People often tell us how difficult it is drinking less in Irish society. Sinead was screamed at
by her friends. Beanyneamy was told
“You’re Irish and you don’t drink?”
So our friends can make drinking less, difficult. But are things changing?
Is our drinking culture changing?
For a few years, it appeared there was a trend towards drinking less. Our alcohol drinking was going down from the crazy highs of the Celtic Tiger. But in 2016 our overall drinking went up by nearly 5%.
These figures are from the Revenue Commissioners so they don’t show whether the number of people not drinking at all are going up. More Irish people seem to be going public on not drinking at all though.
Aoife McElwain’s story
Aoife wrote about her crippling hangovers and anxiety which finally convinced her to remove alcohol from her life. She had a job and relationship and did not see herself as an “alcoholic”. But she felt her life would be better without it. She found the first year very difficult and saw a therapist. But 5 years on she sees it as the most important life change she has made and her life is so much better. You can read her story here. Fair play to you Aoife.
Alison Canavan’s story
Alison Canavan the well-known model went public on her alcohol problem last year.
“We’re kind of brainwashed into thinking we need alcohol in social situations and to have any kind of personality at all. The whole thought of giving up alcohol to me when I knew it was a problem was, do I have a personality? Party Ali was a real identity, especially abroad. It was a badge of honour, ‘Canavan is Irish, and she can drink us under the table’.”
Alison said she never connected her drinking to the depression and anxiety she was suffering and the medication she was taking for those illnesses.
Although she found giving up alcohol very lonely, now Alison runs events to help people be happier in their lives and would never go back to drinking.
Aisling Keenan’s story
Aisling Keenan has never drunk. It never appealed to her. She finds it tough being a non-drinker. People look at her a “little bit peculiar”. She gets very personal questions from strangers. They ask her why she does not have a drink in her hand. These strangers have to find a reason why she does n’t drink.
“Is she mentally unwell or is she a former alcoholic?”
They become suspicious of her. Maybe she’s listening to them too closely. She might remember what they said when drunk and throw it back at them the next day.
It’s well worth while listening to Aisling’s insighful radio interview here
Do friends make drinking less, easy?
From what we’re hearing the answer has to be NO. Our attitudes towards drink, encouraged by advertising mean we see booze as essential to happiness. We dislike people drinking less unless they’re pregnant or “alcoholic”. So if you’re thinking you want to drink less, be prepared for friends reactions. Next week we’ll have a podcast on this.
Will we look back in horror?
Future generations will look back in horror at our current attitudes towards alcohol. Recently we were all horrified at the way Joanne Hayes was cruelly mistreated at the Kerry babies tribunal 30 odd years ago. The Government has now apologised to her.
In the future we will be scandalised we allowed such a dangerous drug to be advertised and sold with no health warnings despite 3 people a day dying from alcohol harm. Will we apologise to the 270,000 children suffering every year as a result of parents drinking?
Hopefully it won’t take 30 years for change. Brave people like Aoife, Alison and Aisling are leading the way.
Be part of the change
Next week we have the Public Health Alcohol bill coming back before the Dail. While this bill won’t solve all our alcohol problems it will help change attitudes. As we wrote here the Alcohol industry has been out in force and already the bill has been watered down.