Why not? I loathe that I reluctantly have to come up with a response to this question everytime I’ve declined an offered alcoholic beverage at a social gathering because a simple NO doesn’t always suffice to many. For a lot of folks in our community, a drink or two is the most common pastime and in my opinion the most destructive of all substances.
The family home where I was born and raised evokes some nostalgia: weekends meant kwaito music blaring through the speakers, people seated outside on beer crates with either a bottle or a cigarette paper wrapped marijuana in hand. One of my relatives sold beer while the other sold weed. I nervously cringed at the sight of a beer drinker who poured beer without properly tilting the glass to avoid the formation of foam, because it was a method expertly taught to me at a very young age. I guess it also explains why as I grew older, I was never fascinated by a lot of these things because I knew how to roll a joint way before my adolescent years, this had been my lived reality prior to the hype around the teen years.
In the same breath, my grandmother’s four roomed house represented the first cases of addictive personalities I’d get to witness. The formative years of my life were spent navigating the effects of substance abuse by my elders. It was in this chaotic environment that the music would quickly blur because a fight had suddenly erupted over petty disagreements that could have been easily avoided if people were in their sober state. I got to witness first hand how those with the same blood running through their veins could impulsively hold out a knife at the other with the intention to spill blood in the split of a second.
Anyone who’s familiar with growing up under such unpleasant circumstances will reiterate how all this breeds inconsistencies, which have a cunning way of permeating into every area of one’s life. I’ll draw an example from my father, the man he was on week days was completely different to who he’d become on weekends under the influence. As a child, you’re thrust into the responsibility of parenting yourself in most instances whenever the person designated for that role fails at participating.
The destructiveness caused by excessive consumption is something I do not miss the opportunity to speak on whenever the need arises, regardless of how unpopular an opinion it may be. From a personal experience, it stands as the major contributing factor to the violence, reckless sexual behaviour that’s resulted in dire consequences and the dismantled family structure, especially in black townships. I helplessly watched the men in my family being stripped of their dignity and role. When you are constantly in drunken stupor, there can never be any realistic expectations from one to foster boundaries and lead a family and I believe this phenomenon distinctly unravels the matriarchal nature of our family setup.
So every drink I reject and firmly say NO to, comes from a place of being highly cognisant of the link between heredity and addiction. That disconcerting visit I would randomly get from someone I grew up with, who was once a promising sports star but now a shadow of his former self, would leave me completely disheartened. That reassuring thought that I could easily fall into that dungeon, but that I’ve been one of the few and fortunate to escape the clutches of this demon. That the onus is on myself to rectify the errors and ensure that the future generation completely embrace their childhood and are not by default negatively impacted by that one family member’s addictive habits.
Whatever choice one makes, may we atleast consider how it could easily determine the trajectory of a family line. If not for yourself, atleast do something about it that your children will thank you for. Childhood trauma prevented is better than having to overcome it.