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.