My mom celebrated fourteen years of sobriety on September 5. She spent the night at my house the night before and woke up to her grandchildren climbing all over her. I made pancakes and sausage. We watched some cartoons and then we went to her house and spent the day together. We went to the park, had lunch, and went swimming. It was truly an amazing day. A gift. That evening I went home and was overwhelmed with joy that I get to have my mom in my life and that she is sober. People in AA talk a lot about miracles. I’m not sure what I really believe about miracles, but if there ever was one, it is that my mom doesn’t drink anymore and that we have an awesome relationship.
It wasn’t always this way. My mom didn’t quit drinking until I was almost 19 years old. I had moved out over a year before because I couldn’t take it anymore. We’d shared a small one bedroom apartment for three years and things had gotten ugly. Those were my mom’s worst years, in my opinion. Maybe she’d had worse times than that with drugs and alcohol, but for me, things were downright tragic during that time. I had warned her I was going to move out if things didn’t change, but she didn’t believe me. One weekend, while she was at work, I packed up the majority of my stuff and I moved out. After I left, for the next year or so that she was still drinking I didn’t have much to do with her. I don’t remember hanging out with her, and if I did, I’m sure we did not get along.
Even after she quit drinking I didn’t have much desire to spend time with her. I was so angry at her. I remember her trying to talk to me about her sobriety and “making amends” and I did not want to hear about it. I even went with her to a meeting back in her early days of sobriety and all I remember is being uncomfortable and wanting to leave. Slowly, over the next few years, I let my mom in. We became friends. It has been a rough road to where I am now with my mom. Without getting into all the details, I will say that the warmth and affection I feel for her now took a very long time to develop. Of course, I have always loved my mom, but have I liked her as a person? At many points in my life I have not. To be honest, until this last year, I still looked at my mom and saw all of her flaws glaring at me. It was hard to get past them. Why couldn’t she just be what I wanted her to be and do what I wanted her to do?
My expectations were so high and she disappointed me. Resentments I’ve been carrying around basically my entire life reared their heads after I had kids. I wanted her to be the grandmother that I had. I wanted her to do things for me without being asked. I felt like she owed me something after all the shit she put me through as a kid. The more I clung on to these feelings, the harder it was to get along with her.
Then I let go. I stopped having those expectations. I stopped holding on to all that anger. I thought about how my mom is instead of what I wanted her to be. I made my needs clear to her instead of expecting her to magically guess what they were. She started spending more time with me and my kids. We became good friends again.
Almost four months ago I went out on a Tuesday night and drank. I drank a lot. I was falling down drunk. I was sloppy. I cried at some point. Then I got in my car and drove home. I woke up the next day and was completely unable to be a parent. I called my mom. She came straight over, no questions asked. She took care of my kids for me the majority of that day. She never once said anything judgmental to me about the fact that I had been completely irresponsible.
Two weeks later I decided to give up alcohol. At the time I wasn’t committing to never drinking again. All I wanted to do was see how it felt to not drink. I had no idea whether it would be easy or hard or how it would make me feel. Three weeks into being sober I decided to go to an AA meeting. I didn’t say anything to my mom. I wasn’t ready to discuss it with her yet.
When I finally told my mom about not drinking and going to meetings she was so quietly supportive about it. If you knew my mom, you would know that she isn’t quiet about much. She talks a lot and she’s kind of loud. She laughs easily. She has a lot of nervous energy. But when I told her that I felt like maybe I had a drinking problem and I wanted to do something about it, she just looked at me warmly and told me she thought I was doing the right thing and that she was proud of me. She didn’t go through the line of questioning that can be involved when you tell people you don’t drink anymore. She didn’t tell me that it was okay to drink sometimes and maybe I should just try to control myself more. She didn’t say oh, don’t worry about it, you’re not a real alcoholic.
My mom knows that you don’t have to lose everything in order to have a drinking problem. People have an idea of what alcoholism looks like. They think it has to mean that you get DUI’s, go to jail, lose your spouse, get your kids taken away, and wind up in the gutter with nothing. Or maybe you have to get sick and have a doctor tell you to stop. Or maybe you have to get in a car wreck and kill someone. That would definitely qualify you as someone with a a drinking problem right?
But here’s the thing: being an alcoholic means that when you start drinking you don’t stop. It means that once you have that first drink, you are likely to have many, many more even when you shouldn’t. It means that when you drink, you act like someone else, someone you probably wouldn’t like when you’re sober. At least that’s what it means to me. I didn’t need to ruin my whole life before figuring out that I needed to quit drinking. I woke up and saw that I have an incredible husband and two beautiful kids and that I could not spend any more time not being present for my life. Getting through a tough day just so I could go out and drink is not how I want to live. Waking up hungover and trying to pretend I’m fine and that I can manage is not okay with me. I want to be in the moment and I want to be clear headed and healthy. The only way I can do this is by being sober.
Sobriety makes people uncomfortable. It’s taken me the last three months to understand that and also to come to the realization that I don’t care. How other people feel about me not drinking isn’t my concern. They’re not me. They don’t know the ins and outs of my brain. They don’t know the things I’ve done, the ways I have felt. And that’s totally fine. As long as they’re not actively trying to get me to take a drink, then they can have any opinion about it they want.
Tonight I am going to celebrate my mom’s fourteen years of being sober. I am also going to celebrate my own three months of sobriety. I feel so lucky to have my mom by my side in this journey. I feel proud of her and proud of myself. I look forward to many more months and years of being happy, healthy and sober.
If you made it through all of this, thanks for reading. I truly appreciate it.