Sunday, January 23, 2011

Error a sobering experience: Casino customer served alcohol; his first taste in 34 years

i've got a story in today's herald about the perils of mistakenly serving alcohol to someone who does not want it:

Error a sobering experience
Casino customer served alcohol; his first taste in 34 years

A Halifax man says a Casino Nova Scotia server’s mistake almost cost him his three decades of sobriety.
Emmett Peters, 57, was at the Halifax establishment playing cards Jan. 6 when he ordered a ginger ale.
Peters, who has been sober for 34 years, said he told the waitress he did not drink alcohol. Engrossed in the game, he picked up the glass she delivered and took a mouthful, only to find it contained alcohol.
He spit it out, swore, threw the glass on the floor and broke another before storming out.
"I don’t think they could believe I got so upset over just being served beer," he said during a recent interview. "Just in a few seconds, I lost it."
He went home in a state of agitation and was up all night pacing the floor. He usually checks his beverage before drinking it, he said.
"I let my guard down. I always felt safe at the casino because it was a public area."
It took a week before Peters felt himself again.
Analyzing his response, he said he was in shock because his first taste of alcohol in 34 years reminded him of the first time he tasted alcohol — when he was about 14 and grieving the death of his father from cancer.
That led to 10 years of severe alcoholism, suicide attempts and the near-death experience of living on the streets.
It took six months of hard work to get clean, and staying clean requires constant vigilance.
The taste of alcohol at the casino hit him hard, caused him to fear that he was returning to that life, he said. Peters, who admits he acted badly after getting the drink, later called the casino to apologize.
He went public with his story to raise awareness of how serious an "allergy" recovering alcoholics can have to booze. He urged places like the casino and restaurants to be as vigilant about not serving alcohol to someone who didn’t ordered it as they would be about making sure they didn’t serve seafood to someone with a seafood allergy.
Howard Blank, vice-president of Great Canadian Gaming Corp., the operators of Casino Nova Scotia, said his servers do their best to serve the correct bev-erages to the right people.
Casino managers have spoken to staff about the Jan. 6 incident.
All of the company’s operations have been made "aware of this incident" to ensure improved service throughout the entire organization, he said.
Amanda Hudson, program administration officer at Capital Health’s alcohol and addiction prevention and treatment services, said even one mouthful can be too much for some recovering alcoholics.
"It could have led to a real high-risk scenario," she said.
In a culture where alcohol is the norm, it can be hard for non-drinkers to avoid drinks, she said. People at social situations, like parties, can be helpful by ensuring they also have soft drinks available.
Servers should also be educated about the issues of recovering alcoholics, she said.
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