Hold the Babies: Lessons of Sobriety
Sobriety gives you time to take in life’s richest lessons. The lessons of sobriety usually come by way of people in your life. In less sober days, alcohol might have pushed these same people away, but in sobriety they are there for you. They know you well. They are the people, you hate to admit (unless you’ve wrapped your head around an all-important quality called humility), that you kind of need.
“What is the matter with you, the baby is crying!” said my wife, scurrying across the room. She and my daughter both hurried to the baby’s side, rescuing the poor little thing from the neglect of rotten Grandpa. That’s me.
Of course, I defended myself. “She’s only crying a little,” I said. In that moment, I only saw two overbearing creatures, hell bent on spoiling the latest addition to the family.
They comforted the little baby. “There, there,” they were saying. The baby’s cries dwindled until a smile, then a giggle, appeared where an expression of true despair had just resided. The mothers walked away, disgusted with the uncaring old coot who would have let little Kinsley “cry it out.”
Cry it out. Not always the best solution to life’s problems. The very same people who rescued little Kinsley taught me that.
After Kinsley and her mom left, my wife asked, “Did you ever wonder what made you an alcoholic?”
“No,” was my reply, “It’s pretty simple: I drank too much.”
“Not quite,” said the woman who had lived with me through the brunt of my alcoholic drinking. “When you were a baby, what happened to you when you cried?” she asked.
“I don’t remember; I was a baby.”
“You had an older brother and an older sister who took up most of your parents’ attention.”
“They were difficult,” I admitted, intrigued now. I was actually thinking that if my wife could explain my alcoholism rationally, I might also be able to rationally talk myself back into drinking alcoholically. What can I say, alcoholics’ minds are not quite as steady as we would like.
“So when you cried, nobody soothed you.”
“I didn’t need soothing!” I said, proud of my ability to be a stand-up baby. Kind of.
“You learned that making a fuss wouldn’t get you much, so you stopped complaining. You self-soothed.”
“Self-soothed?” I had never heard that one, and I thought I had heard them all.
“That’s right, you gave up on the comfort of others, and buried your need for affection. You learned that nobody was as good at taking care of you as you were.”
“This is getting deep,” I said.
“Not really, when you think about it. All this isolationism you talk about started somewhere. My guess is it started in your crib.”
“So, as I grew up, I learned to be comfortable in my own skin, as long as I didn’t have to depend on anybody?”
“I think so,” she said, perhaps surprised by her developing theory. “And as time moved on, you realized that being alone wasn’t so great, but by the time you realized it, you were anxious around other people. So as soon as you could, you found something to alleviate the anxiety.”
“You tell me.”
She was right. I had found great comfort in the bottle. And it was always there for me.
The cure for alcoholism!
I don’t blame my parents; they were reacting to the signals I gave them. Once I learned that “crying won’t help you, crying won’t do you no good,” (Led Zeppelin, 1968), I became what to them was a good baby. I’ve been told that I didn’t speak until I was three! It makes me wonder…
I wonder if by simply holding the babies, comforting them when they cry, we can cure alcoholism? Then again, maybe not. But I think I’ll bring this up at my next AA meeting. Somebody there will most likely know the answer.
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