5 Ways You Can Challenge the Alcohol Lifestyle Narrative
It’s 2018, and by now you’re probably used to seeing images or hearing words that make you do a double take. As a woman, you’re so used to seeing these exchanges and hearing these words that you almost don’t notice them anymore. They’re normalized. Specifically in the images and messages which involve alcohol.
I know I didn’t notice them much. Until I came across a woman who did.
In January of 2018, Erin Shaw Street created an Instagram profile (aptly called Tell Better Stories 2018) dedicated to challenging the message that we need to drink to be fun, be strong, have friends, feel connected, deal with stress, have sex, feel empowered, try new things, be interesting, be sexy and the list goes on and on.
Because eff that.
A few months ago I got to talk to Erin and she shared a few ways that we can all tell better stories whether you’re sober or not.
Be Conscious of Your Message
We live in a time where it’s so easy to share your life, and your story, with the world. That’s why choosing our words and photos carefully need to become a priority.
“Alcohol is part of our culture, and we have to coexist,” Erin shared. She maintains that the jokes, memes and even merchandise targeting young women are toxic and in a roundabout way it contributes to the rising numbers of women drinking in excess.
When it comes to creating and sharing content online, whether it’s an Instagram post or a Snap, think about who is on the other side of the screen.
“Some of your friends may be struggling with these issues, and maybe it’s not alcohol it could be another substance or a mental health issue. Even if you don’t know that you have friends who maybe be looking at their relationship to alcohol and other substances — you do. We’re everywhere. We’re all over.”
Take action: Next time you’re creating a post, or you are tempted to hit that share button, ask yourself two things; why am I doing this and who is going to see it?
Choose Your Words Carefully
It seems as though we’ve put less and less emphasis on words in the past few years. We are a generation obsessed with the way things look. But we all know that not everything is as it seems. Images are powerful, but that doesn’t mean words don’t still hold weight.
“Are you using words like deserve or this is going to help me get through? I would say, be careful about the context in which we share messages around alcohol. “
Take action: Think about your posts and how you tailor your responses to friends or how you comment on that trending article that has everyone so fired up today.
It Goes Beyond the ‘Gram
Toxic messaging around alcohol goes way beyond the digital realm. There are graphic t-shirts (which are specifically targeting women and girls) that say things like “Rosé all day” or mugs with cheeky sayings like “This is wine, ssshhh.”
“You’re not original by talking about how much you want to drink or celebrating alcohol’s lifestyle culture,” Erin shared in our interview. “It can be very isolating when you think this whole world can drink and loves drinking and I’m so messed up because I can’t, and I don’t.”
Take action: You are what you wear. Do you need a shirt that says I Love Alcohol? Think about your choices and what they say about you.
Have the Courage to Say Something
I know that since you’ve read this, and you’re now aware of these dangerous narratives and messages, you will start noticing them everywhere. Trust me, I know from experience. As soon as I found Tell Better Stories, that was it for me. I absorbed everything Erin was sharing and started pointing it out to myself and those close to me. And now I can’t unsee it.
Erin’s advice? If you see something, say something. You can make a difference.
Since launching, people have shared endless messages, stories, and questions about how they notice these problematic messages. Many of them have approached yoga studios, boutiques and organizations which have responded and pledged to make a change.
Erin suggests starting by having a conversation.
Ask why your local yoga studio is having a beer yoga or a wine yoga night.
Ask your favorite stores why they sell products with cheeky quotes that say drinking is the answer to everything.
Take action: It’s understandable to be angry about companies or the media marketing dangerous messaging around alcohol. It happens every single day. Multiple times a day. But try not to come at it from a place of anger. When you approach businesses or people to start a dialogue, Erin suggests going in with curiosity and be considerate.
Not Sober? Be An Ally
When I came across Tell Better Stories 2018, I wasn’t sober. I’d dabbled in dangerous drinking in my late teens and early 20s and I always just thought that was normal — a phase I had to go through or a rite of passage. There is some more in-depth stuff there, but at the time I thought of myself as someone who didn’t have a drinking problem. Something about Erin’s project pulled me in and what I did consider myself as an ally to people in recovery.
“Even if you’re not in recovery, you’re not sober, or you do drink, [it’s about] learning how to become an ally for your friends who are. Considering what we know statistically [it’s important to be] very intentional in online spaces and real-life spaces. It’s about modeling examples of safe spaces for people who may not drink.”
Take action: Just because you drink alcohol doesn’t mean you can’t stand with those who don’t. There are tons of ways you can do this (and I’ll touch on that in a future post) but start with educating yourself about sobriety and substance use disorders.
Start Noticing and Making an Impact as a Result
There are ways to challenge the alcohol lifestyle narrative which are useful and can leave a positive impact. Start with thinking more critically about what you post online, why you share what you share, and who is going to see it. You never know who may be struggling and triggered by your messaging. Start conversations, and if you’re not sober be an ally to those in your life who are.
My only hope is that you will not be able to stop noticing these messages now and you’ll want to do your best to make the changes in your own life and the lives of the people around you.
If you want to hear the whole interview, check out Erin Shaw Street’s interview on the TDH Voice podcast.