Don’t Drown In The Drink: How to Deal with the Media’s Obsession with Alcohol

April 19, 2019 

Don’t Drown In The Drink: How to Deal with the Media’s Obsession with Alcohol

Alcohol is everywhere. If you believed TV and cinema, everyone would be getting drunk all the time—or, more accurately, everyone would be drinking alcohol all the time—like the overdressed professor with the suspiciously swanky office—but holding those neat scotches super well in order to deliver scathing, impeccable lectures (or litigation, or whatever) just moments later. The answer to just about any emotion a television or film character experiences seems to be alcohol that has no effects (unless it’s a show about addiction, in which case the character is just in a permanent state of sloppy-drunk).

Alcohol in the media often seems to be less about actual alcohol and more about giving the audience a motion to watch, and a venue for some sound effects (sipping, clinking ice) to emphasize tense conversational pauses. Which is unfortunate, because alcohol is actually a powerful intoxicant and a  hugely problematic substance for a lot of people; today, more Americans are dying from alcohol-related causes than due to all other drugs combined.

It’s not just TV and film portrayals. The media at large is saturated with alcohol (pun intended). Drive down the road and you’re bound to see a golden beer sweating on an idyllic tropical beach, or a bottle of vodka being proffered by a busty, 10ft blonde in a sequined halter. Alcohol is in the music we dance to, the magazines we rifle through at the doctor’s office, even on the average lunch menu. It’s everywhere—almost as though society doesn’t want anyone to stop drinking. With these near-constant reminders that alcohol is present and available in the world, how can people in recovery from alcohol addiction manage to stay away from drinking?

Mindfulness For Relapse Prevention

A mindfulness practice can help keep you from relapsing on alcohol (or other substances), even with the media’s onslaught of reminders that alcohol is readily available for adults living in North America. If the word “mindfulness” scares you, hang on a second. Mindfulness doesn’t have to be difficult or religious. It can be as simple as taking note of your thoughts and feelings, and doing your best not to judge them. Some people do this in the context of a sitting meditation, called mindfulness meditation. Meditation is a spiritual practice found in many religions, including Christianity (but it’s usually called prayer in that context), but it is typically associated with Buddhism. In mindfulness meditation, the practitioner sits cross-legged with his hands loose in his lap or to his side. His eyes can be closed, or open but resting in one spot. During this time, he allows any thoughts or feelings to naturally come to him, notes them, and allows them to pass naturally without judgment. Don’t let the simplicity fool you; it can be difficult to note a loud stomach grumble without feeling embarrassed. Sitting meditation can also be uncomfortable for beginners with trauma backgrounds, which is pretty common among people with addiction.

Mindfulness meditation can help you learn to be present in life, a skill that is often lacking during active addiction. It will also help you practice surviving discomfort without resorting to substance use. But it’s not the only way mindfulness can help people manage alcohol use in the face of overzealous media representations. Another helpful tool—which doesn’t require you to set aside special time and  has less potential for triggering traumatic memories—is keeping a mindfulness journal. A pocket-sized notepad and pen or pencil are all you will need. When you see that tempting billboard or feel like Pitbull is personally inviting you to have a good time before your time is up, note—literally—what you’re feeling, and what triggered it. Sometimes the act of acknowledging your experience through writing is enough to appease the craving and make it go away. But even if it’s not, keeping this type of inventory will help you and your support team better understand what sets you off so that you can find ways to work through it (and avoid it when possible until you do).

Play The Tape Through

If you’ve done any kind of formal recovery work, you may have heard this one before. Playing the tape through means thinking through your craving and into the following days, weeks, and so on. In this case, you already have a visual aid. Instead of playing through whatever happens to that flashy lawyer on the screen with her seemingly bottomless alcohol tolerance, play out your own movie. If you have that drink, what happens next, realistically? Maybe you feel good, tipsy. So you have some more. Maybe you do this too much—to the point that you become the guy at the party who is puking red wine into the potted plants. Maybe your hangover makes you late to tomorrow’s big meeting, which makes you lose the contract. I’m just making stuff up; obviously, you’ll have to fill in the details from your own life. But be honest with yourself. Maybe drinking one night won’t result in instant catastrophe, but will lead you to eventually pick up a daily alcohol habit again, which will eventually require painful, costly, and dangerous detoxification. Thinking forward this way helps you understand the true consequences of that one drink.

Treat Yourself

That’s right, buy yourself a treat. Indulge! It doesn’t have to be expensive—it can be as simple, cost-effective, and tasty as a chocolate bar. If you’re going to see a 007 flick, you know there will be some martinis onscreen, and they’re not going to be stirred. So prepare yourself. Reward yourself and your recovery. Whatever that may mean to you. It could be an acai smoothie, or a new pair of shoes. The “what” of it is really dependent on what you find rewarding, and how much money you have at your disposal. Don’t break the bank, but make sure your treat is something you truly enjoy. Recovery is hard. It’s even harder when your drug—or in this case, drink—of choice is splashed, well, everywhere. Congratulate yourself on your continued recovery. You deserve it.

The Ammon Foundation believes that when individuals are holistically and strategically supported to build purposeful lives, the likelihood of them maintaining their recovery substantially increases. We provide this support via our two core programs – Ammon Recovery Scholars Program and Ammon Empowerment Workshop Program. To find out more about our programs, or to apply for an educational scholarship, please click here.