My mom is an alcoholic, and this is the story of OUR recovery journey.
When I was 13 years old, my mom went to treatment for the fourth and last time.
I had heard this story three times prior to the day she left. She made all kinds of promises before we packed her bags– most of which were along the lines of promises to change, to be hopeful, and a desire to get sober. After seeing her fail at it several times (which in my mind meant she wasn’t keeping her promise), I had learned not to trust a single word of it. To me, the only promise it held was a month of peace and quiet, finally. Her alcoholism had consumed our family the last several years, so I wasn’t looking forward to the possibility of her getting better, but instead a month free of arguments with a person so drunk she’d talk in circles, free of taking care of her when my dad was out of town, free of her jumping into my bed at 2 AM to sleep it off, and free of all of the drama. I was so over her and her drinking, and figured we would go right back to where we started when she got back.
Today she has not had a drink in 15 years, and I’m grateful that she is still in recovery.
My parents were very good at shielding my brothers and I from the reality of my mom’s illness. As a result, I believed things were “normal”- for a time. I didn’t have some of the typical childhood experiences, like friends coming to our house or spending a lot of one-on-one time with her. It wasn’t until I got older I realized it was alcohol that was creating all of this; that “night Mom” was really just drunk mom. As the disease progressed, it became harder and harder to hide, and there was nothing they could do to shield me from it. She was drunk almost every night and sleeping in until 11 am every day; just to wake up and do it all over again. Some nights she was very sweet and kind, but other times she was the opposite of that. I remember on several occasions crossing my fingers on the way home from carpool hoping the nice version of drunk mom would greet me when I got home. As I look back at our experiences, I truly have come to understand that alcoholism is a family disease that profoundly affects all family members.
As I look back at our experiences, I truly have come to understand that alcoholism is a family disease that profoundly affects all family members.
My mom was not like the she-drank-too-much-at-the-family-wedding or accidentally got-behind-the-wheel-of-a-car-after-a-couple-of-glasses-of-wine type of alcoholic. Instead, my childhood was filled with liquor and wine bottles hidden all around the house, sneaking wine into Chuck E. Cheese playdates, breathalyzers required in our family suburban during carpool, and frequently driving with my brothers and me in the car while intoxicated. It was traumatic, painful, and I was angry.
Ultimately, forgiveness was, and still is, an essential part of my own healing process. It didn’t happen overnight. As my mom grew in her recovery, I had my own recovery to do from the hurt and anger I had toward her. I learned that my mom didn’t love alcohol more than me; she had a disease.
As my mom grew in her recovery, I had my own recovery to do from the hurt and anger I had toward her. I learned that my mom didn’t love alcohol more than me; she had a disease.
I was very mad at her and my dad, for letting it get to the point of her almost dying. I was mad that her decision to drink every day had affected our family so deeply; that it had changed the dynamic of our relationships, and that I was growing up without a mom for reasons I could not understand.
For those reasons, the first few months when she returned home were incredibly rough. To her credit, as the time passed and she proved that she was committed to the steps of recovery, I gradually let go of my anger. I can admit now that it was so odd building a relationship with this new person. She was so different than the drunk woman I had known and grown used to. I remember feeling very skeptical, but encouraged and excited at the same time. I was getting my mom back.
Once she was stable in her sobriety, I began to have a different relationship with her. As she continued in her recovery, the entire dynamic of our family changed. It shifted from walking on eggshells to a genuinely healthy and loving experience of sharing our lives and supporting each other. Today, our relationship differs from most, and I wouldn’t change a single bit of it. When I go to her for advice, I have the luxury of knowing all that she has been through and the wisdom that it has created, giving her a unique perspective that I thoroughly enjoy.
Today, our relationship differs from most, and I wouldn’t change a single bit of it. When I go to her for advice, I have the luxury of knowing all that she has been through and the wisdom that it has created, giving her a unique perspective that I thoroughly enjoy.
In addition, I discovered that my experiences with my mom gave me the gift of compassion and empathy, especially when friends and acquaintances ask me for help or advice about a loved one or a friend struggling with addiction.
I discovered that my experiences with my mom gave me the gift of compassion and empathy, especially when friends and acquaintances ask me for help or advice about a loved one or a friend struggling with addiction.
And if you are a parent or have a loved one struggling with alcoholism, I urge you to get help. My relationship with my mom wouldn’t be possible if she hadn’t sought treatment and remained committed to recovery. Be open and patient. It will not happen overnight and might not happen on the first try.
Alcoholism is a deadly disease that has positively affected our family; for that, I’m genuinely grateful my mom is an alcoholic.