Many people start drinking in their teens. They are invited to parties, clubs, or a night on the town and alcohol is often the main attraction. The teen years and early adulthood send the message that drinking alcohol is the thing to do. It’s almost as though society communicates to us, “Drink and you’ll have fun.” Commercials, billboards, and Internet ads drill home that we need a beer, liquor, and wine for the weekend. The point is that we are often conditioned to believe that we enjoy drinking and that drinking is cool.
This is especially true for teens and young adults. Yet, as a person gets older, this conditioning can continue to play a role. This conditioning can continue to affect choices surrounding social interactions, alcohol use, and friendships.
Yet, sadly, many people will admit that when they tasted alcohol for the first time, they didn’t even enjoy it. They might even admit that they still don’t enjoy the taste of alcohol but that it helps them be more social, feel like they belong among their friends, or feel better about themselves.
Of course, over time, the danger of relying upon alcohol for an emotional or psychological boost is that gradually a physical dependence can develop. Soon, what was once just casual drinking has turned into alcohol abuse and/or alcohol addiction.
Because of this, especially if you’re teetering on the edge of too much alcohol consumption, it might be a good idea to take a look at what your relationship to alcohol is. You might ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you enjoy drinking alcohol simply for the taste of it?
- If not, then why do you drink alcohol? Is it to feel more confident? More social?
- Do you drink to help mask any symptoms of mental illness, such as depression or anxiety?
- Do you have a history of alcoholism in your family?
- Are you vulnerable to alcoholism for other reasons, such as recently experiencing loss or a traumatic event?
- Do you manage overwhelming emotions or unhealed past experiences through the use of alcohol?
- Do you use alcohol to manage stress?
First taste of alcohol
You might see that the questions above point to a not-so-healthy relationship to alcohol. However, you might feel that none of the above apply to you. Instead, perhaps you drink because alcohol helps you unwind. With one or two (at most) glasses of wine, you can relax after a long week. Or perhaps you’re more of a social drinker – someone who drinks safe levels of alcohol and tends to only drink when in social situations.
Keep in mind that after an exploration of why you drink, you might decide that you want to abstain from now on. Or you might decide that you’d prefer to keep drinking but keep it within safe limits. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse, the following are considered to be safe amounts of alcohol consumption:
- Men should avoid drinking no more than 4 drinks in a day or no more than 14 drinks per week.
- Women should avoid drinking no more than 3 drinks in a day or no more than 7 drinks per week.
Discovering your unique relationship to alcohol might help you make decisions about your alcohol consumption. If you find that you are drinking for unhealthy reasons, such as to mask symptoms of mental illness, to keep overwhelming feelings at bay, or to manage extreme stress, it might be best to seek the support of a mental health provider.