Lifeline Connections

The Unseen Dangers of a Culture that Aggrandizes Getting Trashed

Last Tuesday was Saint Patrick’s Day, and many people celebrated the holiday by wearing green, eating, and drinking. Lots and lots of drinking. Though we associate the holiday with fun and debauchery, we don’t spend much time thinking about how the day reflects the general attitude we have toward excessive drinking, or how our methods of celebrating the day encourages and enables the continuation of this attitude. Not only is the cultural affiliation between inebriation/alcoholism and the Irish a reinforcement of a poorly contrived and racialized stereotype, but our views of the holiday is just one of many times where we portray excessive drunkenness and allusions to alcoholism as fun and comical. Frat boys make casual jokes about how their constant partying is making them into “functional alcoholics.” Girls at the club laugh about how they’re “such an alcoholic” while downing their 8th shot. Drinking to the point of getting drunk is often portrayed as an easy and harmless way to let loose at parties and be more sociable.

The fact of the matter is our attitude toward alcohol consumption and alcoholism is far too lackadaisical and harmful. We place excessive drinking in such a favorable light, that in some social circles, it seems impossible to imagine a good time that doesn’t involve drinking. We are bombarded with ads that depict beautiful women and awesome parties, and music that always seems to be about clubbing and drinking. Being inebriated and partying has become the fun and “young” thing to do when you have any leisure time to spare.

But alcoholism is not a laughing matter, and our proclivity toward constantly getting drunk only exacerbates the issue. Alcoholism is a chronic and destructive disease that can consume your life, causing you to compulsively seek out more alcohol even when it causes problems in your personal and professional life. Being an alcoholic causes you to act out of control, fail your obligations or act inappropriately at work, and treat those close to you in ways that are potentially disrespectful, violent, and hurtful. Real alcoholism is not a fun addition to your partying lifestyle, but instead, alienates you from others, causing you to drink alone more frequently, hide your drinking behavior, and become irritable with others when alcohol isn’t available. In our pursuit to get “totally wasted,” we forget just how dangerously close getting inebriated on a constant basis leads us toward alcoholism.

But what is more alarming is how the addictive qualities of alcohol abuse are played down in our culture that hypes up drinking and partying. We hardly ever hear about alcohol withdrawal and how detoxing often necessitates being at a drug and alcohol center. Though constantly being shown the extravagance of club life, we almost never see what alcohol withdrawal looks like, how it causes:

• Anxiety
• Depression
• Shakiness
• Mood swings
• Nausea and vomiting
• Headaches
• Rapid heart rate
• Sweating
• Clammy skin

And for those who are suffering a severe form of alcohol withdrawal:
• Fever
• Hallucinations
• Seizures
• Severe disorientation or confusion.

A shivering, sweating alcoholic suffering from withdrawal at a drug and alcohol center hardly matches the image we get of beautiful, young people dancing on the beach. However, the reality is that alcoholism is a real addiction in the same way that any other substance addiction is a real addiction, and our aggrandizement of excess drinking has only fostered an environment that enables people to fall into alcoholism without realizing they’re at risk. We have been the sold the dream of a party life by the media without the awareness of any of the danger.
If you are starting to feel out of control with your drinking or feel you might be suffering from alcoholism, then contact a drug and alcohol center right away to discuss your options. Some behaviors to look out for are:

• Being unable to limit the amount you drink
• Feeling a strong need to drink
• Developing tolerance to alcohol so that you need more to feel effects
• Drinking alone or hiding your drinking
• Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea and sweating
• Not remembering conversations or commitments
• Making rituals to drink at certain times and becoming irritated when that time is disturbed
• Keeping or hiding alcohol in unlikely places at home or work
• Drinking to feel “normal”
• Having legal problems or problems with relationships, employment, or finances due to drinking
• Losing interest in activities that don’t involve alcohol

Also, ask yourself:
• Do you drink more than 4-5 drinks a day?
• Do you ever need to drink just to get started with your day?
• Do you feel guilty about the amount you drink?
• Do you find yourself hiding your drinking or the amount you drink from others?
• Are you annoyed when people comment on or criticize your drinking habits?

If you are noticing yourself exhibiting many of the mentioned behaviors or find yourself responding “yes” to several of the questions, then you should consider contacting a drug and alcohol center. Lifeline Connections is a drug and alcohol center in Portland that can help you address your drinking and formulate a treatment plan if necessary.

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