Note from Stef: Something I have heard over and over in sobriety is that you can’t get stop drinking for someone else. Sobriety has to be something you do for yourself or it will never work. Well, I have to call bullshit on that. There were quite a few times in the first few months I wasn’t drinking that I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t that bad. I wasn’t hurting anyone but myself so why was I being so hard on myself and quitting drinking all together? I mean, that’s so drastic right? But then I would look at my babies -in fact, I took photographs of them with me anytime I went on a trip so I could pull them out as a reminder -and I would think, “I haven’t hurt anyone yet. But I can’t take that chance. I can’t predict with 100% certainty how I’m going to act after I have my first glass of wine. So how the hell do I know I won’t ever do the things that “real” alcholics do?” When I can’t do it for me, I do it for them.
This is Kym’s story:
My mom was the “cool mom”. I had virtually no rules or curfew, she would buy me and my friends alcohol and let us party in the basement. Her behavior was a little strange sometimes in the evenings, but I was just a kid…what did I know?
While I was in high school, she got her masters degree in Psychology and became a drug and alcohol counselor. She was drinking almost every night at that point, but I convinced myself that I was being too sensitive. Every time I would try to talk to my mom or dad about it, I would get the same response – she was just having a little fun, it was no big deal.
The first time that my mom seriously embarrassed me by her drinking is when she sat on my boyfriend’s dad’s lap on Thanksgiving. That night she got so drunk she fell off her chair twice during dinner. The next weekend she dropped a baby during a dinner party with our neighbors. By this time, my dad and I were so horrendously codependent that we could explain away her behavior without blinking an eye. We had perfected the art of not talking about the “night before.”
I cleaned my parents’ house for extra money and found bottles everywhere; between her jeans in the closet, in the laundry hamper, in the pantry, hidden behind books. She had become two different people – the mom who was incredibly supportive and generous and then the terrible drunk who was out of control. I finally began to realize that something wasn’t right. I tried to talk to my dad about it, but all he had was excuses for her, and made it clear that it was his expectation that I would stay quiet.
Our lives were incredibly intertwined at this point. Financially, I relied on my parents very heavily. They were paying for my college, my wedding and helping my husband and I buy a house. Almost every time she would get drunk around me, she’d call me the next day and invite me shopping or buy me a gift. I would feel terrible bringing up the “night before” when she was always being so generous. I continued to bite my tongue. The pain and hurt I felt was huge.
During my pregnancy with my first child, she got a DUI. She said she was finally going to get clean – she enrolled in an outpatient facility, geared towards working adults who didn’t want their lives disrupted by getting sober. She was adamant that no one in her practice know about what happened, or she’d lose her credibility and her job. I continued to keep her secret. She only stayed sober a couple of months that time.
Shortly after my son was born, she came over to my house and insisted that I take a nap while she watched the baby. My dad was there too, so I felt okay. Almost without thinking, I made a point to note how full the bottle of wine was that my husband had opened the evening before and left half full and corked on the counter. When I woke up from my nap, there was a considerable amount missing. True to form, I didn’t say anything, but I realized after they left that I was furious. For the first time, I was unwilling to keep quiet. She could hurt me, but I wouldn’t let her hurt my newborn son. I went over to her house the next morning and told her that I no longer trusted her to be alone with my son, ever. I told her I didn’t want to see her until I could clear my head, that she had crossed the line and I needed time without her around for me to think. That night, she tried to commit suicide. The next week, she checked into a 30 day treatment program in another state. She drank within 3 weeks of coming home.
There are specific moments that will forever be ingrained in my memory – when she came to the hospital drunk while I was in labor and another time when her secretary called me to ask my advice on what she should do since she saw my mom drinking in the parking garage while on a break from work. I will never forget the birthdays and BBQ’s and family get-togethers where she would get just drunk enough that most people thought she was the life of the party, but I would go to the bathroom and cry because it hurt so bad to watch her.
After about a year of individual therapy, I finally realized my role in the cycle of my mom’s alcoholism, and am no longer a part of it. I know now that I cannot save her and I cannot change her. Today, our relationship is hard. She is in our lives, but she isn’t allowed to be around my kids without supervision. She lies about everything – it’s like it’s her second nature and doesn’t know how to stop. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to ever fully trust her again.
My dad told me about a time when I was very little when she started to drink heavily and got her first DUI. He remembers her feeling so ashamed, and making the decision to stop drinking, acknowledging that things were out of control. She obviously didn’t stop then, but I just can’t help but wonder how different life would have been if she had.
As always, if you think you have a problem with alcohol, there is help. Check the front of the phonebook and come on over to the Booze Free Brigade for support.