Collateral damage of the outdated alcohol norm

A little over eleven years ago I took the step from being a person who does not use alcohol to becoming an organized sober person. My decision to join the Swedish sobriety movement (IOGT-NTO rörelsen) was founded on several different reasons.

I was frustrated to see alcohol used as an excuse to behave shitty, sexist, violent.

I was tired of seeing alcohol romanticized and glorified and how this alcohol norm was the epicenter of toxic masculinity.

I was also disappointed and genuinely saddened to see people confined and limited by alcohol; how we did not dare to open up, or to laugh at our own expense, to show feelings, and how we always seemed to condition our behavior based on the notion that certain things were only possible with the help of a drug.

You’ve Never Thought About The Alcohol Norm In This Way Before

I wanted a better social culture

I wanted a different social culture. A culture that was kinder, more open, safer, more joyful and less judgmental; that was and still is the foundation for my decision to take a stand and join the IOGT-NTO movement in addition to living alcohol-free. That decision just over eleven years ago may feel like an eternity ago. But on the whole it is a relatively short time.

During this time, much has happened – very much – with the alcohol norm.

Alcohol consumption has decreased year after year. Swedes’ attitudes to alcohol have changed fundamentally. Youth alcohol use is basically eradicated and adequate alcohol-free drinks are now an obvious part of good social gatherings.

While it may be difficult to see it when progress is gradual, it is no less than a revolution we live in. A revolution that is slow in daily life, but rapidly accelerating at large.

We live in revolutionary times

This revolution has not happened by chance. It has happened, and continues to happen, because people have challenged and questioned the alcohol norm and alcohol myths; because people have supported alcohol-free choices and encouraged positive norms and behaviors free from alcohol.

It is you who have dared to be uncomfortable when alcohol incitement and pressure has occurred; it is you who have chosen alcohol-free over ethanol, you who have not romanticized or normalized alcohol and you who have been a role model to the young people around you, young people who are leading this development and who are making the shift happen.

No matter if we live completely alcohol-free or if we are sober curious, we are many who are critical of the current alcohol norm and culture – many, many more than those who are alcohol positive – and we have all played a role in this revolution.

The reason for my reflections in this blog post is that this week is no ordinary week. This week, we are celebrating “Folknykterhetens Vecka” (People’s Temperance Week). It is an occasion to pay attention to the changes that need to be made because there is still much to do!

There are still hundreds of thousands of children in Sweden who grow up with in homes with parental alcohol problems. There are still so many people who experience the pressure of the alcohol norm and who have to endure incitements to consume alcohol, with up to one million Swedes using alcohol against their will.

The Oppressive Alcohol Norm And The Freedom To Not Use Alcohol

Alcohol is still the single biggest factor behind violence in society – in public places as well as in homes.

So we are not yet ashore and many efforts will be required in the future. Of course we need the big efforts, but we also need the many, many small ones that make a difference in everyday life: A helping hand or well-meaning question to those who struggle with their alcohol use, eyes that see the children who need to be seen, some encouraging words to those who choose alcohol-free, a little support to those who dare to show emotions when they “normally do not get to” and the determined questioning of those who are romanticizing, glorifying alcohol and pressuring others to consume alcohol.

That’s how this world is slowly changing rapidly.

For further reading

High Levels of Alcohol Intoxication and Strong Support for Restrictive Alcohol Policies among Music Festival Visitors

Research Article

Alcohol Intoxication and Support for Restrictive Alcohol Policies in Music Festivals