Thursday, 5 June 2008

Drink problem

Regular readers will know I'm baffled by people who habitually drink huge quantities of alcohol and habitually get appalling hangovers. Where's the attraction, I ask myself. Why is ten pints better than half a pint?

Keen drinkers on the other hand are equally baffled by me. Why is Nick such an abstemious tight-arse? Doesn't he know how to let his hair down and enjoy himself? Doesn't he want to lose his inhibitions and anxieties for a while?

I don't think the two factions will ever understand each other. Especially here in Ireland, where heavy drinking is regarded as absolutely normal and (13%) proof you're a paid-up member of the human race.

Alcohol comes to mind as I watch with interest England's latest attempts to curb the huge social, medical and financial costs of binge-drinking.

Boris Johnson, the new Mayor of London, has banned alcohol on the entire London Transport network. The British government has announced that young children found drunk by police will be ordered into rehab and teenagers frequently caught with alcohol will be given ASBOs (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders) imposing curfews and alcohol bans. Parents may be sent on parenting courses and may be prosecuted if their children are still misbehaving.

Well, these measures are a well-meaning response to an increasingly ugly problem, but they don't tackle the root cause of alcohol mayhem. Which is the increasing belief that a night out can't be properly enjoyed without a tsunami of alcohol, plenty of broken glass, pools of vomit and a mangled brain.

Somebody explain to me why a few like-minded people with sharp brains, a crazy sense of humour and some juicy gossip aren't more than enough for an entertaining evening, with or without fermented grapes.

26 comments:

Hullaballoo said...

Oh Nick, I agree totally. There's nothing more dull than a bunch of people droning on with slurred speech about some incoherent rubbish that is meaningful only to them.

Despite my Scotterish machismo, I am not a big drinker. I'm not self righteous or preachy about it, I just don't need to do it. I am an unashamedly slow drinker and I think nothing of leaving a drink half finished if I don't feel the need for it.

When I experimented with being abstemious for a while, I noticed that one of the biggest pulls to drink loads was anxiety coupled with boredom. I drink when I am having a good time, not in order to have a good time.

Nick said...

Hulla - Ah yes, unashamedly slow drinker, tell me about it. While everyone else is gulping down glass after glass, I'm slowly sipping and I've drunk hardly anything. Well said, drink when you're having a good time not in order to have one.

Darren said...

Well, I am one of the big drinkers. I love to have a good few pints of a night out and get a bit silly. That said, I (and those around me) are never rowdy and don't cause trouble. But we do drink too much and it's a problem that needs to be addressed.

It's attitudes to drink that need to change. I have grown up 'knowing' that drinking a lot and holding your own is a mark of honour. It has been ingrained into me to distrust those who do not drink. I apologise for that and I do try to fight this stupid logic in my brain.

Nick said...

Darren, that's great that you don't cause trouble, unlike so many. Yes, this idea that it's a mark of honour to be able to drink copiously is very damaging. Also of course very embarrassing and awkward for those who don't drink or don't drink very much. And that's the norm in many cultures and religions around the world. Plus, Ireland's unfortunate global reputation is for heavy drinking rather than its cultural treasures.

Quickroute said...

I like my beer and often drink beyond what would be considered moderation. My parents are both tea totallers so I believe I am a product of Irish culture but I think if you drink a lot and don't bother anyone then you have a perfect right to do so.
If you binge drink and act like a twat and become violent then you lose that right and should be forcibly put in rehab, ASBO's and anything else that would keep you out of public mainstream!

Nick said...

Quicky - I agree, if you're not bothering anyone, no probs, it's your own business. But drinkers who don't give a toss about bothering other people are a real menace. It's the really young children already drinking regularly that concern me most.

Thriftcriminal said...

I can happily do both, but being 30-something with a couple of kids the whole hangover thing is a big deterrent. My belief is that the social sense of propriety has been eroded to the point where the only thing that determines the behaviour of the group is the desire for gratification of any form. I put this down to the marketing campaigns that promise such gratification everywhere we look (invariably fail to deliver to the expected degree) and the culture of the self that has arisen in western culture and is re-enforced by the laissez-faire capitalist agenda. Basically people in bygone years had social pressures that encouraged them to forego instant gratification because of "What people might say". Not, perhaps, the healthiest, but it got results.

Los Angelista said...

It's much easier to say, "I was sooo drunk!" than to just admit you really wanted to take off your clothes and dance naked on a table. I think you have to learn how to party and have a good time without the liquor. It's crazy how much domestic violence is tied to alcohol, and even when people think it doesn't hurt anyone else, it usually does.

Nicole said...

I don't get this one either. I'm not really a drinker, mostly because I don't like the taste unless it's something really sweet and fruity so I don't taste the alcohol...which tells me that I should just skip the alcohol and have juice.

What gets me is the number of friends who say, "Oh, you just have to find the right drink." Why? Why do I have to be drinking? If you like the taste, then enjoy in moderation, but why do you need other people to drink with you? Or people who complain about having no money but spend $50 every other night at the bar. It's good they're cracking down on teen alcohol use, though.

Nick said...

Thrifty - You're right, self-gratification at any cost has become the norm, and social responsibility has become something faintly laughable. Indeed, "what people might say" was crude but it did encourage people to behave more sensibly.

Liz - True, drink is often just the excuse for shy people who secretly want to let rip. And yes, a huge amount of domestic violence is inspired by alcohol.

Nicole - Yes, why can't no-drink or one-drink be the right drink? And I also notice how people pleading poverty can somehow afford an evening in the pub.

Baino said...

Nick I think there's a difference between binge drinking (drinking to get drunk) and enjoying a drink. I'd probably be considered a 'heavy' drinker in as much as over a l-o-n-g lunch I can easily tackle a bottle or more of Chardy but I don't get legless pissed. Here we've recently applied an 'alcopop' tax so what do people do? Go and buy a litre of spirits and a bottle of Coke which leads to poor measurements of alcohol. It's cheaper anyway. Of course I can have a good time without it. Often do due to drink driving legislation but I enjoy a tipple!

Nick said...

Baino, nothing wrong with enjoying a tipple as long as you're not ruining other people's enjoyment at the same time. I presume Aussies are generally socially-responsible drinkers, but I could be wrong. Oh and binge-drinking is more than getting drunk, it's getting completely wrecked and drinking until you can't get any more down your throat.

Aidan said...

Very interesting blog you have and a subject dear to my heart. One of the reasons I moved to Holland was to escape the drink culture in Ireland because drink and me are not good friends though we have often been intimate.
I grew up in Ireland and studied in England and one thing common to both cultures is the link between drink and sex. Especially when people are young the recklessness promoted by heavy drinking is a big factor. I know hardly anybody who met their partner sober.
In other countries being drunk can be an off putter for women but in Ireland when I was there it seemed to be expected.
However, when you reach you 30s it all gets a bit sad and pathetic and pointless.

Matt said...

I find binge drinking mystifying too. Fun to try on a few rare occasions maybe. It's a problem on college campuses in the states, and oppressive and annoying if you're not into it. It must wear thin when it's part of your national culture. Moderate drinking and sampling the wide variety of beverages over the years is a pleasure of adulthood, and I don't see why people wouldn't want to stick to that. Good conversation is better and more useful than bacchanalian hedonism and paying the price the next morning. It's a little disappointing that so many people are uncomfortable simply enjoying one another's company.

Nick said...

Aidan - Very true about the link between heavy drinking and sex. Shocking that you know so many people who weren't sober when they met. Also true that in Ireland men and women just expect each other to be drunk, and personally I agree that once you're heading for middle-age constant inebriation is just a sad and embarrassing sight. Unfortunately for most people here even elderly drunks are regarded as completely normal.

Matt - Binge drinking certainly wears very thin for me but for the majority here it's wildly enjoyable and completely routine. Yes, it's actually rather pitiful that so many people are unable to enjoy other people's company without an artificial stimulant to help them out. Why is such social inhibition so prevalent?

conortje said...

There is a much much healthier attitude over here to alcohol - people still drink and enjoy themselves but not to the extremes you see in Ireland or the UK. When I go home now I can't cope with it I am so out of practice - and I still reckon I drink a lot here but it's nothing in comparison(I only drink in the weekends though - don't touch a drop during the week when I'm playing saint).

Nick said...

Conor, good to know you've acquired a much saner attitude to the demon drink. An Oirish lad who only drinks at weekends - whatever next?

Wisewebwoman said...

I'm surprised, Nick, that you (and the commenters) don't address the problem of alcoholism at all in this post. Alcoholism is a disease and the UK and Ireland have one of the highest rates in the world. It is chronic and the only cure is abstension.
Of course the beer and liquor companies have a continuing interest in maintaining the drink culture with its bombardment of advertising showing everyone having a good time and none of the downside like lying in the gutter (as I've seen in Dublin) and throwing up in cabs, etc.
I would venture that many of the loudmouth, repetitive idiots you encounter would be alcholics.
I agree with you, they are the most appalling bores and I've been caught with them far too often!!
XO
WWW
PS I gave up the booze a long time ago. I was one of 'those'.

Nick said...

You're right, www, I should have mentioned that, though I would say that most binge-drinking, if it's long-standing, is alcoholism anyway. What's sad is that alcoholics so often deny they have a problem and act insulted and mystified if you even suggest it. And it's true the drink companies are totally immoral in promoting alcohol when they know how many people's lives are being ruined by it. But profit at any cost is the name of the game.

red said...

You know me Nick, I do like a tipple or twenty but I have to say I was stunned by the drunkeness of the teenagers at the radiohead gig this weekend- all swearing it was an amazing concert. How did they know? They were far too drunk to be able to make any kind of critical judgement.

Nick said...

Red - Oh yes, I know your Oirish tastes, but I assume you don't annoy other people in the process! I think that level of drunkenness is quite common at British gigs too - bottles being thrown into the audience etc. As you say, how can they appreciate the music? Sheer madness.

Nick said...

Oh, just realised this was the one in Malahide, Red. In that case the mega-drunkenness was entirely predictable.

Fate's Granddaughter said...

I think you make a great point. I am fond of a glass of wine or three on a night out, and sometimes do enjoy the feeling of not thinking that alcohol provides. However I am increasingly worried about the consumption (and after effects) of many of my friends who seem to think anything less than hammered is an unacceptable state for Saturday night.

I read an oped in the Observer recently where the author complained that she was made to feel like a social pariah for refusing drink on a night out. I think this is a common feeling, certainly among my friends, and something that needs to be addressed.

Nick said...

FG - Very common here, I think, that idea that if you don't want to drink, or only a moderate amount, you're some sort of social misfit. Baffling when moderate drinking is actually the norm in dozens of other cultures. But heavy drinking has become a kind of religious ritual.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I agree. I fail to understand the attraction, which has always placed me in the minority.

Nick said...

Heart, welcome to the club! (Well, if there isn't a club, there ought to be!) Don't you get tired of people treating you as if you were some kind of party-pooper?