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Why Can't Jake Just Drink Like a Normal Person?

"Why can't Jake just drink like a normal person?" This question, often asked with frustration or confusion, highlights a common misunderstanding about alcohol and its varying effects. Let’s get into the reasons why some people struggle with “drinking normally" and what this reveals about how alcohol affects everyone differently.


The Myth About Normal Drinking

The concept of "normal drinking" is based on societal norms and expectations. These norms suggest that it’s common for adults to “drink responsibly” by enjoying a few drinks socially, and then stop before it becomes a problem. However, this is an oversimplification.  Alcohol use and its varying effects on people are simple, but not as simple to understand as we’re taught to believe.


Alcohol’s Individual Effects

Everyone responds to alcohol differently. Factors such as genetics, brain chemistry and social experiences all play a role in how alcohol affects individual us. For Jake, these factors might be what’s making it difficult to control his drinking once he starts.

  1. Genetics: Some people have a family history of increased alcohol use. This means that Jake may have been fine drinking in the past, but now finds it harder to stop simply because his genetic predisposition has finally caught up with his amount and frequency of drinking.

  2. Brain Chemistry: Alcohol affects brain function, which can lead to changes in mood and behavior. Jake’s brain might be “built in a way” that makes moderation challenging.

  3. Social Experiences: The frequency and quantity of alcohol that our friends drink creates our social experiences and our perception of “drinking responsibly”. And because alcohol affects everyone differently, Jake may be trying to keep up with friends rather than getting to know his own way of “drinking responsibly”.    


the scale

The Alcohol Influence Scale

The "Alcohol Influence Scale" from the "Alcohol Relationship Reset Course" helps explain why drinking affects people differently. This scale identifies five levels of alcohol influence:

  1. Non-Drinker: Someone who does not drink at all. 

  2. Casual Drinker: Someone who drinks occasionally.

  3. Habitual Drinker: Someone who drinks regularly, and is triggered by social occasions or feelings.

  4. Dependent Drinker: Someone who consistently drinks at certain times of the day or week.

  5. Addicted Drinker: Someone who drinks whenever and wherever they can get away with it.


If Jake were to step on the Alcohol Influence Scale, he would likely fall into the dependent or addicted categories, which is what’s making it difficult for him to “drink normally."


The Role of Environment and Triggers

Environmental factors and triggers also play a significant role in Jake’s drinking habits. Social settings, stress, and emotional states can all influence his desire to drink. For some, certain situations or feelings can make resisting alcohol range from uncomfortable to almost impossible.


Misunderstanding Alcohol Use Disorders

There’s a widespread misunderstanding about alcohol use disorders (AUD). Many people view AUD as a lack of willpower or moral failing, but the real cause is a little more complex. Jake’s difficulty to “drink normally" isn’t a choice; it’s a symptom of underlying issues that requires understanding before his drinking can be resolved.


Addressing the Root Causes

Helping Jake requires addressing the root causes of his drinking. These might involve:

  • Therapy: Behavioral Counseling is one way to address underlying issues and develop healthier coping strategies than drinking.

  • Support Groups: Joining support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can provide community and accountability if Jake’s desire is to quit drinking.

  • Medical Intervention: In some cases, a medically supervised detox might be necessary to help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms before establishing a permanent drinking change.


Asking why Jake can't drink like a normal person underscores the need for greater awareness and empathy about alcohol use and the challenges associated with making any drinking change. Recognizing that drinking habits are influenced by a variety of factors—genetic, psychological, and environmental—can help us support those who struggle with alcohol in more compassionate and effective ways. Understanding what’s triggering Jake’s drinking can lead to a healthier relationship with alcohol for Jake and those that care about him.

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