The Next Generation
Back in the days before I stopped drinking I never really thought about the impact my drinking might have on my children. I don’t mean I didn’t care, I just didn’t really think about it. I was seldom drunk around them because I'd built up such a tolerance, and of course I didn’t drink in the day and believed it was okay in the evenings. Of course they saw me drink, but I tried to limit it, at least until they were in bed.
I suppose I didn't worry about it because it's what I thought everyone did, but now reflecting on it I wonder how much drinking around our children affects them. I don't mean that everyone should abstain from alcohol, but if our youngsters see us reach for a glass frequently when we're at home, then I question what message we're sending them. Surely instead of seeing us deal with our lives and our emotions they are instead watching us check out of reality for a bit. That isn't a lesson I really want to teach my kids.
On the other hand, there is a positive because I feel my honesty over my recovery with my kids has shown them what resilience is. It's deepened our relationship and I hope they feel they can talk to me about anything. Interestingly I had a conversation with my 15 year old recently. He’s almost a middle child, having two older siblings and one younger. I don't lecture any of them, nor do I tell them not to drink, although I do tell them to be careful. Anyway, he and I were chatting and he brought up drinking. As I've said, we talk about everything so it wasn't a surprise that he wanted to chat. It was nice to hear him telling me that he couldn't ever see himself drinking at home. He told me that he was looking forward to nights out, but he didn’t want it to become a habit. I wish I’d had that wisdom at his young age. It seems so simple, but I wonder now, if I’d only ever had a drink on special occasions, if I ever would have stumbled down the path I did.
The difficulty is that alcohol, and especially wine for Mums it seems, is so socially acceptable. It probably wasn’t so bad before social media, but now we have that, we are constantly bombarded by what other people do after a hard day, or as a celebration for a good day, or for whatever other reason they can think of. There are others out there all the time egging us on, despite the fact we don’t know them, and I know for one I didn’t need much encouragement. Now when I scroll through some social media feeds I wonder if it’s an attempt to show off, or maybe to reassure themselves that what they are doing is okay? Special meals are more important to me now than they were when I was drinking and the best thing is, not only do I enjoy the food more, I actually remember it!
I don’t need to remind you that alcohol is addictive, and when we find we’re in it’s grasp, it’s often too late to back off and slow down, or to ‘drink responsibly.’ I hate that phrase. It’s one of those things that really bugs me, because what is responsible on any level about tipping something that is effectively a poison down our throats? That’s besides the point, what I was going to say, is that once you’re there at the point I was, you’re stuck, and then you feel like you’re a bad mum, and if you’re like me, there’s a lot of shame attached to that.
It doesn’t have to be like that though. Our experiences shape us, and I feel I am more tolerant of others now. My kids have seen what damage alcohol can do, but more importantly I hope they can see that it is possible to recover, and that their nights out and fun times can involve alcohol, but they don’t have to. I hope it’s opened their eyes to the fact that addiction can touch anyone, and I hope that they’ll remember that as they get older and begin their journey’s into adulthood. I can’t expect them to learn from my mistakes, but I hope I’ve given them a little nudge in the right direction!
Take care of yourselves.
Much love as always,