Alcoholism Among Us

Recently, over FaceTime, my mom and I had a conversation comparing cigarette and alcohol branding. She told me when she was younger she would smoke these super long, thin cigarettes “for women.” She described the exclusivity you felt while buying them. Nowadays, all cigarettes look virtually the same to me; the packaging and warning labels have been made so you are not attracted to the idea of buying them unless you already are (most likely) addicted to them.

We talked about how, in contrast, today, alcohol is branded as super luxurious and desirable. There are no warning labels covering the outside packaging. Nothing on the products themselves advertising the long-lasting effects of alcoholism or how it impacts everyone, not just alcoholics. There are no images of a disrupted family life or unhealthy-looking people, not even wrecked cars resulting from the astonishingly high number of drunk driving accidents constantly occurring. Why is it that alcohol consumption is so normalized in our society that its use (and abuse) even extends to the party culture of people my age?

For me, growing up in a small town in Alberta, Canada, party culture always included binge-drinking and usually mixing drugs and alcohol. Eventually, I got as far as needing to drink a lot to feel comfortable, surrounded by others who were either fully intoxicated or just as uncomfortable as I was.

Even as a 21-year-old living in a big city, I still experience your typical peer pressure and FOMO. I am a grown up baby, still trying to navigate the uncomfortable spaces of drinking to have fun with friends despite the way it brings up sensitive familial issues for me.

Living with an alcoholic parent was a super uncomfortable and sensitive topic for me. Most of my friends were unaware of what was going on at my house. For a whole summer, the only time my father would talk to me was when I would go buy alcohol for him. The regular bouts of mood swings, lies, exaggerated truths, withdrawn affection, and, later on, the extreme ends of alcohol withdrawal, formed my new understanding of my father. It’s not a pretty sight, going from seeing your father be the strongest, most active and funny person you know, to someone holed up in the basement.

So, you might be wondering, what is the connection between party culture and living with an alcoholic parent? The normalization of binge-drinking. For me, personally, it’s totally normal to see people drinking in excess. But, what starts out as just a glass or two on the weekend can grow exponentially until it becomes a problem.

Throughout our adolescence we feel we are invincible. Carrying on these habits without knowing their consequences can be harmful throughout the rest of our lives. I am still actively working on finding a way to feel comfortable around drunk people without needing to get as drunk myself.

I’m realizing that through open conversation with the people around you, knowing your limits, and not putting yourself into uncomfortable positions can go a long way. It sounds corny but finding something else to look forward to at the end of the week can be a huge mindset change.

I am still dealing with my own trauma around alcohol and binge drinking. I am staring by making healthier mental associations. I am staying in tune with myself, instead of leaning into what is making me, and probably a lot of other people, so uncomfortable. These are my first steps to undoing this subconscious connection.