January 4, 2007

Would you like that on the rocks?

Last week, in honor of New Year's Eve and all the drinking that goes with it, my sister and I were discussing the subject of consuming alcohol in front of our kids. Frankly, we have alcoholics in our family history. Of course, growing up, no one ever dared to utter the word "alcoholic". Instead, furtive whispers and tsk tsks about "too much drinking" were offered instead. One relative, who on his deathbed in the hospital was drinking is still 20 years later, TO THIS DAY, never, ever referred to as an alcoholic. Because I guess that would be disrespectful? Bad? How about informative?

As an adult, I am conscious of my own alcohol consumption. I've had 2 periods of my life where I was mostly bored and lonely - either working a ton of hours or traveling or BOTH. Frankly, watching movies or TV with a beer or glass of wine was a relaxing way to spend an evening in those days. While I don't think I am an alcoholic, I do look back on those periods and see that I was drinking too much. As a result, I understand how all too easy it is to slip into that cycle.

Now that I am a parent, all of this has taken on great meaning. I do believe there is a genetic component to alcoholism. Furthermore, I've seen firsthand what a slippery slope alcohol consumption can become and it has given me a greater compassion for what an alcoholic must go through. I also have to be cognizant of the fact that alcoholism may very well linger in my own children's genes. I guess I could go the route of "no alcohol", but I'd prefer a more moderate approach by showing my children that a glass of wine can be consumed with dinner in a responsible manner.

But most importantly? When they are older and able to handle the information, I will be upfront with my children about the alcoholism that makes up their familial history. I may or may not name names, but I think my children need to know those pertinent facts as they face a world littered with images glorifying all that is alcohol. I certainly don't resent my own family for living in a sad state of denial, but I do believe I owe it to my children to offer them more than a rolling of the eyes or a sad tsk tsk.


dorothy said...

I am totally with you. I decided as my new year's resolution to skip my nightly glass on school nights. I figure I'll lose five pounds and save $10/month. And, I'll reassure myself that I don't ever "need" a drink, even when work bites the big one.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

I'd love to be one of those "just have a glass of wine" type people but

a) Alcohol touches off this "I really need a cigarette" chemical in my head, which is a bad bad sensation to have

b) Even one glass has me feeling like crap the next day. Not drunk-but sluggish and like I don't want to get up.

c) It makes my mild depression worse.

My sister, otoh, can do it.

The thing is...my brain is just programmed to take things to excess. It's one of the big reasons I didn't go anywhere NEAR drugs. It's the reason I don't keep alcohol in my house, limit buying it for myself and prefer to just take the $8 hit for a glass when going out.

Eh, I'm not an alcoholic but I think I have all the right variables for alcoholism and alcoholism was probably the one "drug" issue we covered pretty extensively in "Lawyer Ethics" (I know, I know, we don't have any). a) Ongoing depression issues? Check b) High-stress job/career? Check c) Sense of isolation from peers and poor support network in area of domicile? Check d) Family history of scary mental disorders like shizophrenia? Check. e) Low tolerance and giddy euphoria at altered mood? Check.

Plus, the calories.

That said, I had some fabulous almond champagne on New Year's.


meno said...

Kids are pretty smart. Depending on how old they are, you may not have to name names when you tell them about alcoholism in your family. I knew who the ones in my family were by the time i was 8 or so.

Goofy Girl said...

Good post! Thanks for opening up about something that is a risky topic. I have a similar genetic disposition (thanks fam!) but I see it more not with alcohol but with obsessive/compulsive tendencies to other things (gambling anyone? video game addiction?). I don't like the lack of control that alcohol consumption causes (control freak much?) but give me Halo 2 and you won't see me for a week straight.

Erin said...

My family also has alcoholism running through it and I don't drink very much. Not necessarily because of the alcoholism but because I don't care for the taste of most booze and I hate the loss of control thing. Like other commenters, I also have an addictive personality and so I have always been conscious of what I expose myself to. It is much better to be addicted to M&Ms or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups than to crack, ya know? At least I won't go to jail for buying RPBCs or be called a "Peanut Butter Cup Whore" like I would with other possible addictions.

My mother has in the past few years started to go overboard in her drinking in social situations. She and my dad will drink several bottles of wine when there is company visiting and then they get all sloppy and annoying. (She caused quite a scene at my sister's wedding, to the point that my husband and I were talking seriously of having a dry wedding, just to avoid a similar issue at our wedding. Instead, she promised not to drink at all and all was good.) Mike and I have discussed her drinking many times and have decided that when she gets like that it is time for us to leave. Mostly so we don't have to deal with it (she does big, drapy hugs and long professions of her love for us when she's had too much) but also so that the kid(s) aren't exposed to it.

You bring up a good point about talkiing about it with your children. I hadn't really thought about that part, but I guess I will have to sit the kids down eventually and explain about what things we gave them other than red hair, asthma and allergies. :)

Bethany said...

I have some of the same feelings. While I don't believe it is wrong to have a social drink or glass of wine with dinner, it is a fine line as to whether your children can differentiate between that and excess consumption. I don't know the answer either.

My fear is that one day they're out with friends, offered alcohol in the car or something, and in the back of their minds, they reason..."well, it must be ok, because mom and dad drink." Kids can justify anything!

I dunno either. :)

By the way, since reading Rancid Raves, and being in a 6 month pregnant feeding frenzy, I purchased some Patio burritos at my local grocer. I opted for the "beef-n-bean: Hot" variety. MMMM. I luv em! I started with 4, and have to give my husband two of them. It was a sacrifice. Thanks for introducing me to such a satisfying snack. (To some, it might be a meal, but c'mon).

Have a good weekend!

Blondie said...

My parents NEVER drank in front of us. They weren't/aren't drinkers. It always amuses me when I randomly see my father have a Bud Lite at some random outing. I wonder how this affected me? I did kind of think that any drinks at all were bad because of it, I suppose. But that did nothing to curb my evil behavior in high school/college. It's an interesting thing to think about as a parent. Good parent!!

CPA Mom said...

Good topic. My dad is an (unacknowledged, we must never discuss it) alcoholic. I saw myself going down that slope about 10 years ago and caught myself. I will be completely honest about it with my kids. You are RIGHT! They deserve to know. How can you make an informed decision about something if you are not completely informed?

Jenn said...

Wow funny enough (not funny at all) alcoholism is on my mind today. My ex-fiance is an alcoholic, I was with him for 8 years trying to "fix" him. My brother recently saw him at a bar - go figure - and he was in BAD BAD shape. *sigh*

Amazingly it pulls on my heartstrings to this day, and I still want to "help" him, even though I know I can't do anything, it has to come from him....

I do feel a sigh of relief though that I got out before I ended up marrying and having children with him. Cause only thing worse than having genes from an alcoholic is having one as your father/mother.

melissa said...

Jenn you are so right. It is not up to you to change him, nor is it going to make your life better if you stayed there to help him. I was married to an alcoholic man & his family for almost 15 years and they were all in denial. Everyday is a party (until they have apologies to make the next day). I am scared for my daughters to end up the way he did, ( he became abusive) but we talk candidly about drinking, & I hope it will help. Good Luck & GOD bless YOU!!!