Objective: High rates of alcohol-related harm have been reported in the European Union, including Ireland, for more than 20 years. This article's goal is to contextualise such rates by examining gender-based pathways to alcohol use disorders from the perspective of those self-identifying as in recovery using data collected midway through this 20-year trend.
Methods: Sixteen informants (nine men and seven women) were interviewed between 1998 and 1999 in Dublin, Ireland. Using qualitative methods, informants were asked to reflect upon their experiences of problem drinking and recovery.
Results: Drinking expectancies, pub-based socialising, social anxiety and perceived social expectations to drink were cited as common pathways to problem drinking by informants, highlighting contradictions in drinking practices and the symbolic functions of alcohol. Drinking contexts identified by informants were public pub-based drinking for men and home-based drinking for women. Primary barriers to problem acceptance centered on pub-based socialising norms and gender-based shame. Benefits of support group membership included establishing new social networks and learning alternative ways to cope with negative emotions.
Conclusion: Consideration of drinking expectancies, the social contexts in which problematic drinking occurs, gender ideologies, the cultural meanings of drinking behaviours, and attention to feelings of isolation or loneliness experienced by those exhibiting problematic consumption behaviours might further understandings of potentially harmful drinking, especially in periods of economic uncertainty.