Under the Influence

“First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” In the story “Under the Influence” by Scott Russell Sander, a young boy must watch alcohol destroy his father, his family and shape the person he becomes. This piece of literature brought back childhood memories that I tried to forget. With the father having a drinking problem, a family that is together but falling apart and trying to ignore the problems. This literature choice relates to the experience I have gone through in my life.

A father is someone that should be in every child’s life. In the story, a young boy has to deal with alcohol taking his dad from him. At a young age I had to deal with the same thing. “He climbs out, grinning dangerously, unsteady on his legs, and picking of plums, to watch in silence as he weaves past into the house, where he slumps into his overstuffed chair and falls asleep.”(Sanders). As a child, my father would come home drunk very often. At that age, I didn’t understand but it was left that way until I got older. He was my father and that’s all I knew. And just like the narrator, as I got older, I watch my father become a man I didn’t know, “I lie there hating him, loving him, fearing him, knowing I have failed him.”(Sanders).
It was hard to love my father when he wasn’t really there. But I couldn’t hate him because he needed us most. It’s hard to see him behind the bloodshot eyes but harder to leave him

Family is the only thing you have in the end they say. Just like the narrator, I came from a family with my parents still together. But if you saw us, you’d think different, “Eventually he wakes with a grunt, mother slings accusations at him, and he snarls back, she yells, he growls, their voices crashing.” (Sanders). In my family we looked fine, but we are falling apart just like the narrator’s. There is constant arguing. My parents fight, my brothers fight, I fight, and we fight each other or ourselves. It’s like we aren’t a family at all. So it just easier to keep quiet, just like the narrator. “Father’s drinking problem becomes the family secret.” (Sanders). To stop the fighting, we played dumb around each other. We didn’t mention my dad being drunk, we didn’t say what we saw. It was the easiest way to get through it without questions. When we kept quiet, just like the narrator, we were a family

Avoiding the problems you have never makes them go away. The narrator’s family would pretend that their father never had a problem. So when conflict would arise, threats broke out. “Our own father never beat us, and I don’t think he ever beat mother, but he threatened often.” (Sanders). My father made threats when the alcohol got the best of him. Threats to leave, to hit, to take things away. Just like the narrator I always feared he would. When those happened we ignore it, pretended it wasn’t real. “Each time alcohol transformed our father, we held out the same hope, that he would really and truly come back to us, our authentic father, the tender and playful on competent man, and then all things would be fine.” The narrator and I had the same wish in our lives. We wished our fathers would come back and never pick up a bottle. I always hoped he was serious when he would say it would never happen again. But we both know, they aren’t.

In the story,”Under the Influence”, the story brought back childhood memories. These memories, the past, helped shape who I am now. My father’s drinking, my family being destroyed under the same roof and avoiding it all is what made me the person I am. The narrator tells in the future he doesn’t drink, and I am the same. Growing up with the alcohol has taught me which path to take, how to make it through and what face to put on when things get hard, which face to put on instead of my father’s bloodshot eyes.





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