Let’s talk about ALCOHOLISM

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My grandparents on their wedding day.

Look at that sly gleam in his eye. He was a damn good-looking man indeed. And she, whew!!! She was a FOX!! This is for sure where I got my stunning good looks from. I kid, I kid. I was blessed with not being completely ugly. In fact, the whole of my family missed the ugly branch on the tree.

Both of my grandparents were rather smart as well. My grandfather, Grady Doyle Miller, was a lawyer and would later become a Municipal Court Judge here in Bakersfield. To the best of my recollection, my grandmother was a medical librarian. My grandfather went by Doyle. He and his family came from Texas. Again, this is all from memory. I have my ancestry books somewhere, I will dig them out later and give you all a full description, trust me… it is insanely interesting. My grandmother, Janette Gay Van Netta (Miller), came from Wisconsin, where her family settled when they immigrated from Norway. I used to hate my slanty, almond-shaped eyes. Then I learned that I was Norwegian and my eyes were a trait of my ancestry.

Like I have mentioned before, my grandfather died when I was a baby, so my memories of him are limited. My grandmother did not move back to San Francisco until I was about 6 or 7, so I have some memories of her. I remember that she would tickle my back and my belly upon my relentless requesting. She pulled the flathead needle from my knee when I got it lodged there whilst crawling around under the living room table. My knee was stuck, I couldn’t open or close it, until she pulled that sucker out.

I also remember her love of liverwurst sandwiches and split pea soup. I learned to love green olives from her too. She would pull them out of her drink and give them to me. Sometimes she would mix her drink with orange juice. Vodka. Bottles and bottles of vodka. My mom came home once, there was a fight and a giant plastic jug of vodka was thrown against the wall. It may have broken and spilled everywhere, or it may not have. But for drama’s sake, imagine clear liquid cascading down the wall and across the living room.

One night, she and I hopped in her VW bug to pick up my mother from somewhere (I faintly remember that it may have been rehab). We made it down the street and then ACROSS the major street, through a fence and into a building. There were no seatbelt laws then, so I hit the seat in front of me, luckily I was in the back seat and was not hurt. My grandmother’s face was a patchwork of colors the next day, maybe it was a few days later because looking back, some of the bruises were faded green when I remember seeing her after the crash.

Later she would move to San Francisco. I would visit her once. She developed Alzheimer’s, perhaps it was dementia….a result of long-term alcoholism. She died years ago. I don’t remember when. By then I was living a different life and was rather detached from that previous life.

She was not the only one who suffered from alcoholism. My grandfather was a rather famous drunk. Remember he was a judge. A drunk judge. I have heard stories about how he got picked up for drunk driving, the police who picked him up had to be in court, so they took him with them. Guess who the judge was supposed to be? That’s right. My grandfather. Now this is the story I was given. That’s not the story the newspaper gives. So who knows which is the truth?

I always knew that I had a “predisposition” for addiction. That is such a big word for an eight year old to know. But I knew it. I knew that it was in my genes. I knew I should stay away. But that didn’t keep me from my foster mother’s mom’s wet bar. I would sneak drinks of the tequila or Kahlua, filling the rest with water so no one know that I was drinking. Mind you, I didn’t drink enough to get drunk. I was just doing it to do it. Addiction would find its way to me eventually. More on that later.

As I sit here with my beer…I ponder if I am an alcoholic. I took an online quiz that told me I’m at risk. I have vodka in my kitchen. I think of my grandmother when I look at it. It’s in my genes to be an alcoholic. My grandparents and both of my parents were. Is it possible to have a drink or two and not be an alcoholic? How can we dodge what seems to be our fate? How can we stop the cycle? Or can we? Is it hopeless?