Sunday, September 23, 2007

the Irish disease

Following on from a previous post from Conformist #1 about secret drinking...

Over the weekend I learnt that a (distant) cousin of mine had passed away aged 38. I had only recently met him at a family occasion and can't pretend that we knew each other all that well, but my mother is quite upset about it. When she told me about his death she mentioned that he was fond of the drink. I didn't know that meself; hadn't seen him laying into the booze at family get togethers but by all accounts he was an awful boozehound.

'Fond of the drink' seems to be a very Irish thing. It means you're an alcoholic but maintaining some sort of normal life. And once you've got a sembelance of normality going on then it can't be too serious.

I'm counting up immediate family members that are 'fond of the booze'. Five of 'em. And I don't think my family is any way unusual in this. Surely there can't be many countries where barely functioning alcoholics are considered the norm.

For two of those people the drink became a REAL problem. Thats because one of them went batty and had to be hospitalised. The other one became a street wino in London and we haven't seen him in years. We know hes an alco because thats how far he sank as opposed to just drinking around the house like some of the others.

The Irish disease is well known; none of what I've posted is news to anybody reading it. And I'm sure after they bury my cousin we'll all go to the house and have a few jars; after all its what he would've wanted...


  1. Weird to get that visceral little thrill from realising two of us are on the blog at such an unearthly hour. You have to love technology.

    I know we all joke about bring "fond of the drink" but my Grandfather was one of them, he died of a heart attack in his sixties. I have an aquaintance who seems to be too the more I get to know him.

    It's just accepted, an occupational hazard of being Irish.

  2. I think Finns and Poles do it too. They drink harder than us. I wonder is there a connection between hours of sunlight - I think we have a chemical/hormonal/vitamin deficit that leads to a certain kind of depression which encourages drinking.

    Spaniards and Italians seem to have a hapier relationship with alcohol, and get a lot more sunshine.

    Of course it has to do with supression of emotion aswell.

  3. Alcoholism is on the rise among women, and as our bodies aren't as well equiped to handle alcohol their are women in their twneties with liver disease, so for women the couple of glasses of wine each night is deadly. I think women drinking heavily is connected to the laddette culture of the 90's. Or maybe it's to do with the fact that for years women weren't allowed in pubs, we didn't drink or smoke and now we are going mad?
    As for functional alcoholics, I know a few, in my early twenties I confronted my dad about his drinking (it had been a huge issue for most of my childhood) He eventually forgave me for that and I'd say he's under no illusions about himself now. He drinks at least a bottle of wine most evenings, the fuuny thing is though, due to health issues he's had top to toe medical tests recently and his liver is perfect, while my mother, who never drank was asked how much she drank a day!
    Don't know where I'm going with this, I suppose it's scary for me being the daughter (and granddaughter) of an alcoholic makes me uber aware of my drinking, I feel uncomfortable sometimes because of it, I don't like it if I've drunk everyday for a week (even if it's only one drink) I try to have four drink free days a week, but sometimes when I'm stressed I can ignore my rule. That scares me! Btw my dad is a lovely loving man, never a nasty drunk, and we have made our peace now and get on fine, he's a wonderful grandfather and I'd hate to think that his drinking had shortened his life in any way.Sorry GB, long comment!

  4. Sorry Jo their/there...always made my english teacher see red!!I'm shattered this morning, up four times with the nearly four year old, twice with the baby, and my dreams were peppered with dreams of snakes!

  5. I can take or leave drink much more than the average punter but I still wholly endorse the Irish drinking culture. I take pride in being part of the drinking/pub culture; diss other nations that can't drink as well, etc.

    I don't know if i've said it before, but I usually connect Irish drinking with America and guns, Spain and smoking and Africa and sexuality: they're all things that kill us (some more than others) but they are bigger than the individual, social culture can take centuries to change.

    JM - I def think the sun is a factor, unlike the gargle I'm a full on sugar addict, yet when I'm in hot sunny countries I don't need to go near the stuff.

  6. I come from a family of them too I suppose. It's why I came to drink so late in life (18 was late where I came from). I spent a lot of weekend time when I was a kid in pubs sampling the delights of King pub crisps and frequently when we went to family members houses for get togethers etc everyone was usually lashed so I was (hard to believe for those here who know me) the prissy one tutting and disapproving of friends sneaking a couple of cans of Ritz when I was a teenager.

    Hasn't stopped me though so I wonder how much of a genetic element is involved? There was a time in my 20s when I could have coached the Irish Olympic drinking team, now I try my best not to over indulge although like so many of us in times of stress it's the first port of refuge.