Amy Ryan writes about our dysfunctional relationship with alcohol in Ireland, and asks what we can learn from other Europeans about drinking.
Alcohol is the devil. We all know that because we have all suffered through hell due to it's damning characteristics. So why do we knowingly put ourselves in these positions? Why do we drink ourselves to absolute stupidity, partake in things that we would never do in a sober state of mind and ultimately afflict ourselves with 'the fear'? Some moronic answers may be; "It's some craic!", "What else is there to do on a Saturday night?" or "I needed a drink after that week in my mind-numbingly boring job". I call these answers 'moronic' because these excuses suffice wanting to get your freak on and letting off a bit of steam but do they excuse drinking so heavily that you do things that you will regret in the morning? NO. My eyes were opened while living in Spain and seeing their attitude towards alcohol, which made me question our drinking in Ireland. I think that we need to realise the reality of how toxic our drinking is and how it can affect our lives in so many aspects.
Inevitably, the first point that has to be made is the HUGE problem with alcoholism in Ireland. I have yet to meet an Irish family that doesn't have an alcoholic among them. Sometimes this 'trouble-maker' is largely ignored and allowed to live their destructive life in solitude as long as they stay out of everyone's hair. But we all know that's not true; their drinking lifestyle always affects someone, be it their mother, their sister, their child...there is always an unfortunate soul who tries to help them when they're in trouble and who predominately tries to cover up their drinking. These people are the Enablers. Controversial as it may be, these people are not helping themselves or their loved one in any way and they often step in to save the day when the alcoholic should be left to hit rock bottom and realise the error of their ways. It's absolutely heartbreaking to watch someone you love slowly killing themselves and worst of all, the collateral damage that they cause to everyone around them.But, alas, they will never change for us so, why bother drowning with them? People who drink too much aren't simply party people. No, they are drowning their unresolved issues in pool full of liquor. They are using it to numb their thoughts or emotions and it is the self-absorbed nature of the disease that permits they to turn a blind eye to the havoc they are causing. Our desperate need to keep up appearances is doing us no favours and I think Ireland should be ready to lift the carpet and sweep out the demons that lay beneath.
I want to draw from the point that there is, in fact, a reason as to why people become alcoholics. If you truly know a drinker, maybe you know the skeletons that lie in their closet and understand their problems. We may pity them for their troubled past but do we allow it to dismiss their selfish lifestyle? In my opinion, there are few souls on this earth who can say they've never had anything bad happen to them. The difference is that the rest of us learn to cope with them or maybe, we see them manifest in other ways in our life such as our relationships, our love-lives or careers. Issues essentially become fears so they can hold you back in many different ways in life. So then we all have problems? Yes. So if you are using alcohol as a way of coping with your problems, you are walking down a very slippery slope. You may not even realise that you're doing it in the midst of the madness, which is the most dangerous part of it all. Fortunately for some, hindsight may grant you some revelation as to why that weekend on the tear was a bigger fiasco then the rest. Were you feeling bad before you went drinking? I don't know about men but women are such elaborately emotional creatures that drinking when you feel angry or sad is usually disastrous. My point is that if you're sad about something, maybe you should reconsider going out and leaving your inhibitions at home. Instead, just stay on the couch, buy a disgusting amount of chocolate and nibbles and have a depression session with Adele. Or maybe invite a friend over; that'd probably be a better idea.
I absolutely 100% love going out, socialising, drinking...I love it all. What I hate is when I do things that I know I will regret in the morning and are completely out of character for me. Have you ever woken up and thought "Why did I say that? That was a complete, utter lie"? Many a time, I've blurted out things that have been real in a sober state of mind which I can get over because at least it's true. But when I say things that aren't even true? What is that about? 
All these points lead us to understanding to how disgusting our drink culture is. We can't seem to go out and have a few drinks while socialising with our friends. We all purposely go out to get drunk. This was the biggest difference I noticed between Spain and Ireland. The Spaniards go out for hours on end and arrive home in that lovely, tipsy, merry state. They don't understand what 'the fear' is because they have never been that hungover. They drink so slowly that their glass is half full but it's horribly watery because the ice has melted while they've been nursing it. It's a norm to have a drink at any time of the day, including the morning. I wanted to projectile when I saw a man crack open a can of ice cold Cruzcampo at 8 am before heading off to work, but they don't see it as we do. They can drink one 330ml can and leave it at that. Could anybody do that in Ireland? They would drink a glass of wine with their meal while we easily drink the whole bottle, if not two. They drink the glass of beer/wine/gin/whiskey to enjoy the taste while relaxing with friends and family, whereas we don't even realise what it tastes like as we slug it back our throat as fast as humanly possible. Have we normalised alcoholism so much that we are all arriving in drunken oblivion every weekend, unaware of the repercussions? All I know is that this isn't normal, we've just made it normal.
Article courtesy of Amy Ryan's blog This is a Real Girl's World, which you can read more of here.