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 who let me get away with almost anything, 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 kids would never appreciate the taste of his rum-fueled Eggnog or the foamy Tom and Jerry batter he’d pile high on top of coffee mugs filled with hot milk, rum or whiskey. 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 ground pepper sprinkled 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 adults who didn’t pay attention made it easy for me to drink, 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 Christmas season, and I believe it. I also believe if my parents had had insight into the damage alcohol can cause, they wouldn’t have indulged the way they did, offered me sips of their drinks or turned a blind eye to me helping myself to leftovers, because, for a kid like me, one who was plagued with anxiety from age five, discovering alcohol was a disaster; for them and for me.
Here’s my list of don’ts and do's for the 2017 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.
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.
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.
Shop for alcohol without children.
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 from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other outlets.