Mental Health & Wellbeing Matters: peer pressure to drink

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In our spot where we chat about mental health, wellbeing and things affected us, a few words about being pushed to drink.

Hello and a very warm welcome to the spot on the site where we chat about things that may be affecting us, our mental health and just how we are. No miracle cures are promised here, but hopefully across the growing series of articles we run in this series, there might be something of use. And there’s always the comments section if you just fancy a chat.

This week: drink. And the pressure to drink.

There’s something about alcohol in a social setting, where it seems to become some kind of surrogate high score table. How many can you drink? How many have you had? You need to keep pace! Are you ready for shots? That sort of thing. Rarely meant with any kind of bad nature or anything, and for those who enjoy alcohol and are on top of their consumption of it, many fun night outs have involved some of those words.

But I think in social settings, there’s also a strange pressure and aura around alcohol. I’ve talked about it before on the site, at a point where lockdowns and us all staying at home had taken away from the cliché of everyone heading to the pub after work. Yet still, it’s an area of life where peer pressure remain very much a thing. To the point where people get a funny look if they just want a glass of water, or where you’re seen as the boring one if you don’t join in. Woe betide you if you get wobbly after two drinks as well: you’re a lightweight! Haw haw! You know the drill.

Amongst a circle of friends who know you and ultimately have your back is one thing. Amongst work colleagues though I fear it’s something else. Here, there tends to be – at least sometimes – a degree of power dynamic at work. I’ve been in a situation where I’ve told my manager I don’t want a drink, and had one presented to me anyway. He meant well, but the choice was obvious: drink it and go along with the flow, or face an awkward conversation.

This isn’t right. It’s harder, because no harm is meant. But the inherent underlying pressure to have an alcoholic drink remains omnipresent in life. I’ve been guilty myself of suggesting a drink to someone when they didn’t really want one. I’ve jokily leaned on them to have one. I don’t do that anymore.

For the vast majority of people, like many of the articles in this series, this is an absolute non-issue and I couldn’t be happier about that. But for a precious few, the subtle and not-subtle leaning towards alcohol is more troubling – and potentially more damaging.

It’s all very well, I appreciate that, saying stand your ground if you’re offered a drink and don’t want one. I’ve not always stuck to that. But thankfully, this is an area where it does at least feel like the world is changing a little. It just needs to change a little bit quicker. Still, my top tip: if you’re trying to get out of a drinking situation, then go for one of medication, you’re driving, the need to meet a member of family, or you just need to get home. Even better if it’s true, of course.

You all take care and look after yourselves.

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