I am a child of an alcoholic. I am a Normie. But I am ever-watchful.
Studies say that I carry the addiction gene, but I’m not sure about that. I drink like the sure-footed Scandinavian stock I was bred from, but I am always willing to forgo the pleasurable liquid to be the designated driver and ferry friends around so I get to see the pleasure of good feelings on their faces. Especially in California wine country, or Scotland, or wherever we find ourselves.
But I am constantly aware of the beer at lunch, a glass of wine midday, or how much of the bottle I’ve had at dinner. I rarely overdo it as the next morning is ever-predictably uncomfortable. I completely understand that the substance makes me care less about an unhappy client or a bad day and I totally get that alcohol is a nice escape from those uncomfortable feelings of inadequacy or failure. I’m always watching, though. It’s a constant check to make sure that I’m not sliding down that slippery slope that overtook my father and his father.
My dad died of alcoholism. He turned his liver into 3.5 pounds of concrete using gin as a coagulant. Sure, he had multiple problems: a tumor in his brain, a porn habit, and worse. But it was the drink that killed him, and watching that process was unnerving. Not sad per se—we were never close—but to see another person in that much pain and knowing that they did this to themselves—that was the hard part…on a basic human level.
As a child, I had no idea. I didn’t know that I wasn’t allowed to have a sip of his morning orange juice because it had a healthy dose of vodka in it. I didn’t know that his morning commute included a mason jar full of wine. I didn’t know that my younger sister confronted him about his problem and he didn’t speak to her for a year because of it. I didn’t know that his mother was an enabler—a codependent parent—until well after he died. That’s when the secrets came out.
My grandmother had been sending him money for years. Most of the checks he wrote were to the local liquor store. He was drinking at least fifth of gin per day. His computer was full of unspeakable images—files my brother-in-law wouldn’t let my sister and I see as he was cleaning it up while looking for his legal documents after his funeral.
He and my mother had been divorced for over 25 years when he died. She said the split was because they would go to parties and he would disappear. Who knows what she actually knew? She never told us. One thing’s for certain, she saw the writing on the wall and bailed with two babies and no income. She was a Normie, too, but whenever she was depressed or down, she opened the refrigerator door and she knew that was a problem.
Addiction is always lurking. Is my sister vulnerable? Are her two teenaged daughters okay? Do I love working too much? Can you be addicted to social media? The Internet? Once you are exposed to addiction, that devil is always there and you are always watching for him.
I am the child of an alcoholic, but it’s not always alcohol that is the addiction. It could be food, sex, love, cigarettes, drugs…any dependency (or combination thereof) that gets you through the day.
It seems by that measure, that you could kill yourself with yoga, but that’s doubtful. There is a difference between addiction and passion. Perhaps the key to recovery is replacing an addiction with a passion? I don’t know, but I hope so.
One thing’s for certain: I’ll always be watching for the addiction devil. For a Normie like me, it’s as regular as going to a meeting. And I love meetings. I hope to see you there.