When you’re the offspring of an alcoholic, hangovers aren’t the worst part of waking up the next morning. The worst part is the fear of what happened the night before. It’s the fear that you ruined everything good that ever happened to you. Hearing about your blackouts are never fun, not even if you had a harmless night and everyone is telling you how much fun you were, because you are always waiting to hear something horrible. You are worried you said something you can never take back. You are worried you got into an argument. You are worried you broke something. You are worried you behaved like your parent always does. You are worried their bullshit got passed down to you.
When you’re the offspring of an alcoholic, you limit the amount you drink. You allow yourself fun nights with friends, but you never let yourself go overboard. You never drink too early in the morning. You never drink during work hours. You never even drink on work nights. There are certain brands of alcohol you never touch — and it’s not because you hate the taste. It’s because the smell reminds you of awful nights. It reminds you of what you never want to become. You could never drink that one specific brand yourself and you could never kiss someone who drinks it either. It makes you sick to your stomach. It triggers all of your worst memories.
When you’re the offspring of an alcoholic, you get nervous when you are the only sober person in a roomful of drunken people. You seem like a hypocrite since you have had your fair share of drinks before but that doesn’t matter. You don’t think it’s funny when someone starts slurring their words and stumbling around the room. You don’t laugh when you see someone struggling to keep their head off the table because they cannot even sit up straight. You go back and forth between feeling sorry for drunks, feeling disgusted by them, and feeling afraid of them. You never know whether they are going to get angry and loud. You never know what is going to happen when someone is under the influence.
When you’re the offspring of an alcoholic, you have a bizarre relationship with beer. There are moments when you swear you are never going to pick up a bottle because you are better than that. There are moments when you give yourself permission to drink as much as you want because you don’t think your parent’s mistake should take away your chance to act young and have fun. And there are moments when you drink a little too much or act a little too mean and wonder whether you are going to end up falling into the same bad habits. There are times when you feel like you have complete control over yourself and other times when you wonder whether you inherited a disease.
When you’re the offspring of an alcoholic, you want to be better than your parent. You want to prove to yourself their DNA doesn’t define you.