Alcoholism – A Family Affair

One of the things that has been brought to the forefront this week is the sheer number of teenagers who are drinking. Not just at the now infamous party last weekend, but way more often than their parents realize. It’s kind of scary how often they do this, and where and how they are getting their hands on it.

I have certainly done my share of drinking when I was high school. I snuck around just like kids today do. They aren’t the first ones who thought of the old switcheroo tactic to go to a party. It’s been around since long before even I was a teenager. I say this because I am certainly not naive. One doesn’t get to be, um, er, mid 40s shall we say, without acquiring some knowledge of the world along the way.

I am not an alcoholic. I can drink. I can drink too little, sometimes I drink too much. Ohhhh the stories that come from those times….woahhhhh! I think I might still be on some list with potential blackmail material there. But most often, I don’t drink. At all. I don’t like the bed spinning when I lay down. I don’t like realizing I need to apologize for my behavior the next day. I don’t like wondering who held my hair while I threw up in some bathroom somewhere. But mostly, I don’t drink because I am married to an alcoholic.

Being married to an alcoholic is rough. It’s an ongoing every day struggle. We have been together 20 years, and there were days, weeks, months, years that I didn’t think we would make it. The term “one day at a time” also applies to anyone who lives with, loves or knows an alcoholic. They can try the best of a person, they can make a sane person doubt what they know, but most of all, they know with the swiftest of abilities, how to destroy trust and a relationship. It takes someone with a strong fortitude to stay connected with an alcoholic. I don’t say that to pat myself on the back, I say that because of others I have seen come and go. They can’t take it. I get it. It is a constant state of not knowing what today brings. The alcoholic doesn’t know and neither do his friends and family. It is a harsh living. He comes from a long line of alcoholics so it’s bred deep in him and his behavior. His mother, her father, his father….it goes back generations.

But what that does, how that paints a picture of what we want for our kids, is surprisingly crystal clear. We do not want that for our kids. And the sneaky, sad, mysterious part of alcoholism, is you don’t know you are one until it’s too late. It’s not like going to the doctor for a blood test, or when a baby is born the doctor can say “10 toes, 10 fingers, not an alcoholic”. You only know when you start drinking and you can’t stop. When you lie to get a drink. When nothing else at all, however important, matters more than getting that drink.

So what is the best way to not have to experience that? Never drink. Ever. At all. In today’s society, that seems almost as impossible as breathing. It’s everywhere. TV, magazines, billboards, movies, the store, the restaurant, the countless number of pubs and bars. It’s quite literally everywhere. Fill up your gas tank, buy a 6 pack. Go out to dinner, the drink special list is already on the table. Go to the grocery store, they have so much it’s divided into the wine section and the beer section. Some even have the hard liquor section. Turn on the TV and watch the great beer ads that make it look so fun. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?? Certainly not a teenager who wants to snuggle up with a cold one and that hot babe!

When the rest of the world seems to be promoting it, when kids at school are openly admitting they are doing it (some right under their parents noses), when they have no repercussions, how in the world do you tell your child they can’t do it??

So far we’ve tried talking, pleading, crying, reasoning, explaining, reminding, and begging. He still did it. And now that he’s had that taste, did it awaken something inside where he is just waiting to do it again? I pray not. I pray that he has my genes and that the alcoholism genetic deformity did not get passed down to him. He can be his father in every other way. Every way. But please, let him get this one thing from me. If you have any words of wisdom, please feel free to let me know. I’d love to hear suggestions.

One thought on “Alcoholism – A Family Affair

  1. Chrissy,

    Yes, I have often thought about what I put my boyfriend (now my husband) through when I was drinking. He tried to talk to me about it, but I was defensive and abusive and AWFUL. I am lucky that he stood by me – and I am eternally grateful that I was sober when I had children. I cannot imagine being drunk and hung over, raising kids.

    I have no words of wisdom about how to deal with kids’ drinking – mine are 6 and 4. But I think about it, I worry about it. Chances are that one of my boys will have the ‘alcoholic gene’, and I dread having to face that. But face it we must….

    I hope, hope, hope that your son does not have the gene, that it missed him. Only time will tell, I’m afraid: becoming an alcoholic is exactly that, a process of becoming. Slowly, over the years, drink by drink. All I can recommend is that you watch, talk, watch some more.

    I wish I had better advice than that…

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