Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Josie's Interview Part 2 - A non-sozzled Loz

Here is part 2 of Josie's interview of me. The link to the other people she has interviewed can be found here.

2. You have chosen to lead an alcohol-free life. Though you have probably discussed this elsewhere on your blog, I'm not familiar with the story. What are your reasons for making and staying with that choice. You stated that "drinking has had a huge impact on who I am, for good and bad". Please elaborate on both facets of that impact.

My Dad was a drinker, in fact he drank to excess, less in his later years than when we were growing up. There is a culture of drinking in Australia and a considerable amount of pressure put on young men to drink. In some cases that can lead to people having drinking problems. Dad's story is told in part on my other blog Sunrays and Saturdays.

I don't want to imply that Dad was abusive because he wasn't, but his drinking did lead to arguments and those arguments had a profound affect on me when I was growing up. There was rarely a time when we went out that Dad didn't eventually have too much to drink. There were often times when he came home late from work because he'd been at the pub and often my sisters and I would be in bed when he got home. I often used to lie awake in bed waiting for him to come home and there would inevitably be a shouting fight when he did arrive home. I would call out to him when I heard him come in the door and ask for a drink of water and it's only recently that I realised that I wanted that drink because it meant he would come down and I could see that he was home safe, not because I was thirsty.

Dad also had a brother who drank to excess and I have been told that he began to drink after a truck he was driving ran over a small car and killed a couple of ladies who were in it. It was not his fault but it triggered his alcoholism. I guess in those days things like post traumatic stress disorder were unheard of and there was no support for anyone who found themselves in that situation. Additionally my Mum had both a brother and a brother-in-law who also drank to excess.

I count myself lucky that there was no physical violence associated with the drunkenness of any of those men, or at least, if there was, that it was hidden from us.

At some stage when I was around 6 or 7 years old I remember promising my Nana [Dad's Mum] that I would never drink and I have stood true to that promise. That together with an incident when Dad left the family home for a while and a neighbour pulled me aside and told me I was now the man of the house at around 9 or 10 years of age meant I really had no choice other than to grow up a non-drinker.

Over the past 18 months I have come to understand my self better than I ever have before. I had always thought that I had embraced the responsibility of being the man in the house but in reality it lead me to become a loner. I was far more comfortable in my own company than with other people. Those of you who are loners will understand the nature of a child who spends a lot of time in his bedroom reading, writing, painting soldiers and listening to music. The bedroom was a safe place. It was mine. A place where there were no arguments, to where I could retreat and get lost in a world where I could tread Barsoom with John Carter, or walk Mirkwood with Frodo, or sail the oceans with Captain Nemo.

Alone and in that room I could control what was happening and I didn't have to be put in situations over which I had no control. I wrote about one of those times with Dad when I had no control at all over what was happening and as a kid I just had to sit back and accept my lot at the time. You can read that here if you wish in a post I called "A Bleary Road". Again, compared to the horrors faced by some people, these were minor, but still made me what I am today.

I wasn't a recluse, as I'm not now, I was just comfortable with my own company. I will admit to some apprehension about having friends around because I was embarrassed by Dad's drunkenness. So whilst there were friends who visited it wasn't something that I really looked forward to. Was I a loner because of the experiences I had growing up or was I always going to be one. It was a question I pondered in another post earlier this year.

Josie asked me what I meant about non-drinking being good and bad. Well the good is that I have in these matters anyway, stayed true to myself. The bad, is the feelings of loneliness or of not fitting into social situations. I don't wish to imply in any of this that I had a bad childhood. I didn't, we never went without and the good times far outweighed the bad. I never ever doubted that Mum and Dad loved me, that was evident in everything they did for us. But alcohol can have a profound affect on even those of us who do not use it.


FindingHeart said...

Loz, I rarely enjoyed being handed a meme or reading many of them. Your response to this question echoes within me. I think there are many men out there who learned to 'become comfortable' with themselves and became more solitary than ideal. I did a lot of that realization work during the first few months of my divorce. It's not a bad thing and I found strength in it, but I personally lost out on some of the social skills needed to fit right in with the chest-beating loud-grunting man gatherings. An author wrote about being 'man validated' by your father in your youth is how it starts or misses.

Anyway, thanks for giving me a reflective moment through your look back. Peace!

Loz said...

The man validated thing is something I understand and perhaps that is the source of some of the loneliness. We are taught not to express our feelings, that it is not manly to talk about things and you are right that it is something impressed upon men/boys from a very young age. I am still learning how to do that and find it far easier here in blogland than in my waking life.

awannabe said...

Great post. I think a lot of us grow up seeing a parents behavior and say, "I'm never going to do what they do."

Loz said...

Yep - but sometimes we miss the good things too.

Gypsy said...

We never realise as parents the way our behaviour reflects on our children until the damage is already done. If only we did then they wouldn't have to carry our baggage into their own adult lives. No child should ever have to feel they are the "man of the house". We have so few years to be carefree and our childhood is the time when we feel safe from responsibility.

Ever since I have started reading your blog I have felt an air of solitude about you and this post has certainly helped to understand that. As long as you realise Loz that there is nothing wrong with being a loner or a non drinker. We are not all wired to be the life and soul of the party, imagine how loud and unruly that party would be if we were. Viva la difference I say.

Josie Two Shoes said...

qghuLoz, when I asked this question, I had no idea that your answer, along with further explanation in the accompanying posts, was going to relate so directly to my experience growing up. My father also often drank to excess at night, and I remember too well those endless screaming fights between my parents while us kids cowered on the stairway listening, fearful and crying. I remember my dad always feeling crappy the next day, and mom being in a horrible mood. Being a sensitive kid who felt helpless in that situation, I did what you did - and retreated to myself and my room.

To this day I also find friendships and socializing very difficult. I am never comfortable in those situations even if I know the people in attendance fairly well. On the rare ocassions when I have tried to befriend coworkers, etc. on a more personal level, I usually blow it, and I realize after reading this how much of it stems back to my childhood.

I did, at one point in my life, drink to excess, and thankfully I saw it for what it was, and stepped back. I am grateful that I didn't continue - I know where that road leads.

Yes, it is a lonlier existance, alcohol seems to be so tightly interwoven with the perception of "having a good time". But I am now appalled by how easily parents will fail to consider the safety of their children or other drivers on the road, just as your father did when you were with him.

Now the real question is, having this awareness at age 50, can we change? Should we try, or do we find contentment in who we are, regardless of what made us? Like you, I am far more open and interactive thru my blogging that I am with anyone in person. I can write my thoughts and feelings out so much easier. I believe, that in sharing ourselves here, we are growing, and learning to reach out more.

I so appreciate you sharing your history and your perspective on how your choice not to drink has affected you. There is much to ponder in this post.

Loz said...

Gypsy and Josie - I'm going to add a few things in another post