I love it actually. It’s great to have a day to celebrate our Irishness, our heritage, our achievements, our collective history. But we all know what really happening don’t we? It’s a day off for most of us, and drinking. Lots and lots of drinking. “The Sesh” – a new tradition to honour the way Saint Patrick got off his head on Vodka and drove the schhnakes out of Ireland… Sure he was a great fella. And isn’t it great the way it falls on Saturday this year so we won’t ‘have’ to call in sick while we deal with the fear, or worse?
(Like assault, liver failure, death…)
And I’m aware this week, as I am every year, of the sense of dread for those among us that are living with problematic drinking – which is a soft way of saying alcoholism I suppose – and that’s a lot of us. Most people reading this have an alcoholic in their family. There are families everywhere who’ll still be dealing with the fallout of Saturday this day next week. Mom or Dad or both were worse than usual, more abusive, more aggressive. There’ll be shouting, sulking, irrationality and it will be followed by remorse, empty-feeling apologies and genuine sounding promises that won’t be kept.
How many people reading this will be sick on Saturday and Sunday? Feeling they should stop drinking but not wanting to appear as “lightweights”. Not wanting to avoid ridicule. How many fights were started, how many unwise decisions made?
How many of these people will be your kids, or their friends?St Patrick's weekend is one of those weekends when we collectively given each other permission to get completely off our faces on booze, all in the very transparent guise of celebrating a historical and religious figure #stpatricksday Click To Tweet
So, what are we at?
We have a wealth of things in this country that are worth celebrating, loving and cherishing. We are incredibly fortunate to live here. And while we love to complain, and there are things that could certainly be a lot better, the fact that we are fortunate remains true. Our greatest resource is of course our youth.Here's one thing we can do to help our youth: we grown-ups can stop celebrating drunkedness #PaddysDay Click To Tweet
Last night I heard someone giving out (again) about teachers and parents saying THEY need to take our heads out of the sand when it comes to teen drinking. Well, I’ll take a slightly different slant – we all need to take our heads out of the bottle!
Teenagers are not the issue here!
Let’s stop telling stories about how hilarious it was when yer one fell asleep at the bar and fell off her stool. Or about how the fear was so bad he had to stay in bed all day with the shakes. Or how he doesn’t even remember getting home LOLLOLLOL! – must’ve been a good one! Gas man….
I don’t want to trigger guilt in anyone reading this, please, I really don’t. What I want, what I’d love is for us all to have a think about what we’re doing here. We are teaching our kids to have drink problems. We’re normalising the over-use of a drug that has dangerous effects on our behaviour and health – both short and long term. It’s pretty serious. And besides anything else, it’s costing us a fortune to deal with this mess. Worse though, it’s costing us our youth.
Your teens will probably go drinking on Saturday. It won’t have been like in the olden days where they have a couple of cans though. For some, it was a major binge where 10 or more units of alcohol were consumed and the fallout now has to be dealt with. You may think “sure I did it myself!” And I did too, believe me. Some of you did it with me.
But not like this. Not like now.
What will you and the adults you know do for the weekend? I know what some adults I know will do. Some. You can guess. And you’d be right. In other words – what are the teens all around us learning from us?
Teen drinking is not their problem, it’s ours, and it’s all of our responsibility, parents or not.
What I’d love in my fantasy Ireland is that we would all become aware of how often we encourage drinking (You’re not drinking? Are you pregnant? On antibiotics? Lacking the capacity for joy?”). How often have we laughed about being out of control, how often is drinking to excess trivialised in your home as well as by advertisers, comedians, musicians – it’s ubiquitous. This is not a reason to beat yourself up or to feel shame – please don’t, just notice it. You may not have noticed it before – you may even have bought drink for your kids – because it’s been normalised for you too!
We can’t change things until we notice them.
If we all make small changes, if we look, with full awareness of our present, towards our future, then I really do believe we will have a country and culture of which we can be even more proud. And then, as we love to say, everything will be grand!
I first posted a version of this on FamilyFriendlyHQ last year.