The Hardest Question of All

I was walking the dogs with my oldest (at home) last night and somehow we got on the topic of his legacy.  That of the alcoholic variety.  He was saying that he’s sure he’ll try alcohol one day but that for now, he really has no desire.  He said he had plenty of opportunity while he was away at college (for that and other things) but that it just never appealed to him.  He wondered if I thought that feeling would change and when he would know whether or not he was an alcoholic.

Oy!  Dude…could you go back to giving me the easy questions?  You know…like why is the sky blue and how does the picture get into the TV and where do babies come from?  (I still don’t know how the picture gets into the TV.) 

So I did what I always do when confronted with a question like this…I told him the truth.

I told him yes, there will come a day when alcohol appeals to you.  I myself didn’t really drink (beyond that one Sloe Gin night and a beer just to make an ex-boyfriend angry) until my mid twenties when it was the norm and was expected if you were going to do any productive business and hang with the big dogs.  At first I resisted because of my own legacy, relenting only after I fell in love with his father and a quiet, romantic dinner was only enhanced by a bottle of wine.  (Not to mention the sex later but I spared him those gory details…no need to scar the boy.)

I told him there were those times that I had a really, really good time because I was drinking.  I don’t know if I would have has just as good a time if I hadn’t been shit-faced – mainly because I usually was.  But I seriously doubt it because everyone was also hammered.  I also told him that when I was pregnant with him, I got a good look at all those hammered people and just how stupid they all were while they were drinking.  I told him how tiresome it was to be around them when I was sober and how that kept me away from the sauce for another decade and a half, as I raised him and his brothers.  But I was honest and also told him that when I did get a night, I almost always drank alcoholically and usually got drunk.  His dad was the one who always stayed sober, always drove, and always took care of me.

He asked me how and why it got out of control and although I could have given him excuses, I had no real reasons.  Once again, I told him the truth…I just don’t know.  He asked when he would know whether or not he had “the gene” and would he inevitably become an alcoholic if he began to drink.

Well…I just don’t know.

Here’s the deal kid…you aren’t going to know.  There is no way for you to know until you take that first drink and embark on your own drinking career.  (I was quick to thank him for being sober this long – I know what an accomplishment that is for a 19 year old.).  You could go many years drinking socially only to wake up one morning and think, “Hmmm…a Bloody Mary would be good right now.”   Which is not an issue in and of itself…until it starts happening every day and is followed by beers at lunch, wine with dinner and a nightcap.

Or you may feel it from the first drink.  You may experience the “rush” that is the dopamine hitting your brain and that may be so good that you’re off to the races without a glance back at your sober, tea totaling days. 

Or you may take after your dad with no addiction problems at all (not even with tobacco – bastard) and pick up a drink or a beer during a football game or while out to dinner or after work, and be able to leave it at that.  There is just no way to know…and as your mother who has brought this to your doorstep, it scares the living shit out of me.

So I told him to just do what he’s always done.  Be smart, think before you act and do what you know is right. 

Because I’ll be praying enough for both of us.


11 thoughts on “The Hardest Question of All

  1. I love that image of you two walking along with the dogs and having such a great real conversation. What a lucky boy to have such a strong present honest mum. You are teaching him that life is tricky and full of twists and turns and decisions that can take you in different directions and that you're not perfect but you're trying your very best to be the best most loving woman you can and that you are totally locked into his life and his struggles, should they come, and that you are there for him 150%. Well done you, great stuff xxxx

  2. My youngest expressed concern about his drinking when I visited him a couple of months ago. He is 27, a sergeant in the Air Force, and married with two wonderful kids (of course). I remember the first time he called me to come pick him up because he was drunk, I think he was 15 or 16, I made him a hamburger and made him go for a walk around the block with me before he passed out. His mom, the seasoned drinker handing down the tricks of the trade. I remember he kept asking me, “Why do people drink when it makes you feel this bad?” I still don't have the answer to that one.

    Now he's worried because he finds himself drinking a couple of beers every night and I get the dubious honor of being a mom he can talk to about this at the same time I feel guilty as hell for setting that example.

    That's the hand I dealt myself, I'll play it the best I can.

  3. Me, me, me, it's always about me. I forgot to tell you how great and courageous you are for being so honest with your child and sitting such a shining imperfect, vulnerable example for him to learn from. How much easier it will be for him to come to you with his imperfections.

  4. Wow – at least he is asking, is aware enough to consider it. My son isn't a problem, yet and I don't think he will be he doesn't have some of the 'ism I see in me…. my daughter, now there is a different story but I have to let her find her own way

  5. Awww Sherry, just beautiful, really.

    In the professional field of addiction, we caution teenagers to never indulge if they have addiction in the family. Studies are too profound showing the genetic link, so why play russian roullette?

    Well, that sounds dandy in a text book. But, I have both feet on the ground and my head in the realities of living. Moreover, I have THREE adult children, ha, not to negate the focus I have right now on the 16 year old – yikes…

    Here's my perspective,, lol, not that you asked…
    Beyone that genetic link, we , we addicts, that is, embrace addictive characteristics, tendencies, and traits. It does not require a trained eye to see them.

    I have four children; I identify these traits in 2 of the 4; my 26 and 23 year old. The 20 year old, who attends college in CA has never touched drugs, alcohol.

    The 26 and 23 year old, boy and girl, respectively, , happen to live together in CO. I have a close eye on them and some family (sisters and parents) who assist me with this. While they have had their bouts of drug and alcohol abuse,, it has never added up to chronic addiction. Rather, they are settling into graduate school and “real” jobs now and I see the partying diminishined tenfold.

    Ugh,, sorry again for length, what I wanted to say,, is that with the two who really do share my addictive tendencies, I have spoken upfront and honestly with them every step of the way. Has this impacted their choices? No idea. But, we do what we can with what we have.

    The rest is up to God.

    Sherry, you're a beautiful committed mother – you mentioned on FB that you are blessed. THEY are equally blessed my dear

  6. It tricky stuff indeed and scary as hell, but I have a feeling that you've set a wonderful example for your kids by being sober NOW. I was never closer to my dad then I was after he got sober. Those 13 years went a long way to healing the little girl he wounded with his drinking. We were always close but we became friends during that time.

    You are a wonderful woman and you'll be right where you need to be when they need you.

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