One country teacher's thoughts on the bush drinking culture, and why he quit using booze himself.
(submitted anonymously by request)
I moved to a country NSW town in the late 80’s to take up a teaching position at the local high school. I myself had been a three-night-a-week drinker at the local Workers Club in Sydney for many years.
When I moved to the country I quickly noticed that drinking was a common thing across all social settings from Friday night drinks at the local club (for end-of-school-week drinks) to Sunday afternoons in the change room after footy, and drinks after footy training.
Luckily, I had a good code I followed when I did drink: if I was driving I only drank low-alcohol beer and I only ever had two stubbies. Being in the country I drove everywhere as public transport was sparse at the best of times. Drink-driving can be a real issue in places with little or no other transport options. Over my teaching career I was taken aback by stories my students would tell me about their weekend drinking. I’m talking about kids in years 8 to 12 who were drinking far more in a night than I would have in a week. Even taking into account that some students were bullshitting, some of the stories were gobsmacking. Every weekend seemed to provide some event that enabled my students to freely drink. There always seemed to be a 17th or 18th birthday party going on. Then there were also the ‘after parties’ following deb balls and other events. The younger kids, those around 14-16 years old, were always at these events as they were family affairs. As they were generally held outdoors at night the younger students told me they could sneak away with stubbies or mixer cans and not be challenged about their drinking. Others had alcohol supplied by their parents or older siblings, so there was no need to sneak away. At one point in my years as a teacher, senior students who had their licence would brag about their breathalyser readings if caught drink driving. It’s like they were proud of their reading. They would also compare the readings of their siblings and parents.
I recall one particular student bragging in class that his dad blew close to 0.2 and challenging anyone else to “beat that”. An overseas trip in the early 90’s saw me reassess my drinking habits. I decided to cut right back on my drinking because some countries I visited required me to pay close attention to my personal safety. When I got home I had lost the urge to drink as much I used to. I made a New Year’s resolution one year to not drink alcohol for a year.
During that year I was at a wedding in Finley and at the reception I remember one person offering to get a round of drinks. When I asked for a soft-drink it sparked an interrogation about why I wasn’t having alcohol. I explained that I had made a NY resolution. I got bombarded with questions from this lady about including: was I was an alcoholic? Was I afraid to have just one, and WHY I would choose to not drink when “it’s free?”
The other guests then proceeded to demand why I hadn't told them I wasn't drinking earlier, as I could have given them a lift from the motel... even though the motel was less than a kilometre away (Finley ain’t that big a place!)
Finally, I was pressured with “but you are the only one not drinking!” like that was a bad thing. I ended up going to the bar and getting my own soft-drink in the end, as I didn’t trust this person to bring me the right drink. I did last that whole year without having a drink.
After that I stopped having beer in the fridge at home and cut back to only having an occasional drink if I was out having a meal.
Over time, this dropped to maybe one or two stubbies a year and now I choose to not drink at all.
I have found a number of benefits since choosing to not drink. One obvious one is the financial benefit. I’m not drinking away some of my hard-earned dollars, and found that my bank balance became healthier.
In social settings I have found myself more alert to what is going on around me. Sometimes I have thought to myself “did I ever behave that way?” when I saw someone who had had ‘one too many’. It was a real eye opener. Funny how drinking makes men speak so much louder . . . and say dumb things.
When I go through a random breath testing place it is comforting to be able to answer the “When was your last drink?” with “it was so long ago I really cannot say when it was” and mean it.
Thank you to the country fella who submitted this.
We are always very thankful for your perspectives - and welcome any contributions.