My name is Tracey and I’m not an alcoholic – yet.
But I fear I might become one.
Alcohol lubricates our cogs as we wheel through the festive season. And after Australia Day, we wake from our wild party to survey the damage: empty glasses, broken bottles, fractured friendships. And wonder where it all went wrong.
Now, I’m no party pooper. I love a drink as much as the next person. Probably too much.
That’s why I’ve joined the Quit for Cancer campaign.
For the first time, figures show middle-aged professional women are consuming more alcohol than teenagers.
UK Labor MP Diane Abbott says a “drinking to forget” culture has developed among some older women.
Then there are the health consequences: more than 5,000 cancer cases each year are caused by long-term alcohol abuse.
Like many Aussie kids, I grew up using empty wine bladders as pool pillows.
In those days, no one thought anything of it. Moselle was the perfect accompaniment to a prawn cocktail, devils on horseback, and cheese-and-gherkin-on-a-toothpick.
Mum and Dad were the hosts with the most. We had a fabulously fun childhood. But, one day, the party came to an end. Dad retired early from work due to ill health. He stayed at home and drank. Mum couldn’t bear to see him stumbling to the door. So she buried herself in work.
Eventually, it all came crashing down. Mum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It’s caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors, including drinking, smoking, and a poor diet. Dad stayed off the grog for the next seven months so he could care for Mum.
It was the most beautiful display of devotion I have had the privilege of witnessing.
Then, when she passed away, Dad started drinking again, and it nearly killed him: one morning my sister and I woke to find a suicide note in our inboxes.
Depression and alcohol are a dangerous mix: Dad couldn’t bear the black dog on his doorstep. Fortunately, he chose to fight his way out of the darkness. First he quit smoking. Then he gave up drinking.
Now he’s addicted to repairing second hand toys for his grandkids: his house is nicknamed Poppy Paul’s Playcentre.
I could not be more proud of him. His strength, courage, and wisdom are inspirational.
My grandmother always warned us about, “idle hands and the demon drink” and we’ve seen the dangers with our own eyes.
My sister and I try not to lead each other into temptation. On her fridge calendar is the bold acronym A.F.D. – Alcohol Free Day – three times a week.
Hubby and I have tried various methods: no drinking Monday to Friday; only one glass of wine with dinner; no alcohol in front of the kids.
Frankly, we’re flawed.
Too often we’ll say, “Ah, let’s do the A.F.D. tomorrow. I’ve had a hard day at work”. Or, “I had a big win today. So-and-so called with a terrific new project. Let’s celebrate”. Even, “The kids have driven me nuts all afternoon. Nothing a gin and tonic won’t fix!”
The problem is the justification. Instead of enjoying a drink, it’s being used to self-medicate, celebrate, and alleviate.
It’s not necessarily the quantity – it’s the qualification.
According to Australian guidelines, we should be consuming no more than two standard drinks a day. A harmful drinker is someone who consumes more than 35 units a week: roughly half a bottle of wine a night.
I’m nowhere near there. But it’s a slippery slope. We all need to be vigilant.
More women, like Channel Seven’s Talitha Cummmins, who recently made a confession about her battle with drinking, need to speak publicly about their relationship with alcohol.
There should be clearer warnings on bottles indicating a safe level of consumption; a ban on alcohol advertising during sporting events; and restrictions on social media marketing targeting young people.
Most importantly, parents need to be aware of their behaviour around children.
Some say taking a month off the grog – the shortest month – won’t make any difference to the health of your liver.
But to me it’s psychological. If I can stay abstinent for 28 days, I might develop the discipline to stick to my A.F.Ds.
And that’s worth celebrating.
Tracey Spicer is an Ambassador for Cancer Council’s Quit for Cancer month. Go to www.quitforcancer.com.au for information about quitting a bad habit to raise money for research.
Do you worry that you drink too much? Are you, like Diane Abbott suggests, “drinking to forget?”
MORE ARTICLES BY TRACEY SPICER
*Tracey Spicer is a respected journalist who has worked for many years in radio, print and television.
Channel Nine and 10 news presenter and reporter; 2UE and Vega broadcaster; News Ltd. columnist; Sky News anchor …it’s been a dream career for the Brisbane schoolgirl with a passion for news and current affairs.
Tracey is a passionate advocate for issues as diverse as voluntary euthanasia, childhood vaccinations, breastfeeding, better regulation of foreign investment in Australia’s farmland, and curtailed opening hours for pubs and clubs. She is an Ambassador for World Vision, ActionAid, WWF, the Royal Hospital for Women’s Newborn Care Centre and the Penguin Foundation, Patron of Cancer Council NSW and The National Premmie Foundation, and the face of the Garvan Institute’s research into pancreatic cancer, which killed her beloved mother Marcia 11 years ago. But Tracey’s favourite job, with her husband, is bringing up two beautiful children – six-year-old Taj and five-year-old Grace. Visit Tracey’s website at www.spicercommunications.biz or follow her on Twitter @spicertracey.