The precariously stacked house of cards that is our British drinking culture uses many falsities as its foundation. But the myth of the “nice drunk” is my absolute favourite.
You know the one, right? Hail-fellow-well-met. Everyone’s pal. The life and soul. Always great for a laugh, cracking jokes. The one you’d always prefer to be sat next to on a night out. Witty. Good drinker. Generous. Entertaining. Yeah, drinks more than is recommended but doesn’t everyone? And truly is so nice with it that there’s just no harm.
Drunks hate themselves. End of. All drunks know deep down they have a drinking problem. No exception.
All alcohol abuse involves overconsumption of a chemical depressant.
Someone always has to pay the price for that.
Odds are it is never going to be the person they drink with publicly. Drunks are very emotionally intelligent; it would serve no purpose to let the mask slip around the people who willingly facilitate their drinking because they believe it’s not detrimental to this person’s personality. Drunks are highly manipulative. To the point where even an alcoholic in the midst of a blackout will be able to show some semblance of normal behaviour in front of people they know will attach consequence to their bad behaviour.
The people at home are a different story.
A “nice drunk” will morph into a nasty, aggressive, frightening person behind closed doors. Someone has to bear the brunt for the hatred a drunk feels. Someone has to be the mirror for all this pent-up pessimism. Always a wife or husband will be the first. Children never escape this. All will be held accountable for the injustices the “nice drunk” is unable to vent against in good company. A monologue of bitter diatribe will be the start. Senseless histrionics will be the end.
No one is left unharmed.
Even if there is no violence, it will always be suggested. If words are the only weapon of choice? The damage is still done. It is estimated that 5 people are immediately affected by one person’s abusive alcohol intake. Out of those 5 none of them will consist of drinking cronies. Work mates. Extended family. Lads down the local.
The real difficulty of the “nice drunk” is getting other people to take an allegation of a drinking problem seriously. At least the out-and-out aggressive drunk will have had many people bear witness to their appalling behaviour. The “nice drunk” will have an army of well-meaning people ready to come to their defence. Which is a shame. Because it’s all lies.
“nice drunks” don’t exist. Anyone who abuses alcohol has someone in their life who is paying the price for it. Always. Behind closed doors. Someone is suffering in silence because of the “nice drunks” ability to wear a mask in public so well.
As ever the answer is not insisting this person stops drinking. Because it’s not going to happen. Yet. The answer lies in seeing the people around the “nice drunk” with new eyes. Checking that the husband/wife/children really are okay. Asking if they need any help. Because guaranteed they will feel too foolish to ask.
The optical illusion of the “nice drunk” is something so obvious. So blatant that we can’t even see it anymore. It’s time for us all to take a step back. Have a proper look. Re-evaluate what we are looking at. For the sake of the ones who are living with the nightmare reality of the “nice drunk” on a daily basis.
Stack the deck in their favour a bit more. Before this house of cards falls down around us and leaves all but them shocked by the fall.