Why do alcoholics drink?

stop drinking

Why do alcoholics drink? Well, because they’re alcoholics.  But how did they achieve that lovely title to begin with?

It’s actually a fairly common question.  For better or for worse, alcoholics do inspire questions.  That’s why there are so many movies about us.

So what is the answer?

Well, I may have known more than my share of alcoholics in my day.  And the reason it can be hard to talk about causes is that there are so many different paths to excessive drink.  Also, one doesn’t really ask, and if you did ask, your buddy may not really know.  I’ve spent thousands of hours in soul-searching, but not everyone does.  A lot of people don’t really ask about it, and if they do, the elbow tipper in question doesn’t really know why.  They either take it for granted, or the causes are very complex.

However, all hope is not lost.  There are some common threads, and here they are.

It runs in the family

Yes, there are hereditary aspects to the tendency to become addicted.  But there can be environmental factors as well.  Both of my parents drank, and that’s a common story for a lot of alcoholics. You can actually grow up thinking that a certain quantity of alcohol (in a week or month) is a lot more normal or healthy than it really is.  I was actually an adult before I realized how many non-drinkers there are out there, and how many people cut their drinking down drastically when they become parents.

Friends and peer pressure

Sometimes, alcoholism just comes from social drinking.  Just about everyone drinks, and parties and binge drinking are, of course, common.  We’ve all been in a little circle of people who pounded shots together.  And sometimes one shot becomes three and five in a pretty stupid contest. As we’ve mentioned, if you have genetic issues, you can end up being first emotionally, and then chemically addicted.

Sense of control

Is your life muffins and sunshine all the time?  No one’s is.  Some people react to that, not by brooding or watching a lot of French films, but by hitting the bottle.  They feel, under the influence, a greater sense of control over their own lives, and a greater degree of positivity. This sense of control is temporary, but can lead people to pursue its short-lived effects indefinitely, with less and less good feelin’ each time. So then, you get into the vicious cycle–a need for more control, diminished control, on and on.

Some call this having an addictive personality, though outside of alcohol, the person might have little or no addictions or compulsions. This is one of the most infuriating aspects of alcoholism, and inability to pin down a definite cause–it’s a drag, but to some extent, it’s not the cause we’re after, but the cure.
These are just some of the leading trends I’ve nailed down. It is by no means a complete list- every single alcoholic’s circumstances are unique and their suffering is personal.

There may be no easy answer.  However, you do need to have some sense of a few of the psychological issues that are present in your life, since dealing with those is one part of your recovery.

Photo by Francesca on Flickr