The end of exams has come and gone, and I can’t help but feel that I dodged a bullet (in the liver) by not participating in any form of booze-fuelled celebration beyond sharing a glass of wine with my man at home.
I have alcohol on the brain–not literally–because of the recent report released by The Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD). Fittingly, when my go-to radio station reported on it, they described it as ‘sobering’ (GEDDIT?). The report is long and full of wordiness (as reports often are), but the gist of it is this:
Australians have a bit of a problem with alcohol. Specifically, it’s responsible for the deaths of one in eight and the hospitalisation of one-fifth of people under 25.
But we’re just having a few on the weekend, right? Like, “I don’t have a drinking problem; I just like to have fun when I get off work”?
I remember observing someone on my Facebook whose status was always alcohol-related.
Just having some beers with the boys! he’d write on a Friday night.
Cannot wait to get home from work and crack some brewskies, he’d post most afternoons.
Fucking hangover from hell, he’d complain more often than is healthy.
I was tempted more than once to comment on his statuses with “I think you have a problem” or just private message him a link to Alcoholics Anonymous.
Bit harsh of me, right? He’s just a young man with an active social life who also likes to drink to wind down, isn’t he? To me, his constant references to alcohol, and the fact that he wasn’t just drinking but ‘getting maggot’ several nights a week, signals an addiction. If someone’s every status update was about how they can’t wait to have a cigarette/are dying for a ciggy/smoked sooo many durries last night, you’d assume they were addicted to nicotene, wouldn’t you?
I’m not much of a drinker–very much a light-weight and not a fan of losing control–but I’ve had my fair share of nights on the town. The common denominator is always alcohol, and lots of it. In fact, for most people, the whole point of a night out is to get pissed beyond all help. Event invites often specifically call for attendees to ‘get super drunk with me’, ‘drink our cares away’, or ‘celebrate graduation by wiping all the information we learned during our degree with booze’. There are even gatherings before the gatherings so that we can get nicely hammered before heading to the bar to save money. We’re so resourceful.
If you don’t think drinking is that important to our social culture, just try going out with your piss-head friends and staying sober. You will be asked at least 50 times why you’re not drinking, offered 100 drinks by friends and strangers alike, urged to ‘just have one’, interrogated about whether you’re having fun, and complimented about how ‘good’ you’re being. I’m not saying that it’s not fun to go out without drinking–if you’re like me and can dance stone sober to elevator music–but you will come up against a lot of weird looks and no matter how hard you try, you just won’t be as interested in bitching/flirting/crying/throwing up as your friends are.
After my first sober night out, I knew that it wasn’t my scene. (Actually, to be honest, even drunky-pants me knew that it wasn’t my scene, but her brain was swimming in enough vodka to endure.) There are heaps of fun things to do with friends that don’t involve drinking, but it turns out that going out to nightclubs isn’t one of them. It could be that it’s just me (it often is), but having sweaty people grind up against me, elbowing my way around, and shouting myself hoarse while trying to have a conversation do not equate to having a good time. Give me a group of hilarious friends and a good meal any day of the week.
This isn’t to say that I’m against drinking all together. Sometimes it is genuinely fun to gather with friends and enjoy some good wine, cold beer, or delicious cider in abundance. But not every night. Not even every weekend. Since becoming a complete loved-up old person, I’ve come to appreciate alcohol for its taste–yes, it has a taste!–which makes guzzling it down (particularly through a tube) feel like a bit of a waste. When I was eighteen, I hated the taste of all booze, but I liked the social aspect of getting drunk. The number of times I had a shot with a friend and made a disgusted face is probably in the thousands. I don’t know how many times I turned to someone and admitted, “I’m not even thirsty.” Weirdly enough, as soon as I stopped abusing alcohol, I began to actually explore it as a beverage (as opposed to a bitter tonic prescribed for soberness).
The ANCD recommends an overhaul of regulations to limit availability and advertising, but, as we’ve seen time and again, making something taboo and hard to obtain is not a great way to stop people using it. If anything, it makes the substance more attractive. Rather than shielding young people from alcohol (and then suddenly allowing them free reign when they reach eighteen), we should be working on changing people’s attitudes towards booze from the time that they are children. Start by making it less of a big deal. Warning your child that they should never drink this ‘poison’ between sips of beer is not effective deterrence. Getting yourself horribly injured in a drinking-induced accident might be, but is a painful way to teach your kid a lesson (and is likely to have some pscyhological effects beyond those you intended). If they just see alcohol as an occasional thing that their parents partake in with their dinner, then they’re less likely to associate any special meaning to it. If they ask for a sip, give them a tiny one; if they’re anything like I was as a child they’ll spit it out and tell you it’s gross.
Of course, yes, I realise that peer pressure is the big one, and some kids will always see alcohol as some beacon of awesomeness, but maybe if there are more of them that look at a sack of goon and say, “no thanks, I don’t drink that shit; I’ll just have a nice glass of this Pinot Grigio”, the abusive culture might start to fade (and Passion Pop will finally face extinction).
Anyway, I’m off to enjoy a nice spot of crack.