Men and alcohol
Men and alcohol
Alcohol dominates many facets of our culture, with little or no resistance. From a night out binge drinking with the boys to an afternoon at the footy; a couple of bottles of wine over dinner, or even just a quiet bottle, or two, with our partner each night after a day’s work. There doesn’t need to be a reason to celebrate; alcohol is our go to in many situations. Apart from the obvious effects, what impact does it have on our health, our productivity at work, or the precious time we have with our families, before, during and after our drinking?
A national study released by the Australian Institute of Criminology states that in 2010 the Commonwealth Government received around $7 billion dollars in alcohol related tax revenue as opposed to the overall social cost placed on society by alcohol consumption which was around $14.3 billion for the same period – this latter figure being comprised from the areas of Criminal Justice (20.6%), Health (11.7%), Productivity (42.1%) and Traffic Accidents (25.5%). Therefore the revenue alcohol sales generates does not even come close to covering the costs of its effects on society. Yet we continue to support this by allowing alcohol to be socially acceptable.
The social cost of alcohol can’t be ignored – many lives are deeply affected by our love affair with alcohol. What damage is being done to our society through the continual ‘use and abuse’ of alcohol?
Recently 5 guys were asked to share on their relationship with alcohol and here is what they shared.
Richard M shares -
In September 2006, I was singing in a barbershop quartet near London Bridge. At the end of the gig the hosts offered us a drink. I had a glass of red wine. Little did I know it at the time, but that was my last drink. Alcohol consumption had simply lost its allure and fell away from my life. What I found interesting was the reaction of other men who appeared to find it odd or suspicious that I didn’t imbibe any more. Some would just look on from a distance. Others would sidle up to me and whisper in my ear “so, you never drink at all then?” One or two would try to convince me that it would be ok to have one every now and then. Maybe it would, but I didn’t want to. And have never wanted to since.
What I find most curious is that it seems so very important to a lot of men, so much so that friendships depend upon it. How deep are these friendships that are based upon the choice of liquid you have in a glass? So the choice to not drink alcohol is an interesting one and exposing of many relationships.
I have seen a friend ‘destroy’ herself with alcohol – and many others witness the deep harm it can cause to the drinker and their friends and families. When it comes to being a man, I feel this is not something to be glorified but something to be very aware of and used very wisely… if at all.
James S shares -
Alcohol consumption is the perfect leveller. It brings men of all standings to the same common point where all former barriers have been stripped. The man without friends suddenly has friends; the man with no confidence gains confidence, and the man that is bogged down with life can finally have fun. Why?
What happens to our being after we ingest alcohol? Is it a coincidence alcohol is referred to as a spirit? Or when somebody says, after we have a few drinks, “what's gotten in to you?”, are they actually seeing something else in us that wasn’t there before?
It is something that we as men have used for centuries to help us unwind. However, are we opening ourselves up for something that we don’t fully understand when we decide to have a few drinks? Let’s face the facts. Alcohol consumption in small amounts is a toxin. In larger amounts it is a poison that has been proven to cause cancer yet it is socially acceptable and we continue to drink it. Why?
Could it be we are not living who we truly are each and every day and alcohol consumption is a way of covering up or distracting ourselves from this uncomfortable awareness? When it comes to being a man, do we not know ourselves enough to be able to be with our friends and family and just be who we are, give them all of us, feel everything that is on offer and give back this and more in return?
Saying ‘Alcohol is the perfect leveller’ is not to praise alcohol as some kind of miracle cure. It was in fact highlighting the point that we all drop, and keep dropping the more we drink, to a very dark and lonely place totally removed from our true self.
Mark G shares -
I have never been a big consumer of alcohol, in fact we never had it in the house for a span of about 20 years before I decided I would never drink again. That said there has been quite a lot of alcohol consumption outside of the home at work and other functions. My first experience of alcohol was at university but again that was limited as I wasn't really attracted to the idea. It was something I did to fit in as it was a constant with ‘Uni life’ and I took the view that it was boring observing everyone else lose themselves. When I started work however, alcohol consumption increased significantly. My first job required me to buy a carton on Friday afternoon to consume with my workmates in the boardroom before we went out. This escalated to lunches etc. This was in the 80's when long lunches were ‘the go’. I however, always held back my consumption enough to clearly see people progressively lose themselves over the course of an afternoon. I didn't ever feel comfortable in that environment.
I used alcohol, I thought, to allow me to be more open, more engaging and more accepted in being a man. In fact it actually took me further away from the sensitive and caring person I really was. I was very shy and still am and thought alcohol would help drop that protection, but in fact it increased the protection I carried as it presented a persona that was not really me. I suppose the fact that, for a significant period of time, I did not drink at home is evidence that I used it for protection in the world.
Men never ask themselves why they drink alcohol. It is just a cultural norm that they buy into in being a man. There is extreme pressure to be part of the drinking culture. I feel men are afraid that they will not be accepted by their friends and colleagues if they don't drink. Some use it to numb the hurts that they do not want to feel. It is a crutch to get through life.
Even now I have people ask me why I don't drink. I just tell them I am a reformed alcoholic (tongue in cheek) and then they don't know what to say. But seriously my response is around the negative health consequences of alcohol as a class one carcinogen. I rarely discuss the real reasons I don't drink or the harm it can cause. So, I guess I too still have more to uncover here personally. However, by me not drinking I feel it provides people with an opportunity to reflect on their own relationship with alcohol and consider the real reason for their attachment. I never tell people they are wrong but just allow them to observe.
My son is having his first child in a few months. He and his partner have packed up all their alcohol and stored it outside the house. They haven't disposed of it but clearly are thinking of the impact it will have on their baby by having it in the house. I feel what is needed is for men to be more honest around their relationship with alcohol and the impact it has on them and the world.
Stephen shares -
Be a man, take a drink, hold your drink, show your mettle. Alcohol is a worldwide status symbol of manliness. Around the world young men take to alcohol to fit in with social norms, be accepted by their peers and to give the appearance of being able to handle themselves. It’s a strange association to be able to handle yourself by how much drink you can take. Our intellect lets us men believe that we are ‘better people’ if we can drink more. While this is particularly so with men and being a man, you see some women copy what we could call errant male behaviour and use this as a form of esteem. Undoubtedly many men never really enjoyed drinking but did it because it was a way to conform and be in with the crowd. In fact I doubt many enjoy drink the first time they have it.
How wrapped up are ideals of men being able to take a drink with their supposed worthiness? Masculine ideals abound in drinking culture. Hold your drink = big man, struggle with drink = weak and lesser man.
It’s another doing task, wrapping men up in the false belief that their worth is measured in what they do, rather than the worthiness stemming from the essence of just being a lovely man in his lovely body.
From what has been shared and what the medical profession is starting to make public with its studies it is obvious that alcohol affects the true nature of who we are and can have dire effects on our health, whether consumed in large amounts over a short time or small amounts over longer periods. Each man has also revealed in discussions that even though they were all just ‘social” drinkers, their lives have changed for the better since relinquishing the burden of drinking alcohol and will never succumb to the pressures of having to drink again. They can now clearly see the damage caused by alcohol to their lives physically, mentally and socially.