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.