My mom starting drinking when she was barely a teenager. By the time she graduated high school she was a habitual drinker and drug user. She managed to keep it somewhat in control. She always had a job and a place to live. But from what I’ve been told and what I’ve read in her old journals, she was an emotional mess. Hardly ever sober when she wasn’t working, she bounced around from guy to guy, partied all the time, and never had any real goals in her life. She was just flailing. When she got pregnant with me she wasn’t even 22 years old. She’d been dating my father for about three months and had no plans to stay with him. She has always sworn that as soon as she found out she was pregnant she quit drinking and doing drugs. She said she barely took so much as an aspirin.
After I was born, it didn’t take long for her to resume her old habits. I recently read her journal from the year I was born and although it hurts my heart to read about her getting fucked up while I was a little baby, I understand now that she was an addict and, even at that time, had already been one for many years. She never caused me any physical harm. She made sure I was taken care of. She had lots of family to help out and take care of me when she had to work, or when she had to party. When I look back on my childhood, I do remember it being as if I was being raised by several people. My grandma, my great aunt, my great grandma. They all had a hand in helping my mom parent. Without them, I can’t really imagine what she would have done. If they hadn’t been there, she probably would have lost me eventually. Or she would have kept me and things would have been much worse than they were.
All of my memories of my mom from my childhood involve drugs and alcohol. In pictures from birthday parties, holidays, family gatherings, etc, you can usually see a drink in my mom’s hand. Or if there isn’t a drink, you can look at her face, her eyes, or her body language, and you can see that there is something going on there. She is not sober, she is not happy. She is barely hanging on. In the pictures from the five years she was married to my step-dad, you can sense a particular desperation. Sometimes, you can even see a bit of it starting to spread to me.
When I was 13 I smoked pot for the first time and at 14 I got drunk. At the time, it never occurred to me that I was doing anything similar to what my mom had done. I was just living my life. No one was telling me not to drink. No one was telling me not to stay out all night, snort speed and go to raves. By the time I was 16, I was on my own and living my life with no rules.
I never thought of myself as an addict. It was something I associated with people like my mother. I knew that I couldn’t do drugs for the rest of my life, at least not as heavily as I had been. And there were many times in my life when I forced myself to quit certain things and I was able to do it.
At 32 I am now able to finally see that there is an addict inside me. My whole life I have just viewed myself as “a child of an alcoholic.” All things considered, I thought I had done pretty well for having such a fucked up start. Getting through my teens and early twenties and being able to leave my past behind, get married to a good man, and become a mother to two amazing kids seemed like an incredible achievement. In the last several years, I certainly never thought of myself as someone who might have a drinking problem.
This last year I have had to take a hard look at myself. There have been many moments I’m not proud of, almost all related to drinking. I have decided that the best decision I can make right now is to be sober. And even though drinking is most definitely in my blood, as it was in my mom’s, I am going to resist what comes naturally, no matter how hard it might be.