I'm 19 and I don't drink. Ever.
Changing the Kiwi booze culture
"I don't drink alcohol." A perhaps unusual sentence to hear from a 19-year-old girl, but in my case it's true.
I know I'm really generalising with that statement, and I'm sorry. But it sounds unusual to me, and I'm that 19-year-old girl who's been saying it for years, even before I was legally allowed to drink alcohol.
I grew up with the adults in my family drinking at the dinner table, maybe they'd have one when they got home from work, or if friends came around.
My parents weren't secretive about it, and they didn't force me to stay away from it.
The one time I did have a proper sip of alcohol I was in New Caledonia, and the people I was staying with gave me a glass of cider to have with crepes. A very French thing, I was told.
I paused on the first sip even though - you'll laugh at this - it only had a 2 per cent alcohol content. And I tried so hard not to spit it out. They were apologetic about that when I told them that I didn't drink, and it was fine. They had a good laugh, which helped break the ice I suppose.
But by then I had already decided to not touch the stuff.
I had a number of reasons for that.
The smell: I had never liked the smell, I found it always made me gag. Even the smell of a sweet wine would make me back off. When I had a sip, I spat it straight out. I couldn't - and still can't - understand how someone can go near beer.
The price: I could buy a good book on my Kindle for the price of an apparently nice bottle of booze and the book will last longer.
Please bear in mind that I would have absolutely no idea what a nice bottle of booze would be, but as an avid reader I personally think I have good taste in books.
On the few times I have been on the Wellington party circuit, I have found the prices extreme. Eight dollars for a tiny glass of clear, alcoholic liquid with salt and a slice of lemon? If my friends' bank accounts could talk, I'm sure they would scream.
The effects: I detest the effects alcohol has on people. I think this is the biggest reason that I choose not to drink.
I have seen it break up families. I have seen it cause arguments among friends. I have watched as people cry and as people have struggled with it.
Like everyone else, I've read the statistics. It's not a pretty picture.
In New Zealand we have an unfortunate culture of binge drinking. One of the reasons is that teenagers are not introduced to alcohol as they should be. They drink secretively, and because they don't have much of a chance, they drink as much as they possibly can in a short time.
When my friends started turning 18, the ones who were 17 would give them money for alcohol, the legal drinkers would buy it and then give it to the ones who weren't. Then they'd drink irresponsibly because they didn't know when their next alcohol binge would be.
I hated watching it. It seemed horrible to me, and yet it was something they looked forward to. I simply couldn't understand it.
Do I have a solution to this problem? No, I wish I did.
I could say 'introduce teenagers to alcohol', but how do you go about it? How young do you start introducing them? Obviously you wouldn't give a glass of wine to a 5-year-old, but maybe to a 15-year-old? That is another issue here.
One statement brings up a whole lot of other questions, like how would we implement it?
Many people might say education. We are educated on what alcohol can do, more can't hurt, but there is plenty already in place. I remember countless presentations at school from the age of about 11 to 17 about this. And yet, so many people my age have chosen to drink until they look like they could be in those photos we all saw.
Raising the drinking age? I'm not too sure about this either. On one hand, you would be attempting to do something to limit the supply of alcohol. On the other, referring to what I said earlier, more people would be drinking in secret. This is, I think, the most terrifying thing.
What if they're drinking in secret, something goes wrong and help is not called for, just so someone doesn't get in trouble? I am aware that this would be a worst case scenario but it is still a scary idea, even hypothetically.
Am I saying that alcohol is bad and should be avoided at all costs? No, of course not. Although I have chosen not to touch it, I know it's fine in moderation.
I just wish that more people, especially people my age, were aware of the meaning of the word 'moderation'.
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