Saturday, 23 March 2013

My Drinking/Your Drinking/Our Drinking

By Emily Longworth.

Nobody told me when I first started drinking that I was making an irreversible life choice. The ‘Drink Responsibly’ tagline in the shadows of alcohol endorsements and on the fine print of the unassuming tin would more suitably say ‘Welcome to your New Life of Alcoholism!’ because once you take a sip from the chalice of Chronic Excessive Drinking, you may never again return to your former self. 

Or at least, this is what I've learned in the past two weeks, when I made the very foolhardy decision of publicly announcing my intention to take a casual break from drinking. Apparently, this is not my decision to make. Many of my friends have severed ties with me, until I decide to ‘start being fun again’. This in itself is an insult, because I have strong kleptomaniac-tendencies coupled with an unshakeable partiality to fried food at the best of times, I'm definitely one of the people who doesn't need the elixir of alcohol to fuel my efforts in stealing and eating. If anything, my abstinence would be for the good of the colony; many fewer people would be subjected to the theft and subsequent consumption of their stuff.

Apparently the opposite is true; my drinking to excess on an on-going basis is now an integral part of our society. Without my contribution to sustaining the National Average Blood Alcohol Concentration, everyone else’s drinking is rendered futile. This is no exaggeration. Try it yourself – announce to any one of your friends on your next night out that you are decidedly abstaining from drink and they will interpret it as a challenge. This is the language of ‘Ah go on’, ‘You’ll have one’ and ‘Sure it’d be rude not to’. Because here in Ireland, it’s more socially acceptable to pressurise a person into drinking than it is to abstain from drink. Last time I checked, that was the opposite moral standpoint to every other country worldwide.

But this is not the fault of the individual – I’m not blaming you, dear reader, not by any means. Don’t put down that casual lunchtime naggin just yet! This is the fault of our entire Nation. Ireland has collectively dealt with its countrywide dependency on alcohol by embracing it. Drinking is an integral part of our heritage; sure didn’t Hugh O’Neill himself stop for a pint before he fled with the rest of the Earls? I’m sure I heard that he did. 

We accept the reality we are presented with, and for Irish people, that reality is a lifetime of closet alcoholism, which is self-propelling and community-dependant. I understand how this came to be, but I hate it. And so do you. Because this is far from what I anticipated when I was a younger, more innocent, less fashionable version of myself, supping on a feeble tin of Frosty Jack’s White Cider behind a shed somewhere, presumably. Whatever I thought drinking was then, I certainly didn't imagine it to be a commitment. Until last orders do us part, alcohol!

And I won’t deny that alcohol has served me well in our time together; ‘Two Naggins Longworth’ was a prominent member of the drinking community. I have no regrets about drink, and neither should you. But if your liver needs to take a break every so often, life should still go on. Ireland will have a pint ready should you change your mind.

This article originally appeared in the University Observer.

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