It’s estimated that about 85% of people 18 and over have drunk alcohol at least once in their lifetime, and it is certainly very embedded in American culture. Social drinking is when you engage in alcohol use while in the company friends or family who are also drinking, which is widely accepted as the norm. Other ordinary situations when one expected to drink alcohol are special occasions such as holidays or as a part of an organized social event, like going to a concert, watching a sporting event, or having a friends’ night out.
Dive into Social Drinking
To some people, the concept of social drinking feels novel, but social drinking has been a part of the human experience for a long time.
Scientists believe that social drinking had a role in the evolution of human civilization. Some experts point to discoveries like the one in southern Turkey where giant troughs were found. These were more than 10,000 years old, and they had traces of fermented grain inside used to make alcohol.
Experts believe that drinking is even older than archeological evidence suggests. Fruit naturally ferments, and people would have been aware of this before they started fermenting fruit or grains on purpose.
Some experts believe that ancient people enjoyed drinking with others and saw the benefits. The social act can help folks bond, laugh and leave their troubles behind for a moment. This releases endorphins, which are important neurotransmitters that help you control your mood more effectively.
Social inhibitions are slightly reduced when people get together to drink a little. This probably led to a lot of first encounters and love for ancient humans. Alcohol has been such an important part of human existence that some experts now believe it was the reason humanity began to experiment with agriculture.
It’s easy to believe that humans turned to agriculture to grow food, but ancient people knew how to forage for food. The first thing humans cultivated was einkorn, a type of wheat. This wouldn’t make good bread, but it would help produce some exceptional beer. It’s wild to think that agriculture happened because people wanted to produce more alcohol.
There’s no doubt that drinking socially has its perks when done in moderation, responsibly. It’s something humanity has engaged in for ages, but that doesn’t mean people should participate in social drinking without understanding the dark side of it as well.
Why is Social Drinking Hard to Resist?
Social drinking has been a part of human history for a long time. On top of that, humanity has benefited from this activity, so you can see why it’s hard to resist.
It’s quite common and seems harmless. If there’s a family event like a wedding or a surprise party, then there’s likely going to be a bit of booze. Sporting events, pubs, clubs and many restaurants serve alcohol. In some countries, alcohol is even served at fast food places. The reality is that you won’t be able to escape social drinking because it’s all around you.
Refusing a drink is sometimes considered an insult, and in some places, not drinking when everyone else is can make you look weak. There’s nothing inherently wrong with social drinking, but the expectation that everyone who is at the function needs to be drinking can feel pretty heavy. The idea that you need to explain yourself every time you refuse a drink is indeed strange.
When is Social Drinking a Problem?
Social drinking is widely accepted, so many people either aren’t conscious of how much they’re drinking or aren’t concerned about their drinking because they’re doing it under socially acceptable circumstances. This could lead to drinking too much without thinking about it. Also, those who may be developing an alcohol use disorder might use social outings as an excuse to cover up a growing substance use disorder. If someone wants to find an excuse to drink, it’s easy to do.
The Shift from Drinking Socially to Substance Use Disorder
The line is crossed all the time. It’s acceptable to have one or two drinks per hour socially, but people who are developing an alcohol use disorder begin to push the limits. At first, friends or family members might think you just wanted to indulge a little, so they might not say anything. The person drinking might not even notice when it becomes a problem.
The more you drink, the more your body builds tolerance. If you do this long enough, at some point, that first or second drink won’t be enough because you won’t experience the same buzz you used to get. This might make you want to drink more so that you get the buzz you need to lower your inhibitions and feel a little merry.
It’s always better to stay within the safe drinking guidelines. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, or NIAAA, this means that men should have fewer than 14 drinks each week, and women should have fewer than 7 drinks per week.
Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder
There are warning signs that you or your loved one might have a problem with alcohol. A major sign of trouble is if you or your loved one no longer recognizes that it’s time to stop drinking. Social drinking should never end with you or your loved one drunk or still wanting to drink more when the event has concluded. Additionally, if you’re binge drinking at a social event, which means you’re having more than four or five drinks every two hours, or if you’re socially drinking more than once a week, then you might be developing an alcohol use disorder.
Another big sign that something is wrong is that you can’t stop drinking. You know that you probably should stop or everyone else has stopped, but you can’t, so you come up with excuses to keep drinking. You might start to drink every day, even if you aren’t eating a meal, or have several drinks with a meal multiple times per week.
Every so often, a person who’s developed an alcohol use disorder will show up to events drunk. When this happens, they’ve stopped caring about how they might look to others, which is a bad thing. Also, blackouts aren’t something that social drinkers experience. If you’re starting to experience these, then you might have developed an alcohol use disorder.
A person who’s drinking more than just socially is going to start making friends with others who like to drink as much as they do or even more. Being with others who engage in similar behavior makes you feel like you fit in. It helps you feel normal even though you’re doing something abnormal, and the friends in your new social circle don’t judge you for your excessive drinking.
Another sign of trouble is if you start engaging in behavior that you normally wouldn’t, like drunk driving. You know that drinking and driving is wrong. However, when misuse of alcohol becomes a problem, you might ignore your values. It doesn’t have to be drunk driving; some people engage in risky sexual activity, gamble too much or try illicit drugs when they drink to excess.
People with an alcohol problem might start getting into trouble. They might lose their jobs, especially if they do something they shouldn’t at work or a work function. They might even get in trouble with the law.
A person who’s no longer just a social drinker may deny it, but friends or family members will notice the problem. They might even start to avoid you or your loved one at gatherings. Sometimes, they might even avoid inviting you or your loved one, fearing something bad might happen. These same friends or family members may express some concern and tell you or your loved one to stop drinking so much.
Someone dealing with a substance used disorder could be disorderly and rude. Their behavior could be embarrassing or even scary. This could cause you or your loved one to feel shame. If this is happening, then getting help is vital.
A person with a substance use disorder may get defensive about drinking. If anyone brings it up or questions how much they’re drinking, that person will deny it. They might even get angry that it was brought up. If this sounds familiar to you, then there might be a problem.
Any of these signs can tell you that you or your loved one has a problem. When you start to notice these signs, the alcohol use has gone beyond social drinking, and you or your loved one needs help.
The transition between a social drinker and someone with a substance use disorder is slow. It doesn’t happen overnight, and that’s part of the reason it’s so hard to catch.
Recognizing the disorder is just the first step. After that, you’ll need the help of compassionate and experienced professionals who know how to fight alcohol dependency. At Granite Recovery Centers, we specialize in this and are ready to welcome you or your loved one through our doors.
Can You Ever Go Back to Social Drinking After You Get Sober?
Some people find getting sober to be difficult. While going through rehab isn’t always easy, it leads to positive results and sobriety. Part of what we offer during rehab are tools that’ll help you stay sober, like avoiding triggers or curbing cravings. It’s safe to say that drinking socially is a dangerous trigger. Someone who’s had a problem with drinking will likely have trouble limiting themselves to just one drink.
Many people who quit using alcohol after rehab will experience relapse at least once. No one said it was going to be easy to stay sober, and social drinking will only make things harder. A relapse could lead you back to old behaviors and make it harder to get back on the right path. It’s better to be safe than sorry and refrain from social drinking after treatment for alcohol use disorder.
It won’t be easy to turn down drinks at a social event or even avoid going to these events altogether, but during rehab, we’ll work with you and your network of friends and family to ensure that you can have a sober lifestyle with confidence. You may have to cut out certain friends who aren’t supportive of your new lifestyle, and make some changes in your home environment. We’ll help you through this every step of the way, from our sober living options to outpatient therapy, to aftercare planning.
The staff members at Granite Recovery Centers are here to support you. If you’re ready to improve your life by making drinking a thing of the past, we’re here to help you with our inpatient or intensive outpatient programs. After you’ve finished treatment, we’re here to support you with our aftercare programs. Granite Recovery Centers will help set you on the path to sobriety. Your new life begins when you give us a call.