I’ve never been much of a “drinker” myself. I enjoy an occasional glass of wine or a beer, but there are other things I prefer. I didn’t know what beer pong was until the other day when I had to ask my daughter to explain it to me – not that she plays the game, but she’s young enough to have heard about it and know what it is.
I’ve never understood why people have to drink to have fun in a group (I’m often having a great time in the presence of others who assume I’m drinking because “no one can have that much fun sober”) or why it’s considered fun to drink excessively and not remember the next day what you said or did in the presence of others. I’m one of the people who can tell you exactly what you said and did and help you remember exactly how you acted the night before. But it isn’t “fun” to watch you. It’s disturbing. And for people like me in their right mind, it’s scary because we can still formulate thoughts about the possibilities for upset or even disaster at the end of it all, long after you’ve stopped caring, if you ever considered them at all.
But I know that my perspective is rarely considered on this subject because I have no experience in this area – happily, by choice – and to some that means my opinions aren’t relevant. To those people I feel compelled to offer a couple of stories I have to share that might hopefully give you pause to reconsider your choices:
When I was in Ponoka for months with Pat at the centre for brain injury, I met another patient who, despite the strong fighting spirit of his mother and many months of recovery and rehab will likely never walk, drive, dress himself, or even sit up independently again. He will be in a wheelchair that supports his body in a comfortable position and he will require constant care, likely in a facility, for the rest of his life.
He wasn’t in a car accident, he didn’t suffer a work-related injury. He was drunk at a party in a friend’s home during the Christmas season and he passed out. Sound familiar? While he was sleeping he choked on his own vomit and lost consciousness. From what I know the others around him were likely too drunk themselves to even notice his situation. As a result, he suffered a traumatic brain injury and will spend the rest of his life paying for his choices that night. He was nineteen years old. He had no career, no disability pension, no life savings. His mother sold their home and left her job to be with him at the hospital and beyond that, they had nothing to fall back on.
I wonder how many drinking games he won that night? I wonder how many times he had done it before? From what we were told, it wasn’t an uncommon occurrence in his life on the wild side. He actually joked about his previous lifestyle after his injury, but I didn’t laugh. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel for him, but I feel more sorry for him that he wasn’t able to control himself when it counted and now has to suffer forever because of some alcohol. And I feel for his mother whose pain and suffering will always be worse than his own because he has a very limited mental capacity now.
While we were at the Glenrose in Edmonton we met another family whose daughter had been hit by a drunk driver. She had just graduated high school and was bound for college. She had a boyfriend and a bright future and just happened to be in the wrong place. She suffered a serious brain injury, went through months of rehab, thankfully learned to walk and talk again, but will never be the same and neither will her family. I’ve often heard that in accidents involving alcohol, it’s more likely to be the victims that are seriously injured than the drunk driver. Fair? No, but we all know by now that life’s not fair. Her mother had to take a long leave from her job in another town and together with her dad whose job allowed some flexibility, they made sure their daughter had company nearly every day to help her do her therapies. They had other younger children at home from whom much of their time was taken to maintain a cruel balance between keeping the family together and ensuring their now injured daughter had what she needed.
I don’t think anyone in their right mind makes a choice to drive drunk. The problem is that the choice gets made with an impaired mind because the person didn’t pay attention when they passed their reasonable limit earlier in the day/evening. But when you sober up, can you live the rest of your life knowing you robbed another person of theirs? Perhaps a whole family?
So I offer this to young people and old who think that their own excessive drinking, in freedom and independence, occasional or frequent, will only affect them. It does not. At the very least it can hurt, embarrass, and cause discomfort to others around you who watch the changes in your behaviour and attitudes that make you appear to be someone you are not – unless you are only surrounded by others also too drunk to care. And at worst, it can kill you, or put you or someone else in the hospital with life altering injuries.
- Who will pay for everything involved in a resulting traumatic injury?
- Who will look after you if you can no longer take care of yourself?
- Whose responsibility is it to give up their own lives to help if you have made an irresponsible choice in freedom to do something that has put you there, something you could have avoided but chose not to?
I just don’t get it and I never will, this attraction to alcohol that takes nice intelligent people down to a level of ridiculous behaviour and dangerous choices. I don’t object to drinking. I object to intoxication that robs the mind of responsible thought and consideration for others, and the idea that people don’t quit while they’re ahead instead of adding one drink on top of another when each one further impairs their ability to quit.
I don’t have any experience being drunk, but I’ve seen many others “having fun” (tongue in cheek) and I think I’d rather stay sober, alive, and be in control of my words and actions, so that in the morning I don’t have to worry about whether or not I’ve done something I will have to regret forever while I’m leaning over the toilet holding my stomach.
So I hope that at least for a few minutes, even the invincible, “it-will-never-happen-to-me” people might be open to the idea that they are not immune, and that maybe the next time they’re playing a drinking game they might, for just a minute, consider whether or not winning is really “winning” after all. And I hope that those who have already suffered consequences in one way or another will learn from their situations before something much more serious comes along.