Sunday 17 November 2019

If you're really Paul's friend, don't buy him a drink

Paul McGrath says he always hated hearing George Best was back drinking
Paul McGrath says he always hated hearing George Best was back drinking

Paul McGrath is an alcoholic, everyone knows this. We all know of this poor man's troubled past and his constant quest to stay sober. So why then do these idiots who call themselves, 'friends' buy him drinks? With friends like these you don't need enemies.

At a recent wedding, McGrath's 'friends' offered him drinks, which then led to an overnight bender and his eventual arrest. McGrath became verbally abusive to staff at the Tullamore Court hotel after the wedding when they found him trying to gain access to two locked cars in a rear car park.

Would you buy someone with lung cancer a packet of cigarettes? Would you buy someone with a severe and life-threatening nut allergy a bag of peanuts? Seriously, why are people still pushing drink on McGrath when he has openly admitted how much he wants to stay sober?

Alcoholism is viewed by many as a disease, like cancer. These so-called 'friends', and indeed all of his fans, need to understand that buying McGrath a drink is actually incredibly dangerous and, in fact, downright cruel.

This is a man who in his autobiography, 'Back From The Brink' admitted, "towards the end of my second marriage I was so desperate for a drink that, when the cupboards were empty, I filled a pint glass with Domestos. I drank it in one and went upstairs and waited – for oblivion or death."

Clearly this is not a man who can have one or two social drinks. His best friend, soccer coach Joey Malone, has said that he is terrified McGrath will end up drowned in the River Liffey or beaten to death in the street.

He has been pleading with fans and publicans not to give Paul any drink. He explained it in very simple terms: "Fans love him but they are killing him if they buy him drinks."

We live in a country where socialising equals drinking. Even though we have become more progressive and outward looking, it is still an anomaly not to drink. A friend of mine who doesn't drink says she still feels like a social pariah and people try to push drink on her all the time, even when she's made it clear she's a teetotaller.

McGrath isn't the first Irish footballer with a serious drink problem. George Best went from being one of the most famous sportsmen and heartthrobs in the world to a sad, shrunken, shadow of his former self.

Here was another man with a severe addiction to alcohol who 'fans' kept buying drinks for. As Best sadly described it: "Everyone's delighted to see me acting the way I'm supposed to. Nothing disappoints the public more than me sober."

Speaking about Best, McGrath has said, "I always hated hearing George was back on the drink. And when he died, all the people who love me said: 'This is where your path also ends'."

There is little doubt that McGrath's traumatic childhood is the root of his problems with alcohol. The son of an Irish mother and Nigerian father whom he never knew, he was put into foster care at the age of 10 weeks and thereafter brought up in a series of Dublin orphanages. In one of the orphanages he was beaten, when he wet the bed, to the refrain of, "dirty, little, nigger boy".

McGrath knows his demons. He understands his disease but how can he control it if fake friends and fans continue to push drink on him?

The next time you see him stop and think – would you loosen the brakes on someone's car? Of course not. Well that's exactly what you're doing when you offer Paul McGrath a drink. You are literally putting his life in danger. If he cannot stay away from alcohol it will eventually kill him.

As someone we all respect and admire, let's try to help this gentle man and not push him into the dark place he tries so hard to get out of. As he says himself, "When I drink I become a pest and end up hating myself in the morning. It's just a chronic lack of self-esteem – thinking you're going to be better with a skinful."

From now on, if you see McGrath, offer him a pat on the back and a coke. Surely what we all want is to help one of our most beloved sporting legends to get well.

Irish Independent

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