Carolyn Hax is away. In her absence, we are offering columns from her archive.
Dear Carolyn: How does one delicately tell one’s adult child that they really don’t know everything at 22? And perhaps mom still knows a little more than she does?
If you really do know more than she does, then you know (1) she might turn out to be right about this (whatever it is) after all; that (2) even if she’s wrong, telling her she’s wrong usually doesn’t help anyway, especially with someone immature; and (3) that the wisdom you have that she doesn’t, and that you’d most like to impart to her, is the kind you probably acquired by finding things out for yourself.
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So, don’t step in, insist, browbeat or otherwise assert your wisdom in place of hers unless she asks you to, or unless she’s in imminent danger — and delicately remind yourself that she needs to find her own way.
Dear Carolyn: So I think I have a drinking problem, but I’m stuck on one point. If my friends can occasionally imbibe, even to the point of excess, with no ill effects, why can’t I? Why can they get hammered occasionally, then put it down, go back to work and life and not think about it, but I can’t?
Do they? Appearances can be deceiving. But for the sake of argument, let’s say you’re right that they suffer no ill effects.
(1) Not everyone has the same brain chemistry. Given that some people are built better for one sport than another, and some people have a gift for languages while others have a natural spatial sense, and some people are forgetful while others are obsessive, and some people flee from the heat while others flee from the cold – it only makes sense that any substance is going to affect some bodies in a way that’s dramatically different from the way it affects others. Nurture adds a whole other variable to consider.
(2) Besides using these differences to recognize that you can only judge yourself from your own results, and not from anyone else’s, there’s very little to be gained from dwelling on them. They just are.
You are, as you’ve learned, affected by alcohol in a way that hurts you. That’s as far as you need to go in thinking your way to the next step, which is: How will you solve your drinking problem?
In that, too, you’ll run across dramatic differences in different people. Some can just stop; others can’t stop at all; still others can stop, but then fall into depression (ref. “Darkness Visible” by William Styron). Now you need to find out whether you can stop on your own, or whether you need help.
AA isn’t for everyone, but it is the most readily accessible form of help (and also comes in many forms, since different meetings vary widely in tone) and as such is a great place to start. Think of it as the recovery version of a gateway drug. Good for you for recognizing and admitting your vulnerability, and good luck.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com or follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax.