People the United States and Canada have a lot in common. Many of them speak English. Their favorite teams play in the same hockey league, the same baseball league, and the same basketball league. And there’s another thing they have in common, say the experts at the Canadian Centre for Addictions, who offer alcohol treatment in Toronto: they drink too much.
This is a real problem. And it’s not hard to see how we got here: in both the US and Canada, drinking is a part of the culture. It’s important to talk about that and what it means for you.
Alcohol has been a part of our cultures from the beginning. Settlers brought booze over from Europe, and immigrant groups have been bringing their own styles of beer and liquor ever since.
But here’s a troubling detail: the drinking culture in North America is changing. The rise of craft beers and fancy “mixology” cocktails has encouraged drinking as a way to socialize and, in some cases, as an end to itself. The rise of Uber and other ride-hailing apps has been a blessing for the fight against drunk driving, but it’s also made it easier for responsible people to drink excessively.
And on top of all that, alcohol companies have continued to spend top dollar to advertise to current and potential future drinkers.
Are you drinking more than you should?
When you’re in this type of culture, drinking too much is easy to do. After all, how can you even tell if you’re overindulging? You know what it feels like to be drunk, of course, but many people look to others for guidance. It feels good to be skinnier, healthier, or smarter than average. And if we drink a bit less than our peers, that’s good, too.
Except that it’s established that Americans and Canadians drink way too much. Having one fewer beer than your friends when you go out could still very easily make you a problem drinker. You could still be unhealthy even if you think you’re being very careful with your drinking, and who is always as careful as they’d like to be?
You should make a serious assessment of your drinking habits. If the culture around you is causing you to drink too much, then it’s time for a change.
How to fight the drinking culture
Going against the grain isn’t easy. Just ask alcoholics in recovery and others who made the choice to live a sober life. From Tinder dates to after-work cocktails, there are a lot of things to turn down and reimagine.
Fortunately, there are also a lot of things that can help you. Aside from proposing a coffee shop instead of a bar, you could order a non-alcoholic beer or non-alcoholic cocktail — assuming, of course, that you feel comfortable in your ability to avoid booze in a bar environment. For those who aren’t addicts, alternative alcoholic and non-alcoholic options can be a huge help.
And investing in alternatives for your own home — like sodas to drink during hockey games or seltzers for Monday Night Football — can help you replace bad drinking habits by swapping out the “reward” part of a habit loop. These are things that many young people (including the same millennials who once drove the worsening of America’s drinking habits) are trying and enjoying.
It’s important to remember that not everyone can simply cut back on their drinking. If you feel like you can’t control your drinking, you may be an alcoholic. Addiction is a disease, so treat it like one: seek professional help and create the sober life that you deserve.