Sunday Magazine – I’ll Drink to That.

It was a Sunday morning much like any other.

My sister and I were lazing on the lounge after having one or two wines the night before.

Actually, it was six or seven. But who’s counting?

We stumbled upon a brilliant strategy to cope with five small children while our husbands were away.

Remember the film, Freaky Friday?

For one day we’d swap roles: The adults would be kids and the children would run the house.

It was plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a rat.

The kids would do the laundry, cook dinner, and entertain us, while we’d put up our feet and relax.

Sadly, it was not to be.

“Now that I’m an adult, I can drink beer!” my eight-year-old son proclaimed. “Cheers.”

“Mmmm, I might have some wine,” added my six-year-old niece.

Suddenly, I felt like I was in that Kids Absorb Your Drinking ad on TV.

How could this have happened?

And were we turning into our parents?

In the heady days of the 1970s, alcohol was the perfect accessory for any occasion.

Had a tough day day? For a hard earned thirst, you need a big cold beer.

(The tagline was “VB – The Drinking Beer”. Which always made wonder, what else are you going to do with it? Polish the cutlery?)

Going to a party? You make me smile, Dr. Lindemans!

Lost a loved one? Hold a wake and raise a toast.

Like many kids of that era, I thought cask wine was one of the five food groups.

We used the empty bladders as pool pillows, inhaling the fumes for a cheap high.

It was never seen as a problem.

Everybody did it, didn’t they?

Of course, all good things must come to an end.

Mum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, caused by a genetic predisposition exacerbated by lifestyle factors.

In Australia, up to 35 per cent of cancers are caused by smoking and drinking.

The doctor held up an x-ray and pointed to dozens of dots decorating her organs.

“As you can see, the cancer has spread to the lungs here, here, here and here.”

Ever the humourist, Mum responded with, “Well, I’d better go outside for a smoke. No point giving up now!”

After her death Dad no longer drank for fun; he was self-medicating.

One day, dozens of ulcers ruptured in his stomach: In the words of Tex Perkins, “The honeymoon is over, baby, it’s never gonna be that way again.”

That was six years ago.

Dad hasn’t touched a drop since.

Instead, he’s addicted to buying toys for the grandkids: his house is known as Poppy Paul’s Play Centre.

I couldn’t be more proud.

But it makes me wonder: Am I sending the same message to my kids?

Mum and Dad were wonderful parents. But a drinking culture creates a new generation of alcoholics.

While we always have a glass of water with dinner, every weekend is a series of BBQs, parties and events at which we inevitably imbibe alcohol.

Enough is enough.

As you might have already read, I’m off the grog as part of Quit for Cancer month.

It’s either that or reciting the words, “My name is Tracey and I’m an alcoholic”.

I don’t think I’m there yet.

As the poet Dylan Thomas once said, “An alcoholic is someone you don’t like who drinks as much as you do”.

But it’s fair to say we would advance Australia by breaking our bond with booze.

This nation was built on a currency of rum.

Our biggest sporting event – the Melbourne Cup – is a celebration of drinking and gambling.

And we’ve adopted the violent pub culture of the Brits.

You might think I’m a wowser, about to pop on a corset and join the Women’s Temperance League.

But I don’t want to leave my kids without a Mum because I love a chardy.

Last year the ‘demon drink’, as my grandmother calls it, claimed one of my best friends.

She left a teenage son.

In her memory, let’s raise a glass of alcohol-removed Edenvale Sparking Cuvee.

Sure, it won’t make you feel squiffy.

But it might break a bad habit.

The bacchanalia of the festive season is over.

It’s time for reflection.

I’ve taken a long hard look at the Drinking Mirror app and I don’t like what I see.

After all, apple juice doesn’t cause liver spots.

There’s nothing wrong with sobriety – like everything – in moderation.


Tracey Spicer is an Ambassador for Cancer Council’s Quit for Cancer month.


Twitter: @spicertracey