Picture it: Saturday night last in a packed pub. It’s Halloween and the place is heaving. Most punters have entered into the spirit of the season by donning suitably ghoulish costumes – those not in such garb actually feel a little out of place.
As the designated driver for the evening, this column couldn’t help but pay more attention to those who were a little green around the gills – something which can’t be attributed to their choice of costume either.
A group of girls in ‘Wonder Woman’-type capes and tiaras are sitting together. One of them is clearly not feeling all that wonderful as she keels backwards and is saved from falling off her stool by an alert and agile friend. She is completely out of it.
Pulled back into an upright sitting position, it’s clear whatever good time this particular Wonder Woman had been having ended several, several shots ago.
Not only has she ruined her night out, the chances are she’d spoiled it for her friends too, who surely nursed her all the way back to her bed that night.
By last orders, the crowd had somewhat thinned, with many hitting the local nightclub probably not so much for the music but because it’s the only place in town where you can buy drink in the wee small hours.
On the return journey to the car while the clouds above empty themselves, I walk by a chap barely out of his teens whose face is smeared in camouflage-type make-up – don’t forget, it was Halloween.
Someone who may well be his girlfriend was standing nearby, waiting for him as he jammed two fingers down his throat while attempting to vomit. Not wishing to see the full show, I leave the young man to his bout of dry-wretching.
Hours earlier, on the way down to the pub, two men offered friendly hellos while relieving themselves against the gable end of a house just off the main street.
The spot in question is a de facto outdoor urinal on many a Saturday night, and it’s not just men who avail of this somewhat obscured spot, one has to report.
It doesn’t matter where this was witnessed, because it was, without fear of contradiction, going on in every city and town in the country last Saturday night and most Saturday nights.
Being ‘out of it’ is a condition that, sadly, too many men and women find themselves in more than once a week. But hey, we’re Irish, we drink a lot because the weather is awful and we have a history of oppression – 800 years and all that sort of thing.
There is absolutely nothing cool or fun about being ‘pissed’ to the point where a blackout is just a regular feature of a night out. By the way, I am not a teetotaller or a killjoy but, probably by Irish standards, I am a very irregular consumer of alcohol.
Yet, for the life of me, I cannot and will not ever understand why drinking one’s self to the point of memory loss is something that can be seen as a humourous topic to bring up on the Monday morning tea break.
Ex-Tipperary hurler John Leahy’s battle with the bottle is well-documented and he re-tells the tale in ‘Wasted: A Sober Journey Through Drunken Ireland’, a new book written by Irish Times writer Brian O’Connell.
Thirteen years sober, Leahy is now an addiction counsellor, helping those who wish to get alcohol and other addictions permanently out of their system.
“I was 26 when I stopped drinking,” he tells O’Connell. “The hurling helped and I would have been well-known, so I had nothing to hide – it was all out there.
“I know for a lot of people there is a stigma for people having to tell their story. For me, there is nothing to find out about!”
The Mullinahone man makes a telling observation in ‘Wasted’, something that he’s ideally positioned to make in the light of his own experiences with alcohol.
“If you look at denial in Ireland people have an acceptance of the amount they drink and that level is very high.”
The culture of denial about our drink problem is practically as widespread as the drink problem itself. Reversing both these mindsets is a battle that shall not be easily won.