OMG!! I had the BIGGEST a-ha moment just this morning. Surrounding my drinking. I guess you could say I had a BREAK THROUGH!!!
I was raised in a family of “heavy” drinkers. My dad and all 4 of my brothers drank (and a few still do), some heavier than others. I have a HUGE extended family (mom was one of 13 and dad was one of 7) and have heard stories of many of my relations being “alcoholics”, going to AA, going to drug/alcohol rehabs. From grandparents, aunts and uncles, first/second/third cousins, to nieces and nephews. My mom said her dad was an alcoholic. My mom would also say about one of my brothers that his two daughters “don’t stand a chance” because alcoholism runs on both sides of their family.
I drank the cool aid (of course, infused with *insert alcohol here*). I believed hook, line and sinker, that alcoholism is a real thing. That if you have this disease, there is no cure. That, of course, if it runs in your family, you’re basically screwed.
When I first started questioning my drinking, I toyed with the idea of attending an AA meeting and the thought of having to stand in front of a group of people saying “hello my name is Jennifer and I’m an alcoholic” scared the crap out of me. I also firmly believed that wasn’t me! I wasn’t THAT bad! I wouldn’t even classify myself as a “functional alcoholic” (whatever that is). And up until a few months ago when I shared with people I quit drinking, I would preface it with statements like “don’t get me wrong, my drinking wasn’t THAT bad”, or “my drinking was just getting too much for ME”. Recently, I’ve stopped saying things like that. My drinking WAS that bad. It was affecting all aspects of my life, including my health, my cognitive functioning, my relationships. And, frankly, feeling the need to explain to people why I decided to stop drinking isn’t at the top of my priority list anymore.
The more I’m delving into the reasons why I drink, the more I’m learning that it is related to the behaviors around my drinking. Personally, I discovered I drank for pain management, for stress release, for fitting in, for courage. All along, however, my mind was still thinking, “remember, though, you come from a long line of drinkers”, and in a way, that sort of let me off the hook. But this morning, watching a video about the two theories of drinkers, it finally dawned on me that, yes, my drinking actually IS because I come from a long line of drinkers! But not what I originally believed, that it runs in my “blood” and that I’ve got the “disease”, but because it runs in all of the behaviors I’ve been privy to surrounding the intake of alcohol. My parents likely drank because that’s what their parents did. They may have started drinking in high school to fit in. They drank because everyone ALWAYS drank at EVERY, SINGLE family get together!!! They drank at the end of a long, hard day at work to relieve stress. Maybe they were given sips of their dad’s beer when they were 5 and how that made them feel so grownup.
The biggest takeaway? I am in control of my drinking. I have the choice to drink or not. I am not relying on the rumor that I was born with the alcoholic gene or that I have an incurable disease. I am continually working to uncover the behaviors around MY drinking and figure out ways to better handle my stress, my physical pain, my social anxiety. And as long as I’m on this journey, I will continue to be an ambassador for dispelling the myths around drinking this highly addictive substance. My hope is that I may be helping family members and friends who are also struggling with this myth that they are suffering from an incurable disease. To empower them as I’ve been empowered in the belief that the strength is within us all and we can all overcome.
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