When you think about it logically, your babies growing in your womb do indeed hear your heartbeat before they're born. The only other person who may hear your heartbeat is your physician or cardiologist. Hell, Guy Friend's listened to my heartbeat lots of times, me not realizing how vaguely intimate the act was, albeit routine for a doctor. My son, however...nowadays, Luke won't even share a drinking straw with me, though I tell him I carried him for 9 months--cut me a little slack. Please, child. I don't have cooties.
Luke's new obsession is collecting playing cards. He's performing and learning and creating dozens of card tricks and is totally into the decks he collects. One is from JAQK--a wine making company. The collectible card deck certainly makes wine more advertisingly pleasurable. And as Luke knows, I was a HUGE fan of wine back in my drinking days.
Knowing that much, we had the discussion about alcohol recently. Luke said, "I'll drink if I want to. You can't stop me." I said, "I should think that watching your mother almost die from drinking would deter you from drinking or forming an unhealthy habit." He just shrugged.
No, I can't control Luke's drinking when he's an adult, but he has a 50/50 chance of becoming an alcoholic, just as he has a 50% chance of developing his father's blood clotting disorder, Factor V Leiden, for which he needs to be tested. I wish there was a prediction blood test to tell if his gene for alcoholism would be activated. It scares me to death. My brother, who also had a 50/50 chance of alcoholism, never became an alcoholic. So it varies, the degree of genetic predisposition. Lifestyle and behavior patterns, as well as mental illness, play a role in the development of addictions and mental defects as well. In fact, the patient base I want to help after I get my master's in counseling psychology is precisely that subgroup of individuals, those who are struggling with addictions and also present with other mental health issues.
No, I wasn't a model parent when I was drinking or on drugs, the drugs, at least, chiefly occurred before he was born. (I got pregnant with Luke 4 months after I got clean from narcotics, having had a miscarriage when I was using, which to me, was God's way of telling me "Something would be totally wrong with this baby, so I'm delaying your motherhood for the time being. and He was right.) I became an alcoholic when Luke was a pre-schooler and really was only an active alcoholic for about 3-4 years, which in comparison to lots of alcoholics, is a short period of time. But enough for the addiction gene to rear its ugly head again.
Luke was literally my miracle child, given all I'd lived through and done to my body. He was born healthy, even if the genetic odds are against him. He says he wants glasses and braces. I told him he doesn't NEED glasses (yet) and the braces, I'm holding out on until he's 14 because I believe his teeth will have a better chance at staying straight the older he gets beginning to wear them. I know his teeth are crooked and it bothers him. But he's going to have to wait.
I won't be able to deter him from drinking as an adult, but my main point is that he physically witnessed my demise from booze, and as I said in a previous blog, he thinks my sobriety was the most significant event in my life, NOT having had him. I said that the very thought that my son would sacrifice his own existence in favor of me staying alive was astounding.
No, we don't raise heroes. At a certain point, we have to cut the cord and allow our children to be themselves, capable of making their own sound decisions. Luke's at an age now where he questions anything I say or dictate. That's perfectly natural and I don't fight him on it, though I try and encourage good choices in him and a value system that is in tune with the mores and philosophies of our home.
I have taught my son what it's like to withdraw from narcotics cold turkey. He visually and emotionally witnessed me almost dying from accidental overdoses and alcohol a number of times. That said, I also saw the drinking as a daily habit with my own father, and ended up mirroring his lifestyle. I think, therefore, that a lot of the pro-abstinence is out of practical knowledge and experience, not the drug campaigns they might have at school or whatever. I still remember and think about the Manhattan-dipped cherries my dad would let me have from his drinks when I was a kid, or how he'd ask me to fetch him a beer from the fridge and I'd take a few sips before giving him the can. I remember knowing where all his bottles of vodka were hidden in the house, and refused to "turn him in" to my mom for fear of the retribution of ratting my dad out. And then still, at age 42, he succumbed to alcoholism after only 24 hours in a rehab program, from a massive heart attack brought on by delerium tremens.
There's a young man who is squatting a few doors down, and I see high schoolers coyly meet in his house for 5-10 minutes apiece, then leave, quite aware that the young man is selling dope. Drugs, in the high school where my son will attend, while it's one of the best in the state, has a horrible drug problem with kids, especially kids with a lot of money. It's a pervasive problem in our neighborhood, and, as I'm physically working on my laptop on the patio outside, I see all these high school aged kids flock in to buy drugs and then leave. It's not a mystery. They're not his "friends" coming over. Sometimes, he runs to meet kids in cars in the alley, then sprints back into his townhouse. They're the next generation of addicts.
I can't protect Luke from drinking when he's of age, or even underage, but I can supply plenty of practical experience and knowledge, apart from my psychological training, with regard to substance use and abuse. My prayer is that Luke stays away from all that shit when he's a teenager in high school. Peer pressure's a bitch, but I am hoping that, since he'll be in all accelerated and Advanced Placement classes, he'll make friends with the geeky smart kids who don't use drugs. It would break my heart if he got involved with drugs or alcohol. I'm as vigilant with addiction and my son as my friends in recovery are also. We have a tendency to watch them like hawks for signs of mental illness or addictive behaviors.
Was Luke born with bipolar disorder that will remain latent until he's in his late teens or early adulthood? That's a huge subject of debate, but I do know that genetics play a GINORMOUS role in developing the illness, which I still maintain it was the disease, in addition to alcohol abuse, from which my father suffered. But back in the 80's, it wasn't cool to see a psychiatrist. Having something "wrong in your head" was so voraciously stigmatized, it was ridiculous. People suffered immeasurably for no damn good reason.
I believe firmly in this next picture, a quote from the astute and wise Khalil Gibran. We birthed these children, but we're not meant to be their caretakers as they grow older. If anything, they'll juggle with taking care of US when we're elderly.
Parents, love your children without condition. Watch your children if you, yourself, have struggled with addiction or mental illness. There is plenty of help out there of which you can take advantage. We can only hold their hands for so long before they tug away and want to drift off on their own.
For God's sake, Luke, I hate to Nancy Reagan you, but please...for me..."just say no."