Alcohol is a tricky subject. A young person I know is having a tough time because he has Mono and is not supposed to drink. The reason this is a problem is that he is at college. Drinking is pretty much part of going to college unless you are a Mormon. This situation made me think of how much the culture of drinking has changed. The generation who grew up just after prohibition ended drank a lot. They often had a cocktail hour every night. My parents did not do this, so I was pretty unworldly about the way Americans drank.
In my early life, we lived in Europe. Wine was available everywhere. Children were given watered-down wine by their parents. It was never forbidden to me, but I was encouraged to be careful. Drinking too much was considered wrong. However, it was never a thing that was hard to get. So it did not spark my interest as a teenager. It was just part of dinner. In our family, there was no “cocktail hour” for a before-dinner drink.
As a teenager back in the USA, I saw other girls get horribly drunk at parties. They made themselves look awfully stupid. They threw up in front of their dates, soiled their clothes, and ruined their images. I determined never ever to look that way. Drinking became something other people did. And I learned to have fun at parties and in groups without alcohol. To be completely honest, I did smoke cigarettes back then. While talking to my old friends about the past, we admit that for us, cigarettes were a sort of tranquilizer. We used smoking to numb our feelings about how much our husbands were drinking.
Alcohol came into my life along with my marriage and challenged me. We had many friends for whom socializing meant drinking. And for most, that meant drinking heavily. We loved parties, an excuse to dress up and see people. But for some, it was a chance to misbehave. In our twenties, our parties could be full of alcohol and go on late into the evening. It seemed normal in our group of friends. In fact, my personal attitude toward drinking was considered prudish. For many years I did my best to live with the situation. My personal drink was Coca-Cola. I did not know too much about the disease of alcoholism.
My parents bought beer for my friends to drink at my parties when I was a teenager. It was not shocking or even frowned upon. We all thought my parents were cool. But being drunk and disorderly was not acceptable. Somehow that has changed over the decades since then. The stigma against drunkenness has disappeared now.
When our children were young, I remembered my parents’ casual view of letting young people drink wine. We even let our younger children have a drink of Champaign on special occasions. We bought beer for our teenagers or turned a blind eye when they brought it home themselves. Now I regret that. However, I was woefully ignorant of the sort of life to which drinking young could lead.
In their 20s, the young are apt to forgive heavy drinking among their friends. Blacking out frequently happens without repercussions. People joke about blackouts.”I have no idea what I did last night!.” But it is a very real danger signal.
Finally, after 20 years, my husband decided to stop drinking. He went to a substance abuse facility in Florida for a month. They offered a one-week family learning time. I went to this with our oldest son. There we both learned a lot about alcohol. Most importantly, I learned that alcohol is a drug. Just like cocaine, it is a mind-altering drug. It is not something to be taken lightly. If you are going to drink, there should be an intent to avoid addiction.
In the USA, beer or whiskey and other hard liquor were the most common drink until around the 1970s. Then, wine began to make itself the popular drink among those who considered themselves sophisticated. Of course, there are still plenty of beer lovers. A party with a keg is a great American tradition, especially with sports fans.
For so many years, I enjoyed my life without alcohol and never missed it. You do NOT need a drink to have a good time in life. I went to parties and events where others were drinking and never felt deprived. People were my entertainment. It was a fun time.
These days I do drink. After a divorce, I realized that I was only responsible for myself. There was no reason I could not have a drink if I wanted to. I began to drink wine at parties in my mid-sixties. But sometimes, it is hard to gauge how much wine one is drinking. Hospitable people pour more wine into the glass. So I switched. And I now prefer a martini. Actually I like a “dirty” Martini which means with olive juice added. If there is no olive juice available. I will skip the martini completely. NO ONE drinks a Martini because of its wonderful flavor. But I do enjoy the taste of the olive juice. We drink Martinis because they give us a little buzz right away. It happens fast. So if you are trying to dull a pain or trying to ignore something happening in your life, the Martini works fast. But it is also just fun to have one before a meal at a restaurant. You are not likely to be offered an additional one without your knowledge.
I am careful. I KNOW it is a drug. When I order a Martini, I think to myself, “Do I want to have a drug (a mind-altering drug)? Or not?” I never take a drink without this thought in the back of my mind. From time to time, I order a Martini because I enjoy them. But I have no illusions. They add an almost instant zing to my experience. No one can honestly say they don’t notice that the drink gives them a buzz.
Think about it. What do you want? And can you tell the difference? Many people in my family enjoy their alcohol and do not appear to have problems controlling it. However, several relatives no longer drink. Some have been in AA for decades, and their lives are full. There are three generations of them now in our family, and more coming along. They are living happily without drinking. They experience life in full color with all its sound and fury. Just remember that alcohol is for dulling the senses. It is a depressant. It is NOT a joyful drink if you cannot stop.
So I wonder if you can see how destructive it can be? Be careful. And if you think it is actively disturbing your life, seek help. It is incredible how many people have made the switch to a sober life. They are all the better for it.
Copyright©. 2022 Bonnie B. Matheson