Back in August I was touched by a piece in the New York Times Sunday Styles section titled “A Heroine Of Cocktail Moms Sobers Up.” It was about writer, comic and mommy-blogger Stephanie Wilder-Taylor whose titles include “Sippy Cups Are Not For Chardonnay,” and “Naptime is the New Happy Hour,” confessing that she realized that despite the great opportunities for humor in her drinking, she had a problem with it and, because she loves her girls so much, she decided to quit drinking (to read the piece see: http://tiny.cc/E4Os0).
As synchronicity might have it, I visited her blog today to see how she was doing and her title was “Happy Report” about how not drinking has definitely been a good thing—and it was a beautiful post about the simple and beautiful gift that being present to our kids brings back to ourselves (http://tiny.cc/CvKZ1).
Having worked with many people with substance issues, I was also thinking about a recent story I heard about college partying—told by a young man who, being in recovery, was a pair of sober eyes on the festivities. These included a bus to a restaurant where a number of kids puked on the bus, followed by a lot of puking at the restaurant, including on the tables, finished up with drinking back at that house where at least one boy blacked out and went into convulsions. This is not uncommon in what I hear about the young party circuit, where ambulances are more than rarely summoned to intervene when alcohol poisoning besets yet another partier.
While parents have an extra motivation to use alcohol in moderation, or not at all if they can’t handle it properly, the drinking in the mommy set and the college set left me thinking about why all the drinking? Obviously there is some fun to be had with drinking or no one would bother, much less get into trouble with it (as well as with drugs), however something I once heard came back into my mind and was haunting me: that drinking was about spirit. As alcohol is literally a “spirit,” it seemed that both the college kids with all their underlying stress and manic attempts to have as much fun as possible, are in a sense so hungry for spirit that they ingest the wrong spirit, and in such copious amounts because they are perpetually undernourished at the real spiritual level. Perhaps if we hope to model realness and the bravery to stay with, and be nourished by, our actual feelings, our kids will learn how to party without poisoning themselves—and even to take it or leave it rather than making drugs and alcohol their secretly closest relationship.
The moms who are trying to make their way through a long afternoon with the kids, perhaps evoking old ghosts of pain in the past, may try to both numb their feelings, but also to seek some deeper spirit that, ironically, exists in the very relationships they might have with their kids—if they stay present for them.
My point today is compassion for those who are vulnerable to drugs and alcohol—sending kudos to those who are working their sobriety, particularly for the sake of their children. The research does make clear that parental substance abuse is a risk factor strongly associated with later mental and physical illness when kids grow up. And I also hope to send compassionate and non-shaming encouragement to join Stephanie Wilder-Taylor in choosing sobriety if you know in your heart that your drinking or substance abuse is taking you out of the parenting game at a time when your kids need full-court involvement. Stephanie is great at endorsing a non-perfect and irreverent tone and still shining through as a caring and deeply loving parent. And she’s really funny.
I believe that we get hurt in the context of relationships, and we heal in the context of relationships as well. So let’s dedicate today to healing and supportive relationships, be it in AA, in the virtual space of mommy & daddy-blogs and/or in the pulsing tactile relationships of those who are in our faces this October day in 2009, in all the vivid love and pain of friendship and family—and let’s consciously do this in honor of all our collective children.