This is a story of strength and hope. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you know my Mom died over 10 years ago. Hopefully, you also know I adored her. She was my best friend and I miss her everyday.
It is hard for me to write this next part because I wouldn’t want her or anyone anywhere to ever feel shame or embarrassment of any kind, not for one split second. My Mom had a drinking problem and my life has been greatly affected by the family disease of alcoholism. I’d like to talk openly about this to hopefully bring about good feelings and to share the thing that changed my life and possibly saved it.
I don’t know when my Mom’s drinking problem began, she was very good at hiding it. I know the worst began when I was in high school. My parents divorced when I was in elementary and they had joint custody. My sister and I would live with my Dad one week, then my Mom the next week and so on until we went to college and this worked great for us. However, when my Mom’s problem became obvious we lived with our Dad. Strangely, (I think) her drinking problem was obvious to outsiders before it was to us, it was our normal. When my Mom was acting strange or even crazy or having a blow-up, I kind of just wished it away and hoped for a better tomorrow. Then when tomorrow came I even questioned if things were real or made up in my head. The problem was only obvious to me when I found empirical evidence. For example, empty half-gallon containers of vodka hidden under the guest bedroom bed, empty beer cans hidden behind the TV and while I was riding bikes with my friends in the neighborhood, we saw my Mom driving around, windows down, listening to music and… passionately drinking. That’s when we went to live full time with our Dad and my Mom went to rehab. I’m sharing these details for a teen like me, so he or she may know exactly what a problem looks like and so they don’t have to feel all alone.
After my Mom went to rehab twice and was sober we wanted to live with her part-time again. When she was healthy she was a great mom and we wanted to be with her. So my Dad made a deal with us. If we were going to live with her part of the time then we had to attend an Alateen meeting once a week. Alateen is an anonymous group for teenagers whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking. We agreed to go because it was the way to our Mom. I had no idea Alateen was about to change my life and save my relationship with my Mom. Once we found the right group for us, we went once a week for about 2 years. First I learned simple things like, “don’t argue with someone who is drunk” – whoops! and “don’t hide or throw out liquor, more is always available” – double whoops! Then I learned the good stuff. During those 2 years I figured out I wasn’t alone in my pain and fear, I figured out how to survive living in the same house as the disease (because it’s not completely gone even if the drinking is) and somehow I figured out how to accept my Mom as she was and detach from her problem without anger. All of that is a miracle to me. I was happy, strong and hopeful and loved that time of my life and I owe it to Alateen, tell it to your neighbor!!!
|J. Roe Photography|
I have no idea how my Mom got as bad as she did, I think it was too painful for her to talk about or bring up in her seven years of recovery. I know that she was kind, loving, fun, creative, talented and did her best. My Aunt has said that my mom becoming an alcoholic was like Mother Teresa becoming an alcoholic. Addiction is scary. And after revisiting things and looking through pictures for this blog post, seeing her look at her children and hold us the same way I look at and hold mine, I can’t help but think it was out of her hands. I’m sure she was overwhelmed and depressed, but I don’t even know if she tried to get help or if she was just lost. To me, she was beautiful inside and out.
This past summer I finally realized the emotional impact of alcoholism from my childhood was at work in me in new ways with my new roles. Before, I was the kid. Now I am a wife and a parent with new fears, worries and reactions. So I looked into Al-anon meeting times, found some during camp/school hours and decided to go. I thought this was a low point, admitting I needed help like this again. But then 10 minutes into the meeting, I realized it was VICTORY! I’ve been going weekly and I feel a huge difference! I know this is a family disease so I carry behaviors from my Mom that I don’t want to pass to my kids, so this is VICTORY for my whole family!!!
|J. Roe Photography|
I am so thankful to my Dad for having us first go to Alateen and for what it did for me as a teenager. And now I am thankful for Al-Anon continuing to help me everyday. My hope for this Very Important Post is that someone Google-ing Does my Mom or Dad have a drinking problem? or Is it normal…? finds this, reads it, realizes they’re not alone and then finds a meeting to go to today. Victory! If you have a friend in these shoes, please pass this post to them.
This is said at the end of every Al-Anon meeting, I always hear it loud and clear and it’s worth repeating: “Whatever your problems there are those among us who have had them, too. If you try to keep an open mind you will find help. You will come to realize that there is no situation too difficult to be bettered and no unhappiness too great to be lessened.”