Culture of Alcoholism

002_7619In the US of A, alcohol is everywhere, and those who consume it (or sell to those who consume it) seem to think that everyone consumes it. And not only does it seem like there’s an assumption of consumption, but that consuming to excess is tacitly encouraged. Case in point: a tech industry user conference I recently went to. To be clear, this particular conference was no different than any other in regards to alcohol. I’m using it to illustrate my point regarding our culture as a whole.

It was a two day conference with invite-only meetings the day before.

  • Monday, after invite only meetings, participants in my meeting were invited to head to the hotel bar for sponsor-paid-for drinks. An executive level meeting had alcohol flowing throughout the day.
  • Tuesday, at an invite-only lunch (but it wasn’t hard to get an invite), champagne was handed out at the door “for a toast”. Then glasses were refreshed 45 minutes later. No toast was ever made.
  • Tuesday late afternoon, the “partner pavilion” had free alcohol. Two different people assumed that I was on my way to get something to drink when I was talking to partners.
  • Tuesday evening dinner was paid for by a vendor. This was a close-knit group of coworkers and employees of the vendor, so only about half of the people present drank, and it was in moderation. I think there was an invite to head to the hotel bar afterwards, but I declined.
  • Wednesday happy hour in the partner pavilion had free drinks again.
  • Wednesday evening, immediately following the happy hour, we went to a “final party” event featuring a 90’s band. While walking into the venue, people were pushing glasses of unspecified mixed drinks into attendees hands.

002_7629Never mind that there were a couple of open bars in the venue. Never mind that people arriving had already been consuming if they had chosen. Someone thought “We need to get alcohol into their bellies as quickly as possible. Don’t make them wait in line at the bar for their next drink. Don’t make them grab a prepared drink from a tray. Shove it right into their hands.”

002_7620You know how its hard to not take something that is handed to you? People handing out leaflets know this–get it into their hands so that maybe they’ll look at it. Laws in Las Vegas specifically prohibit this kind of behavior for the people hawking escort services. I had to actively turn down the drink that was pushed at me. I had to resist the automatic behavior and say “no thanks” before I had stepped 5 feet beyond the door.

I’m not upset that alcohol was offered. It was pushed. It was pushed to people who had ample opportunity to drink prior to the event had they chosen to. This is the culture of alcoholism–the inherent assumption that everyone needs more to drink.