You might never have guessed. Certainly no one who knew them professionally would have ever known. But I knew. I think I started to really figure it out a few years ago.
The memories I have of growing up in Florida are mostly good. My parents were social, had good friends, enjoyed going out, really enjoyed having people over to the house. I remember going to bed in elementary school while my parents had pool parties with their friends…pool parties that involved kegs of beer and lots of alcohol. I remember watching my mom huddled over the toilet due to drinking one too many pitchers of strawberry daiquiris or maybe it was margaritas. Yes, my parents were a good time, but it seemed normal to me.
In high school I don’t remember much beyond going out to dinner on the weekends with my parents, hanging out with my friends, and fighting with my mom. Oh the fights. My mom is the kind of person who when she gets mad at you she ignores you or discounts what you’re saying or feeling. She is always right. Your feelings are wrong, not important. Her thought process is “So what if I called you a whore when I found out you had lost your virginity…get over it.”
To be fair there were a lot of good times growing up. My parents were doing well financially and my sister and I were spoiled. Christmas was a gluttonous time and everything on our lists to “Santa” was pretty much what we got. Although my parents had begun to fight we still genuinely liked each other as a family. My dad and I were and still remain very close as were my sister and mother. Of course this set our family up to divided. My sister didn’t talk to my dad for 4 years…not even she can say why.
I never drank in high school. I probably could have, but it wasn’t something I was interested in. The first time I got drunk was the summer after high school. We had a party in our guest house (it’s not as glamorous as it sounds…my grandma used to live there) and a friend’s older sister got us alcohol. We got caught of course, but my parents confiscated what they saw and left us to go on with our party. I was surprised because my parents were fairly strict growing up.
My parents washed their hands of the drinking thing when I went away to college. I got to go to a fancy private school and my parents found almost a certain humor in my drinking EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND. My dad used to call me early on Saturday and Sunday mornings to laugh at me being hung-over. Since I drank at college I was allowed to drink when I came home on the weekends, too. There have always been lots of stories about the crazy things my parents did when they were younger that involved alcohol.
I still didn’t realize my parents had a problem. I finished college, moved away, got a job, got married. Having an open bar and good food at my wedding was hugely important and my dad still talks about how he went out with the “sorority girls” after the reception. The “sorority girls” still talk about my dad doing shots with them as well (is it weird that my high school sweetheart was there, too???). I moved back home, got divorced, and spent a lot more time drinking. Alcohol was my best friend after my divorce and occasionally benzos stopped by to visit. There were times that the most drunk I was was with my parents. There were times when I blacked out. Life was a roller coaster of drama and bad relationships and bars and…
Then my parents got divorced. It was a long time coming as they had spent the last few 10 years or so fighting and growing apart from each other. As painful as that time was for them, it was a sigh of relief for me and my sister. We still all spent holidays together as my family is fairly enmeshed (that’s a whole other post) and my mom continues to work for my dad to this day even though he lives with his new lady friend.
I moved again, got remarried, and now have my own daughter. Over the last years I have begun to realize that alcohol has played too much of a role in our lives and I can see my family for what we are…functioning alcoholics. I spent the last 2 weeks with my mom and tried to have a discussion with her about her drinking and got nowhere. I remember her saying once how my grandma would sit at home every afternoon/evening and drink. I pointed out that similarly to my mom’s own life and her excuse was that grandma was drinking and not eating. My mom eats dinner every night. My mom said she worried about my sister because my sister wanted to have a glass of wine with lunch when she was visiting for a weekend…I pointed this out to my mom as she made her first drink of the day at 3pm. It wasn’t the same to her. She didn’t see the problem.
My parents drink every night. For my mom it’s margaritas or whisky sours. For my dad it’s wine. I could drink every day, but I don’t. During my pregnancy I craved wine like nobody’s business. The first glass of wine after my pregnancy was over was like being reunited with a long lost friend. I realize I am one loss of control away from alcoholism and I watch myself like a hawk. I recognize my potential problem…sort of. If I truly acknowledged how much I enjoyed drinking I should be scared to death. I choose not to acknowledge it.
Why? Because I’m successful. I have a masters degree. I have a professional license in two states. I used to work as an addiction counselor. I can control it.
Do you hear the excuses? Because I do. Round and round…we are all functioning.