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Drunken rambles or a cry for help?

By Orla Brady

Sometimes a drunken conversation is the first step to getting help. Orla Brady shares some advice for navigating tough conversations with friends while under the influence.

All of us who enjoy a tipple or two have been there. Waking up in the morning and remembering the hazy conversations from the night before. Then, all of a sudden, we remember that piece of deeply personal information that we have shared during a drunken conversation. The gut-wrenching feeling that comes along with this seems impossible to shake off, and it happens whether we overshare with a stranger or even our closest friends. We spend the day contemplating what possessed us to tell such an intimate detail of our lives and we push our brain to access a part of our memory that has been irreversibly wiped clear. Then we condemn our drunken alter ego and swear off the drink for the rest of our lives. Well, except for that pub crawl next weekend. 

Once “the fear” has been exorcised from our minds through sleep, litres of fizzy juice, and a takeaway, the panic may start to subside. We begin to recall the times when we have been at the receiving end of someone’s drunken ramblings and reassure ourselves that we soon forgot about them, and it is highly probable that your victim will do the same. 

But what do we do if someone shares something with us that raises alarm bells regarding their wellbeing? If this happens on a night out, or at a party, it can be easy to brush it off as emotional drunkenness – but does a serious conversation have any less value if it is done under the influence? 

These are situations in which we have to trust our own judgement. Depending on how close the relationship is, you may feel that bringing up the topic again, this time in an alcohol-free environment, is the best way to support your friend through whatever they are going through. This may cause a negative reaction triggered by embarrassment and regret on their part and, if this is the case, it may be best to end the conversation whilst making clear that if they need to talk then you want to support them. However, it could be met with gratitude and relief as that person now knows that they have your help and support. This may encourage them to tackle their issues with a clear and sober mind. 

Those who are vocal and open regarding topics such as their mental health or past experiences may find that others approach them looking for advice or reassurance. Whilst it can be healthy in a friendship or relationship to talk things through and look to one another for help, all individuals who are involved must take into consideration their own wellbeing. If someone is not taking your advice or behaving in a destructive way that is damaging to those around them, it is critical that you consider what is best for you. This is particularly important for those who have suffered from problems with their mental health in the past. Walking away may be the only option under these circumstances, however, this does not make you any less of a friend as you can do so knowing that you tried to help as best you could.

Similarly, if you experience a friend becoming emotional or distressed on multiple occasions whilst drinking, yet your attempt to talk through this whilst sober is shot down each time, there is truly not a great deal more that you can do. If their actions begin to impact on your ability to have a good time on a night out, or you find yourself repeatedly isolating yourself from the crowd in order to comfort this friend, it may be beneficial to ask other members of your group to have a chat with the individual about this issue. Hearing the impact that their behaviour is having on others from more than one person could encourage them to uncover what is really going on to make them act in this way. 

If you realise that you have been the one who has opened up to a friend or an acquaintance whilst drinking, your default solution may be to apologise. If you cannot remember what was said but have a feeling that you said more than you feel comfortable with, the best place to start is to ask the person. This takes a lot of guts as it entails returning to the scene of the crime, and facing the embarrassment and shame. However, it may give you a clear indication as to whether you were comically spouting nonsense, and therefore worrying about nothing, or attempting to cope with repressed worries and emotions at the wrong place and time. 

A good friend will take you through what was said whilst accepting your apology and offering reassurance that they are there for you. After talking it through, your anxiety will be significantly reduced, and you will be able to clarify whether this was a one-off or if there is something more serious going on that you have been unaware of and should consider working through. However, if the apology is met with judgement and evasion, or you’re made to feel bad about what you’ve said, it may be a sign that this is not the best person to have in your life. 

We all know that things can be said under the influence that we later regret and “the fear” makes sure we feel even more guilty about this than we should. We also know the common belief held by many that alcohol spills the truth. Whilst I do not believe that this is the case, I do think that it can encourage us to discuss or reveal information that we would normally keep to ourselves. Yes, this can be hilarious during a game of Never Have I Ever, but it can also lead to serious revelations that should not be forgotten the morning after. 


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