Problematic drinking behaviour costs Australia around $15 Billion each year. Of this cost, I would wager that a good proportion of that bill is on footed on behalf of the capricious, weekend excesses of Gen-Y.
I have spent the past 2 months (of a year long project) completely sober, venturing into youth drinking environments to find out why it is young people drink to excess. The experiences and insights from my adventures are posted every week on the blog – hellosundaymorning.com. It has been a very interesting experience to go from being a regular, heavy weekend drinker to someone that is totally sober and I have had the privilege of noticing a few interesting things both personally and socially.
1) It’s not the alcohol talking.
As a society, we like to blame. When a social problem arises, we react by pointing the proverbial finger at things as being the problem. As the saying goes -when you point a finger at something, you have three pointing right back at yourself. People are responsible for their own choices. How many guns do you see serving life sentences in prison?
2) Every decision is emotion dependent
Emotions are irrepressible. They are going to come out one way or another. Having asked a lot of my friends about the bad things they have done when they were drunk, I get a common response – “I only do stupid things because I am drunk, it’s the alcohol.” Most people live a life of emotions locked under the golden key of alcohol. So really, on a subconscious level, it’s their emotions that make the decision to drink or not.
3) Drinking is an answer to too many questions
With the right social/self reinforcement and a touch of repetitious behaviour, you can effectively associate absolutely anything you can think of with a particular emotion. Take for example – chocolate and love. Coffee and creativity. Drinking and good times. Drinking and energy. Drinking and connection. Drinking and anger. Drinking and happiness.
My point is that as a society, drinking has become such an accepted, ready-to-drink answer to all life’s problems we forget what it means to deal with emotions ourselves. Personally, through HSM, I have had to deal with things like anxiety issues around something as simple as dancing sober or anger issues around disappointment or work frustrations. These are all completely new and awkward experiences that I haven’t been able to experience because I used to use drinking to mask them.
From my personal experience, I’m finding that when I used to get tired, angry, depressed or anxious I would have a few drinks to ‘take the edge off’. Whereas now, I can see myself cheekily looking to food, the occasional cigarette even caffeine in it’s stead. Although, I am far from cured of these emotional associations, I am getting much quicker at pointing the finger back at myself.