Relationship that we need to redefine – Destructive drinking

  • Post category:News

Like an insecure, old-school politician who feels duty bound to be seen at nearly every funeral in their constituency, alcohol is a pallbearer at almost every tragedy, every premature or accidental loss of life, in this society.

From the Irish Examiner

Alcohol is the primary cause of a huge proportion of road accidents and deaths; it is at the root of the great majority of minor and not so minor court cases; it is the fuel in so many instances of sexual assault or child abuse; it is the elephant in the corner for so many destroyed and failed relationships, personal or business; it is the final, empowering permission in the long, dark maze leading to so many suicides; it destroys promising careers and once-happy families; it, almost more than anything else, is a significant factor in many people remaining homeless.

Alcohol abuse creates an atmosphere that moves many people on from misusing alcohol to using other destructive substances and, as if that was not enough, it eats away at our energy and self-esteem, facilitating everything from depression to obesity. Nearly every Irish family can place an alcoholic in their family tree and there is hardly a more toxic legacy to leave a child than the one imposed by an absent, untrustworthy, selfish, and ineffective alcoholic parent.

It is, as we all know in our heart of hearts, an utter curse when it is misused or abused. As the sad old joke goes, the one that cuts so deeply because it rings so true, “alcohol was invented so the Irish wouldn’t rule the world”. It reminds us it is the culturally acceptable glass ceiling that squanders more potential and crushes more dreams than nearly any other factor at play in Ireland today.

Yet, in the next few weeks, we will all indulge, many of us will over-indulge, each of us certain we are in control of our relationship with drink. Statistics give the lie, as if it was needed, to that. About half of us drink ”” 2.48m people ”” and more than half of those ”” 54% ”” drink in a destructive, unhealthy way. That many of us will, privately at least, dismiss that assertion by arguing that the criteria used to define binge, self-abusive drinking are set far too low both tells its own story and confirms a cultural dishonesty.

This denial, this deep psychological mask-wearing, makes it almost impossible to have a discussion around our misuse of drink that seems neither po-faced or sanctimonious. The alcohol industry ”” though it prefers to be called the far nicer-sounding drinks industry ”” has huge influence in our society, influence that is bought through sponsorship or tax. It has leverage over our sports because only it can afford the sponsorship that sustains so many spectacles. It has, as the Dáil record will attest, a very powerful influence over laws that might curtail our destructive drinking.

It is a truth that any of us who occasionally drink too much must acknowledge that we do so despite these warnings. It should be possible for far more of us to get through the holiday without pressing the self-destruct button. What a wonderful Christmas gift it would be if each of us gave everyone around us an opportunity, and the encouragement to do just that if that is what people wish to do.