My dad was a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. A good-looking man who liked to drink, play golf, hang out with his buddies and have fun. He was also a slack parent, one who had a hard time saying no, and who often choose to ignore what I was doing, especially during the holiday season, which made it easy for me to discover the calming effects of alcohol before I knew how to spell it.
Dad didn’t think much about my curiosity for his special holiday drinks because he was sure a kid would never appreciate the taste of rum Eggnog or the spicy Tom and Jerry batter I’d often help make. And he was convinced that no one, other than those wanting to grow hair on their chests, would ever take more than one sip of his signature hangover remedy – a Tabasco-spiced Bloody Mary made hotter with a layer of ground pepper floating on top.
He was wrong; I liked them all. And because I did, I hung out with him and other family members who drank as he did. Being in the care of an adult who didn’t pay attention made it easy for me to sneak drinks, and there was nothing l loved more than being a little tipsy at Christmas time.
Years later, after I’d been through alcohol and drug rehab, I read that most alcoholics were introduced to alcohol during the holiday season, and I believe it. I also think if my Dad had had insight into the damage alcohol can cause, he wouldn’t have indulged me the way they did; offering me sips of drinks and turning a blind eye when I helped myself to leftovers, because, for a kid like me, one who was plagued with anxiety, discovering alcohol was a disaster; for him and for me.
Here’s my list of tips for the 2018 holiday season:
Don’t let a child sip from your drink.
Don’t offer your child a mock cocktail or let them drink anything from a wine glass or beer mug.
Don’t ask a child to get or pour you a drink.
Don’t ignore a child's interest in booze.
Don’t take children to adult parties.
Don’t get drunk around children.
Don’t take children with you when shopping for alcohol
Be honest with yourself and your child about why you’re having a drink.
Pay attention to what a child is doing when alcohol is around.
Keep conversations with other adults about booze to a minimum around children.
Arrange projects and creative activities for children during the holidays.
Consider the message you’re sending when you have more than a couple of drinks at a family dinner.
Communicate with children openly, honestly and kindly about alcohol and drugs. It might just save a life.
J.A. Wright is the author of How to Grow an Addict, a novel. Available in paperback, ebook and audio from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and most online outlets.