickness.
Beer and Wine: Oldest cultural achievements
Neither is alcoholism a phenomenon just affecting a marginal group nor has it something to do with willpower alone. The reason why most people aren´t confronted with addiction in their daily lives is not because there wouldn´t be any addicts in their environment. I think this has a lot to do with the massive social taboo. People who are afraid of exclusion, hostility, and judgment, just keeps his mouth shut.
Shortsighted approaches like prohibitions don´t make sense because beer and wine are among the oldest cultural achievements of mankind and are inseparable from it. There are even theories in archaeology saying, people started to settle and give up their vagrant lives just to brew alcohol from the grain they were growing. Plus, experiments like the Prohibition in America show, that only organized crime profits from restrictions like that.
No, like many other problems we have to solve this with public education and end taboo. Only people that are not referred to as scum will find the courage to entrust somebody. Family and friends can provide stability – in case they know what´s going on.
I myself am not an alcoholic. But since I´m a heavy coffee drinker and a smoker, I can see that I somehow have an increased affinity to addiction and I´m well aware that my responsible and laid-back handling of one of the most accepted drugs in the world can someday turn into something very dangerous. All of us who drink should be aware of that. Because everyone who drinks can get ill from it.