the girl (# 36)

I have an almost-16-year-old daughter. She smokes pot. More than I know, most likely. I wish she didn’t do this, but I don’t know how to stop it.

I wanted to stop drinking, in part, to set a good example and be more present and attentive. Also, I stopped driven by fear that some night I am going to get a call from my daughter to pick her up somewhere. I don’t want to risk being drunk when that happens. I want to be clear and steady.

Not too long ago, my daughter asked me if I had ever been drunk. “Yes,” I said. “I’ve never seen you drunk,” she responded.

While it’s true that I reserved my heaviest drinking for times when my daughter was not in my care, it’s completely untrue that she has never seen me drunk. Many times, I have consumed wine in a low-key but steady fashion throughout an evening. Sometimes she asked me what I was drinking (let’s say it was a gin and tonic or some such) or asked to try it. No, I would tell her. It has alcohol in it. So it’s a little funny to me that she never picked up on differences between buzzed mom and regular mom.

Although she might not have noticed it, I know that my drinking affected her on some level. It had to have. It made me more rushed, more irritable, and less present during key years she needed me. In the initial years after my divorce she was around 10 to 12. I was frazzled from my job and single life in general. Some nights, I was desperate for her and her younger sister to go to bed so I could enjoy a drink and a smoke.

I am sad to say that I was rather selfish in those years. Very preoccupied with work and my romantic life. I didn’t really want to pause to connect with my oldest daughter. I resisted depth. I think I was afraid of opening up an emotional can of worms that I was ill equipped to handle. So I rushed through our time together, taking care of the business of our reconfigured family life in a basic way but also a rather detached way.

Ah, there is so much more to explore here but I will have to do it slowly and carefully. This is difficult. I have a lot of guilt about how thing are turning out with her. It’s hard to separate what I perceive as fall-out from my parental failings from what I also know to be true: She’s a teenager, for crying out loud, and some rebellion and experimentation are inevitably going to be part of the deal.

My biggest fear for my daughter stems from my long-standing observation that she has never seemed to be passionate or excited about anything. She has never seemed motivated. Not by sports, not by school and not by the many other activities she has tried and rather swiftly abandoned. She has been adrift for years, from what I can see, and I am afraid that smoking pot and doing various other immediately gratifying things will fill up all the empty spaces inside her. Once those habits are established I am afraid it will be that much harder for her to find satisfaction and success in activities that take effort, persistence and practice.

I just don’t know what to do for her at this point. I am addressing and rectifying my own issues as best I can right now, but I am afraid that is going to be too little, too late to help her. I’m worried.

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home life (# 18)

Still here, still not drinking. I have begun looking forward to coming home after work. Not to open a bottle or can, but to be home, to relax, to be with my kids. Normally, I just drink a lot of water, but I have been making my first drink at home for the evening kind of ceremonial. I made some simple syrup infused with lemon, lime and basil. I pour a little into a nice glass and cut it with plain seltzer and ice. Last night I sat down to enjoy my drink in full before getting on with making dinner and the rest of it.

I am shocked at how calm and peaceful I am. Not flustered, not stressed, not cutting as many corners as possible so I can plop down and drink without the intrusion of  so many household tasks.

I just make dinner. No big deal. I put things away as I go. I wash up as I go. By the time dinner is ready, the dishwasher is full, the counters are wiped, and the kitchen is a pleasant orderly place. Everything is easier. When my kids talk I can feel myself giving my full attention, not trying to skip ahead. I feel sorry about the many dinner times when I was seemingly lively, but somewhat distracted and checked out. Even one glass of wine would produce that effect.

My own parents gave me the gift of their full, unintoxicated attention at dinner time. We typically had good conversations. As a kid, I felt heard and included. I felt important, not like a secondary consideration. Alcohol gradually makes most things, even kids, a secondary consideration.

I believed alcohol was smoothing things out or at least harmless and neutral. To the contrary, my evenings at home are proving to be much smoother without it.

Sigh of Relief Soda

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar (could be 1 cup, but I’m trying to limit sugar)
  • 2 lemons, quartered and smashed
  • 1 lime, quartered and smashed
  • 1 small bunch of basil
  • pinch of salt

Combine water and sugar over medium heat until sugar has completely dissolved. Add lemons, lime, basil, and salt, and crush into water with a wooden spoon. Turn heat to low and steep for 10 minutes. Strain syrup and cool. To make soda, combine approximately 2 Tbs of syrup with as much plain seltzer and ice as you would like.