After another night of drinking, I perform my morning self-check. What did you do last night? No? Let’s try: What do you remember doing last night? Still nothing. OK, do you remember anything you did last night?
Sometimes the answer is no. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because maybe there’s nothing to remember. Maybe I just farted around on the Internet until I passed out. I didn’t accomplish anything, but I didn’t embarrass myself, either.
Besides, when I remember things – not everything, sometimes hardly anything – the memories are cringe worthy. Disappointing. Shit, I got in a flame war with @IHateHomos on Twitter. Crap, I told my high-school same-sex crush what I thought about her on Facebook. Dammit, I told my darling Drummer Boy we were through for the 83rd inebriated time for everyone in cyberspace to see. These things always seem like good ideas at the time, I promise. On those mornings-after, I line up my apologies and excuses before I roll out of bed, before I look in the mirror to see how puffy my eyes are, how prematurely old and used-up I appear, how much carefully applied makeup it will take to look like someone who hadn’t spent the previous night drinking herself into oblivion.
But on this morning, I poke about in my memory, waiting for the sting of shame, like a probing tongue that discovers a cavity via the sharp pain of an exposed nerve. Nothing seems amiss. I don’t recall many specifics from the night before, but that means nothing specifically bad, either. I feel OK. I arise and get ready for work. I can hear my Precocious Daughter in her bathroom, getting ready for school. Just another day of getting away with it.
I’m ready before she is; I’m always ready before she is, because she’s 16 and can make any activity take far too long, but especially the all-important rituals of looking and smelling just right for her peers. I smile at her, she smiles at me. Another important test passed: I know damn well that my daughter is aware of my drinking, and I know when I’ve said or done something while under the influence that has upset her.
Feeling as if I’ve yet again dodged a vodka-dipped bullet, I go to the kitchen to make her lunch. But she calls me back to her room. She sits cross-legged on the bed, looking simultaneously very young and far too mature for her age. She pats the space in front of her and says, “Come here, Mama. Sit.”
I sit. Her face is grave and beautiful. I’m so proud of this smart, happy daughter I’ve raised. Why has she interrupted her morning routine? Is she going to ask my advice, share some important teenage news, regale me with tragic tales of young love?
No. Instead she looks me in the eye and says, slowly and clearly, in a voice filled with concern and caring and just a touch of exasperation, “How many times am I going to have to talk to you about your drinking?”
My first thought: Shit, what did I do?
My second: How many times have you talked to me about my drinking already? Don’t really remember any of them. I must have been drunk.
What do you say when your only child feels she has to lecture you about your alcohol consumption? What do you feel?
At that moment, I feel naked. Naked and exposed. And pretty damn embarrassed about the state in which I’ve exposed myself. Here I thought I’d had a successful evening of getting plastered yet keeping myself in check. I don’t even remember what I might have said or done that led Precocious Daughter to stage an intervention at 7:00 in the morning. No matter how I rack my hungover brain, I can’t recall. I’ve pickled the brain cells responsible for those memories into submission.
Panicking slightly, I fumble for words. I dissemble. I admit the obvious: that my drinking over the past several months has been excessive. I point out that I started drinking too much to cope with how bad things have been: splitting from her dad, struggling to sell the house even in a ridiculously hot real estate market, worrying about our financial future.
She listens, then nods. “Well,” she says, “but things are pretty good now, right?”
And of course she’s right. The split from my spouse is nearly complete and reasonably amicable. The damn house finally sold, which in turn alleviated the financial pressures of making both rent and mortgage payments. We love our apartment, and we’re finding our groove as two strong, independent women.
Things are pretty good now. Why am I still drinking every night?
I’m trying to remember things are better now. Especially on mornings when I can’t remember anything else.
I apologize. I tell her I’ll cut back. I tell her I’ll need her help to keep me on track. We exchange “I love you’s.” She smiles and hugs me and goes back to her primping.
My kid is amazing.
The next time I tell her I want to stop at the liquor store, she puts me on a schedule. She announces the day on which I’ll next be able to purchase more vodka. She programs it into her iPhone.
She gave me a vodka allowance, you guys.
Tough love from your own daughter is absolutely the toughest love.
I wonder if she knows how hard it is to ration liquor when you’re used to just chugging it until it’s gone and running out for more. (She doesn’t; I’ve asked her repeatedly if she’s ever had alcohol, and even offered her sips of wine at holiday dinners. She’s completely uninterested.)
I wonder if she appreciates how much I love her for putting me on a regimen designed to trim my vodka consumption to more moderate levels.
I wonder if she realizes I’ve totally been sneaking out and replenishing my supply when I run out, regardless of her schedule.
I wonder when I’ll stop lying to her and to myself.
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