My last post has had me pondering why I feel so embarrassed and ashamed about telling people about my drinking?
I remember reading someone’s blog which compared how people are treated after quitting smoking and drinking (apologies – I’ve forgotten who wrote it).
When someone quits smoking they’re often congratulated and given lots of praise – “Oh that’s fantastic – you’re doing so well. Quitting smoking is one of the hardest addictions to break!”. But there’s a level of awkwardness and stigma that goes with alcohol dependence and quitting.
I have to admit that I have some internalised beliefs myself. I associate quitting smoking with “having the strength to quit” but deep down when I think of quitting drinking I focus on “the weaknesses or flaws which lead to alcoholism in the first place”. I know it’s dumb but it’s an ingrained belief or attitude.
Why does the double standard exist? Is it because:
- there are more behavioural and social-functional problems associated with alcoholism than smoking (you don’t read about people getting into a nicotine-fueled brawl outside a pub late at night – or crashing their car because they’d had too many cigarettes)
- there are more negative stereotypes and clichés associated with alcoholism than smokers (your classic derelict homeless person clutching a bottle in a paper bag)
- it challenges and questions other people’s ideas about their own drinking
- people pathologise the person and wonder what was ‘wrong’ with them to make them drink in the first place
- more people are open about being ex-smokers so we’re just more used to hearing it
- we live in a culture where we don’t usually reveal our vulnerabilities in public
- you may end up revealing behaviours which might have been quite secretive and involved some level of deception
I don’t know why the stigma exists – but I’m pretty sure that it isn’t helpful.