Friday, November 25, 2011

A Glass of Wine, or 3

I grew up with an alcoholic father. I mean, as far as I know, he's still an alcoholic father. I haven't seen him in several years. No contact either. As far as I know, he could be reading this right now. But where he is right now or what he's doing is neither here nor there.  Growing up my mother drank (still does), but I can think of only a few times when I saw her affected by alcohol (and those were mostly when I was an adult myself). Sadly, I can think of only a few experiences with my father that didn't involve alcohol, or more specifically him abusing it.

Growing with a father who I knew, even as a little kid, had a problem with alcohol has colored my view and experience with alcohol. I first drank when I was 16 and went on a "class trip" to Mexico (a story - and a good one - for another day). And by "drank" alcohol, I mean I had - literally - a sip. I didn't drink again until I went to college. I think, really, til I was 20. I've been inebriated several times, but I'm pretty sure I could count those times on 2 hands. I found that I have not just a high, but a really high tolerance to substances. Alcohol, laughing gas (wisdom teeth extraction), even ibuprofen, I have to consume a lot to get the same affects as other people.

Not that I often want to get that same affect (inebriation, I mean). That out of control feeling isn't one I seek frequently; it isn't one I like. I much prefer to be in control of myself. More than that, I need to be in control of myself. Not being in control is scary. Any mental health professional would probably tell you this is a common trait in a child of an alcoholic, this need to be in control. It maybe one of the reasons why many of us are successful and accomplished professionally - we're type A, good at getting things done, and getting them done well. It's probably also the reason a good number of us struggle in relationships, because we want to be in control all the time.

After my 3rd glass of wine (when I finally started feeling the least bit of an affect), I start to understand why my father drinks. It's that feeling he craves. The feeling of no longer needing to be in control. The feeling of starting to let go of all that responsibility piled on your shoulders. The feeling of relaxation. It's a feeling that, because he is an alcoholic and has been for probably 40 years, he finds at the bottom of a 24pack (or more) of beer. It's a feeling that fortunately I can get to after just a couple of glasses of wine. And, as wonderful as it is, it's still scary. Because it's still a loss of control.

I feel incredibly blessed and lucky that I didn't inherit that alcoholic, dependent gene from him. It was a total luck of the draw, but I have never felt that dependence on any substance. I am beyond grateful for that. But, as I look at my boys, I wonder whether those are genes they have. Whether or not they'd been adopted, I know this I something I would have thought and worried about. And I - in my head - know it's not something over which I have control, but still I worry.

After I drank my (rare) 3 glasses of wine at dinner tonight, I wonder what I am teaching my children about alcohol. I wondered without my mother's "lessons" of drinking without becoming drunk (or crazy), what my attitude about alcohol would have been. I wonder if by drinking in front of my boys, I am helping them to develop a healthy attitude about alcohol - that it is something that can be consumed and enjoyed, without being abused. I hope that I am. But still I worry. I wonder if people who didn't grow up with an alcoholic parent worry about such things. Or perhaps they never even consider the possibility that their children could become addicts.

My father's alcoholism has affected me in a plethora of ways. Because of it, of him, I am who I am. And I've long since made peace with that, with the way his alcoholism affected my childhood and my current self. But one of those ways is that I, probably more so than the average parent, worry about my children's attitude and future as it relates to substances. I worry, and I try to control. Which is, I'm sure, not the best way to handle the issue. But it's the best I can do for now.

Today's lesson - sometimes 3 glasses of wine are just 3 glasses of wine. Sometimes they help you to relax. Sometimes, however, they make you think way too too much. And those are times when you should just go to bed. Good night, friends.

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