When Addiction Becomes Normal

Why stress and drugs go hand-in-hand, why it’s so dang easy to overuse booze, and how to stop.


We see and hear about excessive drinking in celebrity gossip columns and shows, but more in a “she had fun” and “isn’t she wild” kind of way. Which begs the question: is substance abuse and addiction already a norm?

When Addiction Becomes Normal

When I started modeling and traveling on my own, I thought it would be a temporary period of heavy drinking. Passing out drunk several nights per week was “the norm”. I always figured it’d slow down after I officially graduated into “the real world”. I mean, how could working adults function at their jobs if they drank this much?

Well, I graduated and found out that, although most working women don’t get pass-out drunk on work nights (well, not usually!), they certainly do drink heavily, and the same pressure is there to partake. Networking over drinks, dinner meetings, hanging with friends… it all adds up, and before you know it you’ve had way more alcohol than your calorie counter (or liver) wanted you to.

When Addiction Becomes Normal

We all know that drinking is socially accepted, and that drinking to excess is, unfortunately, often encouraged by friends. Despite it being a social activity, some people fall into addiction in times of extreme stress. (hello: working women!) Studies have shown that stress can become the driving force behind addiction and –get this– it can go the other way around. Substance abuse also leads to your body creating more stress hormones, which causes a cyclical process that spares only the very strong-willed and resilient.

Researchers will tell you that alcohol and drug use affects the parts of the brain that are associated with rewards. Occasional drinking as a stress-reliever is a societally “normal” coping mechanism for individuals …but once chronic stress leads to habitual use of drugs and alcohol …then we have a problem.

When Addiction Becomes Normal

For some people, using substances provides a rush similar to extreme sports. When a surfer conquers a wave, she will look for a bigger one. Consequently, dopamine levels in extreme sports enthusiasts and risk-takers return to a low initial level after an activity that introduces an adrenaline rush. Likewise, an addict experiences the same rush to find a more fulfilling fix.

Say, for example, you get that job promotion in Paris. Your dopamine (feel-good brain chemicals) level increases immediately by 10-15%. Drugs and alcohol can increase that level three-fold, but there are consequences. For example, if you’re overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated, you may have the tendency to go to the pub and grab a margarita with colleagues in the same situation. This act, however, prompts your brain to go into stress mode by activating its stress systems and makes your brain particularly susceptible to the addictive impact of the alcohol. This, ladies, is how you get hooked.

When Addiction Becomes Normal

Occasional drinking is actually socially-accepted. However, addiction should not be.

People unintentionally get addicted, and the pattern begins with chronic stress. There are plenty of ways for an individual to resist substances, and the most effective is to reduce stress in your life. Here are some tricks to keeping yourself away from stressors:

Keep yourself busy and productive

Keep your mind working on other things such as hobbies and interests. Go to the gym, write on your blog, or do crafts. These give you a feeling of satisfaction, and what you achieve gets you on a similar high. To boot, you end up with a great body, a thought-provoking article, or jewelry that you can sell or give as gifts.

When Addiction Becomes Normal

Take time for a breather

This includes socializing or going out for a snack or pot of tea. Short breaks relieve you mentally and physically and can even improve your concentration.

Rethink or reconsider your time management scheme

Sometimes stress is induced by mismanagement of tasks. Urgent tasks and multitasking sometimes get too overwhelming, and you end up losing yourself in them. Try using software to keep track of your To-Dos and reminders.

Ask for help

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it entails the courage to admit that you are not strong enough to handle a task alone.

We are all prone to stress. With the multiple roles we play both at home and at work, it’s easy to succumb to the easy and temporary way out. However, the best solution is to address the problem head-on.

Do you use substances more when you’re stressed out? How do you deal? 

Avatar of Sarah Woodstock

Sarah enlightens us on a daily basis with the newest trends as (and often before) they transpire. She is the consummate globe trotter. Having traveled to over 70 countries, she earns her living writing, blogging (InsiderDiva.com) and modeling while on the road. In her spare time she gets manicures, suntans on yachts in Greece, shops for even more shoes, and lives in the limelight. She loves photography, elephants, sailboats, bangles and ballet flats.

Reader Discussion: 169 Comments

  1. Avatar of Hilda Curtis

    Hilda Curtis

    The greatest lesson I have learned in three and a half years of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction is that silence doesn’t solve problems, talking does. Reach out, to talk anyone you will be surprised who will listen and at who has had a similar experience.

  2. Avatar of Marty Cummings

    Marty Cummings

    Many of my family members suffered from alcohol addiction. I saw them with my naked eye how they deal with that. Growing up, I avoid drinking alcohol because it can destroy me.

    • Avatar of Joyce Morgan

      Joyce Morgan

      It’s because you’ve seen the worst, and you don’t want to repeat the same mistakes that your family members did.

  3. Avatar of Vera Wolfe

    Vera Wolfe

    Can we stop glamorizing drug addiction (yes that’s including alcohol) and start talking about the self-destructive behavior that surrounds it! The relationship you have with yourself when you’re an addict is something you should face with harsh reality not filter through memes.

  4. Avatar of David Ramirez

    David Ramirez

    I tried making myself busy, I talk to other people, but when I am alone, I have the urges of drinking again. Even if you try to avoid addiction, there’s still urges after that.

  5. Avatar of Amanda Carpenter

    Amanda Carpenter

    It’s okay to talk about your struggles, it does not sign of weakness, but the strength that you have the gut to tell other people what you are suffering.

  6. Avatar of Cassandra Hines

    Cassandra Hines

    When I was 10 years old I had to sit in a police station until 2 am, and give a statement about my dad because, alcohol addiction makes good people do bad things

  7. Avatar of Leslie Smith

    Leslie Smith

    I love when my patients graduate from drug/ alcohol rehab and are reunited with their family. Addiction sucks. Love wins. ☺

  8. Avatar of Tami Washington

    Tami Washington

    A great talk from Josh. Discussing how his father’s addiction to alcohol has affected him. It was a nice conversation between him, and me. It’s an eye-opener conversation.

  9. Avatar of Tara Lambert

    Tara Lambert

    If you’re struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, please for the love of god get help. Call someone. Go to a meeting. Please. If not for yourself, then for those you love.

  10. Avatar of Elsie Benson

    Elsie Benson

    tress is the biggest overlooked problem related to poverty. It leads to people adopting coping strategies such as alcohol, and addiction

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