Talking to My Kids About Alcoholism
"You know that alcoholism runs in our family. I really hope that you guys make the right decisions when your friends start offering you alcohol and drugs. YOU are at really high risk to become addicted."
"Mom, you've told us this a million times. We're not stupid."
"I know you're not stupid. I just think that you underestimate how powerful the urge to be to be like your friends is going to be. Alcoholism just kind of sneaks up on you. It's pretty easy and you don't even realize it's happening until it does."
"But you drink."
"Yes but not very often and not very much. I get migraine headaches when I drink."
“So is that the reason you're not an alcoholic?"
"No. I made a decision a long time ago not to drink because I saw how easy it would be to become an alcoholic. Also life situations helped. I was working at a rural hospital and I didn't want to take a chance having a glass of wine at night to relax and then getting called in. Driving with even one glass of alcohol in me and trying to make critical medical decisions would have been a mistake. It was then I realized that having a glass of wine every day to ‘relax’ would possibly lead to two, three, four glasses of wine like my parents used to drink."
“What was it like growing up with alcoholic parents?”
"When my parents had been drinking they lost their filters, their inhibition to tell me exactly what they thought. There was no ‘constructive’ criticism. It was mostly destructive criticism and impulsive behavior. I remember one night when my mother sat in front of the kitchen sink looking for a detergent or something to drink to kill herself. She was completely loaded and when I went sobbing and panicked upstairs to beg my father to stop her, he was falling down drunk too and wouldn’t help.
“One time, I remember my father coming down from the attic with one of his antique rifles while he was drunk one night. He wanted to clean it up and kill himself with it. Of course he doesn't remember any of that.
"There were always fights at holidays. My mother would get completely shit-faced drunk in order to deal with her social phobia. She hated everyone and everything about the holidays and one year actually spear chucked the Christmas tree out the front door. She did it because no one was interested at that moment to help her decorate it. It was not fun to be in that family growing up.
“After my grandmother died I spoke with her doctor who called and he said ‘I don't know if you knew this, but your grandmother was an alcoholic.’ I started laughing because I knew very well that she was. She always laughed that she got her knees replaced because she couldn't get up on the barstools anymore. We kept a bottle of scotch at our house just for her.
"All of this is to say that you guys have to be super careful. You're not like other kids. It's in your genes to develop alcoholism. You can't do the usual things that kids going to college do, like drinking way too much.”
“It’s shown that kids who wait to drink until after they’re 21 years old have a lower chance of becoming alcoholic. MOST kids are NOT drinking in high school. NOT drinking or using drugs is the NORM, and you’re at risk if you do drink.”
“Okay.. OKAY. Enough. You’ve told us this a million zillion times!”
I hope they hear my voice in their heads as they get older, reminding them. I hope they listen. I hope they follow through.
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