What is Normal Drinking?

What IS Normal Drinking?


Today is a culturally normative day of drinking; long before Day Drinking became codified into our social structure as a meme, it existed as a ritualized event or expectation. The culture of celebration and the (over) consumption of alcohol has a long history in the United States; Super Bowl, New Year’s Eve, Fourth of July, and St. Patrick’s Day.

fjireworks to show the days on which people overdrink

I’ve had clients who add Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays (adults, kids, any), any long weekend such as Labor or Memorial Day. Other events, such as graduations, baby showers, and weddings are well known to carry the assumption that the (over) consumption of alcohol is the norm.

If you were to spread these out on a yearly calendar, you’d have a plan to (over) drink quite frequently. If an individual is wondering if they have a problem, it can be difficult to parse out the frequency and quantity of drinking that is normal vs. problematic. The function of our culturally sanctioned pairing drinking and celebration makes this process more difficult. On a micro level, individual family rituals and routines can normalize (over) drinking in ways that mask problematic drinking. If you were born into a family that routinely and as a matter of fact pairs celebration with the over consumption of alcohol, it can be nearly impossible to see the consumption clearly.

a girl in a graduation cap to show the days on which people celebrate with alcohola bride and groom to show a wedding, another day on which people drink too much


Persons steeped in a peer or family group of over drinking often normalize elevated and problematic consumption. I’ve had clients who may say and believe things like “everyone eventually has an alcohol related legal offense” or “all families drink for holidays” or “everyone parties on the weekends, even after traditional college years.” It is often unbelievable and disputed by those clients that the above are NOT true.

Google can help you determine if you may have a problem. The lists of questions are standard at this point. Here is one example; 11 Signs You May Be An Alcoholic.  **

Questions to Ask Yourself

I’d like this post to address the persons who are high functioning, who have jobs, homes, families, activities in the community. Here are some questions to ask yourself that you may not find on some standard lists:

  1. Do you make decisions about social activities based on the availability of alcohol (or ability to use your drug of choice?). For example, if a family event is set at a children’s venue that does not serve alcohol, are you likely to decline or limit your time at the event?
  2. Do you resent scheduled events or expectation of attendance at events that don’t allow for the over consumption of alcohol?
  3. Do you arrange your schedule or day to allow for pre-drinking? For example, if an event carries a minimal use expectation, do you drink before attending?
  4. Do you look forward to holidays or events where our culture pairs (over) drinking and celebration – such as today?
  5. Do you “look at the clock” and feel some relief knowing it’s only hours before you can begin drinking?
  6. Are the thoughts that feel soothing and relieving for you centered on alcohol rather than persons, family time, non-alcohol related creation or hobbies?
  7. Are your hobbies tied to alcohol present normative events?
  8. Have you given up activities, people, settings, or hobbies that (if you are honest with yourself) did not allow for you to use your “free time” drinking at the rate and with the freedom you prefer?

hand on champagne glass with confetti to symbolize party

I Can’t Have a Problem Because….

When speaking about alcohol with first time clients, most of the time, I hear some form of “I can’t be an alcoholic because…”

  1. I don’t drink during the day (except on day drinking days such as those outlined at the beginning of this post)
  2. I don’t drink in the morning.
  3. I can go days without.
  4. I don’t shake if I don’t get any.
  5. I’m not mean when I’m drunk.
  6. I have a job (or home, or family, or good credit rating.)
  7. I’ve never been in legal trouble.
  8. I’m not like my Dad (or Mom, or Uncle, or sister…).

The truth is that all the above can be true AND you can have a substance use problem and your life has been negatively affected by your use of alcohol. It’s ok; it’s not a character judgement. It’s an illness that responds well to treatment and the treatment can be good, life enriching, fun and healthy.

If you’d like to discuss your relationship with drugs or alcohol, contact me. If you are a family member of someone who over-uses or over-drinks, contact me.

** Please note that since the start of this blog, I have tried to move to person-first language and move away from “alcoholic” and “addict” and use, instead person with a substance use disorder. There will be times, however, when other resources, research, and when references client thoughts those terms are still in use. At these times, please understand that no disrespect is meant.

24618 Kingsland Blvd 2nd Floor, Room 8
Katy, TX 77494
On the left hand side of the CLS building

(281) 740-7563

Got Questions?
Send a Message!

By submitting this form via this web portal, you acknowledge and accept the risks of communicating your health information via this unencrypted email and electronic messaging and wish to continue despite those risks. By clicking "Yes, I want to submit this form" you agree to hold Brighter Vision harmless for unauthorized use, disclosure, or access of your protected health information sent via this electronic means.