Nearly everything that I have done or said which I regret, which I wish I could take back, of which I am ashamed to the point that it haunts me for the impact it had on others or for what could have happened, was under the influence of alcohol.

The most traumatic and shocking incident that occurred to me in my life was done by someone under the influence of alcohol.

Some of the people I have loved most in my life I nearly lost or endangered themselves because of alcohol.

I endangered my life and the life of others, including loved-ones, while under the influence of alcohol.

And I, like most Australian parents of teens, fear what might be the consequences of drinking alcohol by my children and/or their friends.

Many of the stories of gendered violence, abuse, or otherwise inhumane or inappropriate acts and behaviours towards others that have come to light in recent months, have involved alcohol. 

Not all, but many.

After living in France I developed a deep passion for wine. But it is not about the alcohol – it is about balance – the wine itself, the food with which it is mostly consumed, the night that is enjoyed with loved-ones and friends, and the (most often) moderation in which it is consumed.

Truthfully I much prefer a wine with lower alcohol levels so that I can enjoy one or two glasses after the meal, also, without feeling light-headed.

That is not to say that I never become light-headed these days from over indulging, but in all honesty there have only been 2 or 3 occasions over the last 10 years when I could be described as being ‘under the weather’.

One of those occasions of which I am ashamed, admittedly, happened then – when on a holiday in northern Italy I with my children went in a car with somebody who was also intoxicated. When I woke the next morning I could scarcely believe what I had done, and the shame was almost unbearable as I had to explain to my young and impressionable sons that I had made such a dangerously poor decision. It was the ultimate teachable moment, one that I can never forget or forgive myself for. 

In France I worked and lived in the university precinct of one of their largest university towns with the oldest, operating medical school in Europe – Montpellier. I was always astounded by how quiet the universities and surrounds were on Friday afternoons in stark contrast to my own experiences on Australian university campuses where bars and clubs filled with alcohol guzzling young people from early in the afternoon. Back in ‘the day’ the all important alcohol (quantity/strength) to price ratio was the critical assessment criteria for us economically-challenged students. I will never forget the night on Orpheus island for a last year field trip when I consumed almost two bottles of Mt Rufus port at $2.50 each – neither will those who shared the room with me, and I am guessing the lecturer had long remembered.

In France, however, we started to hear noise coming out of apartments in the early evening as the young people gathered in groups for an evening where food is as important as the wine. 

I do not suggest that intoxication does not happen there, and the integration of alcohol with their culture is so deep that problems definitely do arise. 

Their culture, however, teaches a greater level of respect for the balanced consumption of alcohol to their young people by the role-modelling of their parents.

In Australia the culture of the young drinking to intoxication by binging, at school then in tertiary education or when working, often translates to a culture of drinking to excess as an adult, including amongst our political leaders in the ‘Canberra bubble‘.

As a part of the addressing of concerns over gendered violence I believe we need to incorporate the role of alcohol in this and other forms of violence.

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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2021

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