The argument between “experts” of whether alcoholism is hereditary or a personal decision will rage on for decades to come. Personally, I believe it is a personal decision – your own choice. Alcoholism runs generations deep on my mother’s side of the family, yet my mother is not an alcoholic. Neither are her siblings.
My first memory of my maternal grandmother is not a good one. I was four years old. It was a bright, sunny day in Southern California. My mom was taking her groceries, again. With my Uncles not in the living room, my brother turned on the television, my mom headed into the kitchen and I ran up the stairs, excited to see my grandma and my uncles. I found my grandma. She was laying on her bed, surrounded by little round, white things, not moving and foaming at the mouth. Her right hand was dangling from the bed and her left hand had a firm grip on that damn bottle of Vodka.
I remember every moment of that day as if watching it in slow motion. I remember the fear, confusion and sheer terror as the Paramedics did life saving CPR as they were putting her in the ambulance. I pledged from that day forward to never be an alcoholic, to never become like her.
At the age of twelve, an event occurred in my life and I picked up my first bottle of Vodka. It does not matter what happened. What matters is the result. It began slowly, then I would mix it into my soda, then I started taking it to school with me. Before long, it didn’t matter what the “it” was, Tequila, Brandy, Vodka – I couldn’t seem to get enough of it. At the age of twelve, in the seventh grade, alcohol started to take over my life.
During the next seven years, my drinking became outrageous. After I moved out of the house, my life consisted of working and drinking. Frequently I barely made it home in time to shower, change and head off to work again. Only to repeat the process.
All of the stories I had heard from my mom and other family members, even the horror of their childhood because of my grandma’s drinking, it did not faze me. The concern of family and friends, the lectures and looks of disappointment from my parents, none of it mattered. I simply didn’t care. I drank and I drank a lot! I told everyone to deal with it. Because alcoholism runs in our family, no one believed I could stop whenever I decided to.
Now it is three years after my 21st birthday. Ironically, now that I am legal to drink, I do not. Once my four beautiful stepchildren entered my life, I realized that drinking no longer mattered. My life is about my family, children, home, school, the child on the way and work. I made a personal decision to pick the bottle up and when to put it back down. I am not an alcoholic. I chose not to be.
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