Time for a holiday drink?

Black Friday has come and gone leaving those of us who remember Christmas of old wondering why, and how we as a society ever allowed ourselves to believe this consumer orgy was ever ok. Every blogger under the sun has pounced upon Black Friday so don’t worry there will be none of that today. It was merely a blip on my mind leading to another topic dear to my heart.

My entire blog for the last two years has been devoted to my lovely awesome wife Ms. Jacy. When I started this blog it was about family, fatherhood and the joy associated with raising children. Instead much like a Sunday goulash (only older people remember our parents making that little tasty number) it’s combined many facets of our life. I am thankful for all of you who faithfully follow my writings and the kindness you have shown is flattering to say the least. But today, if you will allow me, I am going to step away from Ms. Jacy (please keep reading) and return to why I began this writing exercise in the first place. Fatherhood.

As I stated, Black Friday has come and gone which leads us officially (Wal-Mart be damned) into the holidays. Friends, family, co-workers, festivities and wonderful Christmas parties await us around every corner. It really is the most wonderful time of year and for many it is anticipated all year long.

Including our kids.

Over the last few weeks several conversations have arisen between myself and other parents in regards to underage drinking. With the holidays approaching and school soon to be out it appears to be an even hotter topic. Don’t be fooled our children are participating whenever and wherever they can. It is disturbing how easily it has become regardless of rules, laws and such for our children to actually obtain alcohol. Thus a serious problem lies and the temptation is no less for my child as it is for yours.

Those who read my blog and have known me since childhood also know for me to speak out about underage drinking is akin to the pot calling the kettle black. So let’s set up a little history.

I began drinking at 13. It was easy to acquire, just hit the old man’s Black Velvet stash and replace with water. (Yeah I know the kids think they invented that trick but it’s been happening for generations) As I became older it of course was a rite of passage for many parents who condoned drinking and had done so feverishly as kids to pass that legacy on to their children and friends, so obtaining alcohol was no big deal. Of course the “rule” was you don’t leave whatever property you are on while imbibing, but that rule was never followed.

Everyone has an argument as to why they drink/drank. Either to be cool, fit in, hide from something or someone in their lives or just because. I drank to fit in, I also drank because I was very unhappy, drinking allowed me to open up, act the fool with no repercussion and pretend to be something I was not. As we grew older the alcohol grew in quantities and the locations in size as more and more young people like myself congregated to our little gatherings. Whether up on the mountain, cruising in the next town over, down in the sloughs or the backyard of some approving parents’ home we partied and we partied hard. Laws be damned!

It all sounds glamorous doesn’t it? Fun, fun and more fun! We were young, we pretended to be adults as the image of alcohol portrays and we survived or at least most of us so what’s the big deal? Right?

Somewhere between my sixteenth and seventeenth year at a party my consumption reached the limits of my body. To this day some 32 years later I do not remember the event I am about to describe. What I know came from friends who witnessed it and the parties involved. I have carried great guilt over this for many years and as a fireman it is what keeps me trying my hardest to keep teen drinking in the spotlight.

Having consumed way too much for some reason I decided to climb into my father’s 1963 GMC and drive home. Now once again I remember none of this, what I do remember was waking up the next morning to my father feverishly wanting know why his truck was missing a mirror and had damage to the hood, door and cab. I didn’t know. Of course being an outraged man further fueled by the stench of alcohol within my room that answer didn’t sit well. What I later learned was while driving away from the party, I struck another truck parked on the side of the road and drug it for a bit. There were people outside and it is amazing no one was hurt. Terrified of what I had done, I did what any other immature young moron would do, I lied.

It wasn’t me, how could I have done this? But it was all true and the sad thing is, instead of curbing my drinking it only pushed me further into a bottle.

By today’s standards that would have resulted in my life being irreversibly ruined. An arrest, a court date, a law suit from not only the involved but those who witnessed the incident claiming mental stress. My parents who had nothing would have lost everything! Why? Because of my ignorance, because of the ignorance of those around me, because at that age making adult decisions is not an option, let alone alcohol fueled decisions.

But it was 1983/84. A different time for sure. My father owned a restaurant in town very popular with local law enforcement and I cannot tell you how many times an officer would say; You’re Bobs kid aren’t you? I would nod yes, use my best level headed Eddie Haskell and with license back in hand head to the nearest friend’s house with a promise my 64 Chevy or my 81 Chevy would no longer be seen on the streets of town. That would never happen today!

Jump forward ten years and beyond. I am at the sight of my very first vehicle fatality. I remember it like yesterday. The car was an 84 Buick, it sat roughly 18-24 inches off the ground wrapped around a tree. A 18 year old male and 17 year old female still strapped into their seats compressed into a space of no more than 4 feet wide. I watched as life drained from their faces. Their eyes once glistening upon our arrival now flat almost sandy looking with a distant far off gaze. They say you never forget your first on scene death, the ones you just couldn’t rescue and “they” are right. Many have come and gone, some have stuck with me more than most, but your first, Yep that will be with me till the day I die.

They were drinking. They came from a party. They promised to not go anywhere but I imagine when you are in love and the car is right outside there are plenty of reasons to head off under a moonlit sky to find solace in an orchard. They were probably just working their way through that “rite of passage” we all talk about.

How about a car load of senior girls from the next town over headed home from a party? They too had all been drinking but the funny part is they didn’t cause the accident! 70 mph in the fast lane when two others jostled for position causing an accident that collected them in the process. Their car hit the medium and rolled several times. Funny thing about drinking and driving, sometimes you forget the simplest of things, your house keys, your phone, oh yeah; your seatbelt. Young ladies strewn everywhere! 3 on the ground. My patient, she received an on scene tracheotomy. It was to no avail. Her friends? All gone. Why? Seatbelts…….

Arrive at a house where the parents have been away for no more than an hour. What do they find upon entering their residence? Their underage son, angry he could not attend a party with some friends for New Year’s Eve has decided on his own to polish off the family bottle of Tequila. Yup he is a genius. When we arrive he is nothing short of the devil himself. Fighting, spitting, swearing and rapidly disintegrating as Tequila takes over his body. He was safely transported and survived, but what we learned later, just barely. He had consumed enough alcohol to quite literally walk the line of death. Why? Because News Years parties are a rite of passage! His parents made the right choice but it didn’t stop him from continuing down a very dangerous path.

I don’t want my child drinking. I know it makes me unpopular with many, but I don’t care. Drinking and screwing off cost me ten years of my working life. Drinking and screwing off almost cost me a future. Our children all have bright futures if we show them the way! The right way! Not some antiquated thinking that results in time and again others being hurt or dying! You can sit there all you want and claim you have it under control, it won’t happen to your child BUT YOU ARE WRONG!!!

Have you ever had to tell someone their child, friend or even adult friend or child is dead? I HAVE!!! There is nothing honorable, fun or even remotely great about that moment! It stays with you, eats at you, and gnaws at your soul! We walk around with our heads in the sand thinking everything will be ok, but guess what? It won’t! Not one adult parent I have ever spoken with has said; well I expected this to happen! Nope it usually begins with why? Then leads into; he/she was supposed to be at so and so’s house! Followed by I didn’t even know they were doing that! Yep that’s how it is!

This has to end. We as adults need to break this awful chain. We can keep going around year after year counting our blessing, being thankful it isn’t our child but then when we let them drink are we really acknowledging that we understand the consequences? I think not.

Every year at this time I usually post some little paragraph about holiday drinking, driver safety and hoping everyone I care for stays safe. But this year I hope by opening up about myself, my past, the future that lays before all of us with teenage children you can see, it is not up to them! Oh they bare some of the responsibility, but really it starts with us as parents. If we preach no drinking, hold them accountable for their drinking habits and hopefully do a good enough job of showing the possibilities before them without making a critical mistake we can stop or break this chain once for all.

It is our job to make the hard, unpopular decisions. It sucks! Make no mistake, there are times I would much rather be my child’s friend, but I am not! I am something much more important than any friend will ever be, I am their father.

Listen I am a realist, I know my little blog isn’t going to do a thing towards stopping this generational fueled epidemic, but please, this holiday season take the time to know where your kids are, what they are doing and help me try to break this chain of alcohol abuse. Nothing would make me happier than to never hear or witness another young life lost way too soon.

Thanks for making it all the way to the bottom of this page, I promise a cheerier post tomorrow.

 

 

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Party on man….

santa

Christmas time is here my darlings; time for good tidings and fellowship! Time to praise God, celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and reflect upon another year gone by! A reflection that includes ones own growth or demise along with those cherished most. Family and friends.

One problem. After a long year filled with many activities, surrounded by a multitude of generations, families, friends, strangers, covering from here in California to as far East as Iowa. I have been fortunate enough to make new friends, meet, watch and cheer new kids playing new sports and revile as children I’ve known from childhood into adulthood move on with their lives.  Being the ever astute observationist it has come to my attention a certain (middle) age group believes entitlement should be afforded regardless of the fact they are not law-abiding adults.  It is also becoming rather apparent after witnessing such behaviors, looking on FB, Instagram and such this entitlement issue is expanding at a rapid rate, further propagated by the lackadaisical attitudes of the very same law-abiding of age adults that are supposed to be prohibiting such behavior!

What behavior would I be referring? Drinking alcohol, chewing tobacco, smoking cigarettes.

To say I am shocked would be a lie.

Oh yes I hear the groans now for this has been the very same argument passed from one generation to the next. The same question tossed forth year after year. Is this generation really worse than the last? Isn’t this the very issue we dealt with ourselves as young adolescents? Come on, whats a drink  here or a drink there anyways? A dip never hurt anyone and jeez our parents smoked all the time! Not everyone gets cancer right? Seriously, as long as it’s happening in my home under my watch its ok!

Now before I ramble on in some parent/wet blanket/buzz kill tirade lets clear the air.

I had my first drink at 13 and was a pretty proficient drinker by 16. Let that sit for a minute.

There was never a time, I turned down beer, California coolers or wine. If it showed up on friday night, I drank it, partied hard, then drove, where ever and when ever I pleased. I was hell on wheels and there was no stopping me! My parents tired of the fight and I think at one point short of just yelling at me every time they saw me, they gave up. I never came home at curfew, I stayed out way too late, put myself in situations I should never have been in, and I survived.  During the school week it was not uncommon to place a few drops of Everclear in a can of Copenhagen and get royally stoned during class. I snuck (gulp hard here) Black Velvet during the day replacing it with water in hopes no one would know, then hid in my room for hours on end staring at the ceiling wondering why I hated my life.

I was lucky.

My parents DID NOT condone this behavior. My parents tried everything they knew to stop me, but it didn’t work and do you know why? Because there was always somebody elses parents who did condone drinking. Someone else’s Uncle or Aunt who believed the law was stupid and as long as the drinking was held inside their home it was ok. If that didn’t work there were students who looked like adults and could purchase alcohol at 7-11, and there were students who worked at stores where alcohol was available, thus bringing it home for Friday and Saturday night parties on the hill, in a field or out at the sloughs. No Student drinking task forces with underage buyers to bust the stores, no one to stop the wheels of intoxication from turning and a law enforcement group that still believed a ride home or following you to your house with a stern talking too or speech to your parents was sufficient. We were just a bunch of really young kids with no common sense doing things that could (and in some cases did) change our lives forever.

So where am I going with this?

Today life is so much more complicated. Laws are tougher and enforced with vigor. Lawsuits are the norm as opposed to a last option. We as parents have much more to lose and so do our children.

It (temptation) is around us everyday, enveloping our moral compasses; Drink Budweiser and beautiful girls will flock to you. Stay thirsty my friends is touted as gorgeous twenty something’s caress the most interesting geezer in the world. Coors light can only be consumed by sheik sexy men who climb mountains to provide that ice-cold freshness for only you. Copenhagen is for the only the toughest of Cowboys, baseball players and such, and if you want to be the sexiest, coolest, darkest most brooding social misfit then light up! There is a multitude of products for you to burn down those lungs of yours.

Don’t worry though, thanks to the errors of your parents (such as myself) we are also drowning in advice, direction, and choices provided from the likes of MADD-Mothers Against Drunk Driving, TATU Teens Against Tobacco Use, AA-Alcoholics Anonymous etc.. yet despite this barrage of media saturation both in schools and on the street through social media outlets etc. Our kids continue to laugh it off as if nothing will ever happen to them! Do you know why they laugh it off, shrug their shoulders and continue to do as they please? Because we allow it, as parents WE are not unified. We are not setting the standard. WE never learned from our mistakes and are now in some instances relieving those glory years through our children without any thought about the ramifications within our modern-day justice system! ITS NOT 1983 ANYMORE PEOPLE!!!!!

Here is where my problem grows larger.

In the logical sense I am a hypocrite for telling my 14-year-old son not to drink solely based upon my torrid past.(Regardless of the obvious under 21 reality) Recently he was busted partaking in a bottle of beer with a friend. No doubt both of them were covered in AXE body spray, sipping their micro brews just waiting for Victoria’s secret models to fall from the sky on angels wings. I mean seriously they had 2 out of 3 of what advertising agents are gleefully promising the male species on television! So who am I to say he shouldnt do this? Drinking beer with friends; being one who went out of his way to do so at his age it is a conundrum for sure? What is the big deal anyways, its one beer right?

I can see it in his eyes, when his mother and I talk with him about consequences for his actions. The same genetic eye roll, the same blank stare, the very same I dont know what the hell I am talking about tone in his voice! Then just as my blood begins to boil and my teeth cant clench any tighter as I suffer through watching a smaller version of myself reincarnated! I think fine let him head down this path, let him learn the hard way, the same way I learned to become a complete failure! Her you go! Have at it! Your future will now consist of never being able to chase your dreams as a young man because once the party bug bites it’s a hard infection to shake! It’s all you will think about and everything else WILL SUFFER!

But I can’t do it…. I cant let him follow a path leading eventually to the possibility of losing everything he and his parents have worked so hard to achieve. Having been there, walked in those same old alcohol/barf soaked shoes, living through it was an exhausting personal, internal struggle to overcome and the time lost, I can never retrieve.

Like I said I was lucky. Not everyone is so…

Today our children not only risk losing their identities through alcohol/tobacco use, but with social media girls are at the highest risk ever of sexual impropriety. illicit photos taken, shared with god knows who, advances that would be thwarted otherwise, even rape.  The same goes for our young men, temptation is too great for their VERY underdeveloped minds! Hormones raging, social media at their finger tips, throw in peer pressure, some alcohol and a full-fledged conflagration is brewing. We expect them to act like men, their bodies begin to look like little men, they carry themselves in some case like men and yet we forget their minds are still that of a child!

So my worries continue; not just for my child (which is why I am rambling so), but for all our promising young adults. I don’t know how to fix this problem, I don’t know how to get other parents on board, I don’t know the answer when it comes to keeping my child on the straight and narrow. But I do know from what I have seen, a storm is brewing, our children are at risk, and it seems as though we are all living a life as if it (something horrible) will never happen to us, our children, or our families.

I will leave you all with this.

Last night I sat my boy down and told him as calmly and directly as I could.

Son, I know you are going to do stupid things, its genetic! (Insert laugh here) But I want you to know if that idiocy ever leads to you becoming inebriated or climbing into a vehicle with a drunk friend you need to call me. I will come and get you and your friends anywhere, anytime. I never want you to be so afraid of being punished that you make the wrong choice hoping you wont get caught. But let it be known, the very next day you will face your mother and I to answer for what you have done the night before.

He agreed then wondered why it was so important, that I drill this knowledge into his head. In his mind all he could correlate our conversation to was the fact he had drunk ONE lone beer the week before and I was seriously overreacting.

I looked him in the eyes, leaned over the counter and in a dead calm voice asked him. Have you ever been there when a mother is being informed her son was killed in a vehicle accident with a few of his friends and alcohol was suspected?

He looked at me and said; (sullenly) no

I placed my hand on his and told him I had, it hurts really bad. (my throat tightens and hurts as I type this)

Then just as calmly said; please dont ever put that responsibility upon someone else because you made a bad choice. It’s not fair, it never goes away and it can never be taken back.

I am hoping he understands….

Talk to your children about drinking, talk to your children about tobacco use, follow-up on their extra curricular activities, its your job to NOT be their friends, its your job to MAKE them hate you at some point, It’s your job to drive them crazy and when it’s all done hopefully with a little luck they turn into outstanding adults who will always remain your child, but have now earned your friendship.

Then sit back, reflect on another year gone by while enjoying watching the very same traits you instilled in them trickle down to their children, your grandchildren.

norman rockwell santa