To drink or not to drink?

I was married for 17 years to an alcoholic. My children have obviously grown up with a bad example. Since leaving 9 months ago, I have pretty much stopped drinking (I had a beer with pizza once and a magarita at a Mexican restaurant) for a number of reasons. One is that it is a big job to be a single parent, so I can’t afford to be relaxed. I also think drinking alone is not a habit I want to pick up. Probably the biggest reason though is that I want to set a good example for my kids. I’m just not sure what the BEST example would be, not drinking at all or drinking responsibly.

Right now I have the no alcohol in my house policy, which is something I quietly told my parents about. I haven’t made an issue about it in front of my kids. I just wonder though if it might be better for them to see that we can have a glass of wine with a meal when we are having a special dinner like Thanksgiving. I’m really not sure. I mean, the time I had a beer with pizza, they practically flipped out on me. It’s like they can’t tell the difference between a single drink and a bunch of drinks.

I’d love to get some feedback, particularly from anyone who has dealt with alcoholism in the family and has an understanding of how children might view it.

hi there,
I wonder how old your kids are? Mine are 12 and 9, and my estranged husband used to get drunk around them a lot. Or he’d go out, come home, and be so drunk he’d be sprawled out on the floor vomiting everywhere. Of course that usually woke them up. My oldest daughter despises the thought of alcohol, the little one is starting to get used to the idea that it’s ok to have one drink with a meal. I barely ever drink, though, not even with a meal, she usually only sees my parents having a beer with a meal in a restaurant. Enough rambling. If your kids “flipped out” when you had a beer, maybe they’ve seen too much drinking and they’re scared out of their senses that you will become like your alcoholic spouse. That’s why I asked how old they are. Can you talk to them reasonably and explain the difference between having an alcohol addiction and a social drink once in a while? It’s a very thin line you walk on that subject. I prefer not to drink around my kids, seeing that it really upsets my older one. She counts drinks and gets noticably anxious about it.
Sorry, I really don’t have any good advice here, other than “don’t drink around your kids EVER” if it stresses them out that much. At least for the time being, until they get older and you can reason with them? You’re in my prayers
God bless

I grew up with my parents having an occasional glass of wine with dinner or a beer at the back yard bbq. I never saw my parents drunk. We were allowed 1small glass of champagne on New Years from a fairly young age (we usually only a had a couple sips because we thought it tasted gross anyway). My husband grew up in a household where alcohol was banned but pretty much all his extended relatives drank to excess. He saw growing up that the purpose of drinking was getting drunk. My husband is a recovered alcoholic. I don’t know if it’s do to genetics (lots of alcoholics in the family) or the enviroment he was exposed to. I tend to think it’s a bit of both.

We don’t have alcohol in our house for the obvious reason that hubby is a alcoholic but our daughter has seen me have an occasional drink at someone elses house or out to dinner, and she sees my parents occasionally have a drink. I think it’s better to give children the example of responsible drinking then to ban it all together.

My kids are 15 1/2, 13, 6, and 4. It is the older two who flipped out about me drinking a beer.

Rayne, I grew up in a house where my parents might have a drink or two but never ever were intoxicated. My husband grew up in a house where his parents didn’t drink, but his grandma was an alcoholic. She used to let him drink beer at her house as a kid.

I just read recently how harmful even small amounts of alcohol are on adolescent brains even up to age 21. So explain that normal adults can drink small amounts of alcohol and it is not harmful and can be beneficial. Alcohol drinking is not inherently immoral. It constituted the main drink for mankind for many 1000s of years. But that if moderation is not possible, then by all means abstain.

I can’t watch TV without it taking over my life, so I have to stay away from it. One just needs to recognize one’s limits and stick to them.

I probably wouldn’t drink alone in front of them, but I wouldn’t hide the fact that you might ocassionally take a drink. I would just reinforce that somethings in moderation is fine, but if it starts to affect you or others then it is a problem, and should be stopped.

I think it is right that you make the rules that give the most peace to your house. None of you feel comfortable about it, so at least for the time being, feel no guilt in banning it. The best example is knowing your own limits and choosing how much you drink based on what is best for all concerned.

I would point out to the kids, though, that there are entire groups of people who use alcohol regularly and responsibly, and that there is no reason you might not be among them someday or might not have a responsible drink on occasion.

Having said that, using alcohol to self-medicate for stress or a bad mood is an extremely bad habit, whether you drink in company or drink alone. Being “down” should be considered a contraindication against alcohol use. Just like driving or flying an airplane, alcohol consumption is something you ought to do only when all systems are “Go.” If you need to relieve stress, take a nice bath, go for a walk or a run, put a flower on your desk…something like that.

My dad was an alcoholic to the day it killed him. I never ever wanted anything to do with alcohol. I made my mind up when I was 9 or 10 that I would instantly dump a boyfriend if I saw them drinking. Alcohol was the enemy.

I also had a sister who was almost 19 years older than me, I was an infant when she married and moved out of the house, and we both moved to different states. I would see her during the summers when she and her family would visit for a month or so.

One hot sweaty day she went to the fridge and grabbed a beer, pulled the tab and gulped it down. I will never forget the feeling of watching her. I think I went deathly pale as I felt the blood rushing down. It was that surreal feeling you get as you find yourself at the bottom of a roller coaster knowing you left your stomach at the top of it. I thought OH NO, NOT YOU TOO, and I burst into tears. (even now 35+ years later that memory makes me feel like someone punched me in the gut)

My sister gave me the “dad is sick” talk, which my 10 year old brain could understand, but my heart still thought of alcohol as the enemy.

I have to admit that I started drinking at parties in high school, and in college also enjoyed partying. It never was every weekend, nor did it affect my life, but definately the purpose of drinking was to get drunk. It was the only example I had ever seen. I had no concept of drinking because you enjoy the taste, or stopping when you still had control of your body.

I drink so rarely now that it doesn’t take much for me to feel the effects. There are some drinks that I enjoy for the taste, and if I’m not enjoying the it, then there is no purpose to drinking it. So I don’t drink beer or wine, just because I don’t like it. I think I have come full circle after all these years. My husband thinks I am a goody two shoes for not having drinks when they are offered, but If I don’t like them, I’m not drinking them.

Your kids are still young, still battle scarred. They may understand in their head that “daddy is sick”, but the pain may be too great right now. Give them time to find their way.

If having alcohol in the house right now brings back too many memories, then don’t bring it in. Maybe in time they can see examples of drinking in moderation. And maybe those examples can come from other people, other than you. Because being able to say “no, thank you I really don’t care for any” is also a great example for kids to see.

There is some evidence to indicate that there may be a genetic predisposition to alcoholism which your kids may or may not have. In light of this, it’s best not to get them started. Just my opinion as a recovering alcoholic.

If you choose not to have alcohol in your house, then that’s your choice. Our extended family never has alcohol at its parties. Too much temptation for too many people. We still have fun.

I think a lot of us go through this, when we have a bad experience with alcohol. My grandparents were alcoholics, and my mother didn’t drink for years after she was an adult nad had kids.

In our house, we currently have one bottle of super-deluxe scotch that we’ve had since 1996. My husband has one drink on Good Friday, because he feels as if he’s been to the wake of a Dear Friend (well, he has), and when his good friend (a human one only, not Jesus) shows up every couple of years. I am surprised my daughter and her ex-husband did not guzzle that. Between the two of them, they cleaned out our substantial liquor cabinet that was used for “special occasions”. I guess they could not dillute it the way they did the gin, clear rum, creme de menthe and vodka. Prior to their move in, these bottle collected dust. We never bothered to replenish it from six years ago, most of it. When we tried, she then drank it.

We also have a bottle of white wine (unopened) and a bottle of red (unopened). The red usually goes into spaghetti sauce, and the white into fish dishes- when I think of it. I can’t think of when we last bought beer. Too many carbs for one thing!

The granddaughters are little, and do not get upset with us for say, having a margarita on Grandpa’s birthday at the Mexican restaurant (although they wanted to celebrate at a certain pizza place with games and a mouse-costumed employee). They know they can’t have one, and are still good with that. They get upset with anything colored brown, such as vanilla extract. That’s what Mom drank, “the brown stuff” (whiskey, not vanilla extract).

If you choose to have a glass of wine someplace, I think you have to make it clear to your older kids that it’s not the wine, or alcohol for that matter, that makes a person an alcoholic.

In my opinion, alcoholism is part allergy through genetic tendency, and part choice. I know too many people who have the genetic tendency allergy, who choose not to drink alcohol, and lead successful lives. I know three in particular who have it and choose to drink, and it breaks my heart.


I grew up in a home where there was a problem with alcohol, but thank God the alcoholic began AA when I was young. Because of her experience, my mother detests alcohol and would never tolerate it in our home. She is not one given to extreme descriptions except in regard to alcohol, calling it “a mind altering drug”, and calling owning a bar “making a living off of other people’s misery”. When our family gets together, there is almost never alcohol served for my mom’s sake. Because of this, at least two of us in the family can’t quite get comfortable with alcohol being around. I’m not saying this in criticism of my mom at all; alcohol is not a necessity for anyone and there are risks in drinking it when one comes from an alcoholic background, so being a teetotaler is certainly not bad.

I tell my kids that even though I don’t drink, I don’t consider alcohol bad, but that many people end up having a problem with it. I’ve told them that drinking and driving IS bad, and that if they find when they’re older that they can’t have just one - three drinks in an evening (I suppose more if they’re a large man) then they should stop drinking, for their sake and their family’s sake. I encourage them not to drink until they are older because of the unfortunate way excessive drinking is encouraged among college kids, in the U.S. anyhow. And then, along with other things that I teach them, I pray that they make good decisions.

I think you are doing a good thing…

My ex-bf was a devout catholic, but he had a problem with drinking that he just wouldn’t accept, he quit because I threatened to leave him… Otherwise he would have never quit, he has stayed sober since then…

I think it’s better to keep alcohol away from your house like you are doing right now, is the right example…
Maybe when they grow up they can learn to appreciate wine in a moderate way.:slight_smile:

I wonder if its not alcholicism that is genetic but the ability to get addicted itself.

My mom grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father. She forbade alcohol of any type in our household. Yet, she managed to get addicted to perscription pain medicine.

I’ve had dicussion with my children that addictions run in our family and that they need to be very careful with what they do.I’ve also explained that what is all right for some can lead to problems for them.

My kids have had sips of wine, but never more (and usually far less) than what you’d find in a teaspoon of vanilla extract. I don’t want it to become something that becomes attractive on account of the taboo around it.

I have also told my children that starting to drink while your brain is still developing greatly increases your chances of becoming an alcoholic, in which case you cannot allow yourself any alcohol at all for the rest of your life. I thought they ought to know why there is a drinking age.

They also know that addiction is a disease that can make it incredibly hard not to miss work, abuse those around you, and make all sorts of other incredibly bad decisions. Even more so than many other diseases, it is one that can be avoided by healthy life choices…like never abusing alcohol, never using it as a medicine to treat a bad day, and not even starting to use alcohol until you are an adult.

I think if we had lived through the experience of having an alcoholic in the house, we’d not have it in our home. If I chose to drink outside our home, I would never lie to them about it, but if they had been through that, I would not think it unreasonable if hey expected me never to have a drink in their presence, on account of the traumas that alcohol had dealt them. I’m usually all for parents making the rultes, but I think that your house policy has to be something you all work out as a family, together.

Both my parents are alcoholics. I am the only sibling in my large family that does not touch it. Three of my siblings are alcoholics too, though completely in denial since in their mind, it’s normal to be drunk 3-4 times a week. Mom and Dad are drunk basically every night.

Children of alcoholics are four times more likely to become alcoholics then the 1 in 20 chance of the general public. Recently I read a study in the UK that 70% of children of alcoholics will develop some sort of compulsive behavior surrounding the common addictions of gambling, alcohol, sex, food, work, etc.

Personally, and this is just my opinion obviously and borne out of how destructive I think alcohol can be, combined with having firsthand seen the addiction passed down generation to generation, I think you need to model for your children that living an alcohol-free life is still satisfying. The reality is that alcoholism has a genetic component, and your husband spent the last 17 years normalizing addiction for your children. They have an unfortunately high chance of emulating his behavior. While you are obviously not addicted, I believe that modeling alcohol drinking further normalizes it and gives your children the opportunity to think, “Well, Mom can handle it. I’ll be like Mom, not Dad.” But the reality is they don’t know if they’ll have that biological inclination toward addiction or not.

Studies have shown that education and parents modeling addict-free lifestyles are keys to their children’s future success.

The virtue of Temperence is moderation. Totally dry isn’t moderation is it?

I had a lot of exposure to both alcoholics and to people who had a good handle on drinking. Those that didn’t abuse the alcohol also possessed temperance in other aspects of life. Coffee, tobacco, work, stress…

G.K. Chesterton wrote:

“Idolatry is committed not only by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils. We worry about war, alcohol, and economic law, when we should be worrying about cowardice and spiritual corruption.”

Don’t set up a false devil in your house.

I can’t speak to the issue of living with an alcoholic, but here’s my perspective:

I grew up in a house where my parents had wine with dinner, and my brother was allowed to have an occaisional beer AT HOME WITH PARENTS AROUND well before he was legally “of age”. Even as a child, I could have a sip or two of wine at Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas, etc. My folks let me have beer or wine at home by about age 17.

I figure this gave us a healthy view of how to enjoy alcohol without having to go overboard.

On the other hand, when I went away to college, it was always the Baptist girls I saw getting totally falling down drunk in the bars. They had no experience with drinking and maybe saw it as something fun and adult that they’d been denied by their strict upbringing. When they finally drank, they tended to go nuts.

Just my POV.

My father was an alcoholic and it was really awful. I never had alcohol and don’t plan to. My husband does not drink either. Our children therefore have very limited exposure to alcohol. I (obviously) think it is okay to just keep it away. We don’t smoke either, and I guess that is another thing that my kids know other people do, their parents don’t. We don’t really make a big issue about it. It is so important to me that our children see our home as a place where they always feel happy and safe, and so far so good (I pray). Hopefully that will be incentive enough that they will not drink as adults.

My mom is an alcoholic, but does not touch alcohol at all any more. She’s been sober for about ten years now. To this day the sound of ice cubes clinking in a glass reminds me of my mom.

My mom has trouble with overdoing it on lots and lots of things. More is always better in her mind. So when she takes a Tylenol, she takes four. She has a habit of being excessive.

Moderation is key. If you keep a bottle of wine in the house that remains unopened that could very well be a message.

I would not encourage children under legal drinking age to drink alcohol, even on holidays. It sends the wrong message to them about the law in my opinion. There were times when I was in highschool I would come home from school and my mom would fix me a vodka and orange so she could have some company while drinking. Had I not developed a problem with my blood sugar which makes me very careful about what I drink, and when, I could have developed a very bad drinking habit based on my drinking behavior prior to becoming 21 (ironically the blood sugar problem developed the year I turned 21).

I think a beer with a slice of pizza is the best example you can set for your children. It’s just as damaging but in a slightly less dangerous way for your children to see you overindulge in food as it is to see you overindulge in alcohol. Gluttony is a capital sin. If you concentrate on the wide veiw of gluttony as a whole, you should be able to conquer all sorts of addictions.

That being said, I need to get up off my rump and go for a walk. I’ve been in front of this computer waaaaaay too long today!

Hi BeeSweet!

I notice you’re also in Texas. While I agree with the heart of your statements, and while it’s no one else’s business how any parent decides to approach alcohol with their kids, I don’t know if this argument really stands up to scrutiny. In Texas, isn’t it legal for a child to imbibe in the home with parental supervision? I’d always understood that it is. At least a few years ago, I was served alcohol in restaurants because my parents were with me and I had their consent. I specifically remember a glass of champagne at a New Years dinner once, I was probably about 15 or 16. And the restaurant owner and staff knew us and knew I was underage. I have a friend who remembers a similar situation in Missouri.

I’d always thought it was the purchase of alcohol that was regulated, not the drinking of it in one’s private property.

Now parties where a bunch of kids drink and only the homeowners/parents of the host are there giving consent…I think that’s a different issue.

But, frankly, I think our alcohol laws are more about purchase, money, and taxes than keeping kids from having wine with their parents.

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