Man holding a glass filled with liquor; you can only see the hand with a black background behind it.

Three Reasons Why the Concept of “Normal” Drinking is a Myth

Telling yourself you wish you were “like this” is a misplaced desire.

Man holding a glass filled with liquor; you can only see the hand with a black background behind it.
Photo by YesMore Content on Unsplash

A myth is a way of making sense in a senseless world. Myths are narrative patterns that give significance to our existence. — Rollo May

The concept of normal drinking is about as crazy as the thought of there being such a thing as “normal” smoking.

How can you put something in your body that you know is destroying it over time and consider it a normal part of everyday life?

I’m not sure where this idea originated but for someone to want to be a “normal” drinker typically means that you want to be able to drink one or two glasses of alcohol and be able to stop.

There are three distinct reasons why this type of thinking is not realistic and why normal drinking is something that not only doesn’t exist but also ultimately keeps many people drinking long enough until they finally realize this for themselves.

Ingesting poison cannot be considered “normal”

The first is related to the hypocrisy of why people accept the concept of “normal” drinking, but no one would agree that there is such a thing as “normal” smoking.

What is the difference?

Both of these substances are incredibly harmful to our bodies on a short-term and long-term basis.

Smoking causes cancer by damaging the smoker’s DNA with the numerous chemicals one inhales. It is known as a carcinogen because it not only impairs your existing DNA but it also damages the parts of your body that can fight off cancer.

Similarly, alcohol, also known as ethanol, is carcinogenic to our bodies. Ethanol is used in many ways in which one would recognize its toxicity, as it is used in perfumes, drugs, and antiseptics.

When we ingest this into our body, our body metabolizes it in an attempt to prevent it from killing us. It then turns it into acetaldehyde, which interacts with our DNA in several negative ways.

Like smoking carcinogens, acetaldehyde can change our DNA structure and weaken our ability to fight back. It is structurally very similar to formaldehyde, which has also been found in many different alcoholic beverages and has been linked to diseases such as leukemia and nasopharyngeal cancer.

The only difference is that smoking is known to kill you much faster and more definitively, but there is no denying that alcoholic drinking is still poison that increases your risk of cancer dramatically.

Alcohol is engineered to make you want more of it

Back to the smoking analogy, alcohol is naturally addictive, just like nicotine.

Most people know what addictive is and think it’s a choice of the person who is drinking/smoking to have the willpower to succumb or not.

Most people don’t quite understand the physiological way your body is chemically changed as a result of ingesting addictive products, and that everyone is susceptible to their effects over time.

When you first ingest any addictive item, it will give you a rush that creates an artificial dopamine spike in your brain. This spike will feel so good that you will want to keep it as long as possible, and your body will want to experience it as often as possible.

Nicotine does this in a highly aggressive manner by hitting your brain’s receptors in as short as twenty seconds of being inhaled because it can go straight into your bloodstream. It wears off much quicker, and you have to take another puff within a very short time to keep the high going.

Over time, the quick artificial spike of dopamine makes it much harder for your body to produce dopamine naturally, and eventually, your body will need it even to get back to baseline or not feel sad. Thus nicotine (and cigarettes) can become addictive very quickly.

Alcohol does the same thing, except that the process is slower than nicotine. Whereas smoking can take effect in as short as a few days or even a few cigarettes, alcohol typically takes some years to develop.

However, the reality remains that the chemical nature of alcohol will change the way your brain works over time as well to make you desire it. As long as you drink consistently over any extended period, you put yourself at risk of experiencing this.

“Normal” drinkers are not what most people think they are

When people think of “normal” drinkers, they often think of the concept of having one or two glasses of wine with dinner and not needing to drink anything more than that.

If you did this one or two nights per week, that would put you in the realm of having about 2–4 glasses per week, which aligns with the daily recommended amount.

Seems pretty modest and safe, right?

Believe it or not, that would put you in the realm of the top 30% of ALL drinkers in the US.

Seventy percent of all people in the U.S. drink less than three alcoholic beverages per week, with the majority (60%) consuming less than one.

Since I would guess very few people drink less than one drink every week, what this equates to is that these individuals probably only drink alcohol once in a blue moon (like once a quarter or bi-annually).

I would argue that anyone who drinks alcohol that sparingly could be hard to identify as a drinker at all, and I don’t think this would fall into what most people think of when they say a “normal” drinker.

It’s like someone who smokes a cigarette at this same pace. Would they be considered a “normal” smoker?

Therefore, to desire to fall into a category that could drink only one or two glasses at a time per week stills puts you squarely in the at-risk category of individuals who are consistently exposing themselves to the addictive nature of alcohol.

And while there’s no way of knowing how long you would be safe to continue this pattern before alcohol’s addictive nature takes hold, wouldn’t it be much safer to prevent this altogether by just abstaining and labeling yourself a NON-drinker, which cannot be mislabeled at all?