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Dublin: 10 °C Sunday 21 September, 2014

Column: Ongoing alcohol misuse in Ireland is ruining individuals and families

Over half of all Irish drinkers have a harmful pattern of drinking; don’t be fooled into thinking alcohol misuse is ‘normal’ or has no affect on your personal relationships, writes Tony Moore.

Tony Moore

IT IS NOT a surprise, unfortunately, to say that Ireland and some other countries are in the grip of alcohol and drug addictions. Although drug misuse gets major headlines, quite rightly, it is the ongoing alcohol misuse that is ruining individuals and families.

Alcohol action Ireland state; ”Over half of all Irish drinkers have a harmful pattern of drinking, that’s 4 in 10 women and 7 in 10 men who drink, which amounts to an estimated 1,453,250 adults “. If you are not shocked and worried by that statistic maybe you should be.

Drinking, and increasingly, drug use, is becoming the norm. Periodically TV programmes and newspapers will highlight this problem. Despite all the research and scholarly papers, things are getting worse. The use and abuse is, from my experience, down to ‘self-medication’ to try and manage stress, pressure and boredom. We use these drugs (including alcohol) as an avoidance strategy and a coping mechanism to help us get through the day and night.

Searching for Shangri-La

Despite advances in health, housing and technology, we are more miserable than ever. We all are searching for a Shangri-La that doesn’t exist except in fiction. Yet we are constantly told that if we do this or buy that we will attain the happiness and contentment that has so far eluded us all.

It’s a sad fact that the majority of violence is drink related; 76 per cent of defendants in rape cases said they were drunk at the time of the alleged offence. One in eleven people say they have been assaulted by another family member after consuming alcohol. I know from my work experience, both within Relationships Ireland, and outside of that organisation, that anyone and everyone is vulnerable after drinking. The classic response to reading such figures is to say that ‘these figures are wrong and do not apply to me’. Sadly, they apply to everyone.

The effect on loved ones

The abuse of drink and drugs is nothing new. We, sometimes, applaud certain individuals for their outrageous drinking habits. We describe some as flawed geniuses. What we do not see and would prefer to disregard is the shocking life their family members have suffered to cope with this so-called genius. Those family members, including children, have experienced things no child should experience. Don’t think either this is class-based because it is not. A bruise is a bruise no matter from whom or whence it came.

Using alcohol as ‘medication’ is and will continue to be the default response to our increasing level of unhappiness and anxiety. There is an increasing gulf between the ‘elite’ and the rest of us, as Lord David Owen, former UK foreign secretary described us as, “The poor bloody infantry”. We feel we need an increasing amount of alcohol and drugs to help us cope and get through the day. The strength of the alcohol and the drugs we use is also increasing, thereby creating further problems.

A lot of people worry about the future. We wear a mask of affability and good humour, and we are generally good at it. There always has been, and always will be, something to worry about. The difference today is that there seems to be an increasing, constant and unrelenting demand on “The poor bloody infantry” to ‘perform’ perfectly whether it’s at work or in the home.

How do we cope with this pressure? By having a drink, or three, and putting off thinking about it until tomorrow?

Tony Moore is a counsellor for Relationships Ireland. Relationships Ireland is a not-for-profit organisation that offers confidential counselling and currently has a special introductory offer for an initial consultation. For more information or to book a consultation you can contact 1890 380 380, email info@relationshipsireland.com or visit www.relationshipsireland.com.

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