Updated: Dec 6, 2021
As one who obviously struggled in the ‘coping mechanisms’ category, I was watching my grandson in front of the television and had to wonder if I am unintentionally steering him towards a battle with a future demon that unfortunately I know so well.
My wife does not have issues with alcohol abuse. She is able to turn her switch on and off at anytime unlike her ‘all or nothing’ husband. She can handle crisis better than I can, she can engage in deep discussion without getting anxious like I do, she can face fears without the fear of fear that I deal with, and she can keep herself calm without the need of outside assistance (insert lots of aluminum cans of alcohol) like me. So, what’s the difference?
We often joke about my pathetically incredible ability to recite practically every episode of the Brady Bunch word for word, or to be able to answer any trivia question about 70’s Saturday morning cartoons. While I developed a skill at eating cereal or breakfast rolls while standing in front of the tv, Elizabeth was outside interacting with others, playing sports, working in neighborhood yards for spending cash or babysitting the children of family friends. One of us was developing coping skills that are put to work every day, while the other one practiced shutting off his brain and letting external sources provide the ‘solutions’ to the issues of growing up.
I am not blaming my drinking issues with my upbringing. I firmly believe that I have internal wiring problems that make me react differently than others when I add alcohol to my system. But I don’t think I helped myself out at all by denying myself valuable coping skills that probably didn’t help things out. I did not learn to deal with problems or struggles in a constructive manner but learned to rely on something else to make them go away. The ability to face my feelings became harder and harder the longer I practiced the art of burying them, hoping that they would just magically go away.
We drink for a lot of reasons. I drank primarily as a way of escaping (temporarily) from the potholes that life throws our way every day. I did not learn how to solve problems. I did not learn how to accept and manage the tough moments. I did not learn HOW TO TALK about my problems with others in a constructive manner that resolved them and put them away so that I could move on in my life. I did not practice those skills as a kid, and when problems as a young adult got real, I did what I knew to do, which was take the easy route, choosing whatever means I could find to make them blur away from my focus. For me, that tool was alcohol. For others, the list of destructive or improper coping mechanisms is long…..drugs, isolation, porn, gambling, food, shopping etc etc etc. The point is that poor coping abilities are fairly common among those of us with addictions, and what I am interested in figuring out is why some people like my wife are very good at it, while others like me have proven to be deficient in those skills. Alcohol allowed me to stay deficient in coping with life. Sadly, it did provide me relief, that is until the day when it stopped working, and those potholes finally busted out from behind the temporary wall of self-medication. That was the day that my bubble burst. I was alone, scared to death with no option but to try to learn the skills that others had mastered all along.
I am working on my coping skills today. I have removed alcohol from my life, which has forced me to deal with, versus drown, my feelings. I am doing it constructively versus destructively for the first time in a long time, and I think it’s working out pretty good so far!
Personally, I know that my grandson has some of my genes. I’m hoping some are more prevalent than others, but I think I owe him more a fighting chance than I have been giving him so far. Today, the tv is staying off. We are going to talk, we are going to read, and maybe we will put together some puzzles or other activities that require problem solving skills. And maybe, just maybe……