A Child of Alcoholics Finds Serenity

Aaron Brinker, My First Drink, sobriety, Serenity Prayer, alcoholism, youth drinking

Aaron Brinker changes a family tradition of silence around alcohol abuse, by telling the story of how he also became an alcoholic.

A motto is a brief statement that encompasses beliefs or ideals to help guide others. A person can use the phrase to help remind them how they want to live their daily life.

I never thought about living my life by using a personal motto, but sometimes a phrase seems to find us when we truly are not looking for one.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference

I am a recovering alcoholic and the Serenity Prayer is something that you learn at an Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) meeting. The prayer helps remind me to stay sober and honest about my alcoholism.

Family Secrets

Currently, The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse reports that 1 in 12 American adults abuse alcohol. Alcoholism permeates through every corner of society. It does not know the difference of ethnicity,  socioeconomic class or gender.

In many families, alcoholism becomes a family secret. A family secret is something that is only known to the immediate family. We think we are protecting our self and others by keeping a family secret. The problem with this type of secret is that over time it can rip any family apart.

When I was around 10 or 11, I took my first drink. I did not understand the future ramifications of being an alcoholic. I only wanted to understand the allure my parents saw in alcohol.

When I was growing up, I learned to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself. My family is one of “those” families that had a family secret. I am an only child from a middle class home, and I grew up with alcoholic parents. When you grow up with alcoholism, you quickly learn what is and is not expected of you. It was an unwritten rule that no one ever discussed alcohol.

Often, my father would work away from home. When he was gone, I felt responsible to make sure nothing went wrong. Every night I would pick things up around the house and make sure that my mother and I were safely in bed.

Alcoholism Begins

Being a child and feeling overly responsible came at a price. When I was around 10 or 11, I took my first drink. I did not understand the future ramifications of being an alcoholic. I only wanted to understand the allure my parents saw in alcohol.

Late one night, while dad was working away from home, I stealthily approached the liquor cabinet. I slowly opened the cabinet doors and looked in it. I was fairly certain that no one would miss anything I would drink, and I grabbed a bottle of whiskey. I took a glass from the shelf and proudly poured myself a large “adult” drink. I then replaced the bottle, closed the door and took the glass of alcohol to my bedroom.

I thought I was an adult as I held the glass in my hand. I twirled the alcohol, sniffed the contents and took a slow sip. The taste made me shudder and want to throw up. However, I had determined I would continue and finish all of my drink. Each swallow of the dark liquid burned my throat. As I proceeded to drink, it did not take me long to realize that my body tingled. When I finished the entire glass, I was light-headed and drifted off to sleep.

The next morning, I felt like I finally understood alcohol. Alcohol made me feel a new confidence and maturity level. No one noticed at home or school that anything was different, but I felt different. Drinking made me feel as if I were older and wiser.

I knew I was good at keeping secrets, and this was a secret I would continue to challenge personally. I began a pattern that would last for well over a decade. I would drink at night and “deal” with the day time. I was becoming an alcoholic.

Recovering Alcoholic

No one grows up with the intention of becoming an alcoholic, but it can easily happen to anyone. According to a report released by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism  people who reported that they started drinking before they were age 15 were 4 times more likely to have an alcohol dependency problem at some point in their lives.

I am not ashamed admitting that I have a substance abuse problem. There is no shame in admitting you have done something wrong and want to make amends. I have worked hard in my life to accept the things I have done wrong to myself and others. I have asked for forgiveness more times than I would think is humanly possible.

It does not make sense for me to blame other people for the things I have done wrong in my life. My sordid past did teach me to take responsibility for myself and my actions. I now know I never had a problem taking a drink, I had a problem knowing when to stop drinking.

Everyone keeps a few secrets and alcoholism was mine. Have you ever had to deal with substance abuse in your family? Were you able to find solutions to the problem or is it ongoing? Were you able to find support for yourself and your family? Tell me in the comments!


Read more on Addiction on The Good Life.

Image courtesy of the author

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About Aaron Brinker

Aaron is a 42-year-old stay-at-home dad. He has a Bachelors of Social Work, and had worked in Social Services investigating child abuse. He considers fatherhood and parenting a privilege not ever to be taken for granted. His website Dadblunders is about being a mentor, parent, and father. He turned to blogging to continue to tell others about how important fatherhood is for children. Follow him on Twitter @dadblunders.


  1. Very powerful testimony, Aaron. It’s great that you are sharing your story. Everyone faces substance abuse in their life, whether their own or that of a loved one. People like you who bravely present their experience with honesty and candor help others come to terms with the issues in their own life. Great post! As always!

  2. I became a drunk because I was genetically hard wired for it….

  3. Hi Aaron

    Thank you for sharing your story. 
    I often wonder why a person start to drink.
    And I have never asked why. 

    My father was an alcoholic but it was taboo to mention it,or to ask. Life went on as usual,and the family pretended not to notice.

    Only  one person  has shared with me the real reasons why he started using alcohol and later heroin. In a breakdown he cried:” my mother. My mother,she never took care of me.”
    And this young man had only met his father once.

  4. Thank you for sharing your story….people keep so many secrets hidden from the rest of us….

    When I was a teen, I was exposed to someone who would go for a customary drink right after work…in the late afternoon, sometimes it was a glass of wine with a fruit and cheese platter….sometimes the glass of wine came with dinner….sometimes deeper into the evening, more glasses of wine would be ordered…other times it would be beer…..it was never hard liquor or mixed drinks….

    Your story reminded me of that feeling that I was there to be the drinking buddy, even though I did not drink or even like it….even a little bit made me feel flushed and palpitating and just wrong….yes, it is a terrible feeling to feel like you are responsible to watch over someone, even though that someone is much older….and truly out of anyone’s control….

    Thanks again for writing about the unspoken secrets….it’s horrible what children are forced to witness….

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