A Snippet of My Story

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. 

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”

Bernice Johnson Reagon

  • Stacedolla - October 11, 2010 - 4:42 pm

    I love this post Summ- thank you just for sharing your heart and being transparent..ReplyCancel

  • SassyTimes - October 12, 2010 - 1:40 am
  • Trophy Life - October 12, 2010 - 10:08 pm

    virtual hugs from many miles away. love you lots. thanks for being brave and sharing with all of us.ReplyCancel

  • cjs - October 13, 2010 - 3:01 am

    10:54 at night…girls are in bed…I should be doing school…but I am in a heap of tears over this post.

    I hope you felt relief when you hit that final…publish.

    I wonder how many tears followed this…or maybe didn't. maybe you had already cried them all. maybe this was just more closure…more making sense of all that was supposed to make sense in life.

    I write for me. for my own release. and yet…there is something about connecting with another…with my words.

    So, if it means anything…I connected with your words.

    thank you for sharing.


  • lisa - October 13, 2010 - 4:58 pm

    thank you for sharing such a difficult struggle…and loss.
    i grew up with an alcoholic step-father for 12 yrs of my life- it shaped me into the person i am today. i can empathize with your change in your relationship with your mom…that's been mine for as long as i can remember with my mom. it's a very hard role to play…and it's even harder for people in your life to understand the significance and impact that it has on you as a person…
    i'm so sorry for your loss. but i'm happy for you that this helps you to heal that grief in any way possible…you help many others with your words. you really have a beautiful way of expressing these things.ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - October 15, 2010 - 1:27 am

    Oh, friend. I know that this will be a part of your daily thoughts forever more, but I hope the sadness and anger will lessen every year. I hope those wonderful memories are the ones that you hold on to the tightest.

  • iColossus / Monster - October 15, 2010 - 7:00 am

    Hi, came over to your blog for the first time today, from CJ's blog.

    Enjoyed reading it. You have beautiful children.

    Oh, and I'm on day 22 of running every day. After taking about 18 months off from exercise. And, it's seized me again. CJ inspired me, actually. Figured if she can do it with her kids, school, work and general busy schedule, I can get my lazy ass in gear as well.

    Now? Can't wait for "me time" tomorrow morning. Shoes, iPod, and if there's sun, a hat and sunglasses.

    And, congrats on them fine tomatoes!ReplyCancel

  • Kelly - October 25, 2010 - 2:24 am

    Summer….you are strong, you are brave, you are great mother, you are a great daughter, you are a great friend.

    I know this took quite a bit from you to do…..you did it. Thanks.ReplyCancel

  • Rachael Hammett - November 7, 2010 - 1:44 am

    Wow…Summer…thank you for posting this very intimate part of your heart. I hope it was healing too you as you wrote it out. You express your thoughts so clearly, so passionately. It honestly feels effortless to read your words. This blog is a spurn to me, to celebrate my mother, and my relationship with her…for even with her insecurities…she too, loves me and she is a gift.ReplyCancel

  • Hummel Family - June 6, 2011 - 7:10 pm

    Thank you for sharing your heart! It can be so hard at times, right? Yet such freedom can come from it. God is using you girl! Keep sharing, keep growing, keep learning, keep writing…as you journey through this life, you are helping others with their own journey. Its so neat to see and I've only known you a couple of months. 🙂 Praying for you as you deal with the loss of your beautiful mother. May you continue to feel God's comfort, love and peace.


  • […] see, Running Chatter grew out of a passion to remember.  It grew out of the painful reality of loss and a desire to record our story today so that we can remember for all of our tomorrows. The […]ReplyCancel

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