Within our current culture, people often do not realize how alcohol can ruin lives, families, and careers. It is socially acceptable to binge drink to the point of blackout each weekend with friends, have a drink after work every day, and then to post all about it on social media. Am I saying that if you do these things then you're an alcoholic? Absolutely not. What I'm saying is within our current social climate, people often do not give alcohol and the risks associated with its consumption the respect it deserves. I, and many other families plagued by addiction, grew up knowing the extent to which alcohol can ruin a person and their loved one, and as a result, I am always careful when consuming it. Personally, I haven't made the choice to refrain from alcohol consumption all together, but many people have out of fear that it will ruin their lives like it did to their loved ones. Unfortunately there is a persisting culture of shame surrounding this issue, and in an attempt to break some of the barriers down, let's have an honest conversation about alcohol.
My Story — An Example
My father always loved his three kids with all of his heart, me included. I was his first child, his baby girl, and my two wonderful brothers were next to come. My father became dependent on alcohol at a very young age, though he'd never admit this. Instead, he likes to blame his problem on my mother for leaving him. Though this likely did make his dependence on the substance worse, it was certainly an issue long before that.
When my father was growing up, alcohol consumption was a right of passage for many teens, much like it is today. He started drinking from a young age and just never stopped. Fast forward a few years to when my mother had enough of his alcoholism and leaves him, now his issue becomes exacerbated. When he comes home from work, he pours himself a drink. Then another. And another. And so on, and so forth. All up until he finally passes out drunk on the couch. Who's going to take care of my brothers and myself? Unfortunately I had to assume the role of mom very young in order to make sure my family didn't fall apart.
I have experienced many negative things due to his addiction, including a dangerous incident in which he was driving blackout drunk with me and my brother in tow. Luckily, after minutes of screaming at him to pull over and wake up, as he was falling asleep at the wheel, he pulled over and I managed to take charge of the situation without any injuries or damage done. This incident was a wake-up call for me, I realized that I no longer wanted to be a victim to his disease and poor decisions and that it was up to me, not him, to change that.
Perhaps if back when he was young, people spoke openly about the dangers of alcohol and what it can do, he would have changed how he consumed it and maybe, my family would still be intact today. Maybe I would have a stable father figure in my life. It is in this hope that I am starting this discussion, because if it can potentially prevent other families from going through what we did — then my honesty is worth it.
What It's like Dealing with Addiction
The feeling of hope can be great when dealing with a loved one with addiction, however, I was crushed many times by his relapses and slowly the hope failed to regenerate. He has been through rehab multiple times, and has relapsed even more. It's hard to watch your loved one choose their vice, over and over again, over you and your happiness. You can choose to either let it break you down completely, or you can choose to be hardened by it. I chose the later. After years of dealing with my father and his addiction, and after I had fell into depression myself, I decided it was time to let go.
This was the hardest decision I have ever had to make, but I am happy that I was strong enough to make it. After my father once again made a selfish decision that suited only him and not his children, this time relating to his love-life, I removed him from my life.
The situation was very complicated, he had started to date this woman who was immature and disrespectful to both the struggles that we had been through as a family, and to his ex-girlfriend who was an absolute angel. This new woman would call my father's ex and attack her verbally, and make threats towards her. His ex would then call me in tears explaining what had happened, and how, understandably, she couldn't deal with it anymore.
I was dealing with adults who acted like children, my father refused to do anything about his new girlfriend acting like an immature teenager. In fact, he lied about it, telling me he had broken up with her. You see, the last thing our family needed was unnecessary drama, we had enough of it already. When I caught him in his lie, I gave him a choice, her or his only daughter. He chose her, and I chose to leave him behind.
What It's like Dealing with Addiction
Alcohol is a powerful substance that can destroy people who then destroy their families. I have always been very open about my experience and as result I have learned that not a lot of people take alcohol seriously. This is just my story, and in comparison to others my families struggle was nothing. It can get so much worse, people spend their entire lives living with alcoholism. In Al-Anon, a community where those with loved ones who are alcoholics can go to seek help and advice, I learned one important thing that has stuck with me. If your loved one is an alcoholic, though you may not have the addiction, you are an alcoholic too because you're living within this unhealthy dynamic that is also wreaking havoc on your life. I made the choice to no longer be touched by this disease, I no longer wanted to be a victim. It was a controversial decision, one that I am always defending. But that is another thing you learn when being around this disease, is people will blame you for your actions more so than blaming the alcoholic for theirs.
We need to wake up, we need to respect this substance and realize that it is dangerous. Otherwise more alcoholics will be created, and more lives will be ruined. Learn from my experiences, talk about it with friends, take away the stigma that addiction often carries with it. It is up to you, how do you want your life to go? Or do you want to choose destruction, depression, pain, anxiety, disappointment, unemployment, homelessness, divorce, etc.? You don't have to stop consuming the substance, just start consuming it in moderation.
It is socially acceptable to binge drink on the weekends, to have a couple glasses of wine after work everyday, to plan social events around the consumption of alcohol, etc. However, it does not mean it is safe to do so. Alcohol is extremely addictive, and we need to start treating its consumption accordingly.