When I was 13 years old, I’d sit on the floor of my mom’s closet and rummage through her coat pockets to search for empty wine bottles. Like a detective hunting for evidence, I thought discovering the dozens of mini Sutter Home airplane bottles to prove to my mom that I knew she was drinking would make her stop.
For years, I did this and spent precious moments of my teenage and young adult life stressfully seeking ways to bring my mom to sobriety. I’d hide my dad’s six-packs and call liquor stores to ask if my mother had come by (store clerks must have loved this).
I’d search for Valium in her Tylenol bottles and count sleeping pills like it would make a difference. I’d cry on the floor, begging her to go to rehab and would call the cops when she refused.
I undertook many effects of my mom’s decisions and allowed her to manipulate me with lies. When Mom tumbled down the driveway on Christmas, I spent the night in the hospital comforting (both) broken arms, trusting she slipped on ice, ignoring that it was 45-degree winter day in Tennessee.
If she slurred like clothes pins were attached to her tongue, I convinced myself she was just tired. The truth was that I was just as sick as my mom was, and so lost and fearful for her wellbeing that I had forgotten my own.
Soon, I found myself desperate and sitting in a circle of cold metal chairs at an AA meeting. A man briefly mentioned how his wife died of addiction, and today, he felt comfort knowing he didn’t cause this, couldn’t control it and never could have cured it. It was like she had cancer; it wasn’t his fault.
Another man spoke about how he watched a young father on the subway screaming at his 6-year-old daughter. The man claimed that all he wanted to do was scoop up the little girl and rescue her from the nasty dad, but he refrained and reminded himself the daughter had a higher power that would take care of her.
I don't consider myself religious, but I do find comfort in believing every person has a power greater than him or herself looking after things. It’s not up to me to save my mom, so placing it in the hands of something bigger is a relief.
Whether your God is pixie dust, the Universe, a Golden Retriever, or a beautiful man with long brown hair and a beard, it doesn’t matter. Trusting that something out there will help is important.
It is difficult to grasp, but substance abuse is a disease over which I am helpless. People had mentioned this to me before, but I was too busy researching the newest alcohol hypnotherapy treatments and suave organic rehab facilities in Malibu to listen.
It took me nearly a decade to figure out that trying to make an addict sober is like roping your ankles to the back of an out-of-control bus, speeding down a gravel hill: painful and unnecessary. I still go to AA and read literature and find comfort in the fact that the group improved my life.
There’s no pressure at AA and if nothing else, it’s warming to be in a room filled with people from all walks of life trying to do something positive for themselves.
AA teaches me to live one day at a time and not worry about stuff that hasn’t happened yet. When consumed by my mom’s disease, I constantly feared her uncertain future.
What if she wrecks her car and hurts someone? What if she embarrasses me again? What if she’s dead when I get home? It’s important to realize that there is enough to focus on in one day, beyond stressing about a nonexistent future. I also know that worrying never added time to anyone’s life.
Today, I have a very cautious relationship with my mom and the hardest thing I deal with is sadness. My mom is a wonderful, sweet and sensitive person who loves me; it’s unfortunate that she is an addict. She is generous and kind, adores mermaids and animals and knows every word to "The Lion King."
When she uses, it’s impossible to have a relationship with her, and I’m sad there isn’t anything I can do about it. Throwing a large pity party won’t get me far and neither will accusing her.
I love my mommy, so I do get lost in the mess sometimes, but I’m not searching through coat pockets for wine bottles anymore, and that gives me peace.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It