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“It’s Time to Talk, Son: ADHD and Alcohol”

My ADHD son just turned 21 and promptly spent all of his birthday money on alcohol. I can’t help but worry that my own struggle with ADHD-fueled alcoholism might trickle down to him.

Holy cow in a cab stand, this has been a lousy, stressful, confusing, and incomprehensibly insane week.

Yeah, I know everybody has them, and ADHD is no excuse for feeling sorry for oneself just because life can be hard. And, for goodness sake, there are people in the third world with real problems like starvation and murderous militias outside their doors… but, still. After a ridiculously small house at the Sunday performance of my ADHD show, getting lost in L.A. again on the way to a meeting over drinks (which for me, an alcoholic, means diet coke or at the most a fake beer), and losing my flash drive that has every single thing I need to communicate and survive, including drafts of the play, draft posts of this blog, contacts, and numbers that I have nowhere else because I’m too stupid to back up. And I can’t afford a laptop yet because we’re pouring every dime into this show that’s getting very good reviews — but nobody is coming.

People who do come tell me how great it is, but then why don’t they call up every person they know to stop their lives and come to the stupid thing? But it doesn’t matter anyway, because even though there actually might be some interest from a New York producer, I just see that as impossible because I’m so frantically worried about my aging parents, my wife’s struggles with her company, and my ADHD daughter’s struggles with a bully in school. I feel I can’t help anyone, because I’m stuck in a city I don’t live in anymore, doing this show for reasons I can’t remember. And yesterday, I sat down on the couch and said, “I need a drink.”

That, of course, is the last thing I need. And really, even though the words popped out of my mouth in the exhausted whimper that used to presage a three-day bender, there’s not a chance that I’ll take a drink now. I spent years self-medicating with alcohol, and though it turned down the noise in my head, it just about destroyed me and my life in the process. I can never forget the damage cocktails and I did together, so I’m not interested in adding to that stinking wreckage.

But my ADHD son just turned 21, and he’s trying out drinking — Pina Coladas, Schnapps, and other sweet vodka and rum drinks. He and his friends partied for the whole week of his birthday, and he spent all the birthday money he got from relatives on booze. We did everything we could to make sure he was safe and that nobody was drinking and driving. My wife, despite the work she’s swamped with, even put the whole gang up at our house one of the nights. “Par-tee! Woo-hoo!” Though I want to be a supportive husband, I am glad I wasn’t back home for that.

The weird thing is this – I’ve talked to my son and daughter about alcohol and drugs openly. We’ve talked about ADHD and substance abuse. Plus, Harry especially remembers when I got sober, and he’s proud that I am. He brings it up to friends and to parents of his friends. But here he is walking to 7-11 to spend the last of his birthday cash on peppermint schnapps and then, the other night, coming home and throwing up.

Part of me wants to see this as how he’ll learn. Part of me wants to laugh and shake my head at his youthful excess. But the largest part of me looks at my son and the challenges he’s facing in life, and I’m terrified for him.

To his credit, he says that now that he’s tried it, he’s done with getting drunk. I hope that’s true. But I remember how many thousands of times I said that before I stopped blowing apart my life and finally got sober. So I’m still terrified – and no matter how confused and stressed I get in my life, if he thinks I’m going to back-off and keep my nose out of his life, he’s crazy. Maybe I won’t be able to keep my son and daughter from repeating my mistakes, but I’ll keep talking and listening to them — and maybe they’ll at least have an idea of what’s coming.

Updated on March 23, 2017

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