As someone who claimed that lifting a beer glass is good exercise, who thought of whiskey as a tool for increasing concentration and who defined social lubricants as two or three shots before you answer the door to your dinner guests, I had to rediscover human society.
I found that I was a basically nervous person with very few listening skills and not particularly good table manners. I had sailed through life in a haze of grog fueled shenanigans, preceded by my reputation and protected by a sharp and somewhat bitter tongue.
Now, it sounds like any drunk from the hundreds we all know and wish we could love, then, it was a shocking and unhappy realisation. So shocking, it drove me to drink a number of times, until one of my daughters refused to go to a restaurant with me unless I left the wine behind.
As I slowly relearned the art of human intercourse I began to realise how deeply rooted alcohol is in our culture. Bob Hawke with his yard glass drinking record and his off the cuff support for hungover workers after the America’s Cup is an iconic symbol of the drinking Aussie. The distance between the local automatic teller machine and the nearest bottle shop is a simpler measure of the problem.
I’m not invoking a conspiracy theory. I’m simply pointing out that because we grow up in a culture that engages in excessive drinking as a matter of course, our view of what is normal is somewhat tainted.
Last week’s drink driving figures for the Tweed Byron Coast in NSW and the Gold Coast in Queensland simply reflect that when we are on holiday and have a little more free time, we hit the turps a little harder.
As a resident of Mullumbimby, you might expect me to promote a good mull as part of the solution, but pot insulates us from the real world as effectively as the booze. Besides, the famous Mullumbimby Madness strain of cannibis sativa is no more, wiped out by a police-helicopter invoked wave of hydroponic weed and more chemical highs.
Unfortunately, the answer is really, really daggy. We need to spend more time being perfectly ordinary, gossiping about everyday things and supporting each other through the drudgery of everyday life. Every autobiography of every recovered addict tells the same story. It takes years to realise that it is not about chasing the high or escaping the low, it is about embracing the average.
We have to learn this lesson across all areas of consumption, but the grog is not a bad place to start. Your family will appreciate it.