Sip Happens

My name is Jenni, and my alcoholic mother plays a role in how I drink alcohol.

I wish that I could just have nights that are chalked-up as drunken mistakes. But because my mom drank and abused alcohol everyday for the majority of her adult life, I am not able to have “drunken mistakes.” They are considered a problem and when I drink too much, I am faced with the harsh reality of people telling me I “have a problem.”

Even though my mom has been sober for 10 years, I can’t help but think, “not fair, mom. You were the one with a drinking problem, and I watched you do it in your darkest years.” I remember promising myself, “I won’t be like that.”

So I’m not. But there’s an occasional time when I have a drink, that turns to five, that turns to a body shot and dancing on the coyote ugly bar…where I wake up the next day with a harsh hangover: 1) I can’t do that ever again  2) I need to talk with those closest to me, those that I disappointed in my drunken path of destruction from the night before, and 3) I make a decision to take a break from drinking.

Sip Happens.

I can count my drunken mistakes on one hand, maybe two if you include my college years. I’ve been to AA meetings, taken addiction courses, read Adult Children of Alcoholics, and I still feel like my drunken mistakes aren’t over. Another one will happen, so is that the problem? I say, sip happens.

A glass of wine after the kids are asleep is enjoyable. A few drinks out at date night dinner is a treat. I look forward to sipping on something for those special social occasions; and society glorifies drinking with happy hours and wine tastings – because sip happens everywhere.

Unfortunately, as an adult child of an alcoholic (ACOA) drinking alcohol can’t just be drinking alcohol for me. It comes with all this baggage. Sipping alcohol affects my social situations, personal interactions, family moments, marriage…it feels like it touches every part of my life.

I read the laundry list, which is 14 traits of an ACOA, and one of the traits that I can strongly identify with is: we became addicted to excitement. As an ACOA, I seek excitement and as an adult, alcohol is consumed in a lot of those exciting life moments. I can say the problem is when I seek excitement, sip happens.

Sip Happened – now it’s time for a break.

After my night of overindulgent-drinking at coyote ugly, I felt ready to drink again within weeks to help take the edge off at home. Mainly because it was 2020 and coronavirus just hit Michigan with a quarantine. I felt ready to day-drink like the rest of my neighbors. But, I made a promise to myself for the season of lent to not consume alcohol and I stuck to my original goal and timeline with little trouble. Based on my experiences, I would recommend the following guidelines for taking a break from alcohol:

  1. Set a goal – with a date – and stick to it!
  2. Keep your support system updated*
  3. Seek literature or meetings through AA or ACOA
  4. In social situations, prepare to drink non-alcoholic beverages that are enjoyable!
  5. Keep a diary – your journey while taking a break is important and a time for reflection.
  6. Give yourself a lot of credit! When your goal is met, what will your reward be?

*YOU need to be the one to call your closest friends and/or your immediate family to tell them how you are doing. Take responsibility and hold yourself accountable for those open communication lines. This is hard to do alone – so I encourage being the leader of that support system for yourself.

My drunken mistakes have turned into a string of lessons learned throughout the years, and the time-off I decide to take from drinking gives me ample time to think about why I do it and why I look forward to sipping again one day.

Note from my Mom: I take full responsibility for my actions and I’m sad that I put you kids through those years.  I wish I could go back, but I can’t…

my response: I wouldn’t be who I am today without you, Mom. I love you.