Why Won't We Mention the Drinking?
High school dropouts are twice as likely to use alcohol and marijuana compared to those who remain in school according to SAMHSA. What we usually hear from people who dropout, however, is "I never went to class, so I dropped out." You don't usually hear alcohol mentioned as a factor – even if it is.
The CDC estimates that of the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted through misuse of alcohol that 70% of it can be contributed to workplace absenteeism and loss of productivity. However, what you hear in the break room is often: "She couldn't show up on time even when she made it to work, so she was the first to be laid off." The Office of National Drug Control Policy reports that there is a very strong link between increased alcohol consumption and divorce. You'll hear someone discussing a neighbor: "They just couldn't make their marriage work, so they split up."
Why does the mention of alcohol almost always get left out of these issues? Why do we make excuses for alcohol? I know a few of the reasons why.
- The alcoholic fears the loss of drinking more than being labeled lazy or stupid and will fall on his own sword to avoid letting people know the real issue.
- In the workplace, firing someone over absenteeism is much easier than facing an employee's substance abuse issue.
- The family protects their own out of guilt, embarrassment, or hope of eventual reformation… regardless of past precedent.
What I don't get though, is how in this gilded age of causes and social action, that among all the Livestrong-type bracelets and themed Facebook icons, alcohol gets a free pass from the general public. For almost half a year, the entire US Congress and President have engaged in daily debate over a weapon style that is responsible for less than 300 deaths per year. Meanwhile the substance responsible for 80,000 deaths annually doesn't even rate a hashtag? Supermodels and movie stars rage against fur and fracking, but the fact that 36% of the nearly 6 million people in US correctional facilities were drinking at the time of their crime will not stop them tonight from toasting each other and their causes.
Alcohol is by far the most common denominator of preventable grief in our society, yet for some reason we just don't want to mention the drinking. I'm a recovering alcoholic so I understand denial, but our ability as a nation to overlook the harm caused by a substance we glorify and that is promoted and profited is incomprehensible.
The Discovering Alcoholic is a veteran and someone who has been sober since 1994. He continues to discover life and keeps a blog at www.discoveringalcoholic.com.