Singapore is one of Asia’s most developed countries, and also one of the most Westernised – a reputation that comes with its share of pros and cons. As one of the four Asian Tigers, we’re widely recognised for our achievements as a nation, and our economy draws working professionals from around the globe who enjoy Singapore’s robust culture and high standard of living. But this phenomenon isn’t without its dark side: many of those who come to the Lion City for career purposes ultimately find themselves ensnared in a highly alcoholic lifestyle. Here’s a look at the factors driving this phenomenon.
1. Disposable Income
Many expats in Singapore are gainfully employed. This higher disposable income inevitably leads some to a lifestyle that pushes the envelope – and the availability of domestic help relieves some of the consequences of excessive drinking.
2. Work-Related Burnout
There’s no doubt about it: life in Singapore is highly work-oriented, often consisting of heavy workloads and long hours spent at the office. This can result in a pattern of rewarding oneself for a hard day’s work. The constant pressure to meet strict deadlines in an unusually fast-paced environment can make it tempting to use alcohol or other depressants to unwind after a hectic day.
3. Social Pressure
Socialising and networking function as a way to strengthen ties between individuals and organisations and knock down cultural barriers. Relying on alcohol to deal with stress and quash social anxieties is a dangerous habit that can quickly ramp up into problem-level drinking.
Expats’ professional roles often require them to represent their company at mixers and attend company lunches and dinners. And, you guessed it – these events typically involve alcohol.
4. Asian Business Culture
Drinking is a deeply rooted part of Asian business culture. Performance expectations and competition are notoriously high in Singapore, and as a result, many expats feel pressured to drink as part of their job. This is a very slippery slope, as engaging in episodic binge drinking greatly increases the risk of alcoholism.
Alcohol-centric networking obligations blur the line between pleasure and business. What starts as a desire to forge professional and personal connections can ultimately lead to a full alcohol addiction. These problems, however, often go unrecognised because of their widespread acceptability.
5. Increased Anonymity
When you’re distanced from your community and disconnected from the familiar cultural and social norms that exist back home, it’s easy to feel less accountability to those around you. For some, what happens in Singapore stays in Singapore – and that doesn’t result in the best decision making.
6. Relocation Stress
Both expats and their spouses can experience relocation-related stressors. Some find it challenging to assimilate into their new lifestyles, fill additional roles, support each other and deal with the logistics of an international move, all within the context of culture shock and isolation.
Financial dependence, a lack of purpose and feelings of social isolation can quickly put pressure on relationships, causing friction and frustration. For many, alcohol becomes an escape mechanism when they feel they have limited outlets to express their emotions and garner support.
7. Pre-existing Substance Abuse Patterns
Some expats may already be suffering from an existing substance addiction. They may have even seen their move as an opportunity to start a new life away from their using environment and social circles. Or, they may want to avoid family intervention and unwanted criticism.
But the truth is, there’s no geographical escape from alcoholism. When you move, your behavioural patterns don’t stay at home. Addiction doesn’t go away on its own, and an overseas lifestyle may even provide increased opportunities for alcohol consumption, allowing addiction to grow unchecked by your usual support network.
Are You Addicted to Alcohol?
If you’re concerned about your drinking habits, ask yourself if you display any of the following signs of high-functioning alcoholism:
- Regularly drinking more than you planned
- Leading a double life: maintaining a successful outward appearance but struggling inside
- Frequently thinking about when and how you’ll drink next
- Using alcohol to cope with daily stress
- Considering alcohol as a reward for one’s hard work
- Denying the existence of a drinking problem or continue drinking in spite of negative consequences
Denial is a cognitive device that many people use to cope with a reality that they find intolerable. In the case of alcohol addiction, denial enables you to rationalise an array of behaviours that would normally conflict with your principals. It’s also the main reason why those with high-functioning alcohol addiction are less likely to admit they have a problem and get the treatment they need.
How Can Expats Get Help for Alcohol Addiction in Singapore?
If you feel like your attempts to cut down haven’t worked, don’t be discouraged: help is within reach. We understand expat life is complicated, and our services are designed to meet the needs of expats in your very position. The Cabin Singapore offers a comprehensive outpatient alcohol addiction treatment centre conveniently located in the Novena Medical Centre. Talk to one of our friendly and knowledgeable admissions advisors to learn more about treatment options today.