The day my son found out that i was an alcoholic was a typical day, like any other. He had woken early and began to prepare some toast for himself. He was 10 and had begun to exercise his independence. When i had joined him in the kitchen, to make my morning tea, he approached me by saying; “mom, I have a really important question to ask you”.
He was hesitant as if he was about to say something that might offend me. He then proceeded to walk over to the counter and pick up my Big Book of AA and ask me why I had a book that had the word Alcoholics on it.
Oh man… i usually never leave that book hanging around out in the open, but somehow; after i had arrived home the evening before, i must have left my Big Book of AA on the counter. And now this…
Now, allow me to preempt the remaining story by saying that my son does not have any clear recollection of when his mother was an active alcoholic. He was 5 when I got sober.
During the time of this, particular, interchange my children were 10, 8 and 5. I had been sober and going to meetings for 4 years up to this point. They understood that I needed to attend meetings because I had an allergy to alcohol and the meetings were where I learned to make healthy choices and where I helped other woman to make healthy decisions in their lives, too.
We spoke, openly, about my allergy and what it meant to have and treat certain allergies, however up to this point we had never used the word Alcoholic to designate a person with this particular type of allergy.
And so, my curious mind led me to ask my son what he knew about the word, Alcoholic. He went on to explain that he “knew lots”. That he had, once, “watched a YouTube video of someone playing a game where the mom was an alcoholic and did all sorts of terrible things to her children”. I mentioned that this must have been scary to see. My son proceeded to tell me that it was ok because the game had a happy ending where the father had arrived in time to save the kids from any further horror.
Again, my son has no recollection of me drinking nor is he familiar with how i behaved (mostly foolishly) when i had alcohol in my system. But his biased knowledge of this disease horrified me, however i was able to maintain my composure and compassion and attempted, as best I was able, to use this as a teachable moment.
I explained to my son that the mom, in the game he had watched, was an alcoholic that had; probably, not understood that she had an allergy and therefore was untreated. I then explained that although there are untreated alcoholics, like that mom, I was one who identified my allergy and was therefore being treated; otherwise known as an alcoholic in recovery.
My son then said, “he gets it” and thanked me for helping him understand. But then I realized i had left a door wide open. And so, in order to close it I mentioned to my son that his questions are awesome and he’s welcome to talk to me or to any adult who knows me about this… his dad, Grammy, Papa, etc.
However, i cautioned him that other kids may not understand the difference between an active Alcoholic and one who is in Recovery, like myself. My son then went on to say this… “mom, don’t worry; I’m not going to go to school and tell my friends that my mother is an alcoholic”.
Phew… barely got by on that one. My son is bright, compassionate and funny.
Fast forward to dinner time that evening. I turn around from filling the water glasses to see that my son had the Big Book in his hands again, and opened to a certain page. When i asked him about it, he proceeded to say that he had another question, which was; “who is doctor Bob?”. I proceeded to tell my very inquisitive son that Doctor Bob is one of the first physicians who determined that people who suffered from alcoholism had an allergy, which later led to educating the public and further knowledge on how to treat the disease.
My son seemed satisfied with that answer. However my daughter whose curiosity was piqued by our recent interchange chimed in by asking us what we were talking about. Whereas my son replied… “Duh, hashtag… mom’s an alcoholic!”
Dios Mio! Here we go again!
I love my kids. I love my life. And I love that I can call myself a grateful recovering alcoholic. The gifts of knowing God and being in a fellowship of the Spirit are endless. If I can pass on anything to my children it would be that life is worth living to the fullest most authentic capacity that is available to us. And with God, anything is Possible!