“It’s just the booze talking…”

by Annie Kaszina on December 5, 2011

It’s not often that my wonderful partner drinks to excess – not least because he has quite an impressive capacity to hold his drink. But last Thursday we flew to Venice, as dawn broke over the UK. It made for a very early start, and a long day.

By 9 pm we staggered back to our hotel room (in the enchanting Duodo Palace Hotel), exhausted, to find a perfectly chilled, complimentary bottle of Prosecco waiting for us.

It was, of course, a lovely surprise. It made me feel even warmer and fuzzier than I usually feel in Venice, but…

The fact is, I don’t drink Prosecco. It doesn’t work for me, at all. Sparkling alcohol makes me feel very, very unwell, very quickly. So, I embraced all the good feelings the Prosecco represented, and took no more than a couple of lady-like sips from my glass.

My partner, on the other hand, felt obliged to ‘do his duty’ by the Prosecco. And he did. Most of the bottle disappeared in very short order.

We hadn’t eaten too much that day, and the alcohol went to his head very quickly. So much so that he struggled to orient himself in our double room with bath. (Had we had the Presidential Suite, his disorientation might have been more understandable.)

He did a few laps of the bedroom, looking for the entrance to the bathroom (which was not either lost or concealed.) In mild irritation, I pointed out to him – since he had yet to realize it to my satisfaction – that he was quite drunk.

Drawing himself up to his full height, he said: “I’ll tell you one thing. I may be drunk, but I am never, ever, a nasty drunk. I’ll pass out before I say something that is nasty and out of character. I just don’t believe it when people say: ‘It’s not me. It’s just the drink talking.’ It’s NOT the drink talking. It’s them being themselves. The drink doesn’t talk. It just frees nasty people up to be who they truly are.”

He then went to bed, and woke up the next morning in his usual sunny mood.

I work with a lot of women who tell me their partner is only ever nasty when drunk, because “it’s the booze talking”.

Since it’s only the booze talking – and the poor poppet pouring it down his neck need take no responsibility for that – it can’t possibly be his fault if he behaves badly, can it? Which means his partner colludes with him in pretending ‘everything’ is all right really.

Who benefits from that denial?

I give you one guess…

Many years ago, before I started doing the work I now do, I had a client who told me the only time her husband had ever behaved badly towards her was when he was drunk. As she told it, she’d told him, in no uncertain terms, that if he ever got drunk again, she’d leave him, and take half the – thriving – family business. He had, she said, seen the light, it had never happened again, and they’d lived happily ever after….

Only, it wasn’t quite so happily, according to their daughter, who had clear memories of him hitting her mother.

Still, being a versatile sort of chap, at some point, he had seen the error of his ways, and he’d turned his undoubtedly bright mind to other activities; like trying to seduce his wife’s female friends, and acquaintances… including me. (Being – deservedly – unsure of his own physical charms, he even threw in a small financial “sweetener”.)

The moral of this story is that, when sober, he was a different kind of unsavory.

My own abusive husband reserved his verbal nastiness for when he was sober, and thinking clearly about exactly which barbs would hit home. When drunk, he wallowed in self-pity. Life was hopeless, everything was hopeless, he’d had such a tough time, in life. When drunk, he was as miserable a man as ever lived.

And, in his case, too, I can’t help feeling my partner’s judgement was right: the drink allowed him to reveal what lay behind the bully mask – and that was self-pity, powerlessness, lack of hope, and lack of connection with the world.

Let’s look at this another way. Suppose your abusive partner noticed you had put on a pound or two and, in his usual charm-free way, said you were losing your looks, and getting fat – or similar. If you tried to explain to him that it wasn’t really your fault, it was just the chocolate cake talking to you, would he believe it? Would he say? “Okay, honey, I understand. The chocolate cake is to blame. So, let’s you and me, put the whole thing behind us, and try our hardest to make this relationship work?”

Can you imagine him ever saying that?

I didn’t think so.

There is an interesting dynamic in abusive relationships: he holds you to blame for everything, and he is never to blame for anything.

The booze is to blame.

The children can be to blame– because they come between you.

His work is to blame.

His upbringing is to blame.

His stress levels are to blame.

And, of course, YOU are to blame.

So, here’s my advice. If you don’t know quite what to get your abusive partner for Christmas, how about this: a lovely tattoo for his forehead that reads:

NOT MY FAULT.

If you’re still working at holding the relationship together, then best make it his and hers forehead tattoos. Yours will read:

ALL MY FAULT

Or you could take on board this simple idea: inasmuch as anyone can ever be responsible for what comes out of his mouth, it might as well be him. After all, you’re responsible for what comes out of yours.

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