Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Just One Swig (A is for Alcohol -- Day 1 of the A to Z challenge)
My first time was in 10th grade. In a bush outside a house on Minisink Way.
Puked. Chucked. Barfed. All it took was one big swig of vodka. And there I was throwing up in front of everyone. It was so embarrassing. Since then I’ve probably had various beverages that have ended up in the toilet or on someone’s carpet, but vodka was my first.
Maybe I was a late bloomer. I had friends who had been drinking since 8th grade. Stealing their parents stash. Bartering for beer from an older sibling. Not me. I was a prude I guess. But there wasn’t a lot of opportunity. My parents weren’t big drinkers and there wasn’t a huge bar at home. They did have the occasional glass of wine, but I don’t think Manischewitz counts. And even though my grandfather would give me tastes of his beer, it was bitter, and didn’t compare to ice cream.
Tenth grade was the year I first experienced alcohol. It was exciting. I liked the way it made me feel, but I think it was as much for its forbidden status as from an actual buzz. My friends and I spent many weekends devising how we were going to get alcohol and then where we were going to drink it. There always seemed to be someone who had a friend who could get us beer at the liquor store that didn’t card. It was the late 80’s and alcohol was still somewhat accessible to the underage. Fake ID’s weren’t that hard to get. The drinking age had just increased from 18 to 21 in 1984.
When I look back I can’t help but think we were lucky that no one got hurt. No car accidents. Heck, most of us didn’t have our license yet. No arrests. Although I do remember ditching cops on the golf course or running through a few yards when they broke up a house party. We were lucky.
In less than 8 months my oldest child will be heading off to high school and I don’t want her to be that kind of lucky -- running from cops or scoring that six-pack. I don’t want her drinking. I can naively believe she won’t be in to that. After all, she’s a good kid. But then so was I.
Recently a friend told me that his freshman daughter attended her first high school party—a senior party. Supposedly the parents were home. That night he got a phone call from his daughter’s best friend saying ‘Ashley’ wasn’t feeling well and wanted to go home. Turns out Ashley was sick – the wasted kind. She confessed to her parents in the morning. She said they were drinking at her friend’s house after the party. Hmmmm. Whether she was drinking at the party or not, my friend found comfort in his daughter fessing up and now having a very good excuse to ban her from attending any other senior parties for the rest of the year. But what about next year?
My kids see me drink a glass of wine with dinner. They see my friends show up with bottles of wine when we go out to eat. The consumption of alcohol is not hidden. It’s not taboo. They’ve also seen us take a car service home so we don’t drink and drive. Or grab a cab home. We like to think we are responsible drinkers and setting an example. However is the prevalence of alcohol in our lives inadvertently giving them permission to think drinking alcohol is okay for them too? Will it make them more likely to try it? Maybe, but my parents barely drank and that didn’t stop me.
All I can do is talk to them about it. Make sure they understand the consequences of their actions. Remind them that underage drinking is illegal. That they should watch out for their friends, too. And if they’re ever in a bad situation, even if they puked in a bush, they can always call home. I’d like to say it won’t happen, but I know too well that all it takes is one big swig.