Why do people drink?
The making of beverages and concoctions containing alcohol as the result of fermentation can be traced back into prehistory and into current-day primitive societies. While the consumption of differing forms of alcoholic beverages among prehistoric and primitive cultures has often been associated with religious rites and ceremonies, somewhere along the way, it was discovered that intoxicating beverages could be used also for “recreational” purposes.
Thus, a transition occurred, transforming a religious practice into a commonplace, non-religious activity—drinking. While the taste of primitive alcoholic concoctions was only minimally associated with their moving from religious rituals into non-religious practice, the mind-altering effect they produced was probably the source of non-religious drinking. Thus, the mind-altering effects of alcoholic beverages became an end in itself. No longer the means to gain religious insights, the purpose of drinking developed from motives relating to the pleasures of the mind-altering effects of drinking.
It is the mind-altering effect of alcoholic beverages which are the source of common practices of drinking. Many people have a drink for social purposes, to have a drink with associates and friends contributes the conviviality of such social relations making it a kind of non-religious ritual celebrating social exchanges. For other people, the slight elevation in spirit and slight lowering of inhibitions produced by alcohol creates a kind of relaxation which, additionally, in social situations reduces stress and increases social behavior. For some people, wine connoisseurs, for example, certain alcoholic beverages are consumed to experience the pleasures of their taste rather than for the purpose of intoxication.
These forms of drinking motivation and behavior lead people occasionally and often in particular situations to have a drink or two. This is “social drinking,” and, ordinarily, it is relatively harmless.
For some people, however, somewhere along the way, their drinking behavior crosses the line and becomes something more serious. However, people don’t ordinarily cross the line from social drinking to alcohol addiction and alcoholism because they like the taste of particular alcoholic beverages. The motivation for this change of behavior from social drinking to addiction and alcoholism is most often the result of elements of the personality of the individual. Consciously or unconsciously, they have some inner psychological needs or motivations for something beyond the pleasure of the mild intoxication of social drinking. They are seeking escape from something, self-medicating, or seeking to numb themselves.
This kind of drinking, therefore, has different causes and effects from social drinking. As we all know, there are many dangers from alcohol addiction and alcoholism, ranging from driving under the influence of alcohol and other legal problems to serious physical violence against property and other people. Therefore, when and if many people come to the recognition that their drinking patterns have changed from social drinking to alcohol addiction and alcoholism, they often seek to avoid the adverse health effects and other serious results by seeking to control and terminate the heavy drinking behavior.
In seeking to change, there are two major perspectives: The first is the extinction of the drinking behavior itself. This is usually accomplished through some form of stopping the drinking—detox. In addition to simply stopping the drinking behavior, and to avoid starting it again at some time in the future, it is desirable and necessary to discover what is at the heart of the motivation to drink to excess. It is in assistance in accomplishing this goal that psychological counseling can be of very real and direct help. What are the underlying psychological motivations that compel you to drink to excess? Why are behaviors that can be learned to “short-circuit” the impulse to drink in excess? What are effective coping behaviors which can mediate the dealing with inner psychological conflicts and problem other than alcohol abuse which can result in healthier, less destructive, and more socially acceptable behavior instead of alcohol addiction and alcoholism?
Thus, psychological counseling can provide effective and meaningful approaches to the termination of problem drinking, alcohol addiction, and alcoholism. Psychological counseling can assist in helping you to ameliorate the psychological-social circumstances leading to drinking and help you to create coping mechanisms to the termination of the need or will to drink.