Growing up in an alcoholic home was challenging. The verbal and physical abuse that my sister and I endured will be forever be etched in my mind. This is a story of how two siblings learned how to embrace their roles in life. One for the better and the other well…let’s just say they lived with a cloud over their head!
I was always fighting against my parents and their drinking as far back as I can remember. My mother would often be drunk when I came home from school and I never knew what to expect. On the rare occasions, when she was sober, I would walk into the front door she would have the “June Cleaver” sweetness that I longed for. I could smell dinner in the oven and could carry on a decent conversation with her. These were indeed rare days for my sister and I.
I can also remember when my mother was drunk. I was often punished for things I didn’t do. She would send me to my room for hours at a time. I would keep to myself and read any books I could get my hands on. I planned for these times so I went to the used book store and bought all kinds of books. I read medical, history, and science books. Time spent reading helped me through the difficult days when I was unjustly punished.
My sister, on the other hand, would destroy her room when she was sent there for punishment. She would play her music extremely loud and, as she grew older, would steal my parent’s liquor and get drunk in her room. When my dad came home from work he would see the damage she had done and would force corporal punishment on her.
How did reading books help me through those very dark days? It gave me the freedom to see the world through a different set of eyes. Even at the age of 12 I knew I didn’t want to be like my parents. I refused to be a victim and knew that I wanted to make something of my life. The hours, days and weeks of reading encyclopedias, dictionaries and science books were a relief for me even though there was ugliness going on outside my bedroom door. As I grew up, I learned to enjoy playing football with my neighborhood friends after school. I realized this was just one more way to avoid spending too much time at home. One day at school, my freshman physical education teacher introduced all of the boys to weight lifting. That really sparked an interest in me! I had found another positive activity that reduced the amount of time I spent at home.
It saddens me to this day to know that my sister became an alcoholic at the tender age of 14. She went to parties during the week, skipped school, began smoking, and rarely was at home. Our lives went different directions. Her life mirrored my parents and I was making life happen my way.
My circumstances could have overwhelmed me but instead I chose to use them to help me overcome my home environment. I knew I wasn’t going to allow alcohol to control me. I wanted nothing to do with it. I saw what it was doing to my family and I didn’t like it. I have had many people ask me over the years, how I avoided the temptation of drinking. I can honestly say the many nights of watching my mother get drunk burned a desire in my heart to live a different kind of life. More importantly, I know God’s hand of protection was over me. I wanted to create my own path to freedom. That’s when I made the decision to immerse myself into reading, sports and school. It was my only hope of keeping my sanity.
I hear so many stories of people who feel trapped by their circumstances and they don’t know how to get out. They eventually accept their destination in life and live the lie! My friends, you don’t have to live as a victim. You can live a life victoriously. Are you willing to make changes that can get you out of the role as a victim? I saw where my life was headed and I didn’t want to go there, even as a 12 year old boy. It was up to me to take that first step. I had no idea how to do it, but I knew I didn’t want to live a life or be like my parents. I had to fight my own way out of the box.
The key for me was looking to the future and asking these questions:
• What did I want to do with my life?
• How was I going to get there?
• What kind of situations (drinking, smoking, parties) did I want to avoid?
• What kind of people did I want to be around?
I watched my sister’s life go downhill after the age of 14. She hung with the bad crowd, drank to excess and refused parental supervision. She stole from my parents and from me, rarely attended school, and was gone for days at a time. I couldn’t help her. I was too young and I was trying to figure out what I had to do to survive myself. It’s never too late to stop being a victim.
Many of us feel like victims due to the following
• Difficult marriages and relationships
• Circumstances out of our control
• Alcohol and drug abuse
• Lack of money and poor investments
• Health, disease and weight issues
• Stress and bad behavior
These are just a few that I see when I counsel and coach people. It’s amazing to me how many people accept being a victim and don’t realize they don’t have to be a victim any longer