The Myth of the Social Drinker
As a newly single member of society, I have rediscovered Internet dating sites. Among the fine characteristics we set up for ourselves in the hopes of finding love, we have to decide what kind of drinker we are. Or at least, what we are going to say we are. There’s usually no option to say alcoholic, recovering alcoholic, or binge drinker. We either drink, don’t drink, drink often, or drink socially. There’s just no other nice way to say it.
But what is a social drinker, really? Are you telling me that you don’t drink alone? So, you’re not a raging alcoholic who wakes up at 11 a.m. and starts on a pint vodka. Got it. You go out with your friends twice and month, and have a few beers or something. Isn’t that what normal people do?
Alcohol in small amounts is a social lubricant, mainly because it reduces our inhibitions. It eases fear, and makes it easier for us to say and do things that we might not if we were feeling more conservative. But what about it makes us more social, really? And why is this something we need to seek out?
We as humans are social animals. We like to congregate. Yes, of course, there’s the occasional loner. But for the most part, we want to be around other people. At least in small groups.
Would this change if all of a sudden there was a worldwide shortage of alcohol? Aside from the riots, I don’t think so.
Liquid courage is another term for this. I’m not really sure why they call it courage, because a deficit of fear doesn’t actually make you brave. It just makes you…naive. Actually, courage is standing in the face of fear, not the absence of it. Likewise, the social drinker is a misnomer. There’s nothing particularly social about getting intoxicated.
This is were the fine line comes in. You are out with your friends, and everyone is having a beer or two. But someone there at that table, despite what they say, probably isn’t just a social drinker. They are probably going to have one too many. And what happens when people exhibit behavior that is off-putting to others, especially on a regular basis? Well, they are going to be isolated. Eventually, they are forced to drink on their own or with other heavy drinkers because their normal “social” friends can’t stand to be around them anymore.
So if you can be a social drinker, by definition, and run with the big boys without tying one on, you’re doing well. Why the need for the drinking in the first place? You’re functional. You have friends.
On the other hand, if your drinking is dysfunctional, you are going to have less friends.
I believe the social drinker exists, but it’s not as common as people think. I think if you removed the alcohol, most social drinkers would still be social. It’s the ones with the drinking problem that would suffer. For this reason, I think there is a bit of irony in social drinking. The purpose of the act alludes me, other than for centuries or more it’s become a community event.
I guess if I have to drink to be around someone and be social, maybe I should question why I want to be social in the first place.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology
If you or someone you know is an alcoholic, please seek help immediately.