After writing yesterday's post, I started thinking about what I would say if I were asked to counsel a group of teenagers on 'responsible drinking'.
(How ironic that would be! A bit like asking Elvis to talk about healthy eating, or Casanova to discuss responsible sex).
Anyhow, after I finished chortling to myself, I devised a little speech in my head something along these lines:
"Don't panic. I'm not going to tell you not to drink. In any case, you'd only ignore me.
What I will tell you, though, is that alcohol is a drug - just like nicotine, cocaine or heroin, and as a result you owe it to yourself to use it with caution.
A recent, government funded study showed that alcohol was the most damaging drug in existence when you take into account its impact on individuals and cost to society combined.
The only reason alcohol is legal is that it has been around for so long (and a large proportion of the population are, to some extent, addicted). We would never allow a new drug as dangerous as alcohol to be consumed legally and liberally.
But I know, and you know, that drinking socially can be fun. Alcohol at a party can loosen everyone up, provide a bit of 'rocket fuel' to get things going. It puts everyone on the same wavelength. It can give you a confidence boost. Relax you.
And that's fine - so long as you are in control. But - and here's the big but - alcohol works like any other drug. It gives you the illusion that you control it, until you suddenly realise that it controls you.
Like any drug, you have to take more and more of it to have the effect you're looking for. Like any drug it causes, not just a high, but a massive low the next day. And over time the highs become less high, and the low become more low.
Nobody intends to get so drunk that they pass out, throw up in gutters, have sex with a stranger or strip naked in public. Nobody means to become so unaware of their surroundings that they are in danger of being robbed, raped or worse. Nobody expects to become so dependant that they have to drink every day, and first thing in the morning.
And my generation had it easy. We could put our drunken exploits behind us and move on. You have Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Those images are going to be with you forever - for your granny to see. Your prospective employer. Your children and grandchildren.
So, here are the rules (there are only 5 of them) that, if you stick by them, should make sure that you can have a happy relationship with alcohol, and always be the boss.
Right now you'll probably think that they're pretty easy to stick to. Remember that. Because it's quite possible that, over time, you'll gradually find yourself breaking many, or all, of them. And that's when you need to stop and think.
Remind yourself that you once thought these rules terribly easy. Eminently sensible. Realise that, without you wanting or expecting it to, alcohol is starting to take control. And get help if necessary.
1. Don't drink before 6pm
2. Stop drinking as soon as you feel, even a tiny bit, out of control
3. Don't drink more than 3 times per week and
4. Never, ever drink alone
5. As soon as you find yourself unable to stick to 1-4, and/or find yourself being dishonest about your drinking, to yourself or others, GET HELP.
And one final thing. Just think. Do you really need alcohol to have fun? Do you really want to live life with all the edges blurred off? Are you not confident enough in yourself to manage without an artificial boost?
Just because everyone else is doing something does not make it cool. Do you respect someone more who follows the crowd, or someone who makes their own way? Do you want to be a sheep or a leader?
More and more people, especially of your generation, are choosing not to bother with alcohol in the first place. You could be one of them.
The choice is yours. Just make sure that the choice is always yours...."
And, to my children I would add: "Just look at Mummy. I don't need alcohol to have a good time. To enjoy a party, or to relax. I'm perfectly happy just as I am."
Happy Sunday Morning!