Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Getting Sober Young In New York.

I’m about 90 percent past a case of walking pneumonia that lasted more than a month, and while I continue to cough, I’ve been busy, busy, busy.

Please check out my latest today for The Fix, in which my friend “Sophia,” a 23-year-old NYU grad, talks about how her dad made her a deal when she was a kid: he’d buy her booze if she’d purchase pot for him from her friends at high school.

Not really an uncommon scenario, it turns out. A lot of today’s parents, who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, smoke pot at home and let their kids drink, thinking that if it happens under their roofs, the kids will be all right. What happened in Sophia’s case was, she got the distinct impression that her dad thought boozing and drugging was OK, so at about 14 she started boozing and drugging herself, and by the time she got to her senior year at NYU she was an alcoholic.

I was driving my 15-year-old son to school this morning—the same high school Sophia attended for a while. He usually rides his bike, but he’s recovering from a concussion, and I had to deliver medical forms to the office. Walking to the front door I glanced through the basement windows, watching the kids unpack their stuff into their lockers, wondering how much weed was stashed in those skinny metal cupboards. I have a strong strain of naivete and I want to believe there’s not much, the kids seem so “nice,” but I think back to my own rural high school, with the whiff of weed around every distant corner—and fogging the back of every school bus. It’s how many kids got through the boredom of high school, and through their own refusal to rise to certain challenges: they numbed themselves out.

(For how many years did I refuse to rise to challenges and numb out my resentment against myself? Many.)

I know a number of people who overcame addiction at young ages in New York City. Opportunities for recovery are everywhere in Manhattan. They’re easier to find than the subway stops.

Today I talk to my kid openly about addiction—and about sex, and relationships, and feelings. I’ve learned from my journalistic work and from my own experience that I need not only to tell him to manage his feelings but also to model productive ways of doing so.

We can live consciously or unconsciously… It’s the consciousness of this that helps us remain close. And he and I remain extremely close. No wonder: I still carry traces of his body inside mine. We both seem aware of this.

Yesterday for a story I’m working on I spoke with Natalie Angier, author of Woman: An Intimate Geography. She writes,

Years and years after a woman has delivered a child, she continues to carry vestiges of that child in her body. I’m talking about tangible vestiges now, not memories. Stray cells from a growing fetus circulate through a woman’s body during pregnancy … Scientists have found fetal cells surviving in the maternal bloodstream decades after the women have given birth to their children The cells didn’t die; they didn’t get washed away. … A mother, then, is forever a chimera, a blend of the body she was born with and of all the bodies she has borne.

Unlike many young men, my kid expresses his feelings openly. I’m glad I’ve been able to teach him this practice. It may be one that saves him from some of his genetic tendencies.

The boy and his dog. “I love her fiercely, Mom,” he said. A powerful practice, to be able to express our feelings openly. Especially for men.


  1. Gosh darn it. I have now posted this a million times and I hope it actually DIDN’T go through, because that would be silly.
    I have been marveling about the physical remnants of my beautiful son which live within me. I am re-thinking my beliefs about life after death. I am grateful that he no longer sees a glassy eyed, sick mother and that, after a year of sobriety, I am his hero.
    And like you, I hope to teach him to feel and not run.

  2. Catherine, how fortunate that your son now has a healthy mother. And that you now have a healthy body/spirit from which to live.

  3. Love this, G! Oh my. You make me miss my sons. How awesome that you are sober for him during this critical time! I wish I had been for mine. But since one of them is now in recovery with me, I can still God’s hand at work. Thanks for this post and for all you do to serve others by writing this blog.

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