Is there anything better than cracking open a long neck and taking that first, cold sip? It’s what Friday night dreams are made of. What would make it even better is if that first sip took place on a deck, in warm temps, without children around.
Growing up, my parents rarely drank. It’s not that I didn’t notice. It’s that they REALLY didn’t. And now that I have two small children of my own, I get it.
I didn’t drink in high school like the rest of my peers. It wasn’t until college that I hit my stride. Everyone in college drank. I don’t think I knew someone who didn’t. It was for purely social reasons and maybe to justify the stupid choices we made on the weekends.
But these days, alcohol is an after thought. IF I decide to drink, it’s one or two beers on a Friday and Saturday night after the kids go to bed. It’s not that I’m hiding my drinking from my children – they are too young to understand it anyway.
But lately, I no longer look forward to my Friday night beer. Why is that?
A Turning Point
To be honest, the thought never crossed my mind about my alcohol consumption until a few years ago when a close friend revealed to me that her husband was an alcoholic.
At first I scoffed at her accusation. Sure, I saw him drink at social gatherings but never in excess or to the point of being belligerent. He never got into fights with any of us when drinking or yelled at his daughter. His ‘tell’ that he drank too much would be an uncontrollable laughing fit that would send all those around him into their own fits because it was so unusual to see him lose it. Even as I type this, I’m chuckling.
Sure we saw some changes over the years in regards to his usual upbeat, quick with a jab personality. We thought the grumpiness was due to life challenges we all experience – having a young child, lack of sleep, a stressful job. But none of us saw this coming. Besides, my friend tends to worry to excess. It wasn’t until she told me EVERYTHING she had been keeping to herself for years that I realized how serious the situation had become.
My mother, who knew a little bit about my married friends and can handle a tough situation like a pro, was faltering. She was grasping for the most unlikely of straws to make sense of it all. “Do you think he was abused by a priest when he was a child?” (He was an alter boy). “Do you think he cheated on her?” “Do you think he’s gay?” Apparently my friend had asked similar questions to him the night before which he vehemently denied all of them.
My friend spoke to their family physician about what their next steps were in finding him help. She suggested a successful outpatient rehab facility – one that wouldn’t interrupt his job or their daughters life. He dutifully followed the program and never missed a meeting or appointment with his doctor. He attended AA meetings but found the program wasn’t for him. As far as I know, he has never touched a drop of alcohol since. I say “as far as I know” because I never discussed it with him. Ever. And it’s been three years.
How it changed our group of friends
After he completed rehab, our gang didn’t serve alcohol at gatherings out of respect for our newly sober friend. He begged us all that he wanted life to go on as it had before. He wasn’t tempted to drink just because we all were.
But his experience changed us all. It made us take a hard look at our own consumption and wondered if it was healthy. How many times have we crossed a line? What if we were headed down that road? How can we stop it?
How it changed other friendships
For me, my lack of alcohol consumption affected my other friendships. I have two close friends who each have young children. Their lives haven’t changed since welcoming their daughters. They still go out all the time and drink the same – if not more – than before.
I found that if we went out they would be pounding them back and Ubering home – even if it was less than five miles away from their homes. Suddenly I felt judged that I wasn’t doing the same or drinking as much as they were.
This past summer, we went to their cousins house for a bit of day drinking. I knew going into it that I would probably drink more than I normally would. My husband dropped me off and I Ubered home. When they saw me refill my water, I got mocked. When I wasn’t keeping up with them, I got mocked. When I decided I was done and it was time to go home, I got mocked. How can a person in their 30’s be peer pressured? Why did I allow people to make me feel that way? I was mad at myself.
I woke up the next morning with an emotional hangover. What if one of the kids got sick in the middle of the night and I had gone overboard and couldn’t take care of them? What if God forbid one of them needed to go to the emergency room and I couldn’t drive them? I quickly realized drinking wasn’t worth the risk of not being there for my children.
I didn’t hang out with them again until four months later and I was the one who reached out to see if they wanted to go to dinner. After that night, I decided to see if they would make the effort for the next dinner out. It’s been five months.
Am I disappointed? Sure. Hurt? Yes. But do I need friends like that in my life? No. I don’t. And I think my lack of drinking made me realize it.
Will the urge return?
Maybe when the kids are older and more self sufficient I will enjoy a beer again. But if I don’t, then that’s OK too. I like waking up feeling clear and not foggy. I like not drinking the extra calories or binge eating after a few beers.
For now, my life is dedicated to being the best parent I can be for my children. For me, I don’t think that includes consuming a lot of alcohol.
how has having children affected your alcohol consumption?
Have you lost friends along the way?