When I woke up this past Tuesday, I had no idea how my day was going to unfold. In fact, since I quit drinking nearly four years ago, I have really tried to live my life one day at a time and have quit trying to predict how each day is “supposed” to unravel.
This last week was no exception. The night before, I had picked my sons and nephew up from their Open Gym at their grade school. My nephew piped up in the back seat, “Hey. Did you tell your mom what happened today?”
I have learned this can mean any number of things, so I took a deep breath, looked over at my 12 yo and said, “No. I haven’t heard. Do tell.” The three of them got really quiet and super awkward. So I directed my son to fill me in.
“Well at lunch today, Jeanette (Not her real name) tried to get me to drink a margarita. I told her no.”
Wow. THAT was not at all what I had in mind.
“Wait, what?” I asked. “Start from the beginning.”
He proceeded to tell me how one of his classmates brought alcohol to school and was trying to get the kids at his table to drink it with her. Thankfully, this time, my son said no. We talked about the dangers, the risks involved, and how he went to the principal and told of what transpired. I was really proud of him in that moment. This was- to my knowledge- his first real run in with peer pressure, and he resisted. We called his dad and I had my son relay the story to him. My husband, in turn, was shocked but glad the outcome was in his favor. This time.
I have been through enough with my older daughter to know this isn’t always the case.
After the dust settled, I was able to call my sponsor and talk this through with her. Life is much different today for many of these kids. In that moment, I felt so much gratitude- gratitude that I am one of the lucky ones.
The next morning, I had to take the same son to a doctor appointment which afforded us a 45 minute car ride alone. I brought the margarita episode up again to him and said I really needed to talk to him more.
I asked him if we could talk a little bit about Jeanette and what her home life was like. I wanted to know how a 12 yo needs to numb at school. I needed some clarity. He mentioned how her parents are divorced, that she moved her late last year, and seemed pretty unhappy. He added, “He dad is a raging alcoholic.”
The proverbial window of opportunity nearly fell off its hinges.
“Well,” I asked, “What does an alcoholic look like to you?”
He answered something about being dirty, homeless, and uninvolved.
I nodded my head and asked him, “Would it surprise you if I told you I am an alcoholic?” He looked really confused and mentioned that I don’t drink.
“Not anymore, but I used to. I am not the same person when I drink.”
I let that soak in for a bit and then he asked if I had ever drank and drive.
“Yes. I did. Alcohol abuse causes people to make decisions that when they aren’t drinking, they would never make.”
I went on to explain to him that the meetings I attend are full of alcoholics: doctors, lawyers, politicians, other teachers, and yes, some homeless people and those who have served time in jail- some of whom fall into the former group as well. He was dumbfounded. I talked with him about how alcoholism is a disease, and that no one asks to be one. I explained it’s heredity and is no different than diabetes or even cancer. Just like no one signs up for those diseases, alcoholism is no different. I told him that we do’t refer to then as raging diabetics or people as raging cancer patients. Being able to help put these into perspective and to alleviate some of the stigma and myths associated with alcoholism was a moment I could have never predicted.
I hadn’t previously talked with my son about being an alcoholic because the opportunity hadn’t presented it self in a way quite like this one did. I did not ask him to keep our discussion a secret either, for I am not ashamed of who I am today.
We ended our talk by me explaining to him that Jeanette is in pain and that is why so many people drink or abuse other drugs. I told him she needs help and that he can be a good friend by suggesting to her that she may want to see the guidance counselor at school. I also let him know that while he can be a friend, the problems she has right now are bigger than he is equipped to handle and that it’s best left to the professionals. We talked about boundaries and how he can be friends with her as long as drugs and alcohol are not part of the relationship. He smiled, hugged me tightly and told me how much he loved me. Not bad for a 12 yo boy just hitting puberty.
Being sober is truly a gift. This conversation would have never happened in the way it did had I still been active in my alcoholism. I know this.
The seed has been planted in my growing boy; I know I do not get to control his path, but it sure is rewarding knowing that I can be here for him, sober, when he needs me.