Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"Does our son have a drinking problem?"

That was the urgent question posed by Long Suffering Spouse recently.

She's been home for spring break and she's been cleaning house. She'd zoomed in on Youngest Son's room mainly because, despite his faithful promises over Christmas break, he'd left behind baskets of clean clothes never put away and and a basket of dirty clothes never washed. And Long Suffering Spouse just knew there were dozens of unmatched socks anchoring the dust bunnies under the kid's bed.

What she didn't know was that she'd find an empty pint of Jim Beam in a drawer when she went to put clothes away.

There had been no attempt to hide it, except (arguably) to close the drawer. That might be considered an attempt when one figures the kid can't be counted on to actually close his dresser drawers.

Long Suffering Spouse gave me all these facts in a quick burst in response to my question, "Why do you ask?"

I had to think on the question a bit then. I finally gave the lawyer's stock response: "It depends."

My wife is a bloodhound when it comes to extracurricular alcohol consumption. I get caught every time I have one on the way home. The kids have all been caught, too. If Youngest Son had been nipping at it in his room it would be almost impossible for my wife to miss the odor. She didn't catch him with this; that argues for the probability that he smuggled it home from someplace where he'd consumed it with others.

Youngest Son is a freshman in college. Experimentation with alcohol at that age is technically illegal -- and darn near unavoidable. He'd had opportunities over the past summer to be out with friends overnight -- so that he might have come in the next morning minty fresh... with an empty in his overnight bag. Experimentation can become problematic, but not always.

Youngest Son is an athlete. On the one hand, at his age and in his condition, he is likely to suffer fewer ill effects from occasional overindulgence than one older or in poorer shape. That makes it harder for even a bloodhound -- like my bride -- to ferret out. On the other hand, he is an athlete. He has games and practices and conditioning to maintain; too frequent consumption of alcohol will go a long way toward drowning his athletic career. Yet he seems to be doing well this year.

Nor have his grades suffered. Youngest Son is not going to compete for a Rhodes Scholarship, and his academic performance has always been hot and cold. It'd be easier to spot a sudden decline in the performance of a consistently good student, but I don't think his pattern has really changed.

I don't think there's anything funny about having a drinking Problem, capital P intended. That stuff can take over your life. But I'm no born-again bluenose. I used to tipple more than my share, especially when I was that age. I used to say Lent was a time to air out my liver. Sometimes I'd declare it was time to hang my liver out to dry and it wasn't Lent. There was a time, back when I was in college, when I'd spend whatever little money I made on booze: I'd drink my paycheck. Later, in law school, I made a little more money as a law clerk -- and I still tried to drink my paycheck. I soon realized I'd kill myself if I kept trying. I had to slow down. Some people can't slow down. They have to stop. My brother Bob apparently never did figure out how to do either (I haven't heard from him now in a year or more).

So I don't make light of the possibility that the kid has a drinking problem.

But... thinking it over... I think it's more likely, at this point anyway, that the kid has a stupid problem.

Youngest Son is an idiot: You don't leave an empty in the house where your mother can find it. (Bob used to hide his empty beer cans in the suspended ceiling in the basement of my parents' home in Boondockia. One day my father had occasion to try and adjust a tile. He was darn near buried in the avalanche. Bob had a stupid problem, too.)

When Youngest Son is home, he is usually the one who smuggles our recycling into neighboring Park Ridge, where my mother-in-law lives. They recycle; in Chicago, we're still talking about doing something someday. So he could have easily put the empty in the bag he left in Abuela's curbside blue bin.

He could have put it in our garbage can, too -- not entirely safe from discovery, but plausibly deniable if found -- unlike the discovery in a dresser drawer.

He could have left it at the kid's house where he consumed it: Let that kid's mother fret about it.

But he didn't do any of these things. And he's been found out.

And now Youngest Son's mother is on the case. Her antenna are up; her hackles are raised. If the kid's consumption exceeds the bounds of reasonable experimentation, Long Suffering Spouse will know.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

i wondered about bob, you know i did... as for your son, it's way too soon to know that answer but in my life experience just observe and wait. hope it's nothing...

smiles, bee

Kacey said...

Boys all have a try at the "finer" things of life, as you know from your early years. If your LSS and you have been raising this lad, he will turn out okay. There is a gospel song that says, "Take Your Burden to the Lord and Leave It There." (Just don't pick it back up once you turn it over to Him)