‘Denialism’ sounds so much better than alcoholism

Jonathan Rhys Meyers said this week that he doesn’t ‘suffer from alcoholism – I suffer from an allergy to alcohol every time I drink it.’

I don’t know Mr Meyers or his drinking habits, so I’m not going to comment on his situation, but I’ve heard such statements many times from people who ‘don’t suffer from alcoholism’ either.

“It wasn’t me, it was the whiskey, I didn’t punch the barman in the face, I slipped, I’ve done nothing wrong, my ex, my dole officer, my mate called over with gin, my mother etc..” If it weren’t for them, then the alcoholic would be fine.

We should rename alcoholism, denialism. Then when people finally go to rehab they can stand up in front of their group and say ‘I’m no longer a denialist.’

Obviously this is the biggest step denialists can take- realising that they have a problem. Until then, nothing we do can help them.

Unfortunately, a lot of loved ones fall into the trap of denial themselves and rather than address the issue, they too blame circumstance, other people or some kind of vendetta.

‘Now usually he wouldn’t, he’s very stressed, he’s upset…” Well what about you, you’re stressed, you’re upset. Who will look after you? Certainly, not the alcoholic or addict in question. They’re in denial remember.

Everyone wants to believe the best of those they love thereby allowing them to continue dangerous behaviour. Women, especially are known for this kind of enabling. They go along with the alcoholics narrative and tip toe, deny, find excuses and shoulder the blame. It’s a tedious, tiresome, long, boring road.

Last year, Rhys Meyers wife took to social media to explain why her husband had been drunk in public, stating ‘he has been able to turn the hurt in his life into art and is the strongest person I know. I don’t know anyone who has been through what he has and reached his level of success.”

I admire him for his success and, and her for standing up for him, that’s what people do, but it can be dangerous game.

More than 150,000 Irish people are dependent drinkers, more than a 1.35 million are harmful drinkers, and alcohol is the cause of 88 deaths every month, and yet most of these don’t have a problem is you ask them or their significant others.

I’m sure there’s lots of functioning friendly alcoholics out there worth defending, but let’s face it, where there’s alcoholism, there’s destruction, lies, ill health, monetary loses, family dysfunction, isolation, paranoia, passing blame, brain damage, and of course denial.

Once you let people away with stuff, they do it again, and again.

According to the DARA, a drug and alcohol rehab clinic in Thailand, this dysfunctional relationship with an enabler allows ‘alcoholics to ignore and be disconnected from the consequences of their behaviour.”  

“An enabler will often not want to face up to the consequences of their own behavior and relationship with the addict and deny many of the things they do to help the user continue to take drugs or drink alcohol.”

So why do people deny the massive elephant in the room? Obviously pride, fear, shame, stigma. What will the friends, neighbours think? Well they’re probably already talking behind your back, so coming clean is probably better. It’s hard work when all involved are trying to keep up the pretence.

Enablers subject themselves to a life with an alcoholic, be it out of circumstance, fear, low self esteem, or just conditioning. Rather than confront it, they tirelessly work on behalf of the alcoholic, who is busy trying to figure out where to have the next pint.

We always get told to have compassion for alcoholics. Mine is contained. My pity party will always be smaller than it is for their kids or families, who are the real victims. It’s awful for kids, who don’t have the option and grow up in this environment.

I don’t buy the “I’ve suffered, hence I can unleash untold suffering onto others, and potentially create a never ending generational cycle of alcoholism in my family.”

Alcohol is a significant contributory factor in many cases of child neglect. Alcohol-related discharges from hospital cost the taxpayer over €1.5 billion. One in four deaths of young men aged 15 to 39 are due to alcohol. Its a factor in half of all suicides in Ireland and involved in over a third of cases of deliberate self-harm.

And people are defending this?

I don’t like to bunch all alcoholics together because they are so different, and some have had a really tough journey, but its fair to say that all of them inflict hurt on those closest to them. We’re told ‘people are not their behaviours’ but that’s kind of convenient too.

So there needs to have an honest discussion about alcoholism and denial. A failure to recognise it will take its toll on society and health service. If it is an illness then denial is certainly not going to make it go away.

C list celebrities who never had a real drinking problem, posting stuff about ‘their recovery’ online isn’t the answer. Real alcoholics don’t respond to that kind of thing.

As long as the enabler is in denial, so is the alcoholic.

It’s an uncomfortable situation, because once people stop being in denial, they have to become merciless with rules. Be strict. Don’t drink with them, and if it’s too unbearable, which it can be, leave.

Even friends fall into the trap of denying their mates are raging alcoholics. Its their life after all, plus they can be a bit of craic.

If the alcoholic continues to drink, after rules have been put in place, then those they are close to will have to accept that alcohol will always be number one, and they are merely the mistress.