#237 – High-End Drinkers – Social Status and Drinking


Veronica and Chip explore how ‘high-end’ drinkers mask their alcohol problem. When you tell yourself that you only drink fine wine or 100-year-old whiskey, are you masking the fact that you really just want to get a buzz?

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about this episode

People make a lot of rationalizations to justify their alcohol consumption.

When I was on The Doctors, I was in a Zoom waiting room with a private doctor who was also a guest on the show. She spent the entire time we were there explaining to me why she didn’t have an alcohol problem even though she drank every day. Her reasoning? She only drank extremely fine wine from the best vineyards in Napa that was made with very pure organic grapes.

While society often associates alcohol problems with low-end stereotypes like losing your job, struggling to make ends meet, or being unable to put yourself together, that’s hardly the case. In fact, that misconception often makes it difficult for people to recognize their own alcohol dependency.

The price or quality of what you drink doesn’t change the fact that it is still ethanol, and excessive consumption is problematic.

Today, Chip and I talk about the concept of high-end drinking and how the ritual and sophistication associated with consuming expensive alcohol can act as a smokescreen for problem drinking.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Challenging society’s perception of alcoholism
  • How denial and societal norms around drinking prevent people from acknowledging their alcohol problem and seeking help
  • Elaborate rituals and rationalizations people use to justify their drinking habits
  • The impact of social status and financial resources on delaying help
  • The role of sommeliers in high-end restaurants
  • The lack of high-quality alcohol-free options for those who appreciate the taste and experience of alcohol
  • High-end drinking as a status symbol
  • Challenging societal perceptions of alcoholism

key highlights

Denial and Rationalization: The Invisible Barriers

Having a successful life is not a good marker of whether you have an alcohol problem.

There’s so much denial and rationalization when it comes to alcohol consumption. People justify their drinking habits by comparing themselves to others and leaning on rituals and hobbies.

While some people can enjoy the artistry of alcoholic drinks without having a problem, I’m suspicious of those who plan their lives around it. Regardless of how alcohol is dressed up, it is still alcohol and can cause harm.


The Professional Excuse

In our work, Chip and I have had a lot of clients who justified their alcohol consumption based on their profession or social status. All this ends up doing is preventing people from seeking treatment for way too long.

Anyone who is drinking every night should be cautious, whether that’s at a high-end restaurant or in your beautiful home. It’s often a warning sign.

If you’re open to it, asking your teenage children if they notice any signs of a drinking problem may shed light on a different perspective.


The Sophistication Problem

The misconception that high-end drinking is a sign of sophistication and not a problem is a big issue. There’s so much fear and a lot of stigma associated with the term “alcoholic,” and hiding from the label prevents people from seeking help.

The end result of drinking, regardless of the price or quality of the alcohol, is getting intoxicated.

Anyone who doesn’t want to admit that should take a closer look at what they’re doing.

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