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But I Like to Drink: What He Is Really Saying

Posted in Alcohol Abuse

When you hear your guy say he likes to drink, there’s usually more than one reason why – and it may be something other than just taste. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with responsible drinking by either sex (as long as they’re of legal drinking age and don’t have health or other problems that dictate abstaining), sometimes men seem to carry things a bit too far in terms of alcohol consumption. Of course, women can do the same, but this is about men. So, here are 10 thoughts on what he is really saying when he says, “But I like to drink.”
 

One clue is the word, “but.” Whenever you hear “but” before a declaration, you can almost bet it’s followed by an excuse for the behavior.

1. Socializing is Important to Me

A lot of the motivation for a man saying he likes to drink is that it is a socially acceptable (as long as the drinker doesn’t get drunk or out of control) form of interaction. TV, magazine, Internet, and billboard ads all tout how great it is to drink with your friends. The implication is that everything goes better with alcohol. Drinking makes you instantly likeable. You can become the hit of the party. Sexual hook-ups (or the possibility thereof) are right around the corner. So, when he says he likes to drink, he may be implying that he places a premium on being able to socialize.

2. It’s Expected

Many men feel that drinking is expected of them. They may have grown up in households where drinking was integral to the family lifestyle. Depending on the family’s lineage and cultural norms, drinking alcohol may have been considered completely normal. In France, for example, drinking wine is not only acceptable but standard practice for most meals (perhaps not breakfast, but it depends on the time of day). In Ireland, the country that produces Guinness, the most popular stout in the world, and Irish whiskey, men have grown up with alcohol as part of the lifestyle.

When drinking is expected – perceived or not – men who say they like to drink are really giving themselves an excuse to do so.

3. It Makes Me Feel Good

Akin to the ability to socialize, many men like to drink for the sole reason that it makes them feel good. Alcohol lowers a person’s inhibitions, making some previously shy individuals more confident and willing to come out of their self-imposed shells. Feeling good, however, has a short shelf life before it becomes something less than desireable. Drinking by men (and women) can escalate to the point where they’ve had too much, too soon. Now, it’s more a matter of how quickly they become intoxicated. Sometimes the statement “But I like to drink” is followed by this one: “It makes me feel good.”
It’s still an excuse.

4. I Feel More Powerful

What man doesn’t want to feel all-powerful, perfectly in control of any situation, and able to command attention from all others in a room? Some men feel that they’re more powerful when they drink – despite the reality that they may be making a fool of themselves by overimbibing.

Drinking helps many men mask their insecurities over being a man, helps them compensate for perceived deficiencies – strength among them. Ironically, the more a man drinks, the less strength (inner) and control he actually has.

Incidentally, displays of physical strength by men who are drinking – such as arm wrestling – while common in certain bars and taverns or even company picnics, is more comical than a demonstration of strength.

5. I Can Handle It

Underneath the “But I like to drink” retort, there may be a veiled threat. How dare you question his freedom to do as he pleases? Whether the you in this instance is a friend, spouse or partner, or other relative, co-worker, boss, or stranger, doesn’t matter. What he may be saying is that you have no business intruding in his affairs. In fact, the “But I like to drink” in this case may just as easily be followed by: “I can handle it.”

But can he? The more he drinks, the more likely he is to eventually get into problems with alcohol.

6. It’s in My Blood

Men from familes where heavy drinking is the norm have more than environmental influence behind their saying, “But I like to drink.” They may also have a genetic predisposition to a vulnerability with alcohol. It may, indeed, be in their blood. If this is the case, drinking that he does on a regular basis can put him in jeopardy of becoming abusive of, dependent upon, or addicted to alcohol over time.

Statistically speaking, men who grew up in households where both parents were heavy drinkers are far more likely to experience problems with alcohol when they become adults.

7. It Makes Me Look Cool

Any perusal of Facebook or other social networking site pages on “I like drinking” reveals more personal avowals of how cool people think drinking makes them appear. Not all of the posters are men, but a great many are. It seems it doesn’t matter how young or old, how rich or educated or where you live, either. Funny, that’s the same non-discriminatory statement you can apply to alcohol and drug abuse.

Does it really make your man look cool when he drinks? Isn’t this just another excuse he may be telling himself (subconsciously)?

8. My Drinking Doesn’t Hurt Anybody

By the time you hear, “But I like to drink,” or phrases that are similar, it may already be past the time when your man is purely a social drinker. Even if there has been one driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI), that’s playing Russian roulette with other people’s lives.

The more a man drinks, the more he feels overconfident – including his ability to get behind the wheel and drive safely. Unfortunately, it only takes one time for a drunk driver (man or woman) to kill or seriously injure others in their own or other vehicles or on the street.

Beyond physical death and injury, drinking also harms others in various ways. If a man spends too much time and/or money engaging in drinking, he’s not spending time with his family or taking care of family needs and responsibilities (financial and otherwise).

There’s also the issue of harming your man’s own physical and mental health through his continued drinking.

9. I Need an Escape

There’s no question that stress is a huge factor in a man’s desire and pursuit of drinking. Stress is damaging to all individuals, male or female. But drinking is not a healthy or particularly appropriate coping mechanism to deal with stress. Sure, an occasional glass of wine, bottle of beer, or cocktail may be okay – given the appropriate circumstance – but an over-reliance on alcohol to combat stress is just wrong.

It also doesn’t work. Yes, your man will escape his troubles or stress or whatever he thinks is bothering him for a short period of time. But drinking doesn’t ever solve problems. In fact, it may create a host of new ones that he never intended.
Drinking to escape is just another excuse hidden behind the statement, “But I like to drink.”

10. I Have a Right to Do What I Want

This is perhaps the classic implication behind your man’s saying he likes to drink. He really feels that he has every right to do so, and, by extension, you have no right to question or complain. Machismo may play a part in some cultures, such as Hispanic, where men are the strong, silent types who dominate the family, drink as they please, and brook no female interference in their behavior. Of course, not every Hispanic male is like this, but it is a cultural factor to consider.

Belligerance associated with heavy drinking is easy to find among men of almost any nationality or descent. And, the more a man drinks, the more he loses his inhibitions, sense of self-control, and the more he rationalizes his behavior.

What You Can Do About It

Faced with your man – husband, partner, boyfriend, brother, father, etc. – who says, “But I like to drink,” what can you do about it? For one thing, you shouldn’t suffer in silence. You may not feel comfortable or safe to bring up the subject directly, but if your man is drinking too much, you definitely need help and support.

Al-Anon – Fortunately, you can get such support in Al-Anon/Alateen (http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/english.html), the family component offshoot of Alcoholics Anonymous. You don’t even have to physically attend a meeting to begin with in order to find help. Just go to their website and check out the resources. It is estimated that every alcoholic affects the lives of at least four other people – which makes alcoholism a family disease. But even if your man isn’t currently drinking heavily, but has in the past, you still may need the kind of support this network can provide.

Al-Anon may be listed in the White Pages of your local telephone directory. Cities with local information services are posted on the Al-Anon site (http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/meetings/meeting.html). There you can also request a list of registered electronic Al-Anon meetings. For meeting information for Canada, the United States, and Puerto Rico, you can also call 1-888-4AL-ANON from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET Monday through Friday.

Other tips to helping your loved one who may be drinking too much include:

• Discuss the matter with someone you trust. This could be another family member or close friend, doctor, member of the clergy, social worker, or someone who has experienced alcohol abuse or alcoholism – either personally or as a family member.

• Try to remain calm in any discussions with your man about his drinking. You don’t want to be viewed as confrontational or overemotional. Clear, honest communication is best. Be sure that you pick a time when your man isn’t under the influence of alcohol to begin such a conversation.

• Don’t cover up, make excuses, blame yourself for his behavior, accept guilt, or try to rationalize away what’s going on. This will only increase your stress level and contribute to enabling behavior that will allow your man to continue drinking as usual.

• Also don’t accept the responsibilities of your man who has a drinking problem (if he does). It’s not your responsibility and he will not be helped by your shielding him from the consequences of his actons.

• As much as possible, strive to maintain as normal and healthy atmosphere at home as you can. Include your man in as much family activity as possible.

• Without seeming to push, try to encourage your man to pursue leisure and recreational activities (that don’t involve drinking) he likes. Also, be instrumental in arranging get-togethers with non-drinking friends whose company he really enjoys.

• Have patience. Changing a man’s drinking behavior is going to take time. It can’t be forced. He has to want to change. And you can’t do it for him. But you can help him with your support if you also get help for you.

According to a publication from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)(http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Practitioner/CliniciansGuide2005/guide.pdf), Helping Patients Who Drink Too Much, “…men who drink more than 4 standard drinks in a day (or more than 14 per week) and women who drink more than 3 in a day (or more than 7 per week) are at increased risk for alcohol-related problems.” While the publication is primarily intended for clinicians, there is a lot of information that may prove helpful in both understanding what’s going on with your man who likes to drink – and how you may be able to help him if he chooses to do something about his drinking behavior.

Another point to keep in mind is that many prescription medications interact negatively with alcohol. These include antibiotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, histamine H2 receptor agonists, muscle relaxants, nonopioid pain medications, and anti-inflammatory agents, opioids, and Warfarin (a blood-thinning medication). And it’s not just prescription medications that can potentially interact with alcohol. Many over-the-counter (OTC) medications and herbal products can cause negative side effects when they are taken with alcohol.