The Cocktail hour

The daylight is softly shifting from brilliance to soft hues of orange and pink to blue. The day is closing. Growing up that meant the cocktail hour was about to begin. Every night my parents went to their sacred area and began consuming quantities of alcohol. It was what you did back in the 40’s and 50‘s. By the time I became part of the family, this tradition was ingrained in the dynamics of the family. I used to think that it was what everyone did. What ensued after cocktail consumption marked me for life and left me traumatized covertly to the point that the shift in light in my present life can evoke the fear and panic learned from the time I was less than 6.
I am the baby of five children. We all have gone our separate ways. I am sure everyone has their own scars. Mine are a little deeper as I never learned to not equate my parent’s behaviors with who I was. My family would sit around the formal dining table and as if a button was pressed, the ugliness would rear its ugly head. Projectiles would be hurled at heads, criticism flowed like the booze my parents had consumed leaving the dining experience to be feared. My older siblings dispersed and eventual moved out of the family domicile leaving me the victim of my father’s rants and physical punishments when I was 13. This is not to say things did not happen before to me, only now I was left with no support or co-victims. I do not think they even knew what went on. It was my secret. It was also my tomb.
Alcohol played a huge part in my adult life. I watched as a child as my parents bonded in their drunken conversations which often ran late into the night. I thought that was the way couples bonded. I did what most children do and I modeled the behavior as an adult. It did not work and my consumption was a contributing factor to the demise of my first marriage. My brother closest to my age also struggled with this demon. Gratefully, I gave up drinking completely eleven years ago. I have only recently begun to enjoy a rare glass of wine for the pleasure of the wine and not to get drunk. I won that fight very successfully.
But the bigger scar was from the physical, sexual and mental abuse I suffered as a young girl because of the tradition of the cocktail hour. Many a night, my father would turn as if a switch was flipped and would become extremely violent. I would come home at night from my friends quiet homes to find my room, my only private space, destroyed. My father finally stopped hitting me when I called him out when I was 16. It was one of my rare brave moments. I know his anger stemmed from frustration and the depression he suffered from self-medicating with alcohol. I have forgiven, but I have not forgotten.
I should say my body and mind did not forget. The light would appear at random times through the year and the fear would get triggered. There are many triggers that cause my body to prepare for fight, flight or freeze. So many that I lived (please note: past tense) in total fear all the time. My conscious brain was not aware of any actual predator, but environmental cues were sending signals of impending war to me all the time. The result was chronic pain, psoriatic arthritis and other immune comorbidities. My armor and shield is my weight.
The past months have been a journey of discovery and healing. I am by no means to my destination. I also have not won this war, but I know who and what is the enemy. I will say I have not always enjoyed the journey either. It took a lot of balls for me to write this. But as I learn to stand steadily on my feet and not shield, I realize that I am not alone. If this writing helps to connect someone else, it is only a secondary blessing to what has already been bestowed on me.

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One thought on “The Cocktail hour

  1. Pingback: The Cocktail hour | There is no bang!

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