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Planning on going on the lash tomorrow?

Planning on going on the lash tomorrow?

Planning on going on the lash tomorrow?
St Patrick's Day, Paddy's Day, Patty's Day - whatever you call it, it's coming!! Woohoo!!!!
It's a day to celebrate our Irishness, our heritage, our collective history and achievements. But we all know what's really going to happen don't we? There'll be a day off for most of us, and drinking. "The Sesh" is being organised as I type, all over the country. Whatsapp groups and messenger is alive with chat and arrangements, much of them centred around getting off our collective heads. People are thrilled the next day is a Saturday because that means not 'having' to call in sick while they deal with the fear, or worse. 

And I'm aware this week, as I am every year, of the sense of dread for those among us that are living with problematic drinking - which is a soft way of saying alcoholism I suppose - and that's a lot of us. Most people reading this have an alcoholic in their family. There are families everywhere dreading Friday, knowing that things will be bad. Mom or Dad or both will be worse than usual, more abusive, more aggressive. There will be shouting, sulking, irrationality and it will be followed by remorse, empty-feeling apologies and genuine sounding promises that won't be kept. 

How many people on Friday will be so sick they can't stand up, they cannot control their limbs, feeling they should stop but not wanting to appear as "lightweights". Not wanting to avoid ridicule. How many fights will be started, how many unwise decisions made?

How many of these people will be your kids, or their friends?
Because St Patrick's day is one of those days when we collectively given each other permission to get completely off our faces on booze, all in the very transparent guise of celebrating a historical figure, a saint, So, what are we at?

We have a wealth of things in this country that are worth celebrating, loving and cherishing. We are incredibly fortunate to live here. And while we love to complain, and there are things that could be a lot better, this remains true. Our greatest resource is of course our youth. 

I read a super article yesterday http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/iceland-teen-substance-abuse/8208214 describing how Iceland, another teeny beautiful country, has reduced their teen drinking dramatically. It's worth a read, it's long, but it's inspirational! 

And as an achievable and cost free start, here's one thing we can do: we can stop celebrating drunkedness. Let's stop telling stories about how hilarious it was when yer one fell asleep at the bar and fell off her stool. Or about how the fear was so bad he had to stay in bed all day with the shakes. Or how he doesn't even remember getting home - must've been a good one! Gas man....

I don't want to trigger guilt in anyone reading this, but I'd love for us all to have a think about what we're doing here. We are teaching our kids to have drink problems. We're normalising the over-use of a drug that has dangerous effects on our behaviour and health - both short and long term. It's pretty serious. We are definitley in trouble with drink.

Your teens may be planning a drinking session for tomorrow. It won't be like in the olden days where they have a couple of cans though. It will be, for some, a major binge where 10 or more units of alcohol will be consumed and the fallout will have to be dealt with. You may think "sure I did it myself!" And I did too. But not like this. Not like now.
 
What are you planning? What are your friends and family planning? In other words - what are the teens all around us learning from us?

Teen drinking is not their problem, it's ours, and it's all of our responsibility, parents or not. 

So, this Patricks' Day I would love to think that there'll be open and honest chats about drink in houses around the country. And maybe, after reading this, you might be aware of how often drinking is encouraged, laughed about, trivilialised in your home as well as by advertisers, comedians, musicians - it's ubiquitous. This is not a reason to beat yourself up or to feel shame - just notice it. You may not have noticed it before - you may even have bought drink for your kids - because it's been normalised for you too!
We can't change things until we notice them.

One thing I enjoy about our culture is the way we often comfort ourselves - Sure we're Irish - it'll be grand!

But it is comfort purely? Or is it avoiding responsibility? Because if we keep this up, no, it probably won't be grand. 

BUT if we all make some changes, if we look, with full awareness of our present, towards our future, then I really do believe we will have a country and culture of which we can be even more proud.  
 
Sally O’Reilly is the Family Psychology Expert at Family Friendly HQ. She's a Psychologist, Psychotherapist & Clinical Supervisor in private practice in East Cork with twenty years’ full time experience. She has a special interest in working with teenagers. For more info contact her through her site sallyoreilly.com or on Twitter @psychosal or FB  at Sally O'Reilly Psychology & Psychotherapy.