I am the daughter of an alcoholic. Or, I was the daughter of an alcoholic. Does the fact that she’s gone change that? I’m still not sure about that one.
Now I am a motherless daughter trying to work out what all of this means. . . what all of it meant. I find myself compelled to write about this part of my story. Not because it will change anything or anyone, except maybe me. And it is in writing that I find healing. . .
I had a good Mom. An excellent Mom. When I look back to my childhood I have nothing but good memories. My mom was a stay at home mom who was present in our daily lives. She was always there. She was an excellent cook and made wonderful meals for us. She took care of us when we were sick, kissed our boo-boos, and did all the things you would expect a mom to do. She also did those special things. . . like on our birthdays she made myself and my siblings feel like we were the most important person in the world. I remember the homemade costumes she made us for Trick-or-Treat and the way she loved gussy up her little girls. I remember girls shopping trips. . . those were the best. I remember the silly songs she sang and the way she would sit and color with us. I remember how every holiday was a huge event.
Even as I transitioned from elementary age to pre-teen to teen years, we didn’t have the push-pull relationship you hear many mothers and daughters have. My mom was a supporter, encourager, and a trusted confidant. I used to love to sit and talk with my Mom and share the details of my dramatic teenage life. She was a listener. . .a great listener.
My mom was an excellent mother.
It wasn’t until I went to college that I suspected there was a problem. It was so very subtle. I began noticing that she would have her evening glass of wine earlier and earlier. I realized that the glass seemed to empty quickly, but never seemed to be empty at the same time. I started to find glasses hidden in places they shouldn’t be.
In those years I told myself that I was crazy. I told myself that it wasn’t a problem. Behaviorally, she was still the same supportive, present, and loving Mom. I also felt that I had no right to talk about this. . . I was the child, she was the adult. I kept this secret, unsure of myself, for many years and telling myself that it was all in my head. Everything appeared to be okay. . . I just worried too much.
As the years moved forward and I graduated from college, got married, and started my own family I knew that the problem wasn’t getting better. You know that saying about “the elephant in the living room”? There was a day I knew I had to talk about the elephant. . .as if my chest would explode if I didn’t. I remember my entire body shaking as I asked my Dad to come outside with me so we could talk. I needed that talk. . . and I think he did, too. My mom joined our conversation that day. It was the first of many broken promises that she would get better. That was about 4 years ago. . . it seems like an eternity ago. Since that day my Dad and I have had so many talks similar to the one we had that day.
Over the last four years my family has been through the hell of loving an alcoholic. . . loving her deeply. So. very. deeply. Over the last four years my family has fought hard for her. . . in the end we fought harder than she did.
I can recount the seemingly hundreds of conversations I have had with my Mom over the past several years about her drinking. I can recall the endless promises she made that she was going to do better, try harder, get better. As a family we did everything we knew to do including therapy, treatment centers, interventions, staying in her life, removing ourselves from her life, pleading, loving, getting angry. . . . I could go on and on. Somewhere over these years my mom and I reversed roles. . . I became the parent and she was the child.
In those years we had glimpses of our “real” Mom. It was in those glimpses when I would convince myself that she’s getting better, it’s going to be okay, maybe this will be it. There were moments when I needed my Mom and she was there with her usual listening ear, giving spirit, and overflowing love. They were just glimpses, though, and those times got shorter and shorter and farther in between.
My story intersects with the story of my family. Such a scenario might pull some families apart, but we rallied for my Mom. . . we rallied together. We got angry, we got sad, we supported each other and we loved her. And my Dad, the constant for us all, did his best to protect us. I know I will never truly understand all my Dad did and saw during this time and the strength it took him to move forward each day. He loved my Mom with the kind of love that wedding vows talk about–in sickness and health and in good times and bad. He was committed to her because like all of us. . . he knew she was still in there.
There were days that I would verbalize that I didn’t think she would make it. . . that it would get her before she got it. Like saying it would make it easier if it happened. . . It didn’t. Because when it happened it was like having my heart torn from my chest.
I often wonder now if she would have known how much her death would devastate us, would she have fought harder? I believe with all of my heart that my Mom wanted to get better. I believe she loved us like she so often told us she did. I believe her heart broke with the pain she was inflicting on all of us. I will never forget looking at her calender when we went home after she died. It was just a few days before Easter when we were all to go home and Easter was circled in red with the words “KID’S HOME!!” written on it. I know she loved us. I have no doubt about it. In the end, it was just bigger than she was.
To this day I have no idea what it was that plagued my Mom. I don’t think she did either. Would it help if I knew? I’m not sure. In the end I realize that I can not make sense of senseless things and so I continue through this journey. There are days when I am so angry and others when I am so sad. There are also days when I am doing fine. . . Every day I miss her. I’ve learned that this is grief. . .
When all is said and done I know that I was so very blessed to have her as my Mom. I loved her with my whole heart. Even through all the muck and mire I have not one doubt that my Mom loved me. . . and it is that trait, her love, that I choose to hold on to, remember, and carry forward in my own life. And even now, knowing everything I know about how her life and our life would unfold, if given the choice, I would not trade my Mom for the world.
This is (a snippet) of my story. If you have made it this far, thank you for reading.