I grew up watching my parents drink every single night at 5’oclock. It was classical conditioning, like Pavlov’s Dog. 5’Oclock, it’s time to pour a drink. Not 4p, not 4:48p, but 5pm. Every. Single. Night. My Dad would ask my Mom what she wanted to drink and the evening ritual would begin. They would each sip a cocktail before dinner while watching the NBC nightly news with Tom Brokaw. They would talk and relax and share peanuts.
Around 5:45 or so, my father would get up and make another drink for each of them while my Mom cooked supper. Every. Single. Night. He would measure the pours with a shot glass and each drink was made with control and intention.
My Mom and Dad would drink 2 drinks. That’s it. Once dinner was on the table they would drink water. I never saw them drink after dinner unless it was a special occasion cordial like Grand Marnier in a tiny little glass that they would spend the next two hours sipping.
I don’t remember ever seeing my parents drunk. They managed to control their drinking and as far as I knew, it never, ever progressed. I grew up believing that this was normal. This is what every parent did and this is what I will do when I am an adult. I will be exactly like my parents.
I tried every which way till Sunday to be a controlled, daily drinker, just like my Mom and Dad. This behavior was ingrained in my DNA and I spent the better part of my adult life trying to master it, only to FAIL over and over and over again. This failure was incredibly hard for me to accept and I wouldn’t accept it for decades. Something is wrong with me. Why is this so hard for me? I am embarrassed that this is hard for me. Why can’t I do this? How can they do it and I can’t? I am my parents daughter, why am I not able to moderate? What is wrong with me?
Turns out there was nothing wrong with me and there never was. The fact was – I was not my Mom or my Dad. My body, my brain, my genes, while they were similar, they were not the same. My parents could control their drinking, they had a built in “off” switch……I did not. Simple as that. They could be controlled daily drinkers, not me.
Once I accepted this, once I surrendered to this truth, everything changed.