Growing up with the 5 O’Clock Happy Hour.

When I was a child, I believed my parents drank every night because they liked the taste of alcohol.

It was considered an adult drink because only adults would think it tasted good. I remember asking my mom for a sip of her drink when I was about 13, and I thought it tasted awful; I almost spit it out. It was either gin or vodka, and it tasted like gasoline.

I thought to myself, why would anyone choose to drink something that tasted so nasty?

Both my mom and dad had two drinks every single night. Starting at 5 o’clock sharp, the ritual would begin. My dad would ask my mom what she wanted; he would prepare it and serve it to her. They would eat Planters peanuts and watch the evening news with Tom Brokaw. My Dad would then pour each of them a second drink as my mom cooked dinner in the kitchen. I do not remember them drinking at dinner unless they were finishing up that second cocktail.

I never saw my parents get drunk. I never saw them overdrink, but the 5 o’clock happy hour is burned into my brain like breathing. Even now that I am sober, I still have to make some sort of drink at 5 o’clock. Whether it be a soda with lime, an N/A beer, or a mocktail, I am hardwired for drinking something at 5 p.m.

Just because my parents could drink every night and it never became a problem, I now wonder why they did it. I think a lot like me, they did not consider it a drug back then. It is ironic though that my father’s career was in pharmaceuticals. He sold prescription drugs for a living, but I do not think he ever considered alcohol a drug—a drug that you do not need to take. I do not think he thought about why he needed to drink every single night to relax at the end of the day. He says it’s just a habit. I’m not so sure about that.

If I had offered my father one million dollars to quit drinking forever back then, I do not think he would have taken it. If it were a habit, wouldn’t he be able to easily give that up for a million dollars? He still drinks two drinks every night to this day, and for him, it works. I love my dad; he is 77 now and is healthy as a horse.

For me, it did not work out that way, and I am completely okay with it. I have accepted that my brain processes alcohol differently from my parents. I tried every which way until Sunday to moderate my drinking as they did and follow their example. I assumed I would grow up and be identical to my parents: two drinks every night at 5 p.m.

“When you know better, you do better.” ~ Maya Angelou⁠

I have an opportunity now to show my children that grown-ups don’t drink every single day. I have an opportunity to show them that grown-ups don’t need alcohol to relax. I have an opportunity to hardwire them a different way—to show them a different example.

Every time my 10-year-old comes up to me and asks for a sip of my drink, I burst with pride knowing that it is alcohol-free. That’s what works best for me.


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