We All Live Within the Alcohol Trap (Even if you drink in moderation)
It’s the Trap that is waiting to catch all of us…
Alcohol is an all-pervading and normalised part of our everyday society that should be exposed for what it actually is – an addictive, poisonous and mind altering drug.
Yes – it is an addictive, toxic, drug!
Even if we have come to realise that Alcohol is a drug, we nonetheless consider it socially acceptable because it is legal, promoted from every commercial angle, and commonly available, except if you are a younger than the legal limit. Let’s analyse that for a moment. Not allowed to sell alcohol to a young person – one has to presume this is because it is harmful to a young person. So at least we acknowledge and agree that it is a harmful substance. So are adults immune to the poison? Not likely.
It’s a bit like walking through the supermarket, and looking down the health food aisle. If that one aisle is stocked only with health food, then what is the rest of the shop filled with? Unhealthy food?
You can’t label one (as healthy) without a connotation of the other (that it’s unhealthy). It doesn’t make sense to try to protect youth from being poisoned, yet promote the same chemical to adults. But we do. Every day, alcohol products are legally promoted, advertised, produced, marketed, and sold into our communities. We are given a small tip – “drink in moderation” and off we go. Addictive. Toxic Drug. And it is poisonous also.
The trap is loaded…
Take a moment to step back and observe the type of behaviors we tend to accept, enjoy, and even approve of, which are not really very acceptable at all, in the context of what I’ve just described :
• Promotion and advertising of alcohol
• Association of alcohol with popular events and celebrity
• Restriction of the sale of alcohol to minors, but allow them to observe the consumption?
• Why do we approve of these influences in our children’s subconscious?
• If smoking has become socially unacceptable, why is drinking not viewed in a similar negative light?
Tobacco promoters have a problem. If they were to write instructions about how to smoke tobacco, they might say “carefully consume in a controlled burning fashion.” This statement may be full of care and consideration for the user, but at the end of the day, no matter how carefully you control the series of small fires, the consumption of tobacco can kill you.
On the other hand, alcohol producers merely write “Drink in moderation” and we are led to believe it is safe and that there is no problem. It is a Con! Have you ever seen any drinking in moderation tips?
The Alcohol Industry is huge
Millions of people around the world enjoy drinking alcohol, which represents a vast industry that is intent on meeting the immense demand. Now this is potentially acceptable if there were appropriate controls in place. But there is not. The massive alcohol industry is fueled by massive marketing budgets all trying to out-compete one another and to increase their own jealously guarded share of the market.
Supply and demand you might say?
Not really, because the over arching message being conveyed is that alcohol is safe, controllable, enhances your enjoyment of life, and somehow improves your social life (as long as you drink in moderation). This message is all pervading, reaching every corner of our society, all age groups are aware of it, and even if you are too young to drink now, you are certainly being conditioned to accept the inevitability that you will be allowed to drink when you are old enough.
Cultural Conditioning – this must be normality
Is it any wonder then that despite the indisputable evidence of the negative consequences of drinking too much alcohol, people continue to be brainwashed by all the positive propaganda that they are continually surrounded by? The “benefits” of drinking alcohol have become part of their conditioning.
Should we Drink in Moderation or seriously cut back on alcohol?
The universally accepted advice regarding excessive drinking is simply to “cut back on alcohol” or “drink in moderation.”
Let’s think about that for a minute. If the medically accepted advice tells us that is OK to keep doing it, but places conditions on the way you can do it, then why does that same advice need to be reiterated so often? It’s not working is it?
What advice do we offer to someone who is seeking help from an unwelcome drug? Just tell them its OK, you can keep doing it, and send them back into the jaws of the alcohol trap with no safety rope. SNAP! Even when we can clearly see the symptoms of drinking too much alcohol, why is is okay to suggest it is safe to continue drinking? Can an alcoholic ever drink in moderation?
It is very difficult to cut back on alcohol or stop your alcohol consumption once you reach the point where you begin to realise that the negative consequences may be stacking up. Social, cultural and psychological factors are all up against you, because your cultural conditioning tells you that you don’t want to be the only one trying to quit, or the only one not drinking at a gathering.
Common advice is for us to “drink in moderation”, or “drink responsibly”, while at the same time the alcohol industry spends millions of dollars in advertising to get us to drink more! Hang on a minute!!
It just doesn’t make sense and neither does our societal acceptance of this problem.
The Ah-Hah Moment
So why do we drink too much alcohol? I assure you that when we were born we didn’t know what it was, and certainly didn’t go looking for a glass and a corkscrew. Our instinctive brain did not have a program to go and get a drink. All was good.
When we were old enough to learn from our behaviors, we quickly figured out not to touch hot things. Our subconscious brain registered the nerve endings telling us that something was hot, and caused an immediate and unconscious withdrawal from danger. Our conscious brain processed the information (even though the subconscious had everything under control) and learned from the painful experience to avoid doing it again. In other words, we used learned behavior to avoid danger.
All working well so far.
What happened when we first experienced alcohol? The taste was foul. There can be no mistake, the subconscious brain cannot lie, and it warned us that alcohol tastes bad. But our conscious mind stepped in at this point and using all the wisdom of our cultural conditioning told our conscious mind that it was wrong, and that we really should have another drink.
Uh Oh, suddenly the power of advertising takes on new meaning.
Advertising and Propaganda
Do you know the origins of advertising? Prior to World War II, our society was not subjected to the levels of promotion and exposure to advertising like we now. During the war, governments on all sides of conflict came to understand the power of winning not only the physical battle, but also the emotional and psychological war among the general population. The war effort is only as good as the supply effort, and the supply is generated behind the battle field, in the cities and towns where the civilian population provide food, arms and material for the soldiers. So the war was fought between soldiers on the battle field, and propaganda was used to win the psychological war behind the front lines. Propaganda was very effective at influencing the general population, particularly those under threat from invasion and imminent danger.
When the battle ceased, propaganda became the weapon of choice for promotional companies, television and mass media became the vehicle, and ever since that time, our society has been at the mercy of advertising campaigns, which our brains were never designed to cope with.
Conscious versus the Subconscious Mind
The Human brain is a product of millions of years of evolution, and consists of several distinct elements, and is capable of several distinct functions. These processes can occur at brilliant speed, and often at the same time. Interestingly, neuroscientists can show us the ancient parts of the brain are still a vital part of the human brain, and we share these elements with most other animals, both warm and even cold-blooded. We know these elements as the subconscious brain, and that is the part that keeps us alive, controls the heart beat, breathing, and everything else important to life.
It is important to know that the primitive subconscious brain evolved closest to the spinal column and the nerve center, so therefore it receives the very first signals that enter our brain. The subconscious decides what to do with that information (for example pull you hand away from heat to protect your hand from burning) before sending the other interesting stuff to the conscious brain.
What is different about the conscious brain?
The part of the human brain that has developed and evolved is what we call the conscious brain and humans use this element to think, learn, recall and the development of reason and logical thought. All sorts of processing goes on here, such as the ability to understand, conceptualise, feel guilt or pleasure, and so on. The conscious mind has a huge capacity to act as our emotional computer, and we have an incredible array of programs that can be developed, exercised, compressed, or suppressed.
But we need to remember that the subconscious brain always gets the first look at new information, and only sends the that data to the conscious brain when it has finished processing, or reacting, or whatever it needs to do to keep you alive. So now the conscious brain gets to take a look at the interesting information, analyses it, and decides whether to laugh, or cry, or help, or have another drink…
Ok – enough neuroscience for now, we can explore this later.
The point of this discussion is that Humans have evolved the ability to think a lot more deeply, beyond the mere fight or flight capability that was so important for primitive survival.
Suffice to say, the conscious mind is always on the look out for interesting information, and is unfortunately an easy target for advertising. Propaganda.
Evolution has not been able to keep up the current pace of our lifestyle, and hence our vulnerability to propaganda is exactly the tool that advertising gurus apply when they want to get a message through to our subconscious mind, and change our perception of the world around us.
This was the “Ah-hah” moment!
There are many tricks used within the alcohol industry to affect and alter the way we see our relationship with alcohol. It all has to do with our emotions that we attach to a product or a situation, and the advertiser’s goal is to use our emotions to override our natural fears and inhibitions, to convince us that something bad is actually not so bad.
If this is all a bit complicated, let me show you a few examples of the devious nature of advertising, and how we are being influenced and manipulated without even being aware of what is happening:
• Have you ever read a news story where alcohol has health benefits? Even reputable (?) sources like the newspapers have been used to provide credibility to the benefits of consuming a poisonous chemical – oh dear!
• Have you ever seen an unhappy, unsuccessful, or unacceptable outcome from an alcohol advertisement? Never – alcohol is promoted as a way to enhance your productivity, finances and level of success, which could not be further from the truth.
• Have you ever seen an image for drinking alone? Never – the consumption of alcohol is promoted as being a social activity, and the product as being a social enhancement, a lifestyle improvement, and a happiness tonic.
• Can you imagine a party without alcohol? Do you struggle to imagine that an alcohol free party could actually be compare favorably with a party with copious alcohol flowing?
• Have you ever decided to stop drinking for a day, and found that before the previous days’ hangover has gone, the cravings for the next hit have begun?
How have we been led to believe that it is not addictive?
Drinking too much Alcohol is addictive!
I present these examples as evidence that everything that we have been programmed to know about alcohol is not the truth. Our learned behavior has been manipulated to such a large extent that something poisonous and disgusting has become something that we become to rely on for daily happiness.
Alcohol is an advertisers dream in terms of our logical reasoning, as deep down we know there are both good and bad outcomes from drinking too much alcohol. The problem is many people perceive that the benefits are stronger than the negative effects. Why do we continue drinking too much alcohol, even though we suffer many adverse consequences and negative effects on our behavior? It is because of what we believe, and how our conscious mind has over-powered the logical danger signs. This means that promoters can prey on your pre-conditioning and tell you whatever you want to hear, rather than having to worry about saying something you won’t believe; after all we trust them – don’t we? If it is okay that they tell us to “drink in moderation”, why don’t they help us with some of the strategies to drink less alcohol:
- How to Cut Alcohol Consumption
- Cutting Back on Alcohol gradually
- Ways to Reduce Alcohol Consumption
- Learning to drink in moderation.
No – they big alcohol companies don’t want to show us how to do it – Not so easy is it?
Let us explode the Alcohol paradigm (what we refer to as The Alcohol Trap)
Let’s look at some other examples of substance abuse which have parallels to our relationship with alcohol, and try to scratch beneath the surface as to how and why we don’t see alcohol for what it really is:
Welcome a new baby into the world.
I can hear it now, a massive rush to be the first one to “wet the baby’s head”. This of course means have a drink of alcohol. Just because it is such a common response does not mean it is appropriate. Let’s contrast that with a slightly older tradition. I am old enough to remember a time when celebratory cigars would be handed around after the birth of a baby. You would never see tobacco smoke being wafted around the maternity ward of any modern hospital these days! So why in the devil’s name is the alcohol celebration still considered acceptable? OMG!
Let’s have a think about the statement – “I am just a social drinker.”
What if a friend of your children has a reputation for inhaling paint fumes, but hey, we know it is only on weekends? Would you send your children over with a tube of solvent as a gift, because they might like to try something new? Would you let them try it, just to be sociable? Bit harder to defend that one!
Let’s make a comparison with hard drugs.
We all know that ice (crystal methamphetamine) is dangerous, addictive, and probably not a welcome conversation at your average dinner party. Both ice and alcohol are addictive, mind altering chemical substances that are completely foreign to our bodies. Do you realise that the big difference between ice and alcohol is social acceptability? Sure ice can get you hooked after just one hit, but is alcohol really any different, even if you think you are safe? All addictive drugs work the same way, to give you a massive, unnatural high, and leave you wanting more. By the way, many, many more people die from alcohol than ice.
Why are any of these extreme examples really any different from using alcohol? Most of us would run a mile from these situations, but having said that, most of us would be quite capable of defending alcohol as being nowhere near as dangerous as the alternatives described above.
Whether on a social level, on a part time level, or a daily habit, there is no difference between drinking too much alcohol and any other addictive, mind altering substance. This is clear evidence The Alcohol Trap has been cleverly laid out before us. The only problem is that even if we drink in moderation, we can still get stuck in the trap!