Thursday, June 6, 2013

Real Talk With Rachel: Unwinding Versus Unraveling

by Rachel Kurzius

Dear Rachel,

My husband and I live close to my son, who is in his early thirties. He has a lovely wife and two young children. We are very lucky because we get to see them all of the time. We love spending time with my son and his family, and frequently go out with them.

Since he became an adult, my son has always liked a beer or two at dinner. In the past year, my husband and I have both noticed that our son ends up drinking more than a beer or two. I wouldn’t call him an alcoholic -- he only really drinks at night as far as I know. Still, it worries us that he has so much to drink. His wife seems annoyed by his drinking, too.

My son is a grown man but I feel sad that he needs to drink so much. Should I talk to him? I don’t want to come off as judgmental or tell him how to be a good adult or parent. But this isn’t healthy and I’m worried.

Observing the Guzzler

Dear Observing the Guzzler,

You’ve got to talk to your son. When you notice a loved one’s habit change, you should bring it up. Sometimes it’s easier than others. Remarking on a new exercise routine doesn’t generally involve the same messiness as broaching the topic of excess drinking.

To avoid the sense that your son is getting ambushed, decide between you and your husband who should broach the subject in a casual but direct way. Avoid anything that resembles the television show “Intervention.” At this stage, you’re not trying to sit your son down with his extended family to address the effects of his drinking. This is more of a fact-finding mission and a reminder to your son that his parents are always there for him, even when he becomes a parent.

We all have different ways of unwinding after a long day. A nice beer or glass of wine, a good run, some meditation. Sometimes, though, that unwinding turns into an unraveling. It’s the job of the people who love us, who can sometimes see things that we can’t or refuse to, who can help us negotiate the boundaries between the two.

All my best,


Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via or advice @

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