It has been almost two months since I quit drinking, but my kids didn’t have any idea that I stopped.
I didn’t really drink that often. I pretty much never had a glass of wine or a beer with dinner or even when the kids were awake.
And it’s not because I didn’t want them to see me drinking. It was more because if I only have one drink I get way too tired, and putting the kids to bed at night is exhausting enough. The handful of times I did put them to bed after one or two drinks was torturous and felt like an eternity.
So if I was going to have a glass of wine (or three), I’d wait until they were in bed.
But at parties (or any social gathering where there was alcohol available) it was a whole different story.
And apparently I had made it pretty clear to the kids that parties and drinking five or nine Blue Moons went hand in hand.
The other day I took the kids down to my parents’ house. My mom and dad were away on vacation for three weeks and they got back last week, so the kids wanted to visit them.
It’s about a twenty-five minute drive to their house. On the way home, the subject of alcohol somehow came up.
I don’t remember how we started talking about it or who initiated the conversation, but Number 4 said to me, “Mom, when I get old enough, I think I’m going to try alcohol. Will that make you mad?”
A couple months ago, I probably would have answered her differently.
I probably would have told her I would be okay with it.
But now that I’m almost two months booze-free, the thought of any of the kids drinking scares me, to be honest.
I’ve got addiction issues on both sides of my family. My kids were at a higher risk than many people upon birth.
So I explained that to them, and then I told them I made the decision to stop drinking in July, and that I hadn’t had any kind of alcohol in almost two months.
Number 4 looked at me in disbelief.
“MOM! How will you live without alcohol???” she asked me.
This was Number 4’s reaction to me telling her that I wasn’t going to drink anymore.
When she’s seen me drinking maybe twice a month for the almost eleven years she’s been on the planet.
So I was honest with the kids.
I told them that my body couldn’t handle alcohol that well anymore. I explained to them about hangovers. I told them that I was sometimes not remembering things when I had just a couple drinks.
I told them that they were at risk for becoming addicted. And while nobody plans on having issues with drugs or alcohol, it happens.
I told them there is really nothing good that comes from drinking alcohol.
I told them I hoped I was raising them in a way that they felt good enough about themselves so they’d never feel the need to drink something that would make their brains work differently to feel okay or happy or confident. I told them I hoped I would teach them healthy ways to deal with stress or anxiety or anger or heartache or depression or all the other emotions that are not so fun to feel.
I told them that alcohol and depression are not a good combination.
I told them that it is not necessarily the “cool” thing to not drink. That almost all my friends are drinkers to some extent. That I now make decisions to not attend certain events if there is going to be lots and lots of drinking. And how that is sometimes not very popular. How I know some of my “friends” will slowly stop being my friends. Because some people who like to drink don’t feel comfortable around people who don’t drink.
I told them that now that I’m sober, and now that I’ve seen other people who are drunk (but I’m not one of them myself anymore), that people who are drunk often look pretty silly.
And then I told them that if they ever did decide to drink, I would want them to tell me. That I wouldn’t be mad. But I’d want to understand why they made that decision, and I’d want them to feel comfortable talking to me about it.
Number 4 said something interesting to me.
She said, “Mom, I just thought that since you liked drinking so much that I should probably try it. Because I didn’t want to miss out.”
I realized right then how big an influence my words and actions have on her and all the kids.
And then Number 3 said something to me that he’s never said.
He was sitting in the front passenger seat and I was driving, and he turned and looked at me.
“I’m really proud of you, Mom,” he said. And he patted me on the shoulder.
It was all I could do to not burst into tears.
I’ve made plenty of bad parenting decisions.
But in that moment, Number 3 made it clear to me that two months ago, I definitely made at least one really good one.