25 May A History on Alcohol Abuse and Why It’s Hard to Stop
The consumption of alcohol has its roots in America since colonists first arrived from Europe. The abuse of alcohol has also existed since Europeans first arrived on American soil. The cultural importance of alcohol changes from time to time, but the overall importance that alcohol plays in our society from day to day can make it difficult for people to become sober or maintain sobriety.
The Consumption of Alcohol in Colonial America
Colonists came to America, bringing with them their love of alcohol. Both distilled and fermented liquors were considered to have restorative powers and to be invigorating, and many alcoholic beverages were consumed throughout the day. Alcohol was also a large part of social life, although public drunkenness was considered to be a moral failing that was condemned both religiously and possibly punished legally.
Prior to 1850, the average American consumed six to seven gallons of alcohol per year, according to Alcohol in America: Taking Action to Prevent Abuse. However, over time, various groups began to form, arguing for temperance in the use of alcohol, which led to lobbying for political action against the use of alcohol.
Prohibition and the Moral Judgment of Alcohol
The 18th Amendment was ratified in 1919, which prohibited the manufacture or sale of alcoholic beverages within the United States, to begin one year after it was passed. This began the era known as Prohibition, in which people felt that the government had placed a moral judgment upon the consumption of alcohol.
The laws were not particularly enforceable and led to a lot of underground manufacturing and sales of alcohol, with the notorious speakeasies, bootlegging, and moonshining marking an era of mainstream “criminal” activity. Additionally, there was a significant black market for alcoholic beverages, with customers willing to pay three to four times as much for the product than normal.
In the end, the Great Depression offered economic reasons to end Prohibition, as the manufacturing and taxation of alcohol would help to create jobs and boost an economy that sorely needed it. The more affordable and legal access to alcohol likely also helped those who were struggling as well. This experiment in the government offering a “moral judgment” on the consumption of alcohol was considered a failure, not to be revisited.
The Culture of Drinking in America
Although America is a melting pot of many different cultures, alcoholic beverages play a part in our daily lives – everything from a daily glass of wine with dinner, a beer during a sporting event, or a drink at the bar to unwind with a friend. Then there are the special occasions – a toast of champagne to celebrate a wedding or that job promotion or a special bottle of wine or other beverage to mark an anniversary or retirement.
We have drinks with Sunday brunch. We drink at parties and social gatherings. We have a drink to relax before bedtime. We have a beer when we have a big lunch meeting for work after a round of golf. When you think about it, there are a lot of opportunities to drink alcohol in America.
The Nightmarish Side of American Drinking Culture
While many people drink only socially and do not have any problems with their alcohol consumption, there are also nightmare sides to drinking alcoholic beverages. There are fights or abuse that occur when someone has had one too many, and maybe even a loved one gets hurt. There are the sirens in the rearview mirror, or worse still, the flashing lights of the crews cleaning up the wreckage after an accident caused by driving under the influence.
We have all seen those who are without a home, often intoxicated or clutching a bottle as they sit on a street. Or the coworker who often misses work or is late because they are hungover. The list goes on; there are too many sad stories to tell.
The Art of Being Sober in America
Although the culture of alcohol in America makes it hard to stop drinking, rather than being a part of the nightmarish side of American drinking culture, you have the opportunity to seek treatment and become sober. After becoming sober, you still need to learn to survive the many opportunities that our society offers to drink regularly.
One way to help you learn this art is to transition from treatment to a sober living home. During this time, you will learn new skills and activities to help you avoid people and places that may trigger you to relapse. You can develop relapse prevention skills and a support system complete with new sober friends to help you find a new culture of sobriety in America.