Alcohol and loneliness in the modern world
Having spent so many years working with problem drinking, my perspective on alcohol has gone through much change and introspection. I sometimes wonder what future generations will say about us and alcohol.
I cannot ignore that alcohol can be a very enjoyable drug, and many people use it with care and thus plays a good role in life. But the very fact that alcohol is a drug seems to be contentious. Very often, alcohol is not thought of as a drug because it is legal.
Our culture allows us to promote this drug in so many ways, and to sell it cheaply and widely. It forms a massive part of our culture in the UK, and in most parts of the world. How many of us have really ever reflected on our relationship with drinking, and looked at where our attitudes and beliefs about alcohol emerge from?
The modern world to me seems to be increasingly becoming socially fragmented, certainly in the UK, and maybe the western world. Social media create an illusion of connection for many people. Yet what I see and hear, personally and professionally so often, is that people feel less and less able to talk to each other, and to hear each other.
When I grew up, all the children would go out to the parks and play games most of the day. We would invent things, make up stories and have adventures. Nowadays young people grow up surrounded with computers and software, and so many parents say that their children mainly communicate with smart phones and facebook etc. Many say that children are losing their ability to tap into their own imagination - it's all given to them in the form of video games etc.
Problem drinking in my experience can be seen fundamentally as a problem of communication. People that struggle to connect with others, increasingly become vulnerable to dealing with that using alcohol. As a culture, we are beginning to seriously question our policies, and look with fresh eyes at the impact of alcohol on society. However, this kind of analysis to date has mainly made headlines in terms of external issues like for example the links with alcohol and crime or mortality due to ill health.
In my view, the role of inner loneliness, related to our modern way of living is not so widely discussed or acknowledged. It is so hard for people to admit that they are plain lonely, very often. It seems to be a taboo subject. In London where I live, everyone seems to have an image that they are always so busy, doing so many things with so many people, far too busy to be lonely. Yet so often that seems to be the case underneath.
I hope that writing this article may help to acknowledge this issue, and I hope it has been helpful thus for anyone who resonates with these issues.
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