Alcoholism was a taboo topic for me until I read a book titled Cheers (The Hidden Voices of Alcoholism) by Renate van Nijen. The book targets the lives of alcoholics as told by themselves, people working with them and the ones who are affected like families and friends. I have decided to write about the book because a particular story resonated with me and I had tears while reading. It was an emotional and insightful read and I understood clearly that I wasn’t the only one. The true to life account of a daughter about her alcoholic father brought me back to my own experience.
I felt that I was lucky to have a happy childhood for some years, but it didn’t last long. When my father was sober, he was the most caring and loving father, but the opposite when drunk. Alcohol became like an ocean of tension for me. It created a lot of fights and sleepless nights. I couldn’t understand why my father had to drink so much and shame himself and his family, for what? It seemed like he had his own world and didn’t give a shit about us when he and his drinking buddies started their sessions.
As I grow up, I became immune to my father’s destructive behavior and I did not make it as a hindrance to what I wanted to achieve in life. Nor I felt rebellious about it. Of course, the shame was all over, but I said to myself I was lucky because I experienced first-hand how bad alcohol is so that I could be spared from ending up as a tragedy by drinking myself. It was such an eye opener.
With my father’s early death, I wished I had done more like the Alcoholic Anonymous staff I encountered in Renate van Nijen’s very insightful book. I built a wall and was very passive about it not understanding that each case of alcoholism has significant underlying reasons. I would have been there for my father and listened to what he had to say rather than shutting him out from my world. At the end of it all, we were able to patch things up before it was too late and my father died peacefully. But with insight in the problem, I could have handled the situation better.
I drink very little and only on special occasions, but the lasting effects of my experience translate to my choices in life. I don’t go to booze parties. I don’t like the smell of alcohol on somebody. I hate seeing someone walking uncontrollably in the streets or wherever after too much drinking. Drunkards who are creating chaos after their happy hours are abominable for me. I don’t judge anybody who drinks, but I believe there is always a limit for a well-balanced life. I still don’t understand why people have to take in too much.
One of the most common alcoholic rhetoric I hear is; ¨this is my own life, so shut up and mind your own business!¨ Well, what about the hidden voices of the many parents, wives or husbands who suffer, sons and daughters who get traumas, children with scarred souls, and also friends in despair? They are the people whose voices are not heard. They take all the shame in silence, and pray every day for their addicted family members´ welfare. They stand with worries, but appear strong, and forced to develop stomachs of steel for those late night fights. They are the ones who ask the question in the middle of the night: How much can I take!? Bring them center stage and discover that the terrible effects of alcoholism are so much more than the right to have a glass of wine or two.
Renate’s book made me cry, but it was a good cry. The hidden voices of alcoholism appear very open and clear.