"It's a social thing"
"Everyone does it"
"It's normal, it's traditional"
"It makes things better"
Is it purely habitual, the reason people drink? Do they do it because it is just "what one does?" As someone who seldom drinks, I often think about these things.
To me, alcohol isn't inclusive, it's estranging. And I don't pass on drinking for the usual reasons (alcoholism, disliking the taste, etc), but simply as some people don't need to eat candy, I don't need to have a beer—usually, ever. But I'm not uptight about it. People can drink, it doesn't bother me. However, if you have ever been sober around drunk people you may begin to realize an asynchronous feeling within yourself. And this is where the estrangement begins, for me.
The reasons people drink are myriad, but I'm sure some of it is habitual—like a cup of tea and a good book, alcohol and socialization are inextricably linked. However, I wonder if it is necessary for things to be that way. Just as there is a movement towards people finding things to do with their time that don't involve spending money, there could be a movement towards socializing sans drinks. In a roundabout way, this strikes at the central question: what is the problem with drinking?
And the answer is twofold, and subjective: there is a problem and there isn't one. Since alcohol is a substance that affects one mentally and physically, it has the tendency to be used to do things. It is first used as a tool for social anxiety, greasing things up a bit, and can often occupy that role for a person's entire life. Then there are the more detrimental dependencies that arise, such as using alcohol to relax, to fall asleep, to stave off depression. My question has always been "why do I need to drink something to feel OK?" And the answer most people have to that question is "it's fine, everyone feels awkward/stressed sometimes." I prefer to use my own psychology to right itself, rather than relying on something else to do it for me. For me, this, along with the estrangement to non-participants, is the issue behind drinking.
Because this is the core issue at hand, and drinking is socially normal, it's certainly not going anywhere. I would encourage people, however, to question their consumption, and who it is affecting. I wonder if there are others out there who can relate, who might go along with the social flow and indulge because its expected and accepted, instead of something they want to do. And I wonder if there are yet others, who use alcohol as a crutch, to stave off anxiety and make them feel OK in situations where they normally wouldn't. It is a complex question, without a single clear answer.