Why I’m Afraid to Drink

family portrait
The oldest family portrait I have.

The naivete of youth is a powerful blinder, obstructing our view of the world at-large through shades of innocence.

Experiences at the time may seem foreign to a young mind, filtered through a prism of wonder and misunderstanding. Of course, we don’t realize this until years later when those memories are still blurry, but now manipulated and changed by passed time in some kind of cyclical joke played by our brains.

After we have enough time to digest what was, we finally begin to absorb the magnitude of what it means. People and places are the nutrients flowing through our system, providing us energy that propels us into our future as we grasp at our past, trying to hold on to what we think we once knew.

There are many defining moments along my path from beer drinker to enthusiast. There are people and places that fill the story of my journey with smiles and tears.

Through all of this, the one thing that has frightened me is the reality of my past and what it might mean for my future: I grew up with an alcoholic and I’m not yet sure what that means for me.

young bryan 1Sometimes this truth is worrisome, as if my beer-loving story had been written three decades ago and the prologue of my life and passion was typed out and printed before I got a chance to proofread. I may be the one writing my own story, but sometimes I fear another author could have drafted a chapter or two, or at least sneaked notes in the margins.

This gives me pause each time I open a beer, knowing that the plethora of intrinsic gifts I’ve received from generations of my family also has potential to act as something of a genetic time bomb, even if that’s only part of my DNA’s wiring.

I do, however, find fortitude in my own actions. I’m responsible. I’m thoughtful. I’m passionate.

At least I hope so. Alcoholism stole from my childhood. The thought of replicating that, of allowing some nimble thief to sneak back into my life and take anything away from those I love is a threat. My guard is up, but each sip could be part of a long con, slowly whittling away my defenses.

There is a fear that I’m once again too naive to see what’s happening – a cruel joke hiding in plain sight and waiting for its final reveal. Is the work, effort and interest I put into my passion part of a secret plan I’m unaware of?

As I stride to the fridge, pop a cap and pour a beer into my glass, I swear to myself it’s a habit borne out of enjoyment, not physical dependency. Having spent years around someone who needed alcohol to get through the day, I know my behavior is far from what so many people can’t pry themselves away from.

Even still, our past and the people in it, no matter how hard we try, shape our future. Fate or no, our stories get told through others and the experiences that happened long ago, only to cycle back.

bryan funny faceLast summer, during a visit home, I swung by my hometown’s liquor store to buy local wines to bring to North Carolina. I was asked for my ID at the register. With barely a glance, the woman behind the counter looked down at my license then right back at me, a suspecting double-take.

A funny look. A raised eyebrow. A question: are you related to…? Her voice trailed off. So did my mind, moving backward in time.

She recognized my name and perhaps even my face from years ago, when as a child I’d come along to the store on a weekly basis, not knowing or understanding why. Sometimes I stayed in the car, sometimes I’d come into the store, running my hands along glass bottles of rum, vodka and more, collecting dust on my little fingertips.

It’s a trip that I can remember, but with no certain clarity except for little snippets. My memories are a haze, covered in fog and blocked from the light of truth. It’s those few pieces inside the store that are vivid in my mind, followed by the frost covered bottle that inevitably took its place at the back of my freezer at home.

There is a lot that I don’t remember. A lot that I’m sure I don’t want to. For good or bad, these memories are lost in the chasm of my collective experiences, tethered to the simplicity of youth.

My hope is that what little I recall is more faded past than clear, crystal ball, foreshadowing what’s to come.

family now

session_logo_all_text_300This post has been my contribution to The Session, a monthly collaborative blogging effort with beer writers from around the world. It’s a history I rarely discuss and have only provided scant details with few people. I hope you’ll understand its vague state. It started forming in my head when I first read this piece from BeerGraphs in early February and came to fruition thanks to Doug at Baltimore Bistros and Beer, who hosts this month’s Session and asked, “Why Do You Drink?

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

21 thoughts on “Why I’m Afraid to Drink

  1. Christ man, that was heavy. Thank you for sharing with us, and writing this.

    1. Heavy to write, too. Appreciate the sentiment.

  2. Reblogged this on Brews and Bacon and commented:
    I haven’t re-blogged much, but this one just has to be done.

    1. Thanks for reading – I’m glad it had meaning for for others like it did for me.

  3. Powerful. Thank you for sharing and invoking thought, even though it brought up feelings I usually tuck away, I am grateful. No one would be the person they are today without the past. You can’t change it, only accept it. Which is easier said than done.

    1. Thanks so much, Molly. These are things I feel and sense on almost a daily basis, but only rarely pause to consider. It’s difficult to reflect on them, but it’s also necessary to move forward. I imagine this is the beginning of better addressing it all, so I hope that you have continued luck as well.

      It’s a forever moving target and I hope to hit it, eventually.

  4. Great post – easily one of the best posts I’ve ever read on a beer blog. I really liked the honesty…in the beer community no-one seems to talk much about the negative health implications of our hobby. Instead it seems to get pushed away and ignored. But I always think it’s worth talking about – hell, you can’t really do anything about an issue until you accept the issue exists.

  5. Great post, Bryan. Demons have ways of hiding themselves well and our guard must remain up for them. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks a bunch, Dave. It’s certainly always something to be aware of, for all sorts of reasons.

  6. Great feature! I love the blog, keep up the great work!

  7. Powerful and very well-written. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  8. Thanks for sharing. My dad died when I was 12 from alcoholic hepatitis and beer is my biggest hobby. I can’t “collect” bottles of the good beers I’ve had, something I wanted to do, as seeing the collection scares me.

    It isn’t something I’ve brought up on my beer blog but something I’m mentally preparing to talk about there or on this dad+beer video blog I’m experimenting with in September, the anniversary of his death.

    I couldn’t review spirits, particularly vodka, because of him, as much as I want to get into knowing more about it. Too close to home.

    Thanks for writing and sharing. I don’t think I could go back to my hometown to the particular cut-rate that I’d sat, waiting in the parking lot, in some of my earliest memories.

    1. I appreciate what you’re working toward. It’s something that has impacted me in many ways, but I’m happy that I’ve found a means to understand and deal with the past, even if there are reminders from time to time.

      I look forward to what you come up with as well.

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