When I tell a story, it may seem like I’m supplying superfluous information—and, I have been known to go off on a tangent. But, when something triggers a tale, there has to be context for the listener/reader to understand where I’m coming from. So, buckle up…
There is a popular grocery store chain in my area and it recently went out of business. This is leaving the local residents feeling disheartened. One of the features of this store is that you can buy a glass of beer or wine to drink on while you shop. Some of the posts written by locals on social media lament they can’t shop and drink now—what are they to do? These comments bother me and I’ll explain why.
I used to have at least one drink every, single night. It was part of a daily routine in my previous marriage. My ex drank quite a bit each night, sometimes way too much. Once I was separated and on my own with three kids, drinking was limited as I had to keep my wits about me. Over the years drinking alcohol has become infrequent with a month or more going by without any beer, wine, or my favorite spirit, vodka.
Not having alcohol hasn’t become a conscious decision as I really don’t think about it overall. There are times I do want an ice-cold beer or even a mixed drink—and I have one. During the summer, having a beer or two sitting poolside isn’t uncommon—I enjoy it. Have I gotten drunk before? Absolutely, but it’s been a very long time.
I’m not oblivious to the notion alcoholism is a disease as my paternal grandparents died because of it. And I know the comments on social media don’t imply they are all alcoholics. Honestly, this has nothing to do with them overall. What it has triggered in me is sadness about my youngest sister, who—at the age of 38—died of alcoholism. Her death was a hard blow to my heart and psyche. Her constant state of drunkenness was more prevalent toward the end of her life, however with her being four states away, I wasn’t aware that her most of her days began and ended with alcohol.
I do understand why my sister drank—she was in pain emotionally—predominantly due to her estranged husband who for lack of a better word, tormented her the last four years of her life. Only one who has been with someone with narcissistic personality disorder would understand this level of harassment. Then, unfortunately, her choice of men she subsequently dated emotionally and physically abused her. The autopsy revealed several bruises on her body, but stated she died as a result of her alcoholism.
Drinking was her way of dealing with the obstacles of her choices and what life was throwing at her.
My talks with my youngest sister were seemingly productive in helping her work through her problems, but only temporarily. Behind the scenes, her drinking had steadily increased. Both my other sister and I tried to get her to come stay with us for a while, but she wanted to be near her children as she got to have supervised visits with them on the weekends. Those around her were not emotionally equipped to help her despite seeing her demise first hand.
Not a single day since last May has she not entered my thoughts. I no longer find memes posted on social media about getting drunk or needing a drink humorous. I am not judging these people so much as my views have changed on drinking—stained by my personal tragedy. Any time I do have an alcohol, it’s not without a small sense of guilt. I know that her death isn’t my fault and I should still be able to enjoy a beer while sunning by the pool; or a cocktail when meeting up with friends—it’s just different now.
It sounds odd to say I have a new found respect for drinking alcohol, but in reality that’s what it is. Additionally, we shouldn’t just recognize when someone needs help, but do the hard task of intervening. I immensely regret not getting on a plane and getting her the professional help she needed. Remember alcohol and substance abuse happens to the best of families and friends. Don’t let regrets be the driving force in changing your life.
Substance Abuse National Helpline: 800-662-HELP