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~ Follow along and read all of Annie’s columns on Elephant here.
1. a customary or regular course of procedure
2. commonplace tasks, chores, or duties as must be done regularly or at specified intervals; typical or everyday activity
3. regular, unvarying, habitual, unimaginative, or rote procedure.
4. an unvarying and constantly repeated formula, as of speech or action; convenient or predictable response
Routines: they can make life so much easier. Experts recommend them, and we all intrinsically seek them as a way to make order out of the chaos our lives are. In fact, if anything about Covid really affected me, it was the loss of my routines.
There’s one routine I lost long before Covid that never made life easier. It caused chaos rather than calm. Losing it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me.
Yet, for most people, this “harmless” routine is still an integral part of their everyday lives. Many have stepped up the frequency of this routine during lockdowns or are eagerly anticipating resuming it in a more “natural” way once restrictions ease.
I can’t help but wonder—when did regular drug use become routine? When, as a society, did we flip the switch and decide that this was going to be something we not only accepted but encouraged.
You’re probably thinking I’ve gone off the deep end; there is nowhere in society where we encourage routine drug use. Yet, if you enjoy a nightly glass of wine, happy hour, or a beer after work—you’ve proven my point.
Alcohol is the most widely used psychoactive drug in America. Over 86 percent of adults have consumed alcohol, and there are over 14 million adults with an alcohol use disorder right now.
For the longest time, I thought nothing of my routine drinking. It was encouraged in every single facet of my life—at work, at home, as a mom, as a friend. From business functions to playdates, drinking alcohol wasn’t just okay, it was expected.
If you’re expected to do something by bosses and colleagues alike, there obviously can’t be anything wrong with it, right?
That mindset is really what I have an issue with. In no way am I blaming anyone for the fact that they have gotten sucked into the Wine-Down Wednesdays or Covid Cocktails routine. Alcohol is shoved in our faces as a harmless and even healthy way to deal with anything life throws at us.
From pandemics to parenting—alcohol can cure it all.
I used alcohol as my duct tape. I believed it could cure it all, but no matter how much I drank, nothing improved. My drinking routine may have been regular, commonplace, and customary, but it didn’t add anything beneficial to my life.
Brushing my teeth regularly prevents cavities. Exercising regularly gives me energy and promotes health. Eating regularly keeps me alive. Drinking regularly depressed me. It increased my anxiety; made me less productive at work, disturbed my sleep, and wreaked havoc on my relationships. I wasn’t falling down drunk, injuring myself, or getting DUI’s, but this routine wasn’t fixing anything. The more regular it became, the fewer benefits I could find from it.
Everywhere I turned I was being told alcohol was the answer though. My drinking was “normal.” I didn’t meet the criteria to be a “real” alcoholic.
I, like you, was being told to continue my routine drug use.
Imagine if you were being told there was nothing wrong with your routine cocaine, heroin, or crack use? Encouraged to continue smoking cigarettes because it calms you down? What if instead of sharing wine with the moms at a playdate they passed around a bottle of quaaludes?
We’d all be in shock and dismay. Society would never find any of those scenarios acceptable, but we see nothing wrong with advertising a psychoactive drug to the masses and celebrating using it routinely.
Those who don’t drink alcohol find themselves justifying their lack of drug use.
Go ahead, read that again.
It sounds ludicrous, but it is the reality we are all living in.
Routine drinking was the routine that almost broke me. It fueled my anxiety and depression. Drinking two bottles of wine a night became normal as my tolerance built up from my harmless nightly routine. I’m terrified to think of the state I would be in had I continued drinking.
It’s been over five years since I started this journey and it scares me to see that not much has changed in society. We’re still encouraging people to drink and still forcing those who choose not to drink to either justify their reasons or wear labels they don’t identify with.
I’m not a zealot. I don’t think we should ban alcohol for everyone or go on a crusade against it. I do think we need to change the narrative around it. We need to stop advocating alcohol as a cure or savior. We have to stop promoting drinking as a way to cope with the chaos that is life. Life will always have new stressors and triggers to throw our way—we can’t just keep telling people to drown them in alcohol.
Let’s actually start promoting healthy routines instead. Ask a stressed mom if she’s getting enough sleep and offer to babysit instead of offering wine. If a friend goes through a breakup, take them out on an adventure rather than giving them a depressant when they are already depressed. We all know that things like journaling, meditation, talking, and exercising will do more to ease stressful situations than alcohol could. Let’s offer support in those ways rather than promoting turning to drugs as healthy and harmless.
If you are curious about your drinking and want to take this time to evaluate it rather than diving deeper into it, join me for The Alcohol Experiment. You will receive encouraging and mindset shifting daily videos and emails and an incredible community of 130,000 people also experimenting with their alcohol intake. It is completely free (and always will be) at The Alcohol Experiment.