Before I was born, my uncle was in a car accident. There were two cars, on an isolated two-lane highway. My uncle, and the driver of the other vehicle, coming from opposite directions, hit each other in a head on collision. The driver in the other vehicle died on impact and my uncle was parked in the ICU in a coma for three months, fighting to keep his legs.
Both drivers were drunk.
The family always talks about how he was ‘never the same’. I have to agree. I didn’t know him before the accident, but he carried around sadness like a heavy sack of potatoes on his shoulder. I also don’t think that any member of either family was ever the same, either, after the dominos of consequences fell. For twenty years, he wrote a monthly restitution check to the other driver’s family. He became an alcoholic. He went through a nasty divorce. He was never the same.
This story was told to me from the time I was about six years old. And even at six years old, my parents told me that no matter what, they would come pick me up, no questions asked if I had been drinking, just so I wouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car.
In college, I can clearly remember calling my dad one night at 3 o’clock in the morning when I was unable to catch a cab after the bar closed. He picked me up on the corner next to the bar, no questions asked.
Now, I am in my late 30’s, married with two young children. It is important to note that we live in Baton Rouge, where most people drink every single day. And no, I’m not exaggerating. Every single day. Even business meetings include glasses of wine. You would be hard pressed to see a neighbor mowing his grass without a beer in his hand, and God forbid someone come to your house and you don’t offer them a beverage. An alcoholic beverage, that is.
So, we lead by example. We don’t drink and drive and we tell our kids that we don’t.
Then, last month, while at BlogU, I sat in a room with over a hundred other bloggers, each of us gripping a glass of wine in our dirty paws, and listened to a presentation from Responsibility.org, an organization dedicated to responsible alcohol consumption. We viewed a video about their newest campaign, asking us to refrain from using alcohol-related memes on our websites for one month and ask our friends to do the same. At the end of it, we were all asked to enter into a writing contest about our honest reaction to their campaign.
My first reaction when I heard this was to think back about the last time I took my children to the grocery store with me. A few weeks prior to seeing the video, I was vacationing in another state with our two children, and took them with me to this fabulous, gourmet grocery store. This store has the most amazing liquor and wine section, and carries a selection I can’t find in Baton Rouge.
When I discovered that they had a wine I had been trying to hunt down for some time, I asked the manager if I could buy two cases from their back inventory. I was over the moon as I realized I would be stocked for many parties to come.
And then right about that time, the smallest child burst my bubble by screaming to our oldest child (in front of about 25 other patrons), that ‘We need to get mom away from the wine, SHE’S AN ALCOHOLIC’.
The manager hesitated to let me buy the alcohol, but allowed me to once I told him it was for several parties we were hosting, and that I wouldn’t be bingeing myself into an oblivion.
While mortified, this was a perfect teaching opportunity. I explained to them what my parents told me: alcohol is fun, but you can and should drink responsibly. I gently reminded them that they couldn’t think of one time where I had had more than one drink, or their dad had more than one beer, and that we don’t drink and drive.
Just like every other important conversation I have with our children, it starts with honesty about fun and about the consequences, good and bad. Have the conversation early and tell us about it at #RefreshYourFunny.
I am required to tell you: This post is solely my opinion, has been entered into a writing contest for Responsibility.org, and I have not been compensated for this post.