HELLO ALCOHOL MY OL’ FRIEND….
I had a roller coaster relationship with alcohol, both ups and downs. Yes, nothing is all good or all bad in life, and I learned some lessons on this ride.
I was the first born of three, to young parents, in their early 20’s. They loved me very much, this I have always known. I had a happy childhood and I think I had a more active social life between the ages of 1 and 3 than I do at 50. I went everywhere with my parents, softball games, bars, card club, … you name it and I got to come along and always felt included.
I EXPERIENCED ALCOHOL AS A HAPPY THING
I have a warm memory associated with the smell of beer and cigarettes; and the feeling of laying my head on my mom’s chest, listening to her heartbeat and the voices of the adults talking and laughing as I drifted off to sleep. I felt safety, comfort and love. Some people may judge this scenario, but I don’t. It was part of my happy childhood. I saw alcohol as a happy thing, as an adult thing and something I wanted when I “grew up”.
I DIDN’T WAIT ‘TIL I WAS 21
I did a bit of underage drinking in high school, but very carefully. I didn’t want to disappoint or embarrass my parents, and I didn’t want to experience the consequence of my choice. I did want to be like them and feel grown up and happy. I have many fun, and some scary, memories of my high school years, some around alcohol and some not. As an adult, I know this was against the law and not something I was supposed to do. I knew it was something my parents, my teachers and my coaches would have frowned upon and may have even been shocked about, but it was fun, formed deeper bonds with my friends and made me feel included.
DRINKING AND THE OL’ COLLEGE TRY
It seemed that EVERYONE drank in college, it was just part of the culture. It was fun, and being a shy introverted person, I found alcohol to be a vehicle to opening up faster and to giving me a sense of belonging. However, the consequences of drinking started to become more apparent. The trade off to going out to parties became my struggle with grades. I had never had this before, and I didn’t particularly like this new struggle. However, it did teach me that I always have a choice and a consequence. If I didn’t go out with my friends I might miss out on something super fun. What if they stopped inviting me if I said no too many times? My grades improved when I focused my energy on studying and away from drinking. This was obviously a positive outcome, but I didn’t like making that choice. Why could other people I knew do both? It wasn’t fair. I spent a lot of time in “victim mode” when I chose studying over drinking and fun, but I pushed through and graduated with the knowledge I needed to become a successful member of society and to help people thru medicine.
ALCOHOL MADE ME SICK
After graduating, I became an adult. I had my own apartment, my own car, my own bills, and my own job. I could make all of my own choices with no consequences, right?!? Well, one thing that followed me from high school, to college and into adulthood was what my dad likes to call the “Krohn Curse”. I never tolerated alcohol well. Almost every time I drank, I would have nausea and a headache the next day at minimum. At maximum, I would be physically sick for 2 to 3 days. This was usually dependent on the quantity of alcohol consumed, but not always. I was only responsible for myself at this point, so I would often choose the fun alcohol brought over the known consequence of consuming the alcohol. So many fun memories were created at this time in my life as well, but the consequences were always there. From wasting the whole day after a night of fun to having to call in sick to my new job that I loved. This was after going out for dinner and drinks with a friend on a weeknight and having just 2 cocktails. I woke up the next morning physically ill and unable to function. I remember calling and talking to one of my pharmacy mentors, sobbing and feeling so ashamed. I was thankful when I was met with kindness and compassion, even though I was completely honest about my self inflicted illness.
BUT I DIDN’T STOP
This changed how I drank but did not stop me from drinking. I would very strategically choose to only drink before a day I could afford to waste. But Why? Why choose to do something to your body that was harmful? The answer was simple, it was because it was fun and social and made me feel included.
KIDS AND ALCOHOL
Having children squelched the desire to drink a bit more. The consequences became too big. I could not afford to feel ill for an entire day when I had a beautiful little being that depended on me. Yet, my husband and I were far away from family, in a new environment and wanted to make friends. I loved the free easy feeling that alcohol brought when making new friends. I was not so guarded and it was much easier to open up and form the friendship bonds faster. But, as life often does, the challenges of being married, being parents, dealing with the balancing of work/home life became more intense and then drinking started to be a means of escape. I did not notice this at the time but hindsight is crystal clear. Alcohol did not cause any of my problems, but it was not a productive way to deal with my problems.
DIVORCE AND ALCOHOL
After my divorce, the irony was, I stopped drinking. If I would have a cocktail it would be mostly for appearances. I didn’t want to address the reasons why I stopped drinking, and at the time, I didn’t entirely understand it myself. I would still choose to have a drink here and there in a social setting where it was just fun to have some cocktails and get silly. Sometimes I dealt with the consequences and sometimes I got a free pass.
IT FINALLY STOPPED WHEN I WAS DIAGNOSED
It wasn’t until my diagnosis, with rheumatoid arthritis, that I stopped drinking completely. This reason was truly for me. I felt lousy when I wasn’t drinking and I didn’t want to knowingly add to my misery.
As a mom of teenagers, I told them I wanted to take the curiosity out of the alcohol but realized I could not remove the peer pressure. The choices they made, in relationship to peer pressure, was up to them to handle in their own way. They have been allowed to drink with me at home, to see what it tastes like and how it makes them feel. Sometimes we just get out the “pretty glasses” and have non-alcoholic drinks just to feel special and grown up. I have shared my consequences of feeling lousy after drinking and they have seen me experience this first hand. I shared my struggle with grades in college and the choices I made. I have always stressed that there is absolutely no reason for driving after having even a single drink. They know they can always call me, or call their dad, for a ride and there will be no consequences. Conversation? Absolutely!! But no consequences if they are taking the opportunity offered to them to be safe.
I UNDERSTAND WHY I HAVE THE CURSE
Now that I know what alcohol does to my body and the burden it places on my liver, I understand why I have the “Krohn Curse” and I choose not to drink. I find there are friends who are curious about this choice. They knew me in my high school or college or post college days and this is something different. I don’t find there to be judgment, just curiosity of the why. It took me a half a century to be truly comfortable with this choice and with sharing the ‘why’.
There are times I am on vacation or in a social setting where I want a drink to have that warm happy experience, but typically I find another choice and put it in a pretty glass. I find that the warm happy experience exists even in the absence of alcohol. On those occasions where I truly want the experience of a drink ~a cold beer up north on the lake, an icy tropical drink when I am lounging on the beach by the ocean or a brandy old fashioned when the snow is falling and there is a crackling fire in the fireplace~ then I will have one knowing that this may be nourishing my soul in some way but also with the full knowledge that this is something that is not nourishing my body.
I know the choice is always mine to make and the consequence is always mine to endure. This most often leads me to find the joy in the situation without choosing the alcohol.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
Do you have a similar experience with alcohol? Is your experience something completely different? I find sharing an learning from one another to be therapeutic and educational.
Have a wonderful week!