It may come as a surprise to drinkers, but if you make a prat of yourself, it’s your fault.
Should you fall on your face, throw up on the karaoke machine, or try to drop the gob on Matthew in sales at the Christmas party, it’s on you. Shocking.
“I got sick in the cab because Phil from HR was too heavy-handed with the eggnog.” That’s it. Blame Phil. To be fair, if I were to get eggnog this side of 1980, I’d probably overdo it too.
The one I hear most regularly is “I hadn’t eaten anything”, signed Michael, aged 4. Aww bless. Did your mum not give you your alphabet soup before you left the house? Bib around the neck.
“I drank a bottle of whiskey on an empty stomach,” Andrew (6) told gardaí after he woke up in a cell.
For some reason, the worst offenders are able to blow it off the next day. “Oh, I had a blackout.” And? “Hence, everything I did during the hours of ‘I can’t remember’ and ‘I woke up in the neighbour’s rose bush’ is irrelevant.”
If you end up in a cop car, get barred constantly or have blackouts regularly, you have a problem. Inflicting yourself on your mates or work colleagues and expecting them to look after you is not the solution. After all, do you look after them? The last thing your pals need on a night out is some liability wrecking their buzz. Especially if they don’t get out much.
A 2019 US study in the ‘Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs’ found that “second-hand” alcohol harms are widespread. Of the 9,000 people surveyed, 21pc of women and 23pc of men were harmed by someone else’s drinking during the previous year. This includes “threats or harassment, damage to property, vandalism, physical aggression”. Thanks.
In Ireland, last year’s figures in the Health Research Board’s National Alcohol Diary Survey suggest more than 150,000 Irish people are dependent drinkers, more than 1.35 million are harmful drinkers, and 30pc of people interviewed said they experienced some form of harm as a result of their own drinking. That’s a lot of scarlet.
Professor Colin O’Gara in St John of God’s told me non-problem drinkers can critically assess their behaviour, while severe drinkers dust themselves off next day. “The top-rated drug in regards to harm is alcohol – fighting, falling down, knocking teeth out or similar is often laughed off in our culture, but if these kind of things happen outside the experimental teenage phase, you need to look at your drinking patterns,” he said.
If people have repeated loss of control or a Jekyll and Hyde-style personality transformation, it’s not a fluke – even if they had no intention of ending in a state, he adds. Unfortunately, alcoholics have no idea how their actions affect others. Their cognitive abilities are impaired, which in essence means that when drunk they are brain-damaged. The more you drink, the longer it takes for your cognitive abilities to recover. By that stage, though, people may not want to hang out with you any more, because it’s too dangerous.
As a society, we see alcoholics and drug addicts as victims and treat them as such, but the real victims are families, and, at Christmas, their friends and work colleagues. Some firms have introduced a sober chaperone service for Christmas parties. This isn’t kindergarten. If you can’t drink, just stay home, spare the morto.
But what about those who can drink?
“People who don’t get a hangover, or can drink seven pints a night without incident, aren’t getting away with it. If you drink heavily and regularly, you are causing irreversible liver damage without knowing,” added Prof O’Gara.