One thing I detest about New Zealand is the heavy/binge drinking culture here and the inevitable social consequences this brings. If you are in any doubt of the damage our habits are causing then take a look at the statistics on this site www.alac.org.nz
Most people might consider that I had a privileged upbringing. My father was a stockbroker in the city of London and my mother was a model before she married. London was party central in the late 60’s and 70’s. My parents moved in fashionable circles and had many rich and titled friends whom they entertained regularly. Alcohol was an accepted, if not an expected, part of daily life.
In my parents’ case, heavy drinking led to hideous rows centred around other problems in their personal lives, until the drinking itself became another problem to fight about. I have very vivid memories from about aged 7 of my brother and I covering our heads with our pillows to drown out the late night fights and to hide our own sobbing. The abusive and hurtful comments shouted at us by my mother during these times were usually forgotten by her in the morning – but such comments are not so easy for the small (sober) person on the receiving end of them to forget.
Don’t get me wrong – there was always food on our table, we were loved and we were encouraged to study hard and to be successful. Plus we werent subject to the physical violence that so often accompanies alcoholic relationships. But Sunday lunchtimes could be particularly painful as this was often the time when ‘issues’ were highlighted and our parents’ moods were unpredictable. At the tender age of 11 it dawned on me that adults make big mistakes and don’t always know how to sort them out – I became very self reliant and a bit of a loner.
After my mother’s death my father was griefstricken and turned to alcohol and a few likeminded friends for solace. It was only when visiting him in hospital when he was seriously ill that my brother and I dared to speak the unspoken word ‘alcoholism’ (they don’t prescribe Gin in hospital because the patient needs cheering up you know…). By then, the father I knew and loved was gone and had been replaced by a stranger. I walked away.
As part of the life coaching process recently I needed to go back and look at my past and find things to celebrate. I was prepared to come out fighting rather than do this exercise and I told Sian this. She in turn provided some explanation and context over my feelings about the past and all of a sudden, I understood a lot more about myself and a lot more settled.
So why am I telling you all of this?
Well, first of all I am no saint and there have been a couple of really dark periods in my life during which I drank more than was good for me. Thankfully I had loving people around me who were able to help pull me back.
People who regularly abuse alcohol are not just hurting themselves but also the people who love them (and as for drink drive and family violence stats – I am not even going to go there). As a parent I am very conscious of the peer pressure on young adults to binge drink and its hard to give advice to your kids without sounding like an overbearing killjoy. But lets face it – having your stomach pumped is not a rite of passage – its something to avoid at all cost.
By teaching our kids to drink responsibly (and by demonstrating the same approach ourselves) we can make changes.
Instead of the advert “Stop the family driving drunk – legend” shouldn’t we have instead “stop the family drinking – legend”?
Something to think about.