Reflecting on it now, I have a suspicion that this event may have triggered the memorable experience of receiving advice from a family friend ‘Uncle Gerald’ about not mixing my drinks. Perhaps my widowed mother felt the need to ask someone to give me some fatherly advice. Thinking about it now, this is very likely as it did come rather ‘out of the blue’.
We were in our lounge room…. I think others had quietly left the room… when I realized that normally jovial Uncle Gerald was being quite serious, engaging me in a conversation about drinking. I remember he kept emphasizing… “Don’t Mix Your Drinks”. He gave me examples of what not to do followed up by a range of what we would now call harm reduction strategies such as to alternate a alcoholic drink with soft drink or water; keep busy by dancing; make sure I ate; alternate drinking with food; put my hand over my glass to stop people adding to it and to take time drinking so that people wouldn’t keep topping my drink up.
So, for ever after, when at a party, I could usually be observed to do just these things.
I did have a few problems when not at a party, though – when there was no dancing; no food to eat; perhaps just a camp-fire to sit around and we all felt very mellow. It was possibly after one of these occasions that I can remember going home and grabbing a bowl out of the kitchen cupboard to have by my bedside “just in case”. I woke up next morning only to realise next morning that I’d taken a colander instead of a bowl. Thankfully, it wasn’t needed!
I also had rather a steep learning curve and a few quite hallucinatory events caused by not realising that asthma medication and alcohol don’t go together. Uncle Gerald wasn’t around to respond to these, and my mother wouldn’t have known about them to ask him to. It took a couple of these events before I added ‘don’t mix alcohol and medication’….(aka other drugs) to Uncle Gerald’s list of strategies.
Many years later, as a social worker and drug and alcohol counsellor, I would be asked to go to high school ‘health’ days to talk about harm reduction strategies to young people in the ‘experimental stages’. Each time I would remember Uncle Gerald’s advice to me during my ‘experimental stage’. I continue to remember his advice when adhering to the recommended limit of two standard drinks for women… and I never, ever, “mix my drinks”.