What is Secondhand Drinking? [Guide]
You may never have heard the phrase “secondhand drinking,” because first of all, what does that mean exactly? Are we suggesting that you can absorb alcohol just by being around people drinking heavily? That you can be sympathetically drunk? In fact, no, secondhand drinking refers to the effect someone else’s drinking has on you.
Secondhand drinking is one of those things we do not often discuss as a society. When we discuss it, we tend not to use those exact words. The concept is related to secondhand smoking, but it’s less a part of the popular lexicon. Nonetheless, it is an important issue for both drinkers and their friends and family to understand.
If you feel you are experiencing secondhand drinking or are concerned about how your drinking affects those around you, then call us today at 614-502-6247. We can help you understand the problem and find the resources you need.
Are you being affected by second-hand drinking? Are you concerned for someone who is? Please continue reading below for more information. If you require further assistance please call our experts today.
Who Does Secondhand Drinking Affect
With about 52 million Americans experiencing consequences from someone else’s drinking, it is possible secondhand drinking has affected you at some point. The outcome of every drinking episode may not be significant, but it happens everywhere. A secondhand drinking event can be as simple as having beer spilled on you during a concert or as catastrophic as a deadly accident. And if someone you are close to is a heavy drinker, you may find the negative experiences repeat regularly.
Secondhand drinking differs from secondhand smoke. Your body does not absorb alcohol someone else is drinking. Secondhand drinking means negative experiences caused by another person’s drinking. For example, you might work early on a Monday morning. Your roommate goes out Sunday night and comes stumbling in drunk at 2 AM, waking you up. You then have trouble going back to sleep and spend the next day in a haze of exhaustion.
If you’ve ever had reason to complain about the outcome of someone else’s drinking, secondhand drinking is affecting you.
For men, experiences of secondhand drinking often come from a stranger. Picking fights is a common example. However, women tend to experience secondhand drinking from someone they know, such as family members or spouses. Their hardship often comes in the form of problems at home, such as financial or domestic abuse.
The Burden of Another Person’s Drinking
In 2015, researchers conducted a study within the United States. They learned that one in five Americans had experienced harm because of someone else’s drinking. This harm often comes in the form of threats and aggression.
The burden of secondhand drinking is more than it seems on the surface. It’s more than the bruises from fights. More than the confrontation. The responsibility of second-hand drinking goes deeper.
Often, drunken outbursts create a loss of trust. After seeing that side of a person, it’s hard to trust them again. Especially if you know they’ll be drinking again soon.
There are also downstream financial effects. Maybe a night of drinking takes the bank account so low that your family can’t pay essential bills. Or perhaps your loved one’s latest bad decisions have incurred fines and court costs.
In one study, researchers found the experience of secondhand drinking is not the same for every demographic. Those under the age of 25 were more likely to receive the effects of secondary drinking. Furthermore, 23% of men say they encountered harm when someone else was drinking in comparison to 21% of women.
You do not need to suffer the effects of drinking alone. Call us today and our professionals can work with you to get you the help that you deserve.
The Perils of Secondhand Drinking
Not all the effects of secondhand drinking are tangible. Emotional triggers of anxiety, fear, anger, and sadness occur frequently. When someone else’s behavior–in this case, drinking–provokes the same feelings multiple times, the brain’s flight or fight system kicks in. Your body processes what it needs to do with this stressor so you can save yourself from feeling or experiencing this trauma again.
For example, maybe you hear your spouse come in after spending a night out. You can listen to the door slam, followed by the sound of him putting his keys in the bowl. At this moment, warning bells go off in your brain. It might feel like your heart is picking up pace. You hear him stub his toe, and he hollers and curses while you hold your breath. You’re hoping he quiets down soon so the rest of the house won’t wake up.
This is your fight-or-flight system kicking in. If you deal with secondhand drinking regularly, you’re likely taking on more stress than the average person. When you experience the fallout of another person’s drinking habits often enough, the relationship begins to feel like a prison.
Are You on the Receiving End of Someone’s Drinking?
Verbal, Physical, or Emotional Abuse
This often comes in the form of bullying. However, the person drinking may also neglect you, which is a form of emotional abuse.
If a friend or family member is waking you up at night because of their drinking, secondhand drinking affects you.
When the property of any kind is damaged because of another person’s drinking, it is a sign of secondhand drinking. Often when we think of property, houses and cars come to mind. However, this could be a plate hurled against the wall during an argument, or a Christmas tree pulled down by someone trying not to fall. Property is anything you can touch or feel.
Unwanted Sexual Advances
People who have been drinking often make sexual advances, and they don’t always take rejection in stride. This can be traumatic for the other person if they are not in the mood or, worse, feel threatened. This is a serious concern that you must handle right away.
Argumentative behavior can show up in many ways. Sometimes it’s an insult. Other times it’s an irrational or illogical criticism. Almost everyone has a story of when someone drinking insulted them or started an argument for reasons that didn’t make sense.
When insults or discussions affect your self-esteem, you have become the victim of secondhand drinking.
Getting into a Fight
Since alcohol lowers inhibition, it’s not uncommon for people who’ve been drinking to start a fight. In many cases, these will be people who normally keep their anger carefully contained. Alcohol can easily make a person feel like now is the time to let their emotions run wild.
Being Pushed or Hit
Another sign of secondhand drinking is being pushed, hit, or beaten. This one is all too familiar. Movies are full of scenes where drunk characters push around their longsuffering spouses or children, and many studies have shown that domestic violence and substance abuse are linked. Situations like these may not be aggressive or physical enough to call them a fight, but they are undoubtedly harmful.
Being the Victim of a Traffic Accident
We often refer to accidents involving alcohol as drunk driving. However, if you are in an accident caused by someone who’s been drinking, you can also be said to be a victim of secondhand drinking.
If you have a tough time paying your bills because of someone’s drinking, secondhand drinking is affecting you. This is about more than paying bills. This also applies to late payments or barely scraping enough together. It isn’t uncommon for the cost of drinking to affect the budget of a joint account significantly. It’s also possible that the one causing the financial difficulty is a roommate who cannot get you their share of the rent on time. Until they come up with it, you are on the hook for the difference.
If you, or someone you know, are suffering from alcohol addiction, then call us today. Our specialists can help you start living your happiest and healthiest life.
Those who have been on the receiving end of secondhand drinking experience a wide range of outcomes. Your self-esteem may suffer. You might feel you are walking on eggshells around the person who is drinking.
Spouses and family members often take on the responsibility of hiding their loved one’s drinking problem. They may also play the role of a babysitter when the other has had too much. Both can cause a loss of friendships and invitations to social gatherings.
It’s not uncommon for someone affected by secondhand drinking to end up with broken bones or traumatic memories of a sexual assault.
Regardless of the exact type of harm you’ve experienced, it is common for those suffering from secondhand drinking to feel both helpless and hopeless.
In the best-case scenario, the person causing this trouble in your life will be open to listening to you explain secondhand drinking. They will want to know how it is affecting you. They will then be interested in trying to drink less or possibly seek help from a program such as AA.
However, some drinkers are not so ready for change. In these cases, you can do a few things to help protect yourself from the effects of secondhand drinking.
If you feel unsafe or triggered, it is OK to exit a party or event quietly. You do not need permission to leave.
If you are someone’s designated driver but feel you should not be in a situation, you can offer to arrange payments for their Uber or Lyft. This way, you keep your promise of giving them a safe ride while also respecting yourself and maintaining boundaries.
If you are looking for the right time to start a conversation about your loved one’s drinking problem, don’t do it while they are drinking. Even if they’re willing to listen, what you say will probably not stick. Heavy alcohol use wreaks havoc with both memory and rationality. Therefore, you should save your mental well-being and give them distance. You can address the topic when they are sober and in a better space.
As we’ve all heard, heavy alcohol use is self-destructive behavior, but this doesn’t take into account how destructive it may be to everyone in the drinker’s life. It causes or worsens family difficulties, marital strife, financial problems, and aggressive behavior toward those around you.
Whether you’re a man or woman, young or old, rich or poor, you are not immune to alcohol’s potential to cause bad behavior. Thus, you can inflict secondhand drinking on those around you no matter who you are.
If, on the other hand, you have exposure to someone else’s secondhand drinking, there is no getting away from the fact that you will be affected emotionally, physically, and mentally. This isn’t easy to protect yourself from. You’re waiting and hoping for the other person to get control of their life. While the suggestions in this article are a great place to start, your best bet is to get help from someone trained in navigating the waters of alcohol abuse.
Alcohol affects many lives. It’s important to know when it’s time to seek help. Many people lose a lot to alcoholism, including support from loved ones. At Recovery Hope Treatment, our professionals can help your friends and families through this exact situation. Call us today for advice and answers to all your questions.
Written by Krystina Wagner
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