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Alcoholism – Are your traditions more important than your sobriety?

Tradition by definition is - "the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way."

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse

Photo credit - nrlcadyer

Step Away Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre South Africa

As an Alcohol Rehabilitation Center in South Africa, we appreciate the different cultures and traditions of our beautiful country.

However, as an alcohol addiction treatment centre, we also need to talk about cultural issues that may be affecting people struggling with alcoholism.

In this article, we discuss the importance of your sobriety in relation to your traditions.

Africa - A Continent of Traditions

The world is filled with many cultures and religions - each with their own set of beliefs and traditions.

African traditions are no different from other traditions and offer drinking as a standard part of celebration or offering. During rituals, the intoxicating power of alcohol is sometimes associated with the supernatural power of the gods.

Unfortunately, this is problematic for people with drinking problems and leaves room for alcohol abuse, addiction and addiction relapse.

At what point are you allowed to separate yourself from your "tradition" to ensure your sobriety?

Tradition forms a strong part of many people's lives and it is understandable to want to uphold your tradition by taking part in ceremonies that involve alcohol consumption.

However, this also puts unnecessary pressure on alcoholics and recovering alcoholics to take part in ceremonies, out of fear of slighting their culture or offending their elders.

Our question is, shouldn't recovering alcoholics be given a choice, allowing them to choose not to drink but still take part in the ceremony?

Traditional Drinking and African Ceremonies

During traditional ceremonies, such as Umbuyiso or Ulwaluko, there is a great deal of alcohol consumed by those in attendance, especially by older men who sit looking on from a semi-circle of chairs.

Ceremonies such as Umgidi – “the celebration of the man”, involves mass consumption of alcohol - pressuring both young and old to take part.

Umcimbi, another more serious tradition – which involves an offering from the family to the ancestors, also includes drinking as a standard part of offering. This ceremony often includes the production and consumption of umqombothi, a traditional beer.

Umqombothi is a usual accompaniment to traditional celebratory rites, and strong traditional ceremonies, such as Izila, and other participants will insist on every attendant partaking in the brew.

Furthermore, Ibiso the marriage ceremony, also involves a lot of social drinking – with alcohol often given as gifts during bride price ceremonies.

Alcoholism – A bigger problem

Alcoholism is a socio-economical problem affecting thousands of families in South Africa today. From domestic violence to car accidents, to lack of income, HIV and drug abuse – alcohol abuse can often be found at the root cause.

The problem with having alcohol so intricately woven into tradition is that it enables people to continue drinking - all in the name of their tradition.

It creates a justification barrier, whereby people are given the freedom to continue abusing alcohol – just because their tradition allows for it.

Alternatively, looking at it from a recovering alcoholics perspective, one where they want to stop drinking – they are then forced into taking part in ceremonies out of fear of insulting their ancestors and tradition.

You have the right to say no

By choosing to stand behind your traditions in order to justify your addiction is simply another sign that intervention and treatment is needed.

There is nothing that justifies alcohol abuse and alcoholism. No religion, partner, or association can force you to do anything against your will.

If you have made the decision to put your life, and the happiness of your family and loved ones first – then you have the right to refuse to take part in traditions that will jeopardise that.

It’s vital that we all understand that our lives matter and the choices we make are our own choices. No tradition, religion or belief is worth sacrificing your sobriety.

For assistance with your recovery or for information about our treatment centre, please contact us.

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