Alcohol not only way to enjoy life
Changing the Kiwi booze culture
I felt like the only guy at high school who not only hadn't been drunk, but hadn't even tasted an alcoholic drink.
People couldn't believe it, they thought it was messed up. I really might have been the only teetotal seventh former.
I've since experienced the ups and downs of alcohol, but as it was never part of my life growing up, it's not part of my life now, which is especially good as I have a young family.
The thought of being drunk in front of my kids is revolting.
I wonder how many Kiwi parents feel that way?
I remember when one of my high school mates got drunk for the first time, his mum came out of the house to take photos. Fortunately for him Facebook wasn't around at the time.
New Zealand has a problem with alcohol, and it starts with the family. Sure, kids grow up and go their own way, experiment and get a bit stupid, but I suspect that for those people who grow up without a family emphasis on alcohol such as wine with the evening meal, beer in front of the TV, beer with any sporting event... then there is much less chance of alcohol being a big part of their lives in the long term.
I can't think of a rugby game without beer being involved somewhere. I even remember watching a friend and colleague playing for the Southland Stags vomiting on the sideline when he was supposed to be chasing the ball.
I also know of another All Black who told his friends one day: "I'm going to be an All Black."
We all laughed, but then he did it. He gave up alcohol, gave up late Friday and Saturday nights with the boys. Some even described him as boring, but he didn't have a boring time during his years as an All Black.
But don't worry, because New Zealand is not alone in suffering from binge drinking, the Brits are doing a great job of making a mess of themselves as well. I even joined in a few of those messes during my time in London, but then a turning point came. It was when I went to Florence.
By 11pm the club was just starting to get busy, but the rest of my mates had drunk themselves senseless and took taxis back to the camping ground. Not wanting to waste my only night in Florence, I took a walk into the town square.
There's a statue of Michelangelo's David, not the real David but a spot on replica, and it stares out over the city centre square.
It was 1am and the square was crowded. There were people everywhere, sober, happy, the most stunning women in the world, eating, drinking (not to excess) - the whole place was alive with the sounds of people enjoying each other's company and of laughter drifting up into the midsummer night's air. It was a turning moment for me.
I couldn't help but think if this was New Zealand or London, then there'd be people passed out on the sidewalk, vomit, garbage, and probably a fight or two brewing.
It was my first introduction to a bit of culture.
I don't expect New Zealand to change, but I do wish Kiwis could see there are other ways to enjoy life.
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