When I was first in training to become a psychologist (which was not that long ago thank you very much), our cultural behavior around alcohol was palpably different. It wasn't until I made a conscious decision to stop drinking alcohol to participate in Dry January that I began to realize just how much things have changed within a relatively short period of time. Welcome to my second installment, following this psychologist's experiences with one month of tee-totaling.
- Women are catching up to men quickly in the harmful drinking department: Over the past ten years or so, I've definitely noticed that my female friends and colleagues tend to drink just as much as the men. This isn't a phenomenon limited to my social circle, the NIH backs this up statistically. Women are drinking alcohol more than we ever have before, and, due to our differing biology, are more likely to suffer ill health consequences. It's certainly a chicken and egg question, but, as week two wore on, I found myself paying attention to booze-infused activities that used to be (relatively) alcohol free.
- What's brunch without the bloodies? Boozy brunch is not necessarily a new thing. According to the Institute of Stuff I Learned on Wikipedia, brunch has been around at least since the 19th century, and has traditionally included some form of alcoholic beverage to accompany the breakfasty fare. However, over the past 5 - 10 years, brunch has gone from eggs, toast, coffee, and perhaps (on very special occasions) champagne, to bottomless - meaning that for a set price, you can drink all of the socially acceptable, alcoholic breakfast drinks that you like. At least on the coasts and in major cities, it's difficult to find a brunch that doesn't peddle an array of intoxicating beverages.
- Movies and a Mojito: Not to belabor this whole, back in my day shtick, but there was a time, in the not so distant past, where the only things on offer at the movie theater concession stand were sodas, popcorn, and odd candies like Raisenets. Now that high-end, luxury theaters, and even those that cater to the average movie goer are starting to offer beer, wine, and cocktails, having a few drinks during a movie seems to be shifting towards the cultural norm, rather than the exception.
- I'll have mine in a doggie bottle: A search on Amazon for wine to go reveals 205 different means to take your beverage of choice with you, so you never have to suffer the pain of being in public and wineless. Beer to go returned about 7,000 suggestions. From "Wine 'o' Clock," to "Mommy Juice," there are powerful societal forces at work; whether it's advertisers, bloggers , or your friends on Facebook (if you're old and Instagram if you're young), we are consistently told that we deserve this, as some sort of treat, and that we need it to cope with life's stressors. Struggling to get through another never-ending play-date? Trick or treating with your kids? Boring Bookclub? Endless work retreat? There's a cure for that!
- It's all about the expectation: We've reached a saturation point (pun intended) where there is a not so subtle expectation that all social events will include alcohol of some sort, and plenty of it. There aren't many places left to go where alcohol isn't, if not the main attraction, a major side player. Even Starbucks is experimenting with stores that offer beer and wine, and beer infused coffee.
An important takeaway - if you choose to abstain or cut down, for Dry January or other reasons, you may have to put some additional effort into planning more sober activities. Here's a list to get you started, but really there are countless different ways to spend your time sober and feel good about it during and after (like reading this hilarious blog about the aforementioned Raisenets ).
There was a time when you could light up a cigarette in a movie theater, on an airplane, and even in a hospital! The shifts in laws and cultural attitudes over the past 30-40 years have made these once every day behaviors unthinkable. I am in no way suggesting that we bring back prohibition; it is however important to acknowledge the manner in which the increased availability and prevalence of alcohol in our daily lives has increased our collective consumption. Awareness is the first step towards mindfulness. I don't know about you, but the next time I reach for a drink, I want it to be the result of a proactive, mindful choice, rather than a reactive response to my environment. In other words, rather than blindly answer the call of Wine 'o' Clock, think about the reasons that you're drinking, and whether you're having a drink because you want to, rather than because you need to.
Do you have any sober activity suggestions? Are you participating in Dry January or early sobriety? Comment below!
Click here for part three of my month long series!
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol and/or substance abuse, there is help out there. Check out this link to find out information about treatment programs and providers in your area. Click here if you require urgent or crisis resources. Help is available 24/7 by calling the National Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Dr. Scrivani specializes in the Cognitive Behavioral treatment of anxiety and related disorders, behavioral parent training, and provides tele-mental health services to residents of New York, Florida, and internationally. Call (888) 535-5671 or email [email protected] to set up a free consultation. Visit my website for more information.