Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I Don't Drink

Here we are three days into the new year and I'm sure there are some of you who are still recovering from the revelry of your holiday celebrations. No matter how people all over the world choose to celebrate, there's a common thread that weaves through them all. That common thread is alcohol. I personally don't consume alcohol for two very important reasons: the first being that I don't particularly like the taste, and the second and most important being that there's a history of alcoholism in my family that has produced devastating results. There's also a somewhat peripheral reason, which is because the medications I take don't mix well with alcohol.

Sometimes the smell of alcohol makes me sick and I know that goes back to my childhood. My father's parents were both alcoholics. There are some people, who when they get drunk love everybody. There are others who hate everybody. My paternal grandmother fell into the second category. I'm not sure if my paternal grandfather was a mean drunk or if my grandmother pushed him until he was mean to her. In a nutshell, he beat her. Not only did he do so with his hands, he also did so with belts, rubber hoses, anything he could get his hands on. This is what my father had to deal with throughout his childhood. His father only ever beat his mother. Never him, his brothers, or his sister. Prior to my parents getting married, my mother had no idea that this type of thing happened in that household, but she found out soon enough. Once she and my father were married, they lived with his parents. The first time she experienced them fighting like cats and dogs, it nearly scared her to death. She came from a household where her father never would've even considered laying a finger on her mother although my maternal grandmother could be a real pain.

After two years of living with them, my parents got their own place. Not too long after that, tragedy struck. My grandmother was on the phone with my aunt (my dad's sister) when my grandfather walked into the bedroom where she was talking on the phone, and they started to argue. I'm not quite clear on exactly how everything transpired, but the argument escalated and ended with her shooting him. Not only did she shoot him, she killed him. Because of the history of domestic violence, she didn't do any time.

This all happened before I was born, so I wasn't aware of it until later on in my life. The one thing I was aware of is that my grandmother was a woman who was constantly giving mixed messages. When she was drunk, she didn't want us anywhere near her. I remember one Easter when I was around four or five, we had gone to her house for an Easter egg hunt. We weren't there very long before she started to get angry. Of course she had been drinking and apropos of nothing I suddenly heard her say to my parents "Get those damn kids out of my house!" That is burned into my memory. No matter what she said or did after that, that day is what colors my memories and perception of her. When she was sober she was always like "Come give me a hug. I love you." How does a child reconcile an angry drunk with the person that's hugging them tight and saying "I love you"? As I got older, I refused to go to her house during holidays because I refused to take the verbal abuse. Now that I'm an adult I can see that she had a serious problem. Because she never saw it as a problem and therefore wasn't willing to get help for it, it always cast a dark cloud over her relationships with people.

As someone who is clinically depressed, it would be very easy for me to self-medicate with alcohol instead of taking my antidepressant. The family history of alcoholism (which is also on my mom's side of the family) would be the perfect excuse for me to live it up and get drunk every night. That being said, I don't condemn people that choose to drink; whether socially or otherwise. One thing I do know is that I would never allow myself to knowingly get involved romantically with someone who has more than a social relationship with alcohol. It would be too painful. Alcohol can destroy relationships in very subtle ways.


  1. Good for you dear friend for staying away from alcohol. My background is the same as yours, minus the shooting - but things came close one time. Alcoholism is a nasty disease. I'm so happy you have risen above all that. The most I have to drink these days is a occasional glass of wine once a month. I stay away from it for the same reasons you do.

  2. I also stay away from drinking. My family has a regular tango line of alcoholics and when you're deaing with that all the way through your childhood and partially into your adult life, it totally changes your outlook. I only drink wine coolers, and that's done sparingly.

    It's nice to know that someone out there feels the same way I do.

  3. My grandparents were like that too. Well, my grandfather I should say-- and I stayed deathly averse to ever being with him. He was abusive to my grandmother. I grew up with a dislike of drinking and I will always be that way. Where they get that old saw that the child of an alcoholic will be one too, I can't figure. You and I and Mary are three examples of how untrue that is.


  4. Guess what? TW's Dad was a mean drunk too, only he never hit Gramma cos she's beat him up. He did grab TW's tit once and she slugged him a good one. Never did it again. The women in our family are feisty. TW is disgusted these days when she she's all her HS chums on FB all seem to drink too much. She had the chance when she toured with bands but never did. She and Pop have a beer twice a month and a glass of wine with the occasional Sunday dinner.

  5. Alcohol can be so destructive, and while it sounds like your scars and traumas run deeper than mine, I think we share the same feelings about alcohol and those that drink it. Sometimes I feel like I'm missing out on something when i hear about how much fun my friends/acquaintances are having -- especially on a 'drinking holiday' like NYE. But then I remember why I dont drink, and I surround myself with people that share my disdain for it.

    I don't condemn people who imbibe, either. Sometimes I envy them, or worry for them, but unless their actions affect others (kids, spouses, friends) I say to each their own.

  6. My grandfather was like this as well. My grandmother endured in silence. I don't think you can reconcile the two sides of your grandmother. She shot and killed your grandfather and she was verbally abusive to you. You did the right thing by protecting yourself. Just because someone you love is an slcoholic, it doesn't mean you have to let them hurt you.

    I'm glad you wrote this as it helps me know you better. You never know what crosses a person has had to bear unless they tell you.

    I love you petal xxxxx