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Opinion

‘I didn’t want to be judgey and avoid the pub. Now I admit it – I hate being around drunk people’

The best company for pissed people is other pissed people. Sober people like me have no business getting involved, writes Sam Delaney.

When I first gave up drinking I didn’t want to become one of those judgey twats who avoids the pub. I still wanted to socialise with people who were drinking. To be honest, I didn’t have much alternative. Pretty much everyone I knew drank.

I was lucky. My oldest mates just accepted the fact I’d quit booze without barely a mention. They didn’t seem to have any issue with getting wankered in my company and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

But slowly – and without ever making the decision consciously – I have drifted away from nights out, particularly ones in the pub. I started out wanting to carry on living the same old social life only without the booze and drugs. But I’m almost seven years sober now and I am finally ready to admit that I fucking hate being around drunk people.

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If you like getting pissed I wish you all the best. I used to like it too. But the best company for pissed people is other pissed people. Sober people like me have no business getting involved. We can’t give drunken people what they need (ie, a merry recipient and enthusiastic provider of inebriated banter) and drunken people can’t give us what we want (a bit of peace).

I pretty much stay in every evening these days. My cat, my kids, my wife and a cup of tea provide sufficient glitz to my nightlife routine. But recently I went on a nationwide tour with my podcast, Top Flight Time Machine. It was great fun and I met loads of brilliant people. But I also found myself in the unwelcome company of pissed folk a few times and was reminded why I am usually tucked up in bed at 10pm.

There was the bleary-eyed musician in a pub who aggressively claimed I’d touched his guitar. There were the numerous people who spoke way too close to my face, splattering it with sour-smelling beery spittle (unwelcome at the best of times let alone amid a lingering pandemic).

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There were the high-volume, meandering anecdotes and incomprehensible, vaguely aggressive monologues. Outside a Premier Inn somewhere in the middle of nowhere at just gone midnight, I was surrounded by three pissed-up car park drinkers, who interrogated me about where I was from and what I was doing in their town. I just wanted to have a Snickers and go to bed. 

These were the sort of encounters I was well used to when I myself was a pisshead. Sometimes I was on the wrong side of them. Either way, being drunk sort of made all the mad shoutyness of other drunk people seem normal.

But when you’re sober it seems, at best, annoying and, at worst, intimidating. It’s alright for me: I am a bald- headed, six-foot-two, 46-year-old white man. I have grown up in London, am well used to encounters with weirdos and can look after myself. 

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But what if I was a more vulnerable person? What if my appearance made me more of an easy target? When I was on the piss, I might have thought all of the boozy attention I gave to strangers in public (and almost all of us have done it) was warm, friendly and well-intentioned. I now realise it probably didn’t come across that way to the recipients.

I’m all for people getting pissed and talking shit to each other. Far be it from me to dish out advice to the UK’s thriving pisshead community.

But the next time you’re pissed and think it would be a laugh to start talking to that stranger on the tube or the bus or in the car park, do us all a favour and don’t. You might be a perfectly nice person – but they don’t know that, do they?

Read more from Sam at samdelaney.substack.com

@DelaneyMan

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