For Kobi, on Your Fifteenth Birthday: You Will Learn to Know Yourself.
Last night, you told me you were curious about drugs. You can’t remember whether you liked them or not that one time you smoked weed with a friend.
You’re 15 today, in high school, and drugs are everywhere. Your Instagram feed, the DMs of the Grade Nine girls that hit you up in the middle of the night. Last year, a boy at your school died from a fentanyl-laced joint. A month or so ago, I got an email from the school about the kid who collapsed in the hallway at first block — some crazy cocktail of his mother’s Xanax and lean for breakfast.
There was cocaine at a party you were invited to (but didn’t go to) last weekend.
I worry for you and your brother. You come from a long line of those who love the edge, the party, the rebellion, the release. You come from a long line of deeply sensitive, tender and emotional souls. You come from a long line of those who would often rather self-destruct or check out than face their aching vulnerability, their vague discontent or their untapped potential.
On both sides of your bloodline as far back as I can see. Not so different from the rest of the world as far as I can see.
I have been honest about these struggles with you. Tried to paint a realistic picture for you so that you somewhat understand, and so that you can channel your rebellion into doing one better than your parents, your grandparents and all those whose DNA you carry. So that you can do better for those who follow you.
You tried to pick me up off the bathroom floor one night. I had come home from a party and decided that sleeping on the cold vinyl was better than any place else. I made you leave me there because I couldn’t imagine moving. You laughed at me, but I died a little inside, even in my drunkenness.
You mocked me once in front of a room full of people for drinking a bottle of wine all by myself. I gave you shit later, and told you how rude it was. You’ve cuddled me on the couch and watched movies with me on days when I was too hungover to do anything else — you didn’t know of course that I was hungover, but I was.
You poured glasses at my request, and you watched me deftly numb and stumble through evenings after long days at work. It sounds so dramatic, but really, it was all so accepted and normalized. Not every day. Not every week. Not at all. Social. Just a part of life. Blowing off steam. Whoops, I had a little too much to drink. It was a tough day/week/month/life. Don’t we all sometimes?
I haven’t had a drink in 135 days. You started high school sometime around then, and maybe subconsciously I knew that I couldn’t be a hypocrite, encouraging you to follow a path that I couldn’t. I don’t know if I am really a role model to you or not. I am decidedly uncool. I get it wrong as much as I get it right. I am feisty and opinionated and emotional and I swear too much.
I sometimes hold on too tight, and I sometimes push you into things you aren’t ready for. I count on you. I want you to be able to count on me.
With the exception of the Santa Clause thing, I have never lied to you. I have given you honesty, always. And my hope with that, dear son, is that you would value it and respect it and leverage it to make your own honest choices. One of the best things your Papa ever taught me was that justification is just like masturbation. No one gets fucked but you. Cue boisterous laughter here.
Seriously though, it’s so easy to justify our choices and buy into our own stories, but it really does screw us in the end. I believe if we make our choices with honesty and integrity, we have half a chance.
You are doing better right now than either your Dad or I at your age. He was struggling with school and lost in a world of pot and parties. I was drinking myself into devastating situations that left me with scars I still carry. We were both lost. And while eventually we got found, healed, got our shit together and carried on, I know that we would both rewrite a chapter or two of our respective stories if we could.
I know that my trail of breadcrumbs won’t prevent you from getting lost at some point. Life is full of dark forests and deep valleys. Life is full of choices that we make with the best intentions and the best of our resources at any given time. Sometimes getting lost is the only way to find ourselves.
One of the things I am just now learning is that there is so much more reward for facing things head on and staying clear. Even when it hurts, even when it is uncomfortable. It’s hard work, baby. The hardest you will ever do. But it’s the one tool that you really need to have the life you really want.
Last night, we talked about your circle of friends. The closest ones aren’t yet experimenting with drugs. Or they were, and they got caught, and they made another choice. It’s the ones on the periphery with their IG live feeds and their apple bongs and their who-gives-a-fuck attitude. Seductive. Outskirts, fringe, popular, party, fray.
The boy who lived down the street from us and went to the private school. His mom didn’t want him to play with you and your brother — public school hood rats. And now he sits on top of the ramp at the skate park, brazen and belligerent with his pipe. There’s something about that, the wasted ambivalence, the rebellion on high, the hilarious apathy that is appealing. I get it.
The first time I ever smoked a joint, I felt my whole world spin around. I remember thinking clear as day that I wanted to be high for the rest of my life. Two beers and a puff off a joint, and my 14-year-old self wanted to be that way forever. Intoxicated, elated, euphoric. High. No more insecurities, no more outsider, camaraderie. I remember the room I was in and the people I was with.
In that moment, I was sure that they would be my best friends. Forever. Today, we aren’t even Facebook friends.
Sweet pea, I have always encouraged you to break some of the rules. Learn them like a pro so you can break them like an artist. Sometimes though, we need to make rules for ourselves and follow them with incredible rigor. You are the king of your world right now. You are tall and handsome and you have cool hair, and adolescence isn’t all that awkward on you.
You have more friends, good friends, than you have ever had. You are killing your classes, and you have the respect of your teachers and your friends. You have found a groove and a rhythm that you move so well to. You make good choices (mostly) and you have a strong sense of who you are. What you’ve got going on is working for you.
And yet I see your restlessness and your curiosity. You put it on the table and you name it and you own it. I know it. The just beyond here, the other side of there, the what if and the how come. And I ache inside, knowing that there are no words, no advice, no action of mine that will quell that. You need to know it yourself.
I can’t protect you from things anymore. Not the world, not society, and not your own curiosity. That’s your job. And so, as you set out on this path of yours, I would ask you what your rules are. What are your hard and fast non-negotiables that you know so deeply within yourself that no intrigue, no substance, no high can ever pull you from?
You are still establishing some of your boundaries, but some of them are firm in you already. What are they?
I want to plead with you to just not do drugs. To not drink. The odds are not in your favor. Last night, while we discussed this in the grocery store, I made you a deal that if I bought you a Hot Wheels motorbike, you wouldn’t do drugs. You agreed. And we both wished it were that easy. If only.
My dear sweet son, all that I can give you is my honesty. I can’t serve you by sugarcoating it, abridging it, normalizing it or justifying it.
My lessons learned the hard way won’t serve you, but perhaps my example will. My willingness to remember what it was like, to share my stories in all their ugly and embarrassing details and I-so-don’t-have-all-the-answers humility. My willingness to take action, to make changes, to recognize what I don’t want and work towards what I do.
Perhaps through that, you will learn to be honest also. You will learn to know yourself, what works, what doesn’t, and what standards you will hold for yourself.
You will recognize your strengths and your predispositions, you will know where you are and where you came from, and you will make informed choices about how you will walk this road of yours. What you have no choice in, what you will explore, what you will walk away from, and what you will take with you.
You asked me last night how long I hadn’t had a drink for. I told you 135 days and asked you if you noticed a difference, you said not really. I was thrilled — aside from the outliers and that time where you found me on the floor, your not noticing made me feel like I didn’t have much to regret. There’s that to be grateful for.
So what’s the point, if you and the world at large doesn’t notice a difference? The point is that I feel better. More clear. My choices are mine. I am not crutching on something that ultimately hurts me. I am forcing myself to face things rather than sip them away in a glass or bottle of wine.
And even though you didn’t notice, and even though we haven’t talked about it since I told you I was done with drinking, you knew, and you asked. And so maybe, some day when you need it, you will remember that I showed you something different.
Maybe, mixed in with all of your double-barrel, double-fisted, double-trouble genetics, there will be a healthy and nourishing dose of honesty and temperance and a willingness to sit at the table with your aching vulnerability, your vague discontent and your untapped potential. And perhaps you will make another choice.
With love always,
Crysta Walski is a heart-led, soul centered truth-teller who has been on a quest for true love, grand adventure and the wildness of freedom since her very beginnings. She is deeply insightful, and her writing offers a raw and honest look at the experiences that align us and the things that tear us apart. Crysta is a dreamer, a leader and a yogi, engaged in active practice in all its forms. Through her own process of becoming, Crysta is loving and raising two beautiful boys, a large dog and a small cat behind a white picket fence on southern Vancouver Island. You could contact her via her website or Instagram.