The not-so-fond and semi-distant memory of pandemic existence – defined by a myriad of yo-yoing restrictions that indefinitely put life on pause, birthed the Talking Bollox Podcast. Unapologetically embracing their working-class roots, Calvin O’ Brien and Terence Power – a duo of compelling storytellers with impeccable comic timing, have created a homegrown podcast phenomenon. Yes, the podcast does literally “talk bollox” (the zingers segment instantly comes to mind); however, it also talks about the things that we often struggle to open up about.
Episode 22 – entitled “Relapse”, resonated with me. Terence talked candidly about a particular setback in his recovery from alcohol addiction, while Calvin recounted his experience supporting his co-host.
Wanting to know more, I asked the Talking Bollox Podcast about being sober in a country defined by its extreme relationship with alcohol.
The term ‘alcho’ is batted around so casually, usually in relation to a middle-aged man who is basically part of the furniture in the local pub. People seem to say, “Ah that’s just X, he’s fond of the drink”. We don’t seem to be able to take alcoholism seriously, or even call it out for what it is. Why do you think this is?
“We have an awful problem with alcohol in this country. One or two is never one or two in Ireland. We over drink. We overdo it. A lot of the time I don’t think we drink to socialise – I think we socialise to drink. But at a point – it stops being social and starts to be anti-social.” (Calvin)
“The “here’s trouble” drinker – I would’ve been that person. That’s not normal but it is normalised.” (Terence)
What kind of reaction did you guys get from the ‘Relapse’ episode?
“Not a lot of people could relate but everyone wanted to relate. We got some messages asking how we’ve gotten to the place that we have – people asking what they should do. We are not councillors, but we can give advice from someone who has been there.” (Terence)
“A lot of people might think we are anti-alcohol, but we’re not. If you know your limit and you are in control – work away. But it’s when you start lying, drinking at home, doing the three four five six days a week that there’s a problem. I’ve been there myself.” (Terence)
“I got a lot of negative feedback. People were wary. Some people find it unsettling being around a sober person. People think that I’m judgmental. I don’t need drink to make stupid decisions. When you go to a social setting and say you’re not drinking, anyone who has an adverse reaction – that’s the person with the problem.” (Calvin)
What advice would you give anyone who feels as if they may have a problem?
“Go and get help. Terence was going cold turkey. He had all good intentions, but I knew one day it was going to catch up on him. There is support out there. Reach out. Counselling, AA. Some people don’t want to stand up and say “Hi I’m Paul and I’m an alcoholic” – it’s daunting. There are other forms of help.” (Calvin)
“For me, you don’t need yes men around you when you have a problem.” (Terence)
“Some people say I haven’t had a drink in thirty days – those thirty days are fucking hard, that is a milestone, so acknowledge that.” (Calvin)
Do you feel like people respect your sobriety?
“When people know I don’t drink and they know that I’ve previously had a problem with it, they are very careful. Whereas with Calvin – who has never had a serious problem with drink, they don’t respect it.” (Terence)
“What really annoys me – I’ll meet someone for the first time and they’ll say “ah you’ll have one for me”. I don’t know you? This fella I met twenty minutes ago at a bar thinks I’m going to have a shot just for him.” (Calvin)
Do you think the attitude towards alcohol is slowly changing in Ireland?
“I do, but I also think it’s a generational cycle. It’s so normal to grow up in a household where your Ma and Da drink most days of the week. It’s normalised. You become a product of your environment.” (Terence)
“Every budget they increase the price of alcohol – It doesn’t discourage people – it causes more strain. If a pint costs you a fiver and now, it’s €5.50 – you’re still going to buy the pint. If you’re going to tax drink, that money should go into funding alcohol causes like rehab or A.A.” (Calvin)
Podcast: Talking Bollox Podcast