There was a time, not too long ago, when I honestly wondered if I’d be able to let my son join Cub Scouts, not because I don’t value scouts, or because I was afraid for his safety, or because I don’t like the outdoors. It was purely because I could not imagine showing up to den meetings sober. Camping never entered my mind.
I’d somehow managed to pull through T-ball, then baseball, and soccer. I even was the assistant coach for my son’s soccer team, but these things were hard. They interfered with my drinking time. I never went to a practice drunk, not even buzzed. When we’d get home, I couldn’t get the drink in fast enough. I blamed it in the kids. I suffered through many games with a vicious hangover.
I can distinctly remember thinking about getting my son involved in Scouting and worrying about how I’d manage if I had to go camping. I had no concerns about actually camping, I’ve done a fair amount of camping in my life, but most of it not sober. I knew in the pit of my stomach that I wouldn’t be able to drink on a Scout camping trip.
This past spring, I went on my first camping trip with my son and his Cub Scout pack. I was about eight months sober at the time. While both my son and I had a good time, it was not easy. There were many things that tripped my triggers and I was somewhat on edge most of the time. Even though I was pretty well past the daily desire to have a drink, the idea of a drink crossed my mind several times on that trip.
The summer slipped by and Fall started to show up. One of my best friends asked me to take the boys camping in October. I agreed to it and we did it. I had a pretty good time, but again I was on edge. Now part of that was that I’d completely over extended myself, wedging a camping trip into a weekend between two work trips and a work obligation on that Sunday. I simply had too much going on. It rained, we had wet firewood. I broke a tent pole. I lost it a few times.
This past weekend, we had the Scout camping trip for the Fall. Once again, I had probably a little too much going on and didn’t feel ready for the trip when Friday night rolled around. But I rallied, and we headed out Saturday afternoon. I expected the worst, and I found the best.
Prior to the trip, his den leader had declared that it was the scout’s responsibility to set up the tent. During the week, I’d hoped to have a few practice runs, but with my crazy schedule and the early darkness that comes after the time change, that just didn’t happen. We did practice one setup and tear down Saturday morning.
Our tent is a 6 person tent and is about 6 feet tall. Frankly, I have a little trouble handling it (witness the broken pole above) and I knew that Mr. Grey would not be able to set it up on his own. So, I decided that I’d be happy if he simply helped me get it set up, which he did. And Mr. Grey did a good job helping, but he lost interest quickly when one of his buddies came up and asked him to join in some fun. I let it go. It wasn’t worth fighting against the forces of childhood.
The scouts were also supposed to help with dinner. In my mind, this meant scouts cooking the entire meal soup to nuts so to speak. But that turned out to be an unrealistic expectation. Fortunately, his den leader knew better and divided tasks up among scouts. I was amazed to see Mr. Grey handle his job of pealing cucumbers with ease.
Now, that brings me to another part of scouts. See, Mr. Grey is in the bear den now, which means that he gets to learn about pocket knives. For some reason, despite the fact that I had my first pocket knife around the same age as Mr. Grey is now, and despite the fact that I was already shooting guns at his age, I have been quite nervous about him getting his knife. This too proved to be unfounded.
I was amazed at how all the scouts were responsible with their knives. These boys had already received instruction on safety. They had already practiced caring soap. They’d graduated from plastic knives to real pocket knives. And they were much more ready than I thought they were. Each and every boy found a stick and spent hours carving them into spears and arrows. There were a couple of small nicks that required bandages, but no one got seriously hurt.
Fire was a little more challenging. The boys proved that they are not quite ready for fire. Almost every boy was preoccupied with holding a stick in the flames until it was on fire and then removing it from the fire as if it were a torch. Or course, the adults were on top of things and we kept things under control. There was no need for the fire extinguisher which was conveniently on hand.
We had a nice night and went to bed at a reasonable hour. It was cold, reaching down to 30F as a low. I was glad to have a new sleeping bag and my long underwear. My son slept like a champ and never complained about being cold — if anything, I was trying to get him to put on too many layers and he was hot.
While there were a few things that happened which might have caused me to lose it last spring, I kept my cool. Somehow, I managed to enjoy myself. Somehow I managed to correct my son and other kids without turning into a crazy person. And the thought of drinking really never entered my mind.
I’m looking back at this weekend and wondering what I was afraid of back in my drinking days. Of course I know what it was. I was never afraid of being involved in my son’s life. I wasn’t afraid of him being involved in sports, scouts, or going camping, I as afraid of not drinking.
I’m so glad I don’t have to be afraid of that anymore.