Ok, there are obvious reasons. Alcohol is addictive; it’s ingrained in our society as part of every social occasion; it’s mixed into delicious fruity cocktails and it makes us feel free to act like idiots and forget our problems for a while.
But while we knew why we drank, we wanted to learn more about others.
We surveyed people on Facebook and Reddit who had quit or cut back on drinking to understand both their reasons for drinking and the things they did that helped them quit or cut back. This is all qualitative, as we only have 30 responses to work with, but it’s still helpful to get a rough sense!
Here’s what we learned about why people drink from our survey:
The most common reason to drink was to relax (84% of people), but it’s not necessarily because people were feeling anxious. Only 60% of people said that feeling anxious was a trigger for them. What makes up the gap? One theory we have is that alcohol becomes a part of our routines when we relax. It’s the end of the workday, and out comes the cabernet. We feel like we deserve the reward, but it’s not necessarily because we’re feeling worried. This is supported by finding that 80% of people said they felt a desire to drink on certain days of the week, like Fridays and weekends. It’s a habit, and it has to be broken to quit successfully.
More so than any feeling, social situations (sporting events - 68%, parties - 76% and hangouts with friends - 84%) propelled people to want to drink. This is true despite the fact that only 50% said they drank to socialize more easily, and only 36% said they drank to fit in socially. Maybe this goes back to the routines idea: we drink because it’s what we do with friends, or with acquaintances. It’s expected; it’s part of the routine. How do you celebrate without a drink?
A good amount of people drink because they want to feel happier. This is the least surprising finding, but perhaps the most actionable. 60% said they drank to feel happy or giddy, and 60% said they drank to feel less inhibited. 64% sad they drank due to feeling sad; 60% said they drank due to feeling anxious. Here’s the takeaway for us: it sounds like people don’t want to be adults all the time. There aren’t enough chances in normal adult life to do something silly, or feel free. Alcohol, unfortunately, fills that gap, for some. Quitting or cutting back may require finding new outlets for childlike play.
As we discovered ourselves when we tracked our drinking and the circumstances surrounding it in Drinker’s Helper, sometimes your reasons for drinking may surprise even you. You may think you drink because of crippling anxiety but discover you actually do it as a way to celebrate when you’re not anxious. It’s all part of the benefit you can get from tracking your drinking with insights in Drinker’s Helper.