The booze blame game

Let's be honest. Australia is a nation that has always been fond of – for better or for worse – a booze-fuelled bender.

When the first fleet dumped some 700-odd shady characters on the sands of Sydney Cove on January 26, 1788 our first act as a nation was to crack open the grog and have a debauched beach party.

The bawdiness, rambunctiousness and violence of that night has never been tamed and alcohol related issues have remained a major social problem across the nation.

The recent, shocking violence in Sydney's Kings Cross has acted as lighting rod for politicians, bar operators and community members screaming for change. But will a positive change really take effect? Across Australia entertainment precincts like Brisbane's Fortitude Valley, Surfers Paradise and Melbourne's CBD have been struggling to contain alcohol related violence for years. This is not a new problem.

And it's too easy to blame the bars. It's easy to blame the laws and it's easy to blame the 'youth of today'. It also becomes easy to overlook the obvious and first step we should be promoting – personal responsibility and culpability for our own drinking.

I've put together a quick guide to help you identify what sort of drinker you are. You may move between a couple of these or none, but being self-aware of your drinking habits, especially when in public, is crucial to ensure we have a nightlife economy that's safe, fun and sustainable.

The Chardonnay Drinking Book Reader

Former NSW president of the Australian Hotels Association, John Thorpe, was famously quoted for describing Melbourne as a land of skivvy-wearing, chardonnay-drinking book readers – fundamentally different from Sydney in its drinking culture. Thorpe was laughed at and NSW heralded the law change that lead to the establishment of Sydney's thriving 'small bars'.

I don't know if I have ever seen a skivvy-wearing, chardonnay-drinking book reader in Melbourne or at any small bar I've visited, but they don't sound like too much trouble – if maybe a little antisocial. Drinking in moderation whilst leafing through your favourite tome is unlikely to offend anyone and entertainment – like reading the paper or a book – is proven to slow the rate at which you consume alcohol. If you're one of these drinkers good for you – just lose the skivvy as it's way too '90s.


The Social Tippler

Most Australians find it difficult to attend social functions without having a drink. If you're not drinking you'll most likely be hit with a barrage of questions aimed at your health or what Dry July-like charity you're supporting that month. It is OK not to drink – we know that – but invariably social pressure slips a schooner or two in our hands.

Social Tipplers aren't a problem though - they catch up with friends at a bar mid-week and enjoy a pint with the fellas at the local on Sundays. They're home well before the witching hour and prefer low-key gatherings to reach-for the-laser like parties.

Where social tipplers can lose their way is when they try to keep up with the group. If you are in a party ordering rounds it's easy to find yourself drinking at the pace of the quickest drinker. Take your time and be mindful to drink at your own pace or soon you'll be ordering those shots no one needs and be up for an all-night bender.

The Weekend Reveller

We've all felt the urge to go out and party on a Saturday night – it's so ingrained in our culture that those who stay at home are "no-life losers". But i'll tell you this for free – Saturday is absolutely the worst night of the week to go out. It's hard to book a taxi, the bars have queues of people waiting to get in, and once you finally sweet-talk the bouncer you have to wade through fellow revellers to reach the bar only to be subsequently ignored by the bartender.  Don't give in to the pressure, stay at home.

We never do though as there is something we find exciting about the press of people, the thumping of the music and acceptance of hedonistic behaviour. It's a time to let loose, forget the pressures of the week and get 'hammered'. It's risky behaviour. It's dangerous behaviour. Unfortunately it's behaviour well established and accepted in Australia.

A Weekend Reveller is someone who believes in everything in moderation – including moderation. They have a sense of entitlement to being smashed once per week. This is a sizable group of Australian drinkers – they're not necessarily thugs and hooligans – but after midnight it's hard to tell the difference.

The Binging Boozer

We've all over-indulged in demon drink and made a fool of ourselves at some stage or another. Judgement, logic and emotional restraint are severely impaired after a night of heavy drinking. For most of us these nights are few and far between – easy to laugh off, but the fact remains that at some stage you might have been that drunken lout abusing a cabbie.

A Binging Boozer can be anyone of us, but if you're racking up a few too many evenings you're struggling to remember maybe it's time to take stock of how you are drinking. If a mid-week catch-up leads to you stumbling home at 3am with a kebab smeared across your suit-jacket more often than not it's a fairly good sign you need to slow-down. Your drinking is starting to affect others, your work and your social life.

The key is to recognise your own behaviour and be proactive about doing something about it. Don't blame the bars or the pubs for your sore head – blame yourself.

How do you keep your drinking in check?