“What?” Bambino asks and turns to me, “is alcohol really a drug?”
The kid’s on lock down until after Christmas following his decision to get steaming drunk at the weekend. When I went for a run last night I put on a documentary about alcohol for him to watch. It wasn’t the best choice in that it showed alcoholics at the end stage after a lifetime of alcohol abuse so although useful in order to teach him some facts and home truths, I want him to be able to relate. How he was surprised to hear alcohol being referred to as a drug triggered a good discussion and also how else – even in small amounts – it harms the body, but whilst this is good, it’s not enough. Besides, most people do know that alcohol is bad for us but it doesn’t bloody stop us, does it? I would quite regularly feel my heart race and feel genuine terror that this time I might just have gone and broken it, that this time my number might just be up. I’d feel that and then I’d pour myself a drink the next day. Or even the same day. Or the next hour.
We engage in whatever shitty behaviour – drinking, smoking, drug taking or whatever – because of the perceived benefits, end of. Then of course if it’s an addiction that has us trapped or if we want to be cool in front of our mates, that’s secondary. The point is that the reasons why we shouldn’t is pretty much ZIP, ZILCH, NADA to do with it. The reasons we do it override the reasons why we shouldn’t and THAT is what we need to look at and tackle. As long as our reasons to go ahead override our reasons to refrain, we’re fucked.
It’s like with smoking – the average toddler can probably tell you it’s dangerous to smoke, and I don’t think a single person in the parts of the world where health information is freely available tries a cigarette for the first time UNAWARE that it’s bad to smoke. As Bambino himself so eloquently put it when he was about four years old: “If you smoke, first you get sick and then you get dead.” As much as I love my child and think of him as the most glorious creation to ever inhabit this world, he was not some health guru at four years of age with access to insider information about smoking closed off to other people. No, most other four-yearolds could tell you this too. If you don’t believe me, ask to have an audience with a reception class at a primary school and see how many four-yearolds you can find there who don’t know smoking is bad. And it’s the same with drinking in that I think most people know it’s risky business to drink too much.
“I wanted to see what it was like.”
This is the reason Bambino gave for doing what he did, i.e. knocking back shots of vodka in his bedroom with a friend.
Perhaps I’ve just given myself a bunch of answers here. Maybe this is precisely what I need to go over with my son. After all, these are the conclusions I have myself come to in these ten+ months since I stopped drinking. Alcohol in my world came with a bunch of promises, like it makes fun more fun and happy happier. Bullshit like that, mostly. Many people drink because booze acts as an anaesthetic and will help push down painful emotions, which of course then in turn instead get amplified given the same anaesthetic also happens to be a powerful depressant. You can’t win. So it’s tearing down Bambino’s reasons TO drink I need to help him tear down, just like I tore my own down.
Bambino may very well grow up to be a responsible adult who can “enjoy” alcohol in moderate amounts and at a level that doesn’t put him in lethal danger on a daily basis. Unlike his mother. If that happens, great. But there is also a considerable chance this limitless nature of his comes from that very same mother and so in spite of his fairly young age, I’ll need to have this conversation with him many times over. Go through all of this the way I went through it myself. Look at what we’re made to think alcohol is and does and then with simple and easily accessible facts and figures show him how this is all a big fat mother of a lie. That’s where I need to start. Fuck, why is it so hard to see this clearly? Almost all documentaries show the dangers of alcohol. We need one to highlight what GOOD we believe alcohol does, which shows what bullshit it all is. We don’t ingest arsenic if we can help it because we know it’s poison, but few of us try having arsenic “to see what it’s like” because we’re not sold a bunch of lies about what good it would do. Alcohol is also a poison but we ignore the dangers because we believe there are benefits to it. Of course in Bambino’s case this might be more troubling than for kids who did not grow up with an alcoholic parent, but let’s just see if I can turn this into some sort of strength.
I want to find someone who I can sit Bambino in front of, someone he can relate to. And I’ll do my best to show him my own journey and how what the world is telling him about booze is a lie. I can’t bring myself to think about Saturday night and how badly it could have ended. Given how ill Bambino was all of Sunday, he would have had a serious amount to drink. At 14, was I really as childlike? He isn’t fully grown, and although there’s a hint of a tash on his top lip, he’s still very much just a BOY and he is still not taller than I am. His voice is still breaking, a slight vibrato making itself known but still not a deep man’s voice. He’s a child. I was roughly the same age when I first tried alcohol but for some reason Bambino seems so much younger, smaller and more of a kid. Which, presumably, means Bambino himself sees himself as the big man just like I before him thought I had it all figured out too.
Hmm…. Scare tactics do have their place, I do believe that, so I’ll be making sure Bambino understands the calibre of this particular dance partner. It is, more importantly perhaps, beginning to become clear to me that I need to approach this in much the same way as I dealt with it myself – by looking at the reasons why. And I should know how to do this, right?
The big lie of alcohol made me angry and bitter when I realised it had stolen so much from me. Now, however, when it’s attempting to steal from my son, this mama bear is working up a rage that I don’t recommend you get in the way of. Hell hath no fury and all that. I fought you off, you motherfucking beast, and now you think you can go after my kid? Oh hell no. Not without a fight you won’t, and trust me – you won’t find me cowering in fear again. I’ll fight you again and again. Or I will die trying. You won’t catch me giving up though so sharpen your claws because you’ll fucking need them.
Today I’m not going to drink.