Let's Change Culture: Making Space in Lancaster for Non-Drinkers

Alcohol is a pervasive part of American society. From social media to social events and every point in between, it seems virtually impossible to find environments that aren’t infiltrated by alcohol references or actual drinking behavior. So where does that leave the 30% of American adults who don’t drink alcohol at all? There are plenty of reasons Americans choose not to drink. Abstainers include:

  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding;
  • People in recovery from addiction to alcohol or other drugs;
  • People who abstain for health, lifestyle, or religious reasons.

Let’s create spaces for non-drinkers in Lancaster, PA. There are two ways we can help build a community that doesn’t glorify excessive alcohol consumption: Physical spaces: Lancaster is part of a growing number of communities recognizing the value of offering alcohol-free entertainment and nightlife, such as Lights Out, a sober bar opening in fall 2016. Social awareness: We can also create welcoming spaces for people who abstain by practicing increased social awareness and sensitivity. So what does that concept look like in real life? It looks like a Happy Hour Hero. Heroes are people who initiate change—voluntarily and without expectation of reward. Happy Hour Heroes are willing to consider the points of view of people who don’t use alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, or gambling (ATODG). How To Be A Happy Hour Hero

  • Avoid alcohol-related sayings, like It’s 5:00 somewhere, or Treat yourself.
  • If you’re hosting a party, serve mocktails as an alternative to alcohol.
  • Trade workplace happy hour for a relaxing post-work walk with colleagues.
  • Reach out if you notice a friend’s drinking is causing unwanted consequences. You might say something as simple as: “You seem like you’re struggling. Can I help you?” You don’t necessarily need to fix the problem, but you can help them get the support they need. Dial 2-1-1 for referrals to Lancaster County social services. Or call Compass Mark’s info and referral team at (717) 299-2831 for tips on how to help.

Another way for Happy Hour Heroes to help build a healthier community is to change the words used to describe substance abuse and other addictions. Over time, our culture has become more inclusive in the words and phrases used to describe people with disabilities or those in the LGBTQ community. Now it’s time to make that same pivot with the language of addiction and recovery. For example, you might use “person with addiction” instead of “addict” or “junkie.” Placing focus on the person rather than the disorder helps break down the stigma that sometimes prevents people from seeking help and hampers recovery. Help create a healthier Lancaster. When and if you’re ready, help build a Lancaster community that empowers recovery and provides welcoming spaces for those who don’t use alcohol. Support or offer your time or talents to the Lancaster County Recovery Alliance (LCRA), a group that promotes substance-free community events and advocates for better treatment and support services. As an alternative, consider service through 12-step meetings.   This blog post was based on material from the 2016 Lancaster Health Summit breakout session Let’s Change Culture, presented by Amy Sechrist, Compass Mark Certified Prevention Specialist, and Kyle Kuehn, founder of Soberbars.   Image courtesy of Stuart Miles | FreeDigitalPhotos.net.