Posted by: morrowsl | July 12, 2016

The Art of Sobriety

Alcoholism was part of my everyday as a child.  Both of my grandfathers drank, my mother’s only sibling drank, as did one of my dad’s sisters.  I didn’t have a firm grasp of alcoholism as a child, but I knew what being drunk looked like from a child’s point of view.  I knew the smell of whiskey-soaked breath.  I knew the stagger, slur, and slump.  I knew the anger and irrationality.  And, by age six, I knew what the “drunk tank” and DUI meant and how people managed to end up in the former because of the latter.

While I never recall anyone suggesting any of my family members might be an alcoholic, I certainly know that two of the four were commonly referred to as “drunks”.  From my earliest memory I associated a drunk with the same fear and disgust as anyone who might ever have killed a puppy.  They are simply bad people.

The idea of alcoholism and its effects on a family is something I’ve dragged around with me for ages.  It isn’t anything you can zen your way out of because it’s a part of your mental and emotional development.  You can’t get enough therapy to erase what you’ve seen and heard thanks to the family drunk/drunks.  It’s sort of like the imaginary friend in Drop Dead Fred.  No matter how much you try to suppress it, it will pop up at social gatherings or in the liquor store or at wine tastings.  You live with the fear that, should you have another drink, you’ll be slobbering onto some poor soul’s shoulder before the end of the evening or singing or dancing or otherwise making an ass of yourself.  It’s in your genes.  It’s no different than the green in your eyes or the shape of your hands.

And, because you know what is possible, you tend to be over-protective of the children who come into your family.  You do your best to shield and shelter them.  You post warnings to your spouse against drinking when the kids are around.  You offer to always be the designated driver.  You suggest that holidays and family gatherings be alcohol-free to avoid subjecting the children to irresponsible adults.

You feel like you’ve done a good job.  You believe that the little ones entrusted to your care will grow up remembering Christmas because of the joy and colors and new toys.  Their memories of Thanksgiving will be groans from the Papas and the clank of dishes being washed as they consume yet another slice of chocolate pie.  You hope they will recall birthdays filled with laughter.

Then, one morning while the world is already spinning too fast and your grip is stressed, you get a phone call about the current family drunk behind the wheel of a car with a child inside.  This person has knowingly chosen to risk it all for the sake of alcohol.  At 9:00 in the morning.  Coming across town in rush-hour traffic.  With your most precious little love strapped into the backseat.  And your brain can no longer keep the beast behind the door.  There are sirens on the interstate and your heart is beating far too fast.  You have visual images of the inside of the car with the driver’s raging anger and diminished capacity forcing the child to grip the armrests and try to avoid being jerked about.  You imagine that he is crying.  Or close to crying.  You know he is confused and afraid.  And that he loves his father and is ashamed to feel anything else.
But you can’t give in to an all-out panic because you have to be the one with a calm hand and reasonable mind.  You’re supposed to be the arm around the shoulder.  You are wisdom from experience.  You can’t freak out.

When the car finally pulled up and the child popped out, I swallowed the huge lump in my throat and told the ball of fear in my gut to stand down.  He was safe again.

At the end of the day the poor choices his father made became the foundation for a protective bumper.  It is my strongest hope and most determined objective that my grandson never again be subjected to a morning like the one he just had.
We will see what the future decides.

It tears at my heart and soul to hear him recalling the things he has witnessed, the things he’s been told not to share with his mother or any of her family.  It is gut-wrenching to watch him trying to sort through the lies to find a shred of truth.  I seethe at the idea of adults using him so badly.  There’s no possible way to wrap my brain around an entire family that puts a drunk/addict before an innocent child.  And it just pisses me off to know how many times it’s been suggested that we have no interest in what is best.

I don’t want my grandson to grow up without a father.  I want him to have that contact with an adult male who can help him navigate.  He will need a frame of reference for shaping his own life.  But the little girl in me who remembers the drunks and the countless times they brought anger and tears and destruction and fear to what should have been a peaceful, joy-filled life doesn’t care about any of that.  All she wants is for the drunk to go away and never return.  The woman she grew into knows the beauty of relationships forged from love without a common blood connection.  The adult, looking back at the years that were wasted because the drunks refused to do any less drinking for the sake of their family, is pissed off at a system that continues to reinforce alcoholism and drunk driving in spite of all the lobbying for change.

And the grandmother in all of them knows only that I must love him and answer his questions and calm his fears and soothe his concerns.  And offer to be always be the driver.


Responses

  1. Just heartbreaking, for all of you. But thank God that the boy’s guardian angel has been with him whenever his father has made bad choices concerning him; and thank God for the wonderful role models YOUR side of the family provides him.

    • Thanks, Elle. I feel the same way. There are good men, strong men in this family who will provide the direction he needs.

  2. Oh, man. I never regret clicking on one of your links.

    • Thanks, Jennifer. I never regret clicking on yours either.

  3. This has made my day. I wish all posintgs were this good.


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