Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

My First Sip

I came across an article this morning about parents who allow their child a sip of wine at dinner will put the child at risk for alcoholism.  As I read the article, I was hoping to find information pertaining to what went on between that first sip to becoming an alcoholic.  I was looking to find the part about what types of environment the study group participants were born into, the types of “teachers” they encountered along the way from first sip to alcoholism.  When did they learn how much is too much?

I didn’t find any of that information which would seem to be rather critical data.  In my mind, it is a bit of a leap to assume just because one has a sip of wine at a young age (point “A”) will lead to becoming an alcoholic (point “B”).   In my experience and via the experience of those who have chosen to share with me; point “A” is not the sole reason for getting to point “B.”

I don’t know the exact age I was when I had my first sip of wine, but I do know I had my first glass of wine at the age of 12.  There is a picture of me at the family Thanksgiving dinner table holding a glass of sparkling wine in a Waterford crystal glass.  I vividly remember how grown up I felt because I had come to learn drinking was only something adults could engage in.  When I was given that Thanksgiving glass of wine I felt as if I had been given the approval to be, in that moment, an adult.   What I didn’t understand was, being an adult comes with a great deal of responsibility for one’s actions and behaviors.

No one continued filling my glass that night.  I don’t remember wanting to drink more after that.  I don’t remember believing if I had a glass on Thanksgiving it would mean I’d have a drink every day.

I learned about drinking by watching those around me.  I grew up in a household where drinking was a common occurrence but not considered something one “had” to do.  At no time did anyone teach me how to shift from having a desire to drink to needing to drink which is, sadly, the life of an alcoholic.  All on my own I got to a point where I stopped being in control of my drinking and the drinking began to control me.

No, I definitely didn’t learn that at home.  I didn’t learn that from the friends I hung around with.  I learned that all on my own.  I allowed the enjoyment of feeling “tipsy” to entice me toward ultimately wanting to become numb in order to negate the realities of life.

I feel the article I read this morning had a singular distinct message; parents are irresponsible if they allow their child a sip of alcohol in their own home, under their watch.  In my book, that is not the irresponsible part.  The irresponsibility comes if they are not teaching their child to respect alcohol and provide them a better, healthier understanding of what the limitations are about drinking.

I look to our European friends and family.  Children in many other countries have wine with meals and do not become alcoholics.  The environment and the lessons learned by adult behavior is how children come understand alcohol; that it is not solely for use in “taking the edge off” or to feel better by feeling less.

I had to work very hard to understand the root causes for my addiction to alcohol.  What I found was there is no benefit to placing blame on the choices made by someone else.  No, that responsibility rests entirely on what was going on with me and the choices I made along the way.

The article I read this morning seems to want to place blame.  I suggest we stop blaming and start acknowledging alcoholism for what it is and how to treat the person who suffers with it.

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