For those suffering from an addiction to alcohol, engaging in a recovery program can be invaluable for learning more about oneself and one’s goals within a safe, supportive and sober environment. However, it is essential to remember that the recovery sphere is a tightly curated setting that is intentionally devoid of specific stressors that a person may otherwise encounter in their daily lives.
When making the transition back into the “real world,” or even when a person meets with family members, it is possible that aspects of drinking culture can seep their way into one’s mind. Addressing drinking culture is a crucial point in recovery. Therefore it is essential to identify what the culture looks like, how one intends to interact with it, and safe ways to avoid harmful practices or establish a new culture focused on sobriety as a whole.
What is Drinking Culture?
There is no one set of guidelines that incorporates all of the various drinking cultures that a person may encounter. However, addressing drinking culture involves asking oneself a few questions, such as “How much is a person expected to drink?” or “On what occasions is drinking permitted or expected?” However, there are some general similarities between drinking cultures, such as drinking on New Year’s Eve or vacation at the beach, if commercials are to be believed. Drinking culture is also influenced by many other factors that can help an individual define how alcohol is expected to be used within a particular social group. Age, economic status, cultural upbringing, gender, or even an overabundance of traditional “masculinity” can influence how alcohol is perceived within a social group and thus help an individual define a particular drinking culture.
Attitudes about alcohol can vary wildly between different groups. While some groups may be content to have a glass of wine on holidays, others may expect weekly outings to the bar. These cultures are often defined by the social group’s unwritten rules and don’t typically conform to a single individual’s ideas surrounding alcohol. Therefore, it can be difficult to navigate social expectations as an individual in recovery. Asking questions and identifying key elements of a drinking culture, such as how many drinks are considered acceptable or expected, can help individuals prepare for the difficult conversations they may have ahead.
Why It Is Important to Identify the Culture
Identifying these cultural elements is paramount as a person transitions between the safe, curated recovery sphere and the world at large. Practicing asking questions and being aware that the idea of drinking and the relationship that social groups have with alcohol can vary wildly can help an individual prepare themselves for appropriate discussions. For some social groups that do not rely on drinking as much, such as only on holidays, it may be possible to have a conversation about holiday parties to ensure a safe environment. These social groups may even be receptive to changing these holiday festivities to become sober events.
Some cultures may have alcohol present, but there is no social expectation that every individual must drink for any reason, and can therefore maintain a connection depending on an individual and their coping skills and ability to say “no.” However, it can be perilous for an individual in recovery to reconnect with old friends without understanding how the drinking culture may manifest. Even if alcohol is not physically present at the time, social groups that have a very active drinking culture may talk about alcohol in a way that reverts one’s perception of alcohol into a romanticized, flattering light, creating a dangerous situation that may lead to relapse.
Creating a Safe Culture Around Alcohol
It is important to be prepared to talk about one’s expectations and ability revolving around saying “no” to alcohol before reengaging with new or past social groups to reach an understanding of how a person’s sobriety may affect their relationship to the group. While the best option is to simply not have alcohol present at all, discussions with close supports can help a person create the safest possible atmosphere for themselves if the topic of alcohol does come up. Having a culture that doesn’t glorify intoxication or tell drunk stories as a comedic pastime can lead to a culture focused on control. Members of this kind of drinking culture can be encouraged not just to monitor their own intake but also to continuously monitor each other to ensure that intoxication is avoided and socially rejected.
These cultures also benefit from seeing alcohol not as the primary method of interaction but instead may think of it as an optional amenity for celebrations. Getting together for a birthday party with the expectation of getting drunk is a very different mindset from getting together to see friends and family first and foremost. Identifying the motivating force behind these celebrations can illustrate the subtle difference between a supportive group that may understand one’s sobriety and is willing to adapt to a sober style or a potentially disastrous stressor that may compromise one’s progress with sobriety as a whole.
Understanding different drinking cultures is an integral part of the recovery process. Each person needs to be prepared to discuss how and if they fit in with certain social groups. The personalized programs available at Avalon Malibu can help you better understand your own capabilities and goals. We offer detox services, residential treatment, partial hospitalization programs, and intensive outpatient programs, all personalized with various therapeutic approaches that can help you better understand your path to sobriety. Our focus on community allows each individual to explore all of their social options and can help you build essential skills for working alongside friends and loved ones to create a safe, even sober, environment for all. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, or talk to a caring, trained staff member about your unique situation, call us today at (844) 857-5992.