The bottle came to me again. I took my swig, swallowed, handed the bottle to Arnold. The sense of the forbidden flooded through me again. My father had once said to me, “The wino is the lowest form of man, except for an informer.” Would I become a wino if I kept drinking? Was drinking wine a mortal or a venial sin? And how could it be a sin at all? At every mass, the priests drank wine. The blood of Jesus, they told us. How could it be a sin in the woods and a virtue on an altar? The bottle came around again and I drank once more of the blood of Jesus.
The old anti-drug adage touts marijuana to be the “gateway,” but let’s not discount how much more accessible and visible alcohol is in the eyes of the young & the curious. My first drinking experience was roughly the same as Pete Hamill’s above account in his memoir (minus the Catholic guilt). Seeking cool in the eyes of kids older than me; seeking acceptance; seeking to do something in secret, to rebel.
Many children will become teens who look to experiment. An unfortunate percentage of those will go on to develop addictions & habits. It would be impossible to “prevent” this from happening, but the least I can hope for is that it gets easier & easier for the afflicted to ask for & find the help they need. A more public discourse on the matter, if you will.