Who Else Wants to Know Why they Drink So Much?

First of all, thanks to Acolyte for giving me the idea for this post.

Beer poster

I will tell you what this article is not. This IS NOT an article where I talk about the ills of drinking and alcoholism or give you reasons to stop. I have already spoken about my opinions on drinking and think its of no use to you if I repeat what I’ve already said.

Instead, this article is about helping YOU figure out why YOU get pissed and why people you care about drink…..so much?

Why Would I Care About Why I Drink if I Am Not About to Quit?

Anytime you figure out the reason why you do something, you gain one thing that’s absolutely priceless: self-awareness.

If before every sip, you can look yourself in the eye and know why you’re about to take that sip, with all B.S. aside, now that’s power.
Or rather, latent power that can easily be converted into something even more priceless (?!oxymoron, me thinks): self-control. This self-control can extend far deeper than every Friday night.
In a land where we agree that it’s easy to get distracted and lose focus, how valuable is self-control? You with me?! Let’s begin

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Based on My Observations and Experiences

Based on my observations and experiences, I have observed the following 10 reasons that someone ingests the inebriating fluid:

1) Stress
This is the one I have heard most often, and I’m willing to bet it’s probably the one you’ve heard said the most as well. Anytime you feel like life is getting too tough and you need some way to escape briefly from this constant tension, you drink. You don’t like being away from home? You are not enjoying your new job? You’re university assignments are piling up and overwhelming you? Sip your sorrows away.
It’s possible that you are using drinking as your way of coping with any feelings of stress or overwhelm.

2) The Opposite Sex: Men
I can tell you for a fact that this is 90% of the reason that I drank. I began drinking on a semi-regular basis in my early teens so I could have enough courage to approach and bed women.
I remember when I was still in film school I tried to make a documentary (while drunk no less) on why people drink. A lot more men gave this as the reason than I would have thought.
Hey, if Kenyan President (legitimacy notwithstanding), Emilio Stanley Kibaki needed booze to convince the firecracker that is his wife, then I am sure many men with lesser power have done the exact same thing.

Beer goggles

3) The Opposite Sex: Women
Now when it comes to drinking and women, it’s an entirely different ball game. Sure, there are women who drink so that they have the courage to approach men they fancy for love or lust, but in my experience if these women have enough guts to do it when drunk, they can usually do it when sober.
Women tend to drink so that they have a scapegoat and can absolve all responsibility for ‘anything that may happen’ between her and a particular Mr., or Mrs., to herself and her friends, who she fears may call her the woman with the Red Sea for legs.
Now, few women will admit this openly, but a lot of women drink so that if they wake up the next morning next to someone they don’t particularly care for they can say,

“The booze made me do it, I’m still a good person!”

4) To Magnify Positive Emotions
This is the other major reason I drank. If I was ever in a good mood and I drank my good mood would multiply. This may happen when you have had a good day and feel that alcohol is the best way to treat yourself. Or it may also occcur at celebrations, get togethers and gatherings. This brings us to the next reason:

5) It’s What Other People Do
The power of social proof will never cease to amaze me.Other “normal” people go to the bar after work, so will I. “Ordinary” people drink whenever they get together or have a celebration, so will I. “Everyone” drinks in their teens and early adult years so will I. Another one not many people will admit. If so many “normal” people didn’t drink, would you ever have started?

Drunkard passed out

6) The Stories
This justification also intertwines with the previous one. In bars and house parties all over the world, we love people who start stories with:

I was so high/ We were so wasted that……….

Usually such stories have outlandish but ridiculously exciting plots. Some of us take great pride in being the one with such a story week after week after week or day after day after day.

7) Movies and the Media
This one doesn’t need too much explaining. A lot of people we consider ‘cool’ (we need a new word for cool, it’s cliche, ice cold?….perhaps…) in the movies and music drink. We love them so much that what they do we do.
We want to order martinis like Bond. We want to indulge in Cosmopolitans like Carey. We want to drink scotch neat like another protagonist from such and such film.

Do your favorite TV, music, movie or video game characters drink?

8 ) Scapegoat Version 2
Women are not the only ones who use alcohol as a scapegoat. A lot of us drink so we can tell people WHAT’S REALLY ON OUR MINDS, without having to suffer the huge consequences we would suffer if we did it in the sober light of day.
I have a family member who takes pride in using a lot of his drunk time to tell all the people he hates (for the weirdest of reasons) why he hates them. He takes this time to start fights with people he wants to start fights with because he knows once sobrierity comes he is back to being a responsible (well relatively) individual.

I drink so I have courage like green lantern

9) I Drink So I Have the Courage to Do X
The X in the headline above can refer to anything really. I drink so I am brave enough to give a speech. I drink so I am brave enough to face other people. I drink so that I can go to the shops without feeling pangs of agoraphobia.
It doesn’t apply to just courage either. I heard of a young man who in his primary school days, used to drink so he could cope with the boredom of being in the classroom all day long.

10) Energy to Continue
Though alcohol is technically a depressant, for a lot of people, it has the opposite effect and gives them jolts of excitement and energy. There are some people who use these jolts to get them through days when they have triple shifts to do on absolutely no sleep. There are some people who are so tired and weary from working 27 hour shifts, 9 days a week that the only way they know to switch their body on is to inject it with some alcohol.

So there you have it. All the reasons I can think of. Do you fall into one of the above categories? Is there a reason I may have missed?

Take this time to really get to know yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised by just why you drink. This self-awareness may lead to a level of self-control that may shock you even more.

If this article, got something brewing in your brain then make sure you stay on the blog’s RSS or email update list because I have new ales of useful, applicable wisdom coming out every day.


Have a self-conscious (in a good way) day,
Mwangi

30 Comments

  • By acolyte, May 17, 2008 @ 8:14 am

    First! Let me pore over this and give my opinions……….

  • By Mwangi, May 17, 2008 @ 8:15 am

    @acolyte: Kul man, looking forward to it

  • By acolyte, May 17, 2008 @ 8:23 am

    Well, I don’t know if you mentioned it but Kenyans abroad also drink as an outlet for the frustrations they face. You are illegal and stuck in a nursing job that pays peanuts so what else is there to do to make you forget your pain?
    Plus you do forget there are some women who drink just to show how independent and manly they are.
    I also do think we do have people who drink as a way of socializing, I mean where else do you find many Kenyans gathered other than bars ok there are churches but that is another post altogether.
    For me since I dont go out clubbing much the amount I drink has really plummeted plus at home I only have one beer at most to unwind over a weekend. I guess I outgrew the must drink every weekend with the dudes thing that many Kenyans have.

  • By Mwangi, May 17, 2008 @ 8:28 am

    @acolyte: I just lightly touched on the frustration thing with the first point on drinking your stress and sorrows away but thanks for going into more depth on it.
    Women who drink to show how manly they are….hmmm, I have never thought of that one before but it is very probable. So, they smoke (and the levels of female smoking here probably outnumber men, it’s weird, especially among young women -African included) to feel sexy and drink to feel more masculine. Let’s lock that in as another reason.
    On the social thing, I also lightly touched on it in celebration but that is so true….for a lot of folk drinking is it as far as a social life goes, them, their friends and a little bottle of Johny Walker is how they spend most of their spare time.
    I wanted to quit drinking for a long time before I actually did, but was just planning how to do it. I hate having any crutches or addictions or dependencies or anything I look to to give me joy as I feel it limits my ability to grow….but that’s for another day and another post too.

  • By Robert A. Henru, May 17, 2008 @ 1:42 pm

    Hi Mwangi, you have much better background now. It’s much more readable.
    And I agree with you, self-awareness is important. It’s a first step to change.
    Cheers,
    Robert

  • By Sunny, May 17, 2008 @ 5:02 pm

    Without belaboring the obvious, there are some men who drink to show how manly *they* are too, in a world of enhanced talk of gender parity!
    People drink to socialize, from the primary school pictures of old men over old brews( the culture texts tell us women were given their own brew too)
    its not purely gendered, this drinking thing, maybe we want to remember that, yes?

  • By Mwangi, May 18, 2008 @ 1:42 am

    @Robert: Thank you for giving me the feedback on the background in the first place, it was much appreciated. So let me officially say thanks to you and Ssembonge for the feedback.
    Thanks for Stumbling the article too :D

  • By seinlife, May 18, 2008 @ 1:43 am

    To be honest I think drinking is a big problem not only amongst kenyans abroad but kenyans in kenya. We are indeed a nation of drunkards. So if we grew up seeing that dad/mum/uncle john was jolliest when he/she drank a couple of tuskers then we are more inclined to think that is what we need to make us just as happy. Plus lets not forget that those who are born into alcoholism have a very high predisposition to it.

  • By Mwangi, May 18, 2008 @ 1:44 am

    @Sunny: Thanks to you and acolyte for bringing this to my attention. Now that I think about it, it seems valid. So gender is a huge factor in the decision to drink,and what you drink of course is determined by gender e.g.
    Men: ” Beer after a long day!”
    Girls: “Wine to treat yourself!”

  • By Mwangi, May 18, 2008 @ 1:46 am

    @seinlife: Another one I missed…..role models growing up! How could I have missed such an obvious one?
    To be entirely honest, I am not inclined to believe in the “genetic predisposition to alcoholism” thing. I think it’s way more about cultural and emotional factors than bad genes. Your emotions and cultures make you want to pick up a bottle and drink. I don’t think your genes make you itch for the Guinness.

  • By seinlife, May 18, 2008 @ 1:58 am

    @Mwangi – There has been a lot of studies done that have proved the link between genetics and alcoholism. Not one single gene but multiple genes, I think its called polygenics or something like that. Just like any other form of addiction, those with these genes have a tougher time quitting once they start. So, although yes social and environmental factors play a part, genetics is also a contributor.

  • By Mwangi, May 18, 2008 @ 2:01 am

    @seinlife: My intuition, studies and superficial understanding of alcoholism and genetics suggests to me that the genes probably affect one’s tendency to be obsessive or addicted to things as opposed to resulting in a person being born predisposed to an addiction to a specific thing e.g. chocolate, alcohol etc

    Is that what the studies seem to suggest?

  • By seinlife, May 18, 2008 @ 2:25 am

    From my understanding, some people drink excessively from day one because of their genetic composition. Their brains a wired to re-act to chocolate or alcohol in a different way than others and the more they continue to over indulge the worse it gets.

  • By Mwangi, May 18, 2008 @ 2:29 am

    @seinlife: Now that, I am skeptical about and would probably need to investigate deeper.

  • By seinlife, May 18, 2008 @ 2:36 am

    @Mwangi – understandable – maybe you can do a follow up post on your findings….?

  • By Mwangi, May 18, 2008 @ 2:57 am

    @seinlife: The reason I quit psychology in Uni was I didn’t like poring through long boring research studies…..my hope is that one of my readers can shed light on this one so as I can keep the research papers at bay.
    If no one else will do it, then maybe, perhaps…..watch this space.

  • By acolyte, May 18, 2008 @ 3:09 am

    I too am very skeptical of the genetic connection many people try to make. I think social factors play a stronger part, genetics is just used as an excuse to let people off the hook for their actions!

  • By kenya.fm, May 18, 2008 @ 8:43 am

    @seinlife
    Drinking (or is it alcoholism?) and genes

    Drinking by itself is not a sin, just as with eating. The problem is with the excess, which, according to the Bible is sin. I wonder who we should believe more. Science or the the Lord (Bible)?

    Imagine if we believe everything science tells us? (remember that science is the art of interpreting nature ) I am sure it should be possible to find a gene that predisposes us to all sorts of things. Eg “excessive love of sex”(adultery etc), compulsive untruths (lies), problem obeying authority (disobedience to parents), impulsive/compulsive buying if stuff (covetousness). You get the point. Where do we stop?

  • By Mwangi, May 18, 2008 @ 10:50 am

    @ acolyte and kenya.fm: In my experience I am yet to find anyone who has ever tried to blame their alcoholism upon their genetics so it appears that for the time being people are indeed looking within their hearts and minds and their environments to understand why they love the bottle so much.
    Something I would be curious about: What would the proposed solution if alcoholism is indeed as a result of genetic predisposition? Counseling, therapy, gene manipulation?

  • By Kelly, May 19, 2008 @ 7:59 pm

    I think genetics come in when you’re talking about alcohol tolerance. There are some people who even after a crate of Tuskers, will still be sober, while others, two are enough to get them down. I read this somewhere.

    For me, the reason I drink:
    1. Social drinker – By nature people like to take me too seriously, and I discovered a little alcohol lightens me up a bit
    2. Getaway – 3 glasses of wine make me very sleepy, so when I want to force some sleep I take this.
    3. Taste – I like the taste of some wines, and spiked soda. I’ve tasted real beer once and I hated it.
    There!

  • By Mwangi, May 19, 2008 @ 8:06 pm

    @Kelly: Now alcohol tolerance being genetically linked, that I can back 100%. I watched a Discovery documentary where they compared the historic beer consumption of Westerners with the tea consumption of Asian people.
    As a result, Westerners over time had developed a strong tolerance to alcohol, whereas Asians would get drunk quicker and get other symptoms such as flushed skin etc etc
    I think if alcohol didn’t exist, your case would be far from atypical, way too many African women take themselves too seriously.
    So that you can sleep? I have never heard that one before…..though I used to have a friend who after drinking for a couple of hours would always pass out for about an hour or two and wake up fresh as a daisy and sober as a judge.

  • By seinlife, May 20, 2008 @ 2:50 am

    some articles reporting a genetic link for alcohol addiction..
    http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20040526/researchers-identify-alcoholism-gene
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/8739.php
    http://www.news-medical.net/?id=2058

    As far as treatment, not only can you do counselling but there are drugs you can take to supress the desire to drink – it works in some it does work with others. Just as there are drugs to take for diabetics which is also another genetic disease which african americans and african immigrants are more predisposed to.

  • By Mwangi, May 20, 2008 @ 12:49 pm

    @seinlife: Thanks for doing some research. Seriously with readers like y’all my life is so much easier….:D
    Now when psychological drugs get mentioned, my level of skepticism skyrockets. About four years ago, believing that I was depressed (but yet still very hopeful for the future….ironic really ;) )I went to a clinic and asked for anti-depressants to get me through school.
    The lady gave me a popular anti-depressant known as Xanax. When I studied Xanax and looked at the effects (isn’t the word side-effects just a semantic tool really…..they are all what the drug does to the body) of the drug there were some real shocking effects and weirdest of all, one of the effects, “Depression!”
    That having been said though, I’ll give the articles a thumb through and write my thoughts in this comment thread.

  • By Liz, May 21, 2008 @ 4:31 am

    You sort of covered this, but there’s also the “I deserve it” reason. I feel like that sometimes as I’m getting ready to cook dinner. I’ll have this glass of wine: I DESERVE it for getting through the day.

    I recently came across a memoir, “Alive!” written by Eileen DeCelemente who found way too many reasons to drink. All problems in her life were solved with drink and drugs. In 20 years of recovery she learned how to spend time with people who are good influences, getting help, love, support of family and forgiveness. She even talks about kids and support services available to them when making decisions.

    Boy, she’s confronted a lot in her life — and still is, as she’s currently struggline with alcohol-induced dementia.

  • By Mwangi, May 21, 2008 @ 1:30 pm

    @Liz: I mildly touched on that in the article as a reward at the end of the day but we can definitely lock that one in too. Thanks for sharing about the book. Anyone who is interested can find it at:
    http://www.eileenisalive.com/

  • By Caustic Blonde, May 23, 2008 @ 6:45 pm

    I think most people start off drinking as a way to socialize. I know the only time I like to drink is when I am around friends. Unfortunately for a lot of people it becomes this ugly addiction that is difficult to break.

  • By Mwangi, May 23, 2008 @ 6:47 pm

    @Caustic: Social proof and the social aspect are powerful ones aren’t they. I think perhaps we can take it as one of the measuring sticks of alcoholism when you begin to drink on your own when you started with other people.

  • By Ben Mkamba, May 29, 2008 @ 10:24 pm

    Hi, I just stumbled on your blog and I must say I like the way you write.
    That said, reason why people drink, do you mean why some people get totally wasted or do you mean just regular drinkers.
    Personally I love my beer. Over the years I have had my fair share of different ales, stouts and lagers and enjoyed each new taste immensely. Do I get plastered ? Yes absolutely, but I am just as comfortable in a bar with a newspaper with a glass of house ale on tap as in the park during a barbecue drinking corona’s straight from the bottle.

    frustration… need to meet females…socializing…and my favorite, so that I can tell those that offend me what I think of them..all are not applicable reasons.

    I tend to think that apart from “problem drinkers” meaning those with a problem where the drink takes control, most people enjoy their alcohol.

    All in all I think we need to drink responsibly, in moderation. Once the alcohol consumption gets to where you can’t hold a job, your family is miserable, and you have court appearances for DUI’s then you need a good hard look at your reason for drinking.

    Just my 2 cents

  • By Mwangi, May 29, 2008 @ 10:59 pm

    @Ben: Hello, welcome to the Displaced African. Hope you enjoy your stay, any feedback on how things can be improved is always welcome.
    Personally, I am at a place where I came from an occasional drinker to a regular social drinker and now am completely off the alcohol because I realized that I was using it as a crutch and I didn’t like a lot of things about my relationship with booze.
    That being said though, the point of the article was to cause one to stop and reflect on why they drink so that one can have better understanding on themselves…too many times we do things and don’t even know why.
    I do agree though with your view that you have to control the bottle and NEVER allow the bottle to control you or determine your destiny.

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