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  • Writer's pictureAli

Sobriety & Me: How Adolescence Shaped My Views of Alcohol

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

Welcome to Part 2! Before I begin this detailed, gritty recount of my family dynamics and memories I'm not proud to have experienced, please know this:

I've battled resurfaced feelings of shame while writing this story. I love my family dearly, but I didn't and don't love all of their choices and how they've impacted me. Forgiveness has become a staple in my life, and while writing and remembering details of my past with raw emotions, forgiveness is imperative for me to continue.

Mom and Dad, there's nothing in the world that can change how much you mean to me. I hope my words of honesty and grace make you proud and lead you into continued healing. That is my truest and greatest desire. I love you.

 

If you read Part One of this series, you know that I mentioned music being a major influence in my life. In my early teenagerhood, I turned my little-girl-dancing-in-front-of-the-mirror performances into actual performances at places around my hometown. Music fueled my heart and gave me an outlet to process emotions while achieving something I could be proud of. From ages 4-18, I would sing karaoke at little restaurants around town. When I turned sixteen, I started working at a little wings & things sports 'bar' where they'd host karaoke nights on the weekends. After work, I'd give "Red High Heels" a run for its money and sing with every ounce of passion I could conjure - while also trying to please my dad. He pushed me to be my best, always in every area I possibly could be. I wanted to be the best singer to make him proud; to look at me with admiration. I wanted him to adore me and my efforts in whatever I chose to do, even down to extracurricular activities. See, it was pleasing to me to please him. Que future codependent tendencies.

During those nights of singing at the restaurant, my dad drank so much that it fractured a piece of my heart. Those nights at the mic singing karaoke tunes weren't all belting big notes, dancing and laughter. It was watching pitchers of Yuengling disappear in a matter of hours, slurred commands to cure my lesbianism leaving me feeling defeated and misunderstood. Oh, and I can't forget the hate speeches against my mom that lasted for hours on end, well after we left the restaurant that went into the still, dark hours of the next morning. It was dreadful, simply dreadful.

Singing, music and artistic outlets became shameful and cringe-worthy. I felt contempt, like a phony within and about myself even though I had done nothing myself to ignite those emotions - again, codependency characteristics at their finest. Eventually, I gave up singing altogether, unless it was in the comfort of my shower or alone in my car. I suppose those lingering memories and feelings of seeming inadequacy creep into my mind, which hold me back from authentically living my life. But, this is my life. Not my dad's. It would take years to fully develop this belief, and it's something I continue to battle with internally.


When I was in high school I cheered for our football and basketball teams my 9th grade year. Cheerleading was something I had done since I was 4, and it became a natural progression into my high school career development. During this time, my mom and dad were going through some very difficult times within their marriage. They fought often. There was an extreme amount of yelling, which unfortunately, wasn't unusual for our family dynamic. My little sister was only 2 at the time, so my mom would stay at home with her on nights that I cheered instead of being at my games, since my sister was a little bit of a handful at that age. My dad traveled for work, and there were several games that he would miss throughout the season. I'd have to rely on my older brother to pick me up on game nights, or ride home with a friend who lived in my neighborhood. These kinds of experiences made me feel extremely alienated and alone within my peer group. Most of the girls on my team had parents who never missed a game, so it felt like judgment was placed on me, and I was the one responsible to give an explanation as to why I was so different from the rest of them - not including being a lesbian, but that's a different story for a different time.

While my mom stayed home with my little sister, she was drinking wine, playing on the computer and chatting on the phone with a friend of hers. I remember needing to have my uniforms washed, especially when the football field was muddy and my pants had Georgia red clay saturating the bottoms. I was a pretty self-sufficient kid, but my cheer uniforms weren't something that I felt comfortable washing, because if they were ruined, I'd suffer the wrath of Coach C. Since my mom seemed preoccupied at times with the phone chats and wine consumption, asking her to wash my clothes - a basic human need - became a fearful request. I didn't want to bother her with something that I could probably accomplish myself, but I knew that I needed help with it. I struggled to ask for needs during that time, because I didn't want to be a burden or a nuisance and trigger my mom's anger or frustration. She seemed busy, she was drinking, and I thought I could handle things on my own, or wait until it was a better time. This trait became a characteristic of mine that developed very prevalently into adulthood, which I'll talk more about later in this series.


At fifteen, my dad received a DUI while driving around Atlanta one night while out with one of his friends. I'm choosing to save my dignity by not sharing what he was doing out late in the middle of a big city, but for the sake of this post, know that I was very embarrassed when I discovered the details. He called me from jail to tell me who to get in contact with and what to do to help post his bond. The next morning, my dad was released and went home like nothing happened. As I'm recounting this story, I still remember feelings of shame that surfaced in me. I wasn't involved in his choices, and I certainly wasn't responsible, but something about that experience made me wonder if this was normal behavior and if my friends has parents who made questionable decisions like that. I didn't have friends whos parents were out partying and getting arrested for DUIs, which again, made me feel alienated and different from the rest of the people I grew up with. I didn't feel like my friends or peers could relate to this kind of experience; those hidden, deep emotions recreated shame and embarrassment within me. I say this with a lot of grace and love in my heart toward my dad: but no, getting arrested for a DUI in your 40s wasn't and isn't normal behavior. It's often indicative of a larger and deeper, unresolved issue.


Having experienced my dad's unwise decisions with alcohol, the belief that making questionable decisions wasn't out of reach for me in my teen years. At sixteen, a friend of mine and I snuck out of her basement and escaped to a party with several boys who were all drinking vodka and Captain Morgan. My friend's boyfriend at the time was one of the guys at this backwoods, rickety shack, so I thought she would be familiar with his friends as well. My friend and I decided to have a little bit to drink, and shortly after, more questionable decisions were made. I had a one-night-stand with a guy I didn't know. I didn't even ask his last name. I knew he was familiar with my older brother, but there wasn't casual conversation or even a desire to get to know each other on a deeper level. It was about alcohol and sex, plain and simple. For the record, I don't blame anyone for my own mistakes and misjudgments. Just like I am not responsible for my dad's ill-mannered behavior, my dad isn't responsible for mine. However, my choices were influenced by his representation as a father figure and his personal relationship with alcohol. At the end of the day, my mistakes are my own, and I have paid dear prices for them. Throughout my latter teenage years, I lost longtime friendships, made other unwise sexual decisions, engaged in underage drinking and driving that was the result of an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Although I have never been an addict, I have experienced deep regret while being drunk - too young to even have been drunk. But, I have deep, wide grace for the younger girl within me who didn't have healthy examples of what alcohol use and consumption should look like. I see my mistakes through a lens of self-compassion and self-love, because I see a girl who was deeply hurting inside. Deeply hurting from the pain of feeling unseen, unimportant and chosen second place by my parents in competition to alcohol. Again, I don't blame my parents for my choices, but I balance the truth of my life experiences and how they shaped my views of alcohol and the detriment it caused me.


If I could go back in time and tell my teenage self one thing it would be this:

You are so much more than your decisions and mistakes. Alcohol use - the way that you've encountered it, is not the way life should be or look or feel. You are more than your desires to please people. You are more than the explanations you feel you have to give to people because of your parents' choices. You don't have to sleep with people - especially people you don't know - for approval and flatter. You are beautiful. You have a voice worth show-casing. You have a heart for people & a passion for creativity. The sober girl in you will be the greatest catalyst for change & growth & clarity. You will question your decisions and wonder if you're making the right choices along the way, but remember: this is a journey. A non-linear, sometimes hard, messy journey, but it's a journey worth traveling. Take this path sober, my girl. It is the best way, the only way. We can do this together.

I forgive you & I love you.

Cheers to the sober, colorful, wild road ahead.






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