I was 21 when I took part in communion at a Haitian village church. That wine was my first sip of alcohol. I took my second sip at age 35.
In the years between, I liked to talk about the details of my remarkable abstinence. I wasn’t being prideful; I was simply sharing how to successfully avoid sinful activity. Or so I thought.
The Influence of My Childhood
The first reason I abstained directly correlated to my family. My paternal grandfather spent many years moving from one drunken episode to another. By the time I came on the scene, Grandpa was a changed man, and my memories of him are of a sober, loving guy who could tell stories for hours and find joy in making people laugh. He’s been gone many years, but his legacy remains. However, the consequences of his earlier years of addiction played a significant role in shaping the lives of his children. I’m certain my father’s childhood experience was one of the reasons that alcohol was never served in my home. He wanted a different life for my brother and me.
The second reason stemmed from the church in which I was raised. I don’t know the official church doctrine—and I assume there were varying perspectives about drinking among the congregation—but the point that was impressed upon me definitively was that drinking is bad. Period.
How It Affected My Adulthood
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my childhood set me up to enter my adult years with issues of pride and a judgmental attitude toward those who drank. In college, when law-abiding friends went out for a drink on their 21st birthday, I stayed away, secretly appalled they would do such a thing. As an adult, I made very little distinction between an alcoholic and someone who liked a glass of wine with dinner.
When I fell in love with my now-husband, Corey, I knew his opinion about alcohol didn’t line up exactly with mine, but because he didn’t drink, it was a topic we easily avoided. The only time it became a point of contention was when I would slip facts about my lifelong sobriety into conversations with other people.
He would later ask things like, “Why do you always tell people that? It sounds a little prideful. Have you ever really thought about why you feel the way you do?”
I tried to let those comments slide off my back, but inside they ticked me off. “I don’t drink because it is a sin,” I’d tell him.