Underage drinking

I got caught underage drinking when I was sixteen. I was in a pub in Sumner near Christchurch (called the Marine Tavern from memory) swigging beer and dancing to a  covers band when the cops stormed in and picked out all us young’uns.  I remember being shit scared standing outside having my name and address taken down by a police officer. Convinced I was in big, big trouble.

At first I thought I’d gotten away with it because nothing happened. For a few weeks all was quiet and there was no follow up. Unfortunately my relief was short-lived and the police eventually came to visit me at home. I never could quite figure out why they did this. Other friends of mine who were pinged that night never got a home visit but I did.

We sat around the living room – me, mum, dad and a police officer in uniform. I remember him talking to me about acting responsibly and obeying the law (the drinking age was 20 at the time so I was a good few years off). I remember him warning me of the dangers of alcohol and getting me to promise that I wouldn’t frequent licenced premises again while underaged. And then I remember him informing me with a very serious air that they had decided to let me off with a caution.

Of course I was horrified that this awful turn of events had occurred and felt immense shame that I had run foul of the law at such a young age. I vowed then and there to never touch that evil alcohol ever again and from that day forth lived as a paragon of virtue.

Yeah right.

Being nicked and ‘officially warned’ didn’t making the slightest dent in my attitude towards drinking. At the tender age of sixteen I was already falling into a deep love affair with alcohol. And so it was that after my brief brush with the law I continued drinking for many, many years. I drank through the rest of my teens and into my twenties. I drank as I travelled the world and progressed in my career. I drank when I fell in love and when I fell out of love. I drank as I entered my thirties and became a wife and mother (miraculously never drinking during pregnancies). I drank as I embarked on a Masters degree and neared forty.

I stopped drinking just shy of my fourtieth birthday when the fun, enthusiastic habit had gone and in it’s place was a dark, dysfunctional, furtive and downright destructive addiction. Me and booze were no longer friends. I reached such a low, miserable place that I ended the relationship and embarked on this crazy ride we call recovery.

Now I look back at that sixteen year old girl (and the photo below is taken around that time) and wonder how things would be different if I had actually been shocked by the police into setting a different course. Would my life have been more stable? Would I have achieved greater things? Would my emotional coping mechanisms be well honed by now (rather than still in their infancy)? I certainly could have saved myself a lot of angst and a huge number of hangovers.

I don’t know how different things might be now if I’d been shocked sober at an early age and didn’t spend twenty-plus years drinking heavily. But here’s the thing – I don’t wish I had. I don’t look back and regret that I didn’t take a different course. I don’t regret the years of boozing. I don’t regret all the shameful drunken episodes or wasted time. I don’t regret any of it. Why?

Well, firstly because the past is the past and there’s not much point looking back over it for too long because I’m not going that way. Secondly, I feel some sympathy with that 16-year-old girl because she lived in a booze soaked world that made it extremely easy for her to dive right in. Thirdly, I forgive her making that life choice for so long because being a human is hard and she latched on to what she thought was the perfect solution to life’s woes.

But finally and most importantly I don’t regret my years of boozing, nor the dark place alcohol took me to, because reaching rock bottom and clawing my way out has not only taught me what I am capable of (remarkable things!), but it’s also given me – in my middle age – an almost child-like wonder for what life has to offer. I am adoring all the work I’m doing on myself and the awakening I’m having. I love being in my forties and finally waking up to what it means to be a fully realised human being.

Addiction was dark but recovery is awesome and I think everything has happened just as it should have. I have no regrets about the past and can’t wait to see what the future has in store for me.

Love, Mrs D xxx



  1. Mike Oxlong 3 years ago

    This articles kinda random

  2. Mari135 7 years ago

    Oh what a good post yet again! Thank you for sharing that.

  3. George 7 years ago

    I totally relate. As I get further along in my sobriety journey, I do wonder why we allow alcohol to do so much damage in our communities. Yes there is no point in regretting, but do we really want our children to experience the pain we have gone through? Part of me wonders if we should work harder to make alcohol out of reach. And part of me thinks like you that things pan out as they should. If any of you are struggling with your journey in sobriety – especially finding a happy and HEALTHY sobriety- I can’t recommend Alcoholics Anonymous enough. It is a difficult journey to do but AA gives you a program and a sponsor to help keep you on track.

  4. NathanB 7 years ago

    You had a horrible interaction with law enforcement, yet still were undeterred. In the 20 years that have passed, New Zealand society has not evolved to prevent many more 13 – 17 year olds from having experiences like the one you had, Lotta (although on a positive note – the numbers of under 18 year olds who drink has fallen quite a bit in recent years).

    As you saw, the New Zealand Drug Foundation ran workshops with young people in Dunedin and Wellington last week to find out what might encourage them to reflect on their alcohol use earlier and help them to make changes or seek help. Discussions often touched on the need to change or add to the stories that dominate social groups.

    Perhaps I can share what was discussed with the Living Sober community as we piece together what they told us.

  5. behind-the-sofa 7 years ago

    Aaaaah….. you look adorable in that photo…. quite drunk but adorable…. I bet you were a nice friendly drunk not aggro and confrontational like some……. I like the ‘we’re not going thay way’ i.e. the past….. I think when we drink we tend to feel the weight of regret of the past and bask in self-pity…. as long as we stay sober we’re alright…. that’s our bedrock and keeps us looking forward…. the horrible thing would be to start drinking again ’cause then sobriety would seem like a blip and ‘wasted’ years would be the norm….. I do live with a bit of fear about drinking again and all the sickness and anxiety it would bring but I guess I need a bit of that to keep me off the booze……………….Police at your house when you were 16! You must of been mortified!!! I would have been!!! …Oh no my life is over!! 🙂

  6. Pollyonthewagon 7 years ago

    Oh so true
    Love the idea of putting the past in the past but also learning lessons from it and enjoying the present. So pleased I am sober again as my beautiful daughter negotiates being 16 and feels she can talk honestly about all her experiences. I don’t think it would have been the same if I was drinking as I was 3 years ago. Probably wouldn’t have been there to listen to her

  7. Anonymous 7 years ago

    Awesome piece of reflection. So glad you included all, or some of your accomplishments.
    I remember frequenting a certain bar with older student friends at a ridiculously young age.
    Oh so keen to be grown up. Almost got caught once. Yes, drinking and early sex seem to be
    potential hazards in our culture, but that can change and with the wisdom of hindsight, I,m feeling
    Grateful to have got through the 70,s as a teenager, even if it,s taken several decades to ditch the booze.
    So glad you started on this LS journey at a relatively young age.
    I have a photo of myself with friends on an Auckland beach around the same age, clutching a bottle of DB,!

  8. Sheepish 7 years ago

    Yep, completely agree. No regrets, only the bright march forward. x

  9. JM 7 years ago

    Great post, Mrs.D. This really resonates – I drank a lot in my teens, 20s, 30s. And I sometimes also wonder what my life would look like if I didn’t. Which is an interesting if futile exercise. I have a lot to be grateful for now. I really love that line ‘the almost child-like wonder for what life has to offer’ – It’s like some innocence and a lot of hope is restored when you get sober, so many possibilities open up. Thank-you! xx

  10. janabel 7 years ago

    The lovely young woman in the photo has no idea how many lives she is going to touch and how much good she is going to do. Thanks Lotta 🙂

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