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It is with pleasure that I write this blog and express my journey with alcohol.
My name is Aaron Schultz. I am 43 years old father of two boys and live in Hobart Tasmania.
It has only been of recent times that I have felt comfortable talking about my experience with alcohol largely due to the cultural influence it has on our nation. I would like to share my story with you from where it all began until now.
I was born and raised in a country town in Western Victoria called Horsham. I am the only child of parents who brought me into this world in their 40’s, something that was relatively unheard of in those days. My father was a painter at the local hospital and my mother was a home mum after spending many years working as a seamstress.
At the age of three I had a fall in the backyard and subsequently developed a tumor on the brain which resulted in me spending four months in Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital to have it removed and recover. This was a major operation in those days and I still sport a huge scar from the bottom to the top at the back of my head. Thankfully I made a full recovery and have experienced no real issues since.
My journey with alcohol started at the age of 14. After watching my parents drink daily for most of my life I went to my best friend’s birthday party, also 14 where his parents supplied alcohol. Another friend and I decided that we would go to the local hotel and purchase a bottle of Rum. We did this and had no problem being served. When we returned to the party I blacked out and had to be taken home in a wheelbarrow. I have no recollection of this. The next morning instead of being disciplined I was laughed at by my Father.
As a young person I had a burning desire to become an actor. I loved TV, theatre and all that went along with it. Unfortunately my parents, nor did my school share my dream and I subsequently fell into the local booze scene. I remember clearly trying to find something to cling on to however there was no such option available and my slide continued.
At a family friends 21st birthday party I got drunk with my Mother, I was aged 15 at the time. Pretty much every weekend from there on in was revolving around drinking. My local Cricket club, where I spent much of my youth was reliant on alcohol and bringing young consumers in was not an issue, as long as we had our parents consent.
My schooling fell by the wayside and I took a job in retail at a local automotive store. After 12 months I relocated to Melbourne to work with the same business and lived with some friends who also moved from Horsham. We drank heavily and after a while I got a bit tired of carrying these guys as my income was greater so I moved out. By this time I was fully dependant on alcohol and had numerous attempts to try and stop, unsuccessfully. I just accepted that this was the way life was so I continued on my merry way.
I changed employers and was transferred to Shepparton where I lived with my cousin, who was and still is a very heavy drinker. Cards nights were a nightly activity and we typically stayed up until 5am, drinking and playing cards, before having a couple of hours sleep and heading to work. I actually learnt a lot through this period and found some maturity as the guys I was associating with were successful businessmen who taught be much through their ways, but also these guys were very alcohol dependant.
Another opportunity came up to transfer with the same company back to Horsham. I wanted to be closer to my parents so I decided I would move back. After enjoying the first 6 months back there I met a girl whom I fell in love with and wanted to settle down. Unfortunately she was also a heavy drinker and loved going out so I found myself back in the pub and nightclub scene. I remember having such a strong desire to clean myself up however had nowhere to turn. The two options for assistance were alcoholics anonymous and a local rehab centre called Palm Lodge. Given the stereotype and stigma I would have copped from the community to sinking to such levels I reluctantly didn’t seek assistance, again continuing on my merry way. Not long after I was caught drink driving with a reading of 2.2, four times over the legal limit and lost my license for 2 years. Other than the shame I received from the court case being publicised in the local
paper, my habits didn’t change. I was hanging around the wrong types who were dragging me down.
I enrolled in a 12 month course in community services and picked up a job at an institution for the mentally ill in Stawell working a four on, four off roster. Thankfully my father drove me to work each day and picked me up. I learnt a lot while here however being such a stressful environment almost everyone employed there drank heavily. Once Saturday night before I was due to work the next day I had a big one and rang in sick. I was sacked by my manager on the Monday.
I really struggled to find employment for a while after this. I worked with a local community care provider with disadvantaged kids however wasn’t mature enough at the time to give it my best. After a while I was offered a role with health and human services and returned to Shepparton.
I enjoyed my time there for a while however found myself hanging around with the drinking crowd again, and again was caught for drink driving, this time reading 2.1 and losing my license for 4 years. I had not learnt my lesson.
After seeing my peers drink and drive as a child I thought nothing of it. I am extremely thankful that these occurrences did not lead to injury to myself or others, as they could of easily have.
Not long after I thankfully met my wife and started to settle down. Her employer had regular Friday night drinks and outings in which I found myself being the last to leave. I dreaded these nights however once there made the most of it. Deep down, as I had for many years I wanted to clean myself up however did not have a clue to go about it.
After spending 10 years back in Shepparton my employer offered me a role in Tasmania, this was in 2003.
The major life changing event came for me when in 2009, very stressed and at my whit’s end due to the pressure of my work and my drinking I visited a GP. Luckily I got a good one. He told me there are two things you can do, I can give you pills or
you can exercise. Thankfully I chose the latter and began to rebuild my life, at age 38.
It has now been almost 5 years since that life changing moment. I have never looked back and have learnt and developed so much as a person, physically, mentally and now spiritually through meditation. These skills have been hard earned and I have pushed myself very hard to continually improve. I believe if the drinking age had of been 21 it would have delayed my drinking and I would have enjoyed much more of my youth without alcohol.
When I look back the influences to drink I had growing up were profound and I wish to do what I can to help others avoid alcohol or change their lives. Running a campaign like Game Changer has opened my eyes to a world that is concerned about economics rather that the health and well being of individuals, something that I am passionate about working to change in the future. I believe if the drinking age had of been 21 it would have delayed me starting drinking and I would have enjoyed much more of my youth without alcohol.
I hope that my story can assist you in some way. We have only one life and I am convinced it is best lived without alcohol or other stimulants. Having a clear mind and a clean blood stream is everyone’s right and we need to do what we can to help ourselves and others reach their full potential.
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